Wow! It’s hard to believe how fast the last four years have flown by since I first stepped foot in the South Carolina Senate. As I write this today, it is the fourth anniversary of my runoff win in the Republican Primary. It has been an incredible and rewarding experience, and I am excited about the future of our state.
We finished the 2016 session late on June 15th and won’t go back in session until December – when we will go for a day to meet the new members of the Senate. On that day we will also choose new committee assignments and seating so we will be ready to go when the next session begins in January .
Some of the major bills that we worked on this session were:
Roads: On June 7, Governor Haley signed the roads bill. The bill allows for more than $2 billion to be borrowed for major interstate and bridge fixes and allows the Governor to appoint all eight members of the S.C. Department of Transportation’s controlling commission. Legislators will confirm those commissioners. The commissioners will select the SCDOT secretary who will then report to the commission. No taxes are increased under this law.
Instead, existing revenue will be leveraged into bonds. Having the money from the bonds will allow SCDOT to use other existing funds totaling another $2 billion over the next decade for more road and bridge improvements. When she signed the bill, the Governor noted that the bill still did not achieve the reform that the state needs for improving the state’s roads and bridges and the system associated with it. We will work again next year to complete it with more long term recurring funds.
Ethics — Income Source Disclosure and Independent Investigations: On the last day,the General Assembly passed two ethics reform provisions as follows: (1) Income source disclosure requirements of private income sources meaning income reported to the Internal Revenue Service (public income source and amount already is disclosed); and (2) independent investigations by the State Ethics Commission and its staff of alleged legislative ethics complaints against legislators. If the State Ethics Commission decides that charges should be brought, then it releases all of the evidence to both the public and to the House or Senate Ethics Committees. The respective committee then decides whether the legislator violated the law, and if so, sets the punishment. Governor Haley signed the bills on Thursday in Easley giving Judiciary Chairman Larry Martin the credit he deserved.
Deer Bill: After 2 years, we finally got the deer bill passed that will require that all deer taken be tagged with a limit of 3 bucks per season. All of this is done at no additional cost to S.C. residents. In addition, we have raised the cost for out of state residents to get licensed.
Session Shortening Bill: We passed a bill that will shorten the session to finish in the second Thursday in May as opposed to first Thursday in June. We were still basically following the same schedule they had when they were riding horse and buggies to the statehouse (long before computers and cell phones).
Shoreline Management: The General Assembly passed S.139 which establishes that coastal South Carolina’s baseline, or construction boundary, does not move seaward. In doing so, the bill is viewed as a means to protect coastal resources and communities.
Foster Care Legislation: Two bills related to foster care and their status at end of session were as follows:
- Did not pass — H.4492 requires the Department of Social Services to provide 10 days notice of permanency planning and child abuse and neglect hearings to foster parents, as well as inform them of the right to address the court by submitting a written report and/or live testimony. The Senate adjourned due to lack of a quorum at nearly midnight last Wednesday night while the Conference Report on this bill was being debated. I supported the bill and the Conference Report.
- Passed and enacted — H.4546 broadens permissions for foster parents adding definitions in the Children’s Code related to the standard of care of a “reasonable and prudent” parent and requiring court consideration of local foster care review board recommendations in permanency planning cases.
Georgia CWP Reciprocity: Governor Haley signed this bill into law on June 3. With its enactment, there is now concealed weapon permit (CWP) reciprocity between South Carolina and Georgia. Like other states with whom our state has concealed carry reciprocity, Georgia concealed carry permitholders must abide by South Carolina concealed carry laws while in South Carolina and South Carolina permitholders must abide by Georgia’s law while in Georgia.
As always, you can go to scstatehouse.gov and look up details on all bills and every member of the General Assembly’s voting record. If you need to get in touch with me on any issues you would like addressed next year, please contact my assistant, Barbara Lengel at (803) 212-6148, or email me at email@example.com.
Thank you for the honor of representing District 8 in the South Carolina Senate. I hope you and your family have a great summer!