Overview of the week:
This week, legislative committee meetings were held virtually. This was able to happen due to a rule change passed last week. Although this change presented a unique set of challenges, we were happy that we were able to continue working. In particular, I am the Vice Chair of the Rules committee and I also serve on the Ag Committee and wildlife sub committee. This week I had my first virtual committee meeting. It was a very different experience for me to say the least. I guess this is the way many meetings will be held in the near future, but I am looking forward to the day when we can get back to "normal" meetings. You can watch a recorded version of committee meetings at the statehouse with the following link. : https://www.
Overview of the week:
This week, we began the 1st regular session of the 124th General Assembly. I was ready to be back in our state capital and am hopeful for a productive 2021! After the rollercoaster ride of 2020, this year is the perfect year for reform, transparency, and accountability. This week, we hit the ground running. So far, over 900 bills have been prefiled and many were introduced this week. Although there is a lot of excellent conservative legislation this session, I am most excited about the items below, which help further our Conservative Republican agenda:
The past week we have all had to adapt to the “new normal” of social distancing, working from home, school closures, empty grocery stores, and new changes being implemented every day. I want to commend everyone for how you are handling these changes, the way our community is looking out for one another is one of the positives I have seen come out of this situation. Our executive branch, state agencies, and the legislature are working in sync to make the best decisions for the citizens of South Carolina. I have provided many state agency resources below to keep you up to date on important information.
After months of working with Gov. McMaster, building consensus, and many hours of debate I joined my House colleagues to pass the 2020-2021 fiscal year General Appropriation Bill by a vote of 120-2—an overwhelming bi-partisan consensus. This year, we focused our budget on the 4 R’s: relief for taxpayers, building up our reserves, expediting our road projects, and giving raises to those who need it most.
We worked closely with Gov. McMaster to include 325 of his recommendations in our budget process—an all-time record. This includes expanding 4-K education, providing permanent tax reform and relief, and investing in our state’s teachers.
When we began assembling this budget, it was important to me that it be built on the foundation of protecting taxpayers, a renewed commitment to being resourceful and efficient, funding only core functions of state government, and providing value for every dollar we spend.
The week began with a huge development for the future of our state-owned utility Santee Cooper.
Other pieces of legislation making big strides this week are the Convention of States resolution that puts constitutional limits on the federal government and a bill that would close a current loophole for inmates on death row. Currently, state law allows death-row inmates to pick lethal injection or electrocution but mandates using lethal injection if inmates do not make a choice. Manufacturers that make lethal injection drugs have stopped selling them to prisons so this bill fixes the loophole by making the electric chair the default method.
Next week, my colleagues and I will be working on the state budget. I will update you soon on how the budget worked out for us all.
Hearings about the future of our state-owned utility Santee Cooper kicked off this week in the House with a special ad hoc committee of nine of my House colleagues. The committee, chaired by Ways and Means Chairman Murrell Smith, heard from members of the Department of Administration, NextEra Energy, Dominion Energy, Santee Cooper and Central/Co-Ops. Committee meetings will continue next week, and I remain committed to hearing more about this issue..
We were busy this week at the State House with a lot of behind the-scenes work as we debated in committees on this year’s state budget, Santee Cooper, education, opioid abuse, and a host of other important issues. Budget week will start on March 10th so until then we will continue to spend more time in committee then we will on the floor. Keep reading to see what is included in the House Ways and Means 2020-2021 budget proposal.
This week brought about one of the biggest decisions the General Assembly will ever face, the fate of our state-owned utility Santee Cooper. Much of the work in the State House over the next few weeks will focus on the Santee Cooper issue and drafting this year’s state budget. Between these two important issues, we plan to continue the work we started last session on education reform and streamlining the process of business license fees.
I hope everyone stayed safe during the storms that spanned across our entire state yesterday. The bad weather did not stop the legislature from taking up some important legislation this week. On Tuesday I was proud to join my colleagues from the House and Senate to elect 34 judges and 10 new board members to state universities. Congratulations
The last week of January was a busy one in Columbia filled with committee meetings and teachers visiting the State House! Teachers from around the state visited the Capitol while the Senate was addressing the education bill this week and while the House was debating different education initiatives. It was also Carolina Day on Wednesday which brought all of the UofSC campuses together to celebrate the General Assembly’s efforts to support higher education. I am proud to have supported a bill last year that froze tuition rates for in-state students at 7 of UofSC’s 8 campuses throughout the state.
Governor Henry McMaster led South Carolina into the roaring 20’s with his State of the State speech on Wednesday and outlined a bright future for the 5,148,000 who call our state home. The Governor laid out a sincere plan to move SC forward and I am ready to work with the entire General Assembly to turn it into reality.
The House has officially begun the second session of the 123rd South Carolina General Assembly. I am very excited to get back to work on our conservative agenda we began last year. On Monday, Governor McMaster released an overview of his budget priorities. I am looking forward to next Wednesday, when he will lay out his entire plan during his State of the State address. The Governor is expected to talk about continuing the efforts we started last year to reform education and cut taxes. His plan will also include his ideas on using a portion of this year’s budget surplus to send back to hardworking taxpayers. I am confident that the House and the Governor will work together this session and I look forward to another great session at the State House.
Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to serve as your State Representative in Columbia. With the first session of the 123rd General Assembly ending earlier this month, I am including an update on the accomplishments in the South Carolina House of Representatives over the past few months.
During his State of the State address in January, Governor McMaster proclaimed this year to be the ‘Year of Education,’ and the House took that charge seriously by passing a transformative education bill aimed at fundamentally reforming the way we educate our children. In addition, the House passed a balanced, efficient, value-driven budget; took the necessary steps to protect ratepayers and taxpayers in the Santee Cooper debacle; gave teachers and state employees a much-deserved raise; expanded solar energy options for consumers; took steps to protect the lives of the unborn and passed numerous other positive legislative initiatives.
While not all of the bills that passed the House were passed by the Senate or signed by the Governor, here are a few of the major accomplishments from the House this session. As a reminder, this is the first year of a two-year session, so legislation that did not pass the Senate can be continued when we return next January.
Sine Die Edition
The House gaveled to a close this week after dozens of bills and the Sine Die Resolution passed both the House and Senate. This was the first year of a two-year session that focused primarily on transformative education reform, presenting a balanced and efficient budget, solutions for Santee Cooper, and the pro-life ‘Heartbeat’ legislation. Although regular session has ended, we will continue to work over the next few weeks in conference committees. We will return in two weeks for a special session to discuss Santee Cooper, vote on the budget, and receive any vetoes from Governor McMaster.
We passed dozens of bills this week, here are some of the highlights. Be on the lookout over the next few weeks for a full legislative wrap up.
The countdown is on as the final week of this legislative session approaches. Three legislative days remain however the good news is this is the first year of a two-year session and there is much more we hope to accomplish.
This week thousands of teachers from around South Carolina visited the State House to express their concerns and offer input on South Carolina’s education system. I was proud to vote for the education bill, now being deliberated in the Senate, that includes raising teacher pay, reducing the number of state required tests, giving teachers 30-minute duty free time, and providing resources for mental health officers.
We appreciate the teachers who remained in their classrooms on Wednesday and value the input all teachers who are on the educational frontlines every day. Under the leadership of Speaker Jay Lucas, the House continues to push comprehensive and bold education reform and we hope to continue working with teachers, parents, and community leaders to bring South Carolina’s education system into the 21st century.
I hope everyone had a great spring break and Easter weekend. With two weeks left of session and the crossover deadline behind us, we have a busy few weeks ahead as we begin to take up bills from the Senate.
We tee’d off Master’s weekend and the beginning of our furlough week with a special visit from the Carolina Panthers football team. Head Coach Ron Rivera visited the State House along with players, executives, and their beloved mascot Sir Purr. The welcomed visit comes as legislation is moving through the Senate to provide professional sports teams the same incentives the state gives other companies when they bring an attractive number of employees and economic benefits to the state.
The legislation has already passed the House and following approval in the Senate will have the potential to bring hundreds of millions of dollars into South Carolina through jobs and infrastructure.
Legislative Update: Week 13
Tremendous progress was made on the calendar this week, numerous bills were passed and have been sent to the Senate. This is an extremely busy time during legislative session because we are approaching the crossover deadline. Crossover is the last day for a bill to pass out of the House and move forward for consideration in the Senate. The House has worked proactively and passed many bills that are awaiting consideration in the Senate including:
H. 3759 – The S.C. Education, Career, Opportunity, and Access for All Act
H. 4000 and H. 4001 – The General Appropriations Bill and Capital Reserve Fund (the budget)
H. 4243 – Professional Sports Team Investment Act
H. 3046 – Provide for the Offense of Furthering Terrorism
H. 3659 – South Carolina Energy Freedom Act
Legislative Update: Week 12
This week was a big step forward in reducing income taxes in South Carolina. Months ago, House Speaker Jay Lucas created a special legislative committee to focus on tax reform and research what we can do to improve our tax system. The first bill to come out of the committee is focused on reducing income taxes. A major highlight of this bill (H.4334) is that it will reduce income taxes from 7% to a flat rate of 4.5% making SC even more competitive with neighboring states.
It has been a very busy three months at the State House. We have sent 99 bills to the Senate, yet a large majority have not been taken up. We look forward to seeing them work as hard as we have in the House on education and the budget.
This week the House made historic progress toward protecting South Carolina ratepayers and taxpayers. With two joint resolutions, one from the House, one from the Senate, the consensus is building in both chambers for the sale of state-owned utility Santee Cooper.
The days are finally getting longer and we’re nearing the middle of the legislative session which, for the House, means this week was “Budget Week,” our weeklong debate on the $8.7 billion 2019-2020 budget. After going through the budget line by line and working past midnight, we successfully sent this year’s budget to the Senate with only one “nay” vote. See below for more details on what is included in this year’s budget.
Another exciting moment for South Carolina happened this week when it was revealed the Carolina Panthers are working on a deal to move their NFL team’s headquarters and training facilities out of Charlotte and into South Carolina! This would be a huge economic win for our state that would drive hundreds of millions of dollars into our economy. We are working on legislation that will help make this possible by providing incentives and working with SCDOT to provide infrastructure improvements for the Rock Hill and York County areas.
It is proving to be a big year for South Carolina’s economy with the Governor and lawmakers working together to create a balanced budget, reforming our antiquated tax system, and focusing on efforts to attract businesses into our state.
Two jackpots in one week!First, the winner of the $1.5 billion Mega Millions jackpot from last year finally claimed their prize…which means the State of South Carolina will reap aone-time, $61 million reward. So, when the House starts debate on the budget next week, we’ll add that amount to what we were already budgeting to provide tax relief and we’ll be able to return $96 million to taxpayers. This will result in a one-time, $50 taxpayer rebate for every South Carolinian with an income tax liability.
Second, on Wednesday night the House passed the S.C. Education, Career, Opportunity, and Access for All Act that will serve as the starting point in bringing our education system into the 21st century. We increased teacher pay, eliminated several mandatory tests,and we strengthened the ‘Read to Succeed’ program.
This week started with the General Assembly honoring the Clemson Tigers winning the 2018
national football championship and an inspiring speech by head football Coach Dabo Swinney
on the importance (and effectiveness) of unity in order to get things done. It was a good reminder
this week as my colleagues and I continue to debate the transformational education reform bill
that’s moving through the House, and as we begin discussions regarding this year’s budget.
This week was another busy week in Columbia. Progress was made on the comprehensive education reform bill and this year’s budget was successfully passed out of the Ways and Means Committee. The 2019-2020 budget is built on the foundation of protecting taxpayers, a renewed commitment to being resourceful and efficient,funding only core functions of state government, and providing value for every dollar we vote to spend. Because of our fiscally conservative budgeting, South Carolina is currentlyone of only fourteen states with a AAA credit ratingaccording to Moody’s. Our debt level is .39% of state revenues which is significantly lower than our constitutionally set 5% limit. In addition to efficiently funding the normal core functions of government, this year we are making substantive investments in education and workforce development. We have prioritized public and higher education not only because we owe it to our students, but also to ensure our students are prepared for the workforce.
Education reform was once again in the forefront this week. As always, I am grateful and pleased with all of the comments I have received from our community on fixing this issue. We are working hard on both sides of the aisle to make this comprehensive reform bill the best it can be for our students and teachers.
This is a long read, but an interesting one about the proposed education bill (H.3759) . As you read this keep an open mind. Nothing is set in stone, this bill can be amended to better suit the students here in SC. Even if you don't have children or grandchildren the SC education has an effect on your future. The children of today will be the leaders of tomorrow. SC students are without a doubt the most precious resource
that we have. It's incumbent upon us to make sure that they receive thebest education possible.
We are now over a month into the legislative session and I am very pleased with the progress being made. In the next few weeks, I expect to see developments with the education reform bill, a plan for reforming the tax system and an outline for next year’s budget. I am excited and prepared to keep working hard for you and the best interests of all South Carolinians.
This week several different groups made trips to the State House. It was great to be able to meet with each of them and discuss many of the important issues that we’re dealing with this session. On Tuesday, teachers from across the state came to talk about teacher pay, fewer mandatory tests and ideas to allow them more time to teach. UofSC impact day was on Wednesday when students visited the Higher Education Subcommittee to discuss issues important to colleges and technical schools. We also welcomed EMT’s, the National Guard and high school students this week as well.
2019 Week 3
Working closely with Gov. Henry McMaster, leaders in the House and Senate promised to be bold this legislative session, and this week showed just how serious they are. The Governor devoted almost one-third of his entire State of the State speech to the need to find solutions to our outdated education system. On top of that, House Speaker Jay Lucas released a comprehensive education reform package. (More on that later.)
As the legislative session moves along it is apparent that the overarching themes will be education and tax reform. One of my top priorities is to be a steward of the taxpayer’s dollar and my goal is to make sure the tax code is the best it can be for South Carolinians.
The House Tax Reform Committee continued its work this week and is working hard on how to best overhaul SC’s tax structure with the goal to create a fairer and lower tax burden on individuals and businesses.
Second Week of 2019 Session
January 15, 2019
Overview of the week:
We have been hard at work in Columbia this week in committees focusing on the many bills that crossed the desk the first day of session. There are over 70 bills in education and well over 100 bills in judiciary alone. In the chamber this week, I joined my fellow house members in unanimously supporting legislation to exempt federal workers in SC from being penalized for not paying their property taxes on time while the federal government is shut down.
First Week of 2019 Session
January 8, 2019
Overview of the week:
The beginning of 2019-2020 legislative session kicked off in a big way with inaugural festivities for Governor Henry McMaster, Lt. Governor Pamela Evette and our seven other Constitutional officers. Gov. McMaster’s inauguration address focused heavily on tax reform, education reform, infrastructure and making sure South Carolina has a bright future ahead of us. When the House gaveled into its first session of the year, we saw 500 pre-filed bills cross the desk. Each of these bills was assigned to a Committee. Those bills will be deliberated, developed and made ready for full debate on the floor of the House.
Government Reorganization And
H.4977 - Governor And Lieutenant Governor Restructuring
Formalizes the 2012 voter-approved constitutional amendment that ends the practice of electing the governor and lieutenant governor separately. 2018 will be the first year in which the party nominees for governor will select a lieutenant governor candidate as a running mate.
STATUS: Passed by the House and Senate and signed by the governor
Last week the legislature concluded its regular session as defined by the state constitution. I have worked diligently to fulfill my promises to streamline state government, balance the budget, and protect utility ratepayers, among many other priorities. However, there is still work to be done. The House and Senate are still negotiating final outcomes for a budget agreement, federal conformity of the state’s tax code, and reforms to protect electric utility ratepayers.
In the meantime, I have listed below what we have been able to pass out of the House of Representatives over the legislative session.
Thursday marked what is known as Sine Die – or “without days” –, the traditional deadline for passing legislation during regular session of the legislature. During the week of Sine Die, there is typically a flood of legislation passed, and this week was no different. As of today, there are three categories of legislation: 1) Bills that passed both the House and Senate by the Thursday Sine Die deadline; 2) Bills that did not pass in both the House and Senate before the Sine Die deadline; 3) Bills that did not pass both the House and Senate before the Sine Die deadline, but were included in a resolution passed this week giving the legislature the authority to revisit them.
The House took a major step on Thursday to make our public schools safer by making it easier to hire school resource officers. There are currently 590 public schools in South Carolina that do not employ a school resource officer. The lack of available officers and hiring restrictions have made it difficult for school systems to hire more new officers. Many retired law enforcement officers have expressed interest in using their previous training to work as a school resource officer; however, current state law caps salaries of retired state employees who wish to serve to $10,000 a year. To fix this problem, the House lifted the $10,000 cap so retired state workers can apply for the many open school resource officer positions. $15 million dollars of state lottery funds will pay for other school safety measures as well including metal detectors, security cameras, and door locks. State dollars will be allocated for poor school districts that cannot afford to hire school resource officers.
The South Carolina House declined to concur on Wednesday with a Senate bill that would not eliminate the full nuclear surcharge SCE&G customers are being forced to pay for the failed V.C. Summer nuclear project. The House and Governor Henry McMaster believe the 18% nuclear surcharge should be completely eliminated so ratepayers do not have to pay for a failed and fraudulent nuclear project. As of April 26th, SCE&G ratepayers have been forced to pay $2 billion for the V.C. Summer nuclear project. The Senate believes the 18% surcharge should but cut to 5%, which would still result in the collection of over $300,000 per month from ratepayers to SCE&G. Due to the House’s action on Wednesday, the House and Senate will each select three members from its chambers to be on a joint conference committee that will negotiate a resolution to this bill. If the Senate refuses to work with the House and governor to provide temporary rate relief, ratepayers will be required to continue paying the 18% nuclear surcharge every month.
This week the House of Representatives amended and overwhelmingly passed a bill (72-36) to enhance current state law banning sanctuary cities in our state. The bill will now go to the Senate for its approval. This legislation will authorize the circuit court to determine if a political subdivision has violated the provisions of this law that prohibit interfering with enforcement. If a political subdivision is found to be in violation, that political subdivision will be barred from receiving Local Government Fund appropriations for at least three consecutive years.
This week marked what is known as the “crossover” deadline, in which bills passed by either the full House or Senate must be sent to the opposite chamber for a vote in order to be considered for final passage. For instance, if a bill that originated in the House earlier this year had not received a final up or down vote in that chamber by April 10th, the “crossover” deadline, the bill would be effectively dead because the House missed the deadline to send the bill to the Senate. However, if 2/3rds of those present and voting in the Senate agreed to waive the rule, a House bill passed after “crossover” could be placed on the calendar for consideration. As of Thursday’s adjournment, there are only 12 legislative days left for each chamber to pass final versions of bills and send them to the governor to be signed into law.
The House overwhelmingly passed a Santee Cooper reform bill this week in order to protect ratepayers and prevent another failure like the V.C. Summer nuclear project from happening again. The three-pronged approach (1) provides a new governance structure to hold the Santee Cooper Board of Directors accountable, (2) increases ratepayer protections by creating the Santee Cooper Rate Reduction and Stabilization Fund, and (3) creates the Santee Cooper Joint Evaluation and Recommendation Committee (SCJERC) that will determine whether a sale is in the best interest of ratepayers and taxpayers and puts a transparent process in place to vet potential buyers. The bill creates the Santee Cooper Rate Reduction and Stabilization Fund and requires it to be explicitly used for rate relief. Funds include: Toshiba settlement money, any gains made from the sale or salvage of V.C. Summer assets, and cost savings from governance. The legislation also authorizes the governor to remove at-will all current Santee Cooper board members and shortens the terms from seven years to four years.
On Wednesday the House Judiciary Committee debated a bill that would effectively ban municipalities in our state from declaring themselves, or acting as, sanctuary cities. Specifically, the legislation directs the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) to create, prepare, maintain, and certify what will be known as the Immigration Compliance Report (ICR). SLED will certify compliance with federal laws related to the presence of an unlawful person in the United States as part of the ICR. The bill authorizes SLED to conduct criminal investigations to verify certifications and ensure compliance by political subdivisions. Individuals who intentionally falsify compliance documentation may be subject to persecution and municipalities could lose state-appropriated local government funds for a minimum of three consecutive years. This legislation passed in committee and will be voted on by the full House.
The focus of the House this week was almost exclusively on the budget. Democrats were seeking to raise taxes on the people of South Carolina in two ways. The first was an increase in taxes for firearms, which would have unfairly penalized lawful gun owners. Republicans soundly defeated the Democrats’ firearm tax increase. The second tax hike push by Democrats was their effort to repeal the Homestead Exemption for one year, also known as Act 388. The Homestead Exemption exempts taxes on the first $50,000 in fair market value for homeowners over age 65, the totally and permanently disabled, or legally blind. House Republicans successfully defeated this tax hike measure put forward by the Democrats.
On Wednesday a bipartisan House coalition led by Speaker Jay Lucas held a press conference in the statehouse calling for the Senate to take up legislation amended by the House to reduce SCE&G rates and provide immediate relief for hundreds of thousands of customers. Because of the Senate’s refusal to debate and adopt House-passed legislation, SCANA continues to collect $1.2 million a day from ratepayers in order to pay for the failed V.C. Summer nuclear project. As of Friday, March 9, the Senate’s unwillingness to act has cost SCANA customers over $45 million since February 1st, the day the House sent our ratepayer protection bill to the Senate for review.
On Tuesday the House took up a Senate resolution relating to the proposal by Dominion Energy to purchase SCANA Corporation. In the resolution, the Senate extended the amount of time the Public Service Commission has to review the Dominion-SCANA acquisition bid. However, the Senate did not address the most glaring issue ratepayers are facing every month, which is the 18% nuclear surcharge SCANA is forcing its customers to pay for the failed V.C. Summer nuclear energy project. Ratepayers are now paying $37 million a month for a nuclear plant that was never built. The House believes this is unacceptable and therefore altered the Senate resolution by completely eliminating the nuclear surcharge SCANA is charging its customers until the PSC can make a decision on the merger. The altered resolution has been sent back to the Senate for approval.
On Wednesday the House received a Senate resolution that extends the period of time the South Carolina Public Service Commission has to review a proposal by Dominion Energy to purchase SCANA Corporation. While an extension of time to review an acquisition bid may be merited, the House believes the main priority of the legislature should be addressing the existing 18% nuclear surcharge SCANA forces its customers to pay every month for the failed V.C. Summer nuclear project. The House has taken the position that the nuclear surcharge should be reduced to zero while the acquisition bid is being reviewed. Concerns about existing language of the Senate resolution will be addressed next week by the House Judiciary Committee.
On Thursday, the House passed legislation to reform the Public Service Commission (PSC) by a vote of 108-1. The legislation (1) strengthens ethical standards to limit outside utility influence, (2) requires stricter questioning of parties by commissioners before making a decision, (3) provides ability to inspect utility construction sites and (4) staggers the election terms for current commissioners.
The bipartisan House Utility Ratepayer Protection Committee met again this week to further discuss the future of electric cooperative ratepayers who rely on Santee Cooper for their electricity. The Committee’s main concern, and my main concern, continues to be the protection of all ratepayers. The fact-finding meeting lasted several hours as representatives from the electric cooperative industry discussed their current status and future trajectory.
This week on the House floor, and after much debate, the House passed a repeal of the controversial Base Load Review Act (BLRA). While the repeal of the BLRA took up most of our time this week, the House budget-writing committee also began meeting to write the annual budget.
This week, Governor McMaster delivered his first State of the State address to the General Assembly and the House spent significant time on the floor debating two bills to reform the regulatory bodies that oversee utilities and set utility rates in South Carolina.
The inclement weather that left much of the state with snow and ice, unfortunately, halted floor action for two days this week. However, the winter storm did not prevent House committees from getting to work on important legislation or hearing more about a proposed deal from Dominion Energy to purchase SCANA, a private utility company based in South Carolina.
A business plan for 2018
This week marked the beginning of the 2nd regular session of the 122nd South Carolina General Assembly. We returned to Columbia with a long list of issues to tackle and 18 weeks to complete the work of the people. I am thankful for the trust you have given to me to represent your interests this year in Columbia.