We wrapped up this first year of a 2-year session a couple of weeks ago. We were able to get through the Budget process and pass another balanced budget that included raises for all state employees with teachers getting the highest raise. Not only had our teachers fallen a little behind, so had our state employees which makes it very hard for recruiting and keeping employees in areas like ours where they have a lot of other options.

We also passed a bill authorizing the Department of Administration to organize and seek bids for the sale of Santee Cooper, as well as bids to “manage” Santee Cooper. It was a very detailed debate over outlining what is to be included in the bid. We should have these results after the start of session next January. We will weigh those two options as well as give Santee Cooper a chance to make their case for staying as is.

On the Education Bill, time did not allow us to get it to Full Committee and that’s probably a good thing. We still need to work on the Governance and Accountability section of the bill that would allow the State to go in and takeover troubled districts. It’s not the first option but in most of those troubled areas, it’s the parents of the children that are begging for the state interference. We will probably meet a couple of times before session next year in order to have the bill ready for debate on the Senate Floor before the end of January.

On another note, I have received a lot of questions about the Roads and the selection process of roads for repair. The legislature passed in 2007 a Roads Formula that is used to prioritize the roads in the most need of repair. There are a ton of factors that go into the formula, but most of the controversy centers around the weight of Economic Development in the equation. The rural areas don’t think it should be weighed as much as the urban areas do. Regardless, the formula is being followed by DOT and they are on track of their 10-year plan for the roads that was presented to us.

The DOT has an interactive map on their website that shows you which roads are scheduled for repair and a general timeline. You can also see the cost of each project and what contractors are involved and how much they are getting paid. It is following the transparency we insisted on when we passed the Roads bill.

Thank you again for the honor of representing District 8 in the State Senate. If you have any questions or need to get in touch with me, please contact my assistant – Ja’vell Bynoe at (803) 212-6148.