House Week 16

The House wrapped up the week with House negotiators having resolved the serious issues surrounding SC State University. This plan closely resembles the previous House plan I wrote about a number of weeks ago. Under this proposal the Governor, Treasurer, Chairman of Senate Finance, Chairman of House Ways and Means and State Superintendent of Education all designate one appointee to the newly created SC State Board of Trustees. The other two members will be appointments of the chairmen from the House Ways and Means Higher Education Subcommittee and the Senate Finance Higher Education Subcommittee. These 7 members will serve as the only voting members, while the student body president and president of the alumni association will both serve as non-voting members. The new board establishes a fresh start in the effort to eliminate waste and abuse of taxpayer dollars at SC State University.

The House Legislative Oversight Committee is continuing their diligent efforts to improve our state government. The committee is currently conducting studies on the following agencies:

  1. South Carolina Comptroller General’s Office
  2. South Carolina Department of Transportation
  3. South Carolina First Steps to School Readiness
  4. South Carolina Department of Social Services
  5. South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice

The Road Fix

After months of work, last month the House sent the Senate a plan to fund statewide road improvements. As soon as it arrived in the Senate it was shredded and replaced with their plan to raise nearly $800 million in taxes each year by increasing the state gas tax more than 70%. Conservative senators balked at the huge tax hike. This week Senate Republicans floated a proposal they said would raise more money for road work, but also provide some income tax relief and change how the state’s transportation agency is governed. That plan is more aligned with the House plan. Prospects are dim to pass a road plan this year.

By keeping informed about what’s being done in the legislature, you’ve proven to be a citizen that’s concerned with the advancement of your state. The House Oversight Committee needs opinions like yours. Please take the survey as part of the effort to make government more efficient and effective.

You have the option to complete all or some questions, but survey responses must be received by May 31, 2015.

Survey Link: https://www.research.net/s/HouseLegislativeOversightCommitte1

As always, it is an honor to serve you in the General Assembly.  If you ever find yourself in need of assistance navigating state government, or if you have ideas on issues you want me to share with my colleagues in the House, don’t hesitate to contact me at (864) 366-4112 or by email at craiggagnon@schouse.gov

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State House Week 15 Update

The South Carolina House of Representatives finished up an extensive amount of committee work in preparation for Crossover Week. Each year, lawmakers spend roughly 4 months hearing testimony and crafting legislation. The end of that 4-month period concludes with the beginning of the crossover period which lands on May 1st for 2015. The crossover period simply demands that no more legislation can be considered by House or Senate, forcing each body to act on the legislation passed by the other body instead of new items in the remaining days of the session. In short, if a bill is going to be passed this year, it has to make it out of at least one chamber prior to this deadline.

If there is a particular piece of legislation you’re concerned about that hasn’t been passed leading up to crossover date, I hope you’ll contact me about it.

This week, the House debated and passed a bill that I co-sponsored allowing Concealed Weapons Permit (CWP) holders from other states to have reciprocal rights in South Carolina (H. 3025). Upon third reading on Tuesday, the bill will head to the Senate.

House Committees passed numerous pieces of legislation, some of which I have listed below:

House Ways and Means Committee

Certificate of Need H3250

Needy Children’s Clothing Tax Exemption H3062

Giving Back to Our Veterans Act H3147

Capitol Police Force H3022

Wetlands Conservation Act H3868

Property Tax Grace Period for Deployed Military H3149

House Judiciary Committee

Body Cameras for Law Enforcement H3997

Overdose Prevention H3083

Protecting Homeowners H3248

Humane Methods of Animal Euthanasia H3343

Patent Infringement Act H3682

Uniform Interstate Family Support Act H3766

House Education Committee

In-State Tuition Rates for Military Personnel and Their Dependents H3037

Pilot Program for GED Camps H3353

Jurisdiction of State Board of Technical and Comprehensive Education H3170

Sign Language Interpreters H3390

Snow Days H3512

Hearing Officers for Teacher Dismissal H3560

The bills listed above along with many others head to the House Floor next week where a whirlwind of debate will occur. I’ve highlighted two of these.

Body Cameras for Law Enforcement H3997

Recent events have prompted many to look at the viability of body cameras for law enforcement officers. This week the House Judiciary Committee approved a measure developing a pilot program administered by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Training Council to study the use of body cameras on law enforcement officers. The program would span 3 counties and 6 municipalities on an opt-in basis. The Training Council will report their findings to the General Assembly after a 6 month period. Both civil liberties organizations and the law enforcement community support this pilot program and the bill moves to the House floor for debate next week.

