Moving the ball forward
The Senate adjourned this past week with a number of accomplishments led by the Republican Caucus – and with several other important bills in the pipeline we hope will gain early passage when we reconvene in January.
First and foremost, one of our top agenda items was completed – we corrected the election law that had resulted in hundreds of candidates to be thrown off the ballot last year. The bill also protects the ability of political party voters to choose their nominees through primaries instead of allowing party bosses to hand-pick nominees at their convention. Before a party could choose to alter its nominating method, three-quarters of the party’s convention must vote to put a referendum before the primary voters, who would then have a vote to decide the outcome.
We got rid of what the gambling industry claimed was a loophole in the current law that allowed them to operate thinly veiled “sweepstakes” machines. We had seen a resurgence of video-poker like machines cropping up all over the state. This new law will prevent the video poker industry from coming back.
We took a measured approach to the debate that had raged since the gun violence last year in Connecticut. We passed a law requiring SLED to enter into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System the names of those adjudicated for mental illnesses. This means we’ll keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill, while protecting 2nd Amendment rights of law abiding, responsible citizens.
We also passed a bill that expands the number of required days for the lowering of the flag to half-staff at the State House when a SC resident loses their life in the military.
Another of our top agenda items is very close to final passage. The Department of Administration bill moves the administrative functions of government to a newly created Department of Administration. The Department will include human resources, general services, and an executive budget and strategic planning office. It gets rid of the antiquated Budget and Control Board that prevented accountability in much of government.
When it comes to the state budget, we were successful in beating back the Obamacare Medicaid expansion pushed by Senate Democrats, which would have cost our state untold millions once the federal government yanked its portion of the funding away.
We made education a priority, by for the first time ever allowing the formation of scholarship granting organizations, which can receive tax credits for providing school choice to low income and special needs students. We also expanded 4k funding for at risk students and put $1.5 million toward the new “Read to Succeed” program. As well, we kept our commitment to safe, reliable school bus transportation by providing $23.5 million for new school buses.
Also on the budget front, we made safe roads a priority by providing for 40 new highway patrol officers and committing another $50 million – yearly – to priority roads and bridges. This two pronged approach – public safety and infrastructure – is important for quality of life and economic development.
Those priority items from the budget are still being negotiated with the House, but we hope to include them in final passage.
Some important items remain that we hope to take up early next year. A strong ethics bill remains on the Senate calendar, and is first in line to be debated again next year. A comprehensive proposal for road funding, and a spending caps bill also remain top priorities for next year, in the second half of our legislative session.
I look forward to continuing to serve you in the state Senate. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if I can be of service.