Deadlines typically motivate people (or at least me), maybe not until the last possible second, but somehow – you typically get done what needs to be done. This will be the case at our house this week as we prepare to host about 30 people for Mother’s Day lunch on Sunday. A lot of my “to do” list will get done Saturday afternoon, despite knowing we were doing this for a month or so!
It works the same way in the South Carolina Legislature. Last Thursday was the last session day before the annual “crossover” deadline of May 1st – meaning that if a Senate or House bill is not voted on and sent to the other chamber by this date – it is very likely dead for the year.
On the roads, we passed a bill that designates $200 million out of the General Funds to pay for bonds that will be issued to fund repairs on 400 state bridges, as well as several sections of existing Interstate highways. The bill would use money from the sales tax on vehicles and DMV fees to issue bonds to raise at least $2.2 billion. No tax or fee increase is included in the bill. This also frees up the current money designated to those projects and allows it to be used for repaving and maintenance.
This “funding” portion of a roads plan will need to match up with the DOT Reform bill, which is currently in Conference committee. (Conference committee is comprised of three Senate and three House members appointed to settle the difference when we both pass a bill but disagree on a few things.) This is by no means a complete solution, but if we can get both items passed, it provides a solid base, and with another funding package next year, gives us a real long term solution.
The fact is, we are in a hole on our roads and you can’t dig out of it fast. The road construction companies available to bid on the large projects are few in number and they have been getting by over the last few years without the ability to really reinvest in their equipment or employees. It will take time for these companies to ramp back up and get the necessary people trained. They can’t do that without assurances the money is going to be there. There is no overnight solution but I was happy with our progress last week.
The other reason we accomplished more than usual last week is because we start the Budget debate this week. I told someone at Sunday School yesterday that I feel like I am heading into college exam week! The budget process typically means long days and some nights – very seldom moving from your seat because you are constantly voting. It is amazing how fast you can spend almost $8 billion dollars.
As we get our house prepared for Mother’s Day lunch, I want to thank my Mom- Anne, my wife- Julie, and my mother-in-law – Hester, and all the mothers out there that sacrifice on a daily basis for the rest of us. I wish you all a Happy Mother’s Day.
Click here to see more on the list of other bills and items that were passed last week, including ethics, which is something we have been working on since I got to the Senate four years ago. You are welcome to keep up with our discussions this week by going to www.scstatehouse.gov.
Thank you for allowing me to serve as your Senator.