In-State Tuition Rates for Military Personnel H3037

Rep. Joe Daning (R-Berkeley) sponsored H3037 which grants in-state tuition rates to active duty military and their dependents. Currently, active duty military personnel who have been stationed in South Carolina do not receive in-state tuition rates. This bill grants them that privilege and allows them and their dependents to continue receiving an in-state tuition rate as long as they remain continuously enrolled. I’m look forward to supporting this measure on the House floor next week.

Each year we recognize a Teacher of the Year. I’d like to give my congratulations to this year’s Abbeville County School District recipient Leslie Schaffer, along with my sincere appreciation for each of our educators in South Carolina.

As always, it is an honor to serve you and your family in the General Assembly.  If you ever find yourself in need of assistance navigating state government, or if you have ideas on issues you want me to share with my colleagues in the House, don’t hesitate to contact me at home at (864) 366-4112 0r email me at craiggagnon@schouse.gov.

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HOUSE WEEK IN REVIEW March 23-27, 2015

The House of Representatives adopted the conference committee report on S.196, legislation enhancing provisions for COMBATTING HUMAN TRAFFICKING. The legislation includes human trafficking offenses within the jurisdiction of the state grand jury. The legislation also includes new requirements for posting National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline information that apply to a list of establishments such as adult businesses, massage parlors, hospital emergency rooms, agricultural labor contractors, hotels, motels, airports, train stations, bus stations, rest areas, and truck stops. Penalties are established for failing to comply with these posting requirements.I voted in favor of the compromise.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3119, a bill establishing the FELONY CRIMINAL OFFENSE OF THEFT OF A FIREARM punishable with a fine of up to five thousand dollars and/or imprisonment for up to ten years. I voted in favor of this bill. There should be stiff penalties for firearm theft.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3116, a bill establishing FRAUDULENT FIREARMS AND AMMUNITION PURCHASE PREVENTION provisions. The legislation provides that it is unlawful for a person to knowingly solicit, persuade, encourage or entice a licensed dealer or private seller of firearms or ammunition to transfer a firearm or ammunition under circumstances which the person knows would violate the laws of this state. Additionally, it is unlawful for a person to knowingly provide to a licensed dealer or private seller of firearms or ammunition materially false information with intent to deceive the dealer or seller about the legality of a transfer of a firearm or ammunition. The legislation also prohibits someone from wilfully procuring another person to engage in this unlawful conduct. An exemption is provided to allow law enforcement officers to conduct sting operations and other official investigations. A violator of these provisions is guilty of a felony offense punishable with a fine of up to five thousand dollars and/or imprisonment for up to five years. I voted in favor of this bill as there have been ongoing attempts by anti-gun activists to sabotage gun rights by obtaining guns under false pretenses and then blaming federally licensed firearm retailers for gun crime in New York City, among other places.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3583, a bill establishing ANTI-BOYCOTT REQUIREMENTS FOR GOVERNMENT CONTRACTING. The legislation establishes conditions that prohibit the state government, local governments, school districts, or any other political subdivisions or public bodies from entering into contracts for goods or services with businesses that unfairly discriminate against South Carolina’s free trading partners through boycotts. The legislation establishes requirements that, in order to enter into a government contract with a value of at least ten thousand dollars, a business must certify that it does not, and will not, engage in boycotts against South Carolina’s trading partners that are based upon race, color, religion, gender, or national origin. Boycotts specifically do not include such matters as decisions based upon business or economic reasons, or the specific conduct of a targeted person or firm. I voted for this measure as it proects our trading partners from unfair discimination. For example, SC governmental entities cannot do business with countries that boycott Israel for no reason other than they are Jewish.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3525, the “TRANSPORTATION NETWORK COMPANY ACT” which regulates operations that make use of digital networks and mobile device applications to connect a passenger to a transportation network driver for the purpose of providing transportation for compensation using a vehicle outside the limits of a municipality. The legislation establishes new requirements for transportation network companies to obtain certificates from and be regulated by the Office of Regulatory Staff which, in carrying out its new duties, is charged with balancing the interest of the state in promoting innovative, safe, and cost-effective transportation services with an appropriate level of safety protections for passengers and the general public. The Transportation Network Company Act includes new requirements relating to such matters as insurance coverage, vehicle safety and cleanliness, background checks for drivers, nondiscrimination with respect to passengers, the charging of fares, a prohibition on cash payments, and a prohibition on street hails and other ride arrangements that do not make use of the company’s digital network. Assessments are established to address regulatory costs and penalties are provided for violations. I voted for this as Transportation Network Companies (such as Uber) are becoming important businesses in SC.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.3547, a bill that expands provisions establishing REEMPLOYMENT RIGHTS OF SOUTH CAROLINA NATIONAL GUARD AND STATE GUARD MEMBERS so that they also apply to someone who is employed in South Carolina but has been a member of another state’s national or state guard and honorably released from that duty. I voted for this bill. Our Veterans should be given this respect.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.3683, a bill requiring that the ADJUTANT GENERAL’S ANNUAL REPORT ON THE SOUTH CAROLINA NATIONAL GUARD be submitted to the General Assembly as well as to the Governor. I voted for this as it will make this information more readily available to the Legislature.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3775, a joint resolution on FORGIVING SCHOOL DAYS MISSED DUE TO INCLEMENT WEATHER. The legislation authorizes school districts to waive make-up requirements for up to three full school days that students missed due to inclement weather during the 2014-2015 school year. A district must, however, exhaust all statutorily required make-up days remaining on the 2014-2015 school calendar before granting these waivers. I supported this bill.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.3843, a joint resolution EXTENDING THE DEADLINE FOR THE OFFICE OF FIRST STEPS STUDY COMMITTEE TO COMPLETE ITS REVIEW and present its recommendations to the General Assembly from March 15, 2015, to January 1, 2016. I voted for this measure as more time is required to complete this study.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3545, a bill making revisions to ARSON OFFENSES. The legislation revises various statutes that provide for the degrees of arson, correcting some changes that were put in place through the adoption of the 2010 Omnibus Crime Act. I cosponsored this bill.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3216, a bill relating to ANIMAL CONTROL AND LITTER CONTROL OFFICERS. The legislation equips animal control officers with the same custodial arrest powers that are currently afforded litter control officers. The legislation also specifies that such litter or animal control officers are vested with all the powers and duties according to the officers’ corresponding law enforcement officer classification conferred by law and are under the jurisdiction of the appropriate local law enforcement agency. I supported this bill when it was in my committee as well as when it came to a vote on the floor. Animal control officers will receive proper training and will then be able to carry a firearm on the job – not just a rope on a pole.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.3443, a bill AUTHORIZING OPTOMETRISTS TO CONTINUE TO PRESCRIBE HYDROCODONE which they have not been allowed to do since the medication was reclassified from Schedule III to Schedule II of the federal Controlled Substances Act in October, 2014. I supported this measure.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.3349, a bill providing for numerous REVISIONS TO THE PHARMACY PRACTICE ACT. The legislation includes authority for compounding materials in advance and storing them when a need for the supply can be anticipated. I supported these updates.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3786, a bill establishing PROTECTION FOR TIGER SHARKS. The legislation provides that it is unlawful to take or possess a tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier). Any tiger shark that is caught must be released immediately and must remain completely in the water at all times while being released. The legislation provides that persons who are in the water for a lawful purpose may take all reasonable measures to defend themselves if attacked by a tiger shark.  I supported this bill as tiger sharks, while being little threat to humans, are being caught and their fins are cut off to make a “supplement” that some people believe will help their “potency”.

The House granted free conference powers to consider compromise provisions with the Senate on H.3118, legislation relating to the HUNTING AND TAKING OF WILD TURKEY, including conservation measures that may be needed to address observed declines in the state’s wild turkey population. I supported this as the House and Senate versions differ and need to be reconciled.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3668, relating to REQUIREMENTS FOR WEARING SAFETY APPAREL IN WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT AREAS. The legislation requires all non-exempt persons to wear a hat, coat, or vest of solid international orange while on Wildlife Management Area lands during deer hunting season. I supported this simple safety measure.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3762, a bill relating to ANIMAL TRAPS. The legislation allows for a customer number issued by the Department of Natural Resources to be used in order to identify the owner of an animal trap. The legislation also eliminates an outdated protocol for game wardens to inspect skins, furs, pelts or hides of furbearing animals before they may be transported out of state. I voted in favor of this bill.

The House concurred in Senate amendments to H.3323 and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation transfers authority for managing “SOUTH CAROLINA NOXIOUS WEED ACT” responsibilities from the Department of Agriculture to Clemson University’s Division of Regulatory and Public Service Programs which already manages the state’s crop pest program. I voted for concurrence.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3558. This bill revises provisions that allow COTTON MODULAR VEHICLES to travel on the state’s roads to haul cotton from fields to processing facilities. I supported this as this is a simple remedy to help our farmers.

The House recommitted to the Judiciary Committee H.3041, a PROPOSED AMENDMENT TO THE SOUTH CAROLINA CONSTITUTION FOR THE SUPERINTENDENT OF EDUCATION TO BE APPOINTED BY THE GOVERNOR rather than elected. In deference to educators in our district, I voted against the change to the Constitution. The bill was ultimately sent back to committee.

 

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State House Report Week 10 – Domestic Violence & SC State

This week, the House of Representatives advanced legislation cracking down on domestic violence. We also took decisive action by passing a resolution concerning the overhaul of South Carolina State University.

Studies show that South Carolina’s murder rate of women killed by men sits at twice the national average. It’s unacceptable, and my colleagues and I are committed to strengthening our laws to give law enforcement the necessary tools to reverse this pattern of abuse in our state.

For 6 months, the House Special Criminal Domestic Violence Ad Hoc Committee, under the direction of Chairman Shannon Erickson (R-Beaufort), diligently studied all aspects of the issue. The committee listened to dozens of hours of testimony from both survivors of domestic violence and from the law enforcement and prosecutors charged with bringing justice to those who perpetrate crimes of domestic violence.

As a result of their findings the committee produced the Domestic Violence Reform Act. This comprehensive legislation:

  • Significantly enhances penalties for those found guilty of committing acts of domestic violence.
  • Paves the way for middle school students to receive instruction on how to identify and respond to domestic violence situations.
  • Creates the Domestic Violence Advisory Committee comprised of citizens, medical doctors, and law enforcement to review instances of death as a result of domestic violence and submit a public annual report.

Currently South Carolina’s domestic violence laws are occurrence based – an approach that has proven insufficient by itself. H 3433 institutes a hybrid model based on the number of occurrences and adds that penalties become more severe depending on the level of injury sustained, also accounting for any aggravating circumstances. I am committed to ending the cycle of domestic violence in South Carolina and this restructuring demands the punishment fit the crime.

The House unanimously passed H.3663, a joint resolution that:

  • Removes the current SC State board members.
  • Gives authority to newly appointed interim board members.
  • Allows the interim Board of Trustees to remove the current President if they deem that action necessary.

“It is my hope that our joint resolution – which received unanimous bipartisan support – will put SC State back on a path to success,” said House Speaker Jay Lucas (R-Darlington).

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate:

H.3204, the CERVICAL CANCER PREVENTION ACT. I did not support this bill as I have reservations that portions of it appear to be marketing a product – namely HPV vaccines – at taxpayer expense. Further, the bill provides that if anyone wants the vaccine, the state would pick up the tab – potentially costing taxpayers of SC $500,000 per year.

H.3849, a bill establishing CONFIDENTIALITY FOR TEACHER EVALUATION RECORDS as a means of promoting candid feedback for continuous improvement of teaching and learning. The legislation provides that records relating to educator evaluation that include personally identifiable information are exempt from public disclosure under the state’s Freedom of Information Act provisions. I supported this measure. I supported this measure.

H.3847 which provides that an applicant for LICENSURE AS A SPEECH‑LANGUAGE PATHOLOGIST ASSISTANT who earned a bachelor’s degree in speech‑language pathology from a nationally accredited institution of higher education is exempt from the recently-enacted requirement of having a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution of higher education. I supported this measure also.

The House committed H.3343, a bill disallowing certain METHODS OF EUTHANASIA (such as gas chambers) IN ANIMAL SHELTERS, to the Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Environmental Affairs Committee.

The House appointed a conference committee to address its differences with the Senate on H.3118, legislation relating to the HUNTING AND TAKING OF WILD TURKEY, including conservation measures that may be needed to address observed declines in the state’s wild turkey population.

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The lighter side of budget week

There were a couple of interesting things that happened at the State House this week. The first happened when we convened first thing on Monday. The computer systems were out and we started voting by voice vote on the uncontested parts of the budget. After an hour or two of making great progress, the Governor took to social media to blast the House for being secretive and breaking the law by not voting on the board (which wasn’t working). The computers eventually came back up and because of the outcry from the Governor, it was decided that we had to start all over and vote using the costlier and more time consuming board to vote. Wasted 3 hours catching up to where we were!

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The second happened when the House was standing ‘at ease’. We were waiting for some amendments to the budget to be composed and during the lull, my colleague Rep. Roger Kirby came to the well and was convinced to sing a song from the play ‘Les Miserables’. He was spectacular and it was a welcomed break from the stress of budget week!

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House Week in Review – The Budget

The House of Representatives amended and gave second reading approval to H.3701, the General Appropriation Bill, and H.3702, the joint resolution making appropriations from the Capital Reserve Fund, which together comprise the proposed FISCAL YEAR 2015-2016 STATE GOVERNMENT BUDGET. The budget proposed for the upcoming fiscal year includes $6.9 billion in recurring general fund revenue, $127.8 million in Capital Reserve Funds, $19.3 million in certified surplus revenue, and $323 million in Education Lottery Funds.

$50 million in motor vehicle sales tax revenues is transferred from the general fund to the South Carolina Transportation Infrastructure Bank to be utilized to leverage approximately $500 million in bonds to finance bridge replacement, resurfacing and rehabilitation projects, and expansion and improvements to existing mainline interstates.

For K-12 public education, $94 million is used for a $100 per pupil increase for the base student cost to arrive at an estimated $2,220.

$5 million is provided for an expansion of reading coach initiatives. $1.5 million is included for summer reading camp expansion.

$1.4 million is included for First Steps to School Readiness early childhood education local partnerships.

$29.3 million in Education Lottery funds is devoted to K-12 technology initiatives and $2.1 million in Education Improvement Act funding is included for technology. $4 million in EIA funding is included for professional development.

$14.5 million in nonrecurring funds and $6 million in excess unclaimed lottery prize money is provided for instructional materials.

$2.9 million is provided virtual education operations.

$11.9 million in Education Improvement Act funding is provided for South Carolina’s Public Charter School District.

A program is created to provide incentives for recruiting and retaining classroom teachers in rural and underserved school districts that are experiencing excessive yearly turnover.

$1 million in Education Improvement Act funding is appropriated for arts education grants and programs.

$17 million is provided from the Capital Reserve Fund for purchasing or leasing new school buses. School buses are also afforded $6 million in excess unclaimed lottery prize money and $4 million in excess lottery proceeds. $9 million is devoted bus shops.

Full funding is provided for the LIFE, HOPE, and Palmetto Fellows higher education scholarship programs.

The budget defunds the Commission on Higher Education in response to concerns that the commission is playing an advocacy role rather than adopting a posture of regulatory oversight with respect to the state’s institutions of higher learning. Funding is eliminated for CHE personnel and commission operations while all money tied to scholarship programs administered by the commission is transferred to the State Treasurer’s Office.

The budget legislation includes a provision that transfers oversight and control of South Carolina State University to an interim governing authority in order to address the school’s financial disarray and academic accreditation issues and ensure the continuing viability of the institution. The legislation removes the members of S.C. State’s Board of Trustees and provides for an Interim Board of Trustees composed of the designees of the five members of the State Fiscal Accountability Authority: the Governor, Treasurer, Comptroller General, Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. The Interim Board is authorized to remove the university’s current president and employ an interim president on an at-will basis. $4 million in nonrecurring funds is allocated for SC State’s vendor debt.

The State Board for Technical and Comprehensive Education is afforded $5 million in recurring funds for its workforce scholarships and grants program. $5 million in nonrecurring revenue is devoted to worker training through the Ready SC Program at the state’s technical colleges. $5 million from the Capital Reserve Fund is provided for Workforce Pathways instructional materials. $500,000 in nonrecurring funds is included for Pathways to Workplace infrastructure development. $2 million in recurring funds and $2 million in nonrecurring revenue is provided for manufacturing, healthcare, and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) training.

$20 million from the Capital Reserve Fund is provided for an Aeronautical Training Center.

The Department of Commerce is afforded appropriations of $500,000 for Regional Education Centers, $250,000 for the Office of Innovation, $200,000 in nonrecurring revenue for the SC Council on Economic Competitiveness, and $750,000 in nonrecurring revenue for the Military Base Task Force.

At the Department of Social Services, $2 million is devoted to child and adult protective services recruitment and $3.7 million is provided for child and adult protective services pay increases.   The budget provides for 120 additional case works to reduce sizeable caseloads. The 10% case worker salary increase provided in the budget combined with last year’s 10% increase, allows for a 20% salary increase as a means of stemming the high turnover rate at the agency.

$34.9 million is included to cover the increased costs of operating the state’s health insurance plan with no increases in the premiums paid by employees and no reductions in coverage.

Provisions are included to commission a comprehensive state employee salary study.

$68 million in Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement funding is devoted to maintenance of effort in the Medicaid program. $11 million in recurring funds is included to address projected increases in enrollment.

The budget legislation furthers the Healthy Outcomes Initiative that has been implemented as an alternative to an expansion in eligibility for the state’s Medicaid Program as allowed by the federal “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” of 2010. Funding is continued for such accountability and quality improvement programs as: meeting the needs of chronically ill uninsured patients through home visits and care in other settings outside the emergency room; 100% cost reimbursement for rural hospitals; a Primary Care Safety Net utilizing such resources as Federally Qualified Health Centers and free clinics; and efforts to enhance provider capacity in rural and underserved areas. A pilot program is expanded into a statewide obesity education initiative.

The Department of Health and Human Services is directed to conduct a pilot program on all-inclusive health intervention for wrap-around care to vulnerable mental health patients who frequent the emergency room in hotspots and underserved areas within the state.

$2.7 million in nonrecurring revenue is included to revamp the state’s Medicaid eligibility system. $5 million from the Capital Reserve Fund is provided for Medicaid Management Information System replacement.

$2 million in recurring funds is provided for the state’s telemedicine network. $2 million from the Capital Reserve Fund is devoted to statewide telemedicine infrastructure.

$3.8 million is devoted to an enhanced fee schedule for primary care physicians.

$4.9 million is appropriated for expanded coverage for Autism Spectrum Disorder. $7.9 million is devoted to children’s mental health.

$25 million from the Capital Reserve Fund is provided for a new children’s hospital at the Medical University of South Carolina.

The Department of Health and Environmental Control receives nonrecurring revenue in the amount of $500,000 for Criminal Domestic Violence, $250,000 for the Best Chance/Colon Cancer Prevention Networks, $100,000 for the National Kidney Foundation, $100,000 for the J. R. Clark Sickle Cell Foundation, $100,000 for the Bleeding Disorders Premium Assistance Program, and $100,000 for Donate Life’s Organ Donor Registry.

$3.98 million in recurring revenue is allocated to DHEC for monitoring at the Pinewood Hazardous Waste Disposal Site. $3 million in nonrecurring revenue is directed to its water quality initiative and $50,000 in recurring revenue is provided for water quality testing.

$6.4 million recurring fund increase is directed to the Department of Mental Health to address budget cuts sustained by the agency during the revenue shortfall of recent years. DMH receives $3.2 million for forensic inpatient services, $500,000 for school based services, $500,000 for the telepsychiatry program, and $400,000 for community supportive housing. $2.7 million in nonrecurring revenue is included to continue the process of converting health records to an electronic format that is necessary for meeting federal hospital certification requirements.

The Department of Disabilities and Special Needs receives $6.4 million to reduce its waiting lists, $2 million towards provider maintenance of effort, $1 million for respite care services, and $500,000 for nursing care quality. $1.5 million in nonrecurring funds is included for autism services.

The Prosecution Coordination Commission receives $1.6 million for circuit solicitor caseload equalization and $400,000 for the SC Center for Fathers and Families.

$1 million is provided for defense of indigents per capita.

The Attorney General’s Office receives $269,915 for sex/violent crime prosecutors and $75,325 for a financial data analyst/forensic accountant.

The State Law Enforcement Division is provided $520,940 for insurance fraud investigators. $5 million from the Capital Reserve Fund is provided for a new SLED laboratory facility.

The Department of Public Safety is provided $2 million in recurring funds and $2 million from the Capital Reserve Fund for law enforcement vehicles. $100,000 is included for tasers and $800,000 from the Capital Reserve Fund is provided for body armor replacement.

The Department of Corrections receives $4.5 million in recurring funds and $1.5 million in nonrecurring funds for its mental health remediation plan, $927,806 for medical staff, $449,000 for youthful offender/addictions treatment, and $440,000 in nonrecurring funds for its education improvement plan/vocational equipment.

$2.6 million is provided to the Department of Probation, Parole, and Pardon Services for 44 new parole agents.

$299,737 is appropriated to the Department of Natural Resources for 5 new law enforcement officers.

The Department of Vocational Rehabilitation is afforded $250,000 for School to Work Transition Services and $290,000 for job-driven vocational training.

The Department of Agriculture is afforded $500,000 for agribusiness development and $500,000 from the Capital Reserve Fund to expand “Certified SC” marketing.

$3.8 million is provided for the Water Quality Revolving Loan Fund at the Rural Infrastructure Authority.

The Forestry Commission receives $500,000 for 8 additional full-time firefighters and $500,000 in nonrecurring revenue for firefighting equipment.

The Department of Revenue is afforded $1.5 million from the Capital Reserve Fund along with $6.5 million in nonrecurring revenue for implementing an updated tax processing system.

The Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism receives $1 million, half in nonrecurring funds, for the Undiscovered SC program to showcase the state’s rural areas, $2 million for the destination-specific advertising grant program, $1 million from the Capital Reserve Fund for renovations at the state’s welcome centers, $1 million, half in nonrecurring funds, for the Sports Development Marketing Program, and $500,000 for the Parks and Recreation Development Fund. $250,000 in nonrecurring funds is included for the Medal of Honor Museum.

$1 million in nonrecurring revenue is provided for Jasper Ocean Terminal Permitting. $250,000 in nonrecurring revenue is included for Port of Georgetown dredging.

The Lieutenant Governor’s Office receives $529,827 for the vulnerable adult guardian ad litem program and $750,000 for caregiver services.

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State House Week 8

The House of Representatives amended, passed (and I voted for-after an amendement failed)  and sent the Senate H.3374, a bill that replaces the current Local Government Fund and its set funding level of 4.5% of the previous year’s state general fund revenues with a new LOCAL GOVERNMENT REVENUE SHARING FUND structured to deliver a revenue stream to counties and municipalities that is adjusted according to whether the state is projected to experience revenue growth or shortfall. The legislation discontinues the retrospective approach for funding political subdivisions that is tied to the previous year’s revenues and, beginning with Fiscal Year 20172018, implements prospective budgeting that draws upon state revenue forecasts. A $212 million recurring base is established for the Local Government Revenue Sharing Fund and, in a year when state general fund revenue is projected to increase, the revenue sharing fund must be increased by the same percentage as the growth estimate, up to a cap of 5%. When the state experiences revenue shortfalls, the Local Government Revenue Sharing Fund must share in the necessary budget cuts ordered for agencies and other state government functions. The requirements of the Local Government Revenue Sharing Fund must be satisfied before funds are made available for appropriation to other government needs in the budgeting process.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate Joint Resolution H.3014, a PROPOSED AMENDMENT TO THE SOUTH CAROLINA CONSTITUTION ON SHORTENING THE LEGISLATIVE SESSION. I supported this measure. The proposed constitutional amendment provides for legislators to begin their annual session one month later by requiring the General Assembly to convene at the State House in Columbia on the second Tuesday in February, rather than January, each year. Authorization is included for legislative committees to meet during the weeks before the new later commencement date to conduct preliminary work in preparation for the session. The proposal also establishes a new constitutional requirement for the General Assembly to adjourn for the year by the last Thursday in May, rather than the first Thursday in June, the current deadline for final adjournment of the annual session that is established in statute. Should the proposed constitutional amendment be approved by the General Assembly, it will be submitted to the state’s voters as a ballot question at the next general election.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3722, legislation that compiles the provisions of the twelve freestanding ethics bills approved by the House this year into a single consolidated ETHICS REFORM bill. I supported this bill as we need to continue reforming ethics laws in SC.

The House returned S.196, legislation enhancing provisions for COMBATTING HUMAN TRAFFICKING, to the Senate with amendments that convert the bill to the provisions that the House approved earlier this year in H.3125. The legislation includes within the jurisdiction of the state grand jury human trafficking offenses that involve more than one county. The legislation provides new requirements for posting National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline information that apply to a list of establishments such as adult businesses, massage parlors, hospital emergency rooms, agricultural labor contractors, hotels, motels, airports, train stations, bus stations, rest areas, and truck stops. Penalties are established for failing to comply with the posting requirements. I voted in favor of this bill.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.3522, a bill establishing PUBLIC NOTICE REQUIREMENTS