Wednesday, April 30, 2014
We are fast approaching the end of the 2013-2014 legislative session in the South Carolina General Assembly and much work remains. In the next few weeks the Senate will begin debate on the state budget.
Here are few other items that you may find of interest.
• Transportation Infrastructure
Midland Parkway has finally been set for resurfacing. There are a number of projects in this round of repairs, so a specific start date has to not yet been set. I’ll let you know as soon as the construction schedule is determined.
As was the case last year, roads will take center stage in much of our budget negotiations this year. Last year we increased funding to our state road system and it is my goal to continue that momentum. But even with the increased funding, the amount was only a drop in the bucket of our overall needs. To solve the problem we need to take up a comprehensive transportation funding strategy to ensure state funds are efficiently spent.
• Public Safety
Last May, the Senate passed a bill to allow for an existing bond to be revoked, and a new bond denied, for someone who commits a violent crime while out on bond. This seemingly commonsense-based approach has been desired by law enforcement for years. Recently the House agreed and the bill has been signed into law.
For the first time in SC, first time DUI offenders will be subject to ignition interlock requirements. This bill was supported by victims advocate groups, law enforcement, and the family of six-year-old Emma Longstreet, who was killed in 2012 by a drunk driver. Some victims can’t be brought back, but hopefully other families will be spared.
The Senate also recently passed a statewide ban on texting while driving for all beginner drivers and those driving on restricted licenses. We also have a second bill working through he process that will ban texting for all drivers statewide.
• Jobs and Economic Development
LEED certification within the building design and construction industry has morphed over the years from energy efficiency to a more esoteric feel good grading system. With it, the cost of construction has climbed in the desire to obtain LEED certification. A bill recently sent to the Governor would limit the points granted for LEED certification of public buildings to energy efficiency measures.
A bill I sponsored reduces antiquated regulations, streamlines supervision, and eliminates obstacles to high school age students entering the workforce by allowing for internships at public water systems.
At a time when we should encourage as many employment opportunities as possible for our youth, restricting availability to these internships seemed senseless. My colleagues in the House and Senate agreed and the measure was signed into law.
Also, in an effort to increase employment and career opportunities, I introduced a bill to loosen certain restrictions we place on SC brewpubs as to the amount of product they are allowed to manufacture and distribute.
The bill is also designed to help attract several out of state businesses looking to expand to the east coast.
One potential company has indicated they could invest as much as $31 million in South Carolina and employ upwards of 400 citizens with this legislative change.
Recently the Senate passed “Read to Succeed”. This legislation aims to reduce the high drop out rate in SC by targeting reading skills early.
Under this plan, those students with reading problems will have access to enhanced reading programs through personalized district plans, summer reading camps, and more. Children not reading at 3rd grade level at the end of their 3rd grade year will be retained. Similar programs in other states have resulted in marked improvements.
Next up for what I am sure will be a contentious debate is the issue of Common Core. Common Core is a national educational standard that SC adopted in July 2010. Since that time many concerns have arisen about the standards ranging from loss of local curriculum control, quality of the assessment tests, safeguarding of student data, and more.
We will be taking up legislation next week that deals with the future of Common Core standards in South Carolina.
• Homeowners Insurance
The Senate has passed the Competitive Insurance Act, designed to lower costs of coastal homeowners’ insurance premiums. The bill calls on the South Carolina Department of Insurance to develop a hurricane model. The current model is based on weather data specific to Florida, which is statistically more likely to be hit by a severe Atlantic storm.
The bill also increases grants available for homeowners to weatherize property,
• Retirement System Investment Commission
I have been participating in a select special committee investigating serious allegations that improprieties exist at the Retirement System Investment Commission (RSIC). The RSIC is responsible for investing and managing all assets of the South Carolina Retirement Systems. While there is always room for operational improvement, four separate independent investigations (SC Inspector General, Funston Advisory Services, Senate Select Committee, and Legislative Audit Council) have discovered no improprieties or wrongdoing.
In fact, after months of hearing testimony and reviewing data, I found the commission to be professional, responsive, and transparent. Nevertheless, I am glad we asked the questions and conducted a thorough review of the situation.
Please reach out to me at 873-9834 if you have further questions about these or any other issues. I am happy to take a deeper dive with you. And as always, thank you for your support. It is my pleasure to serve as your Senator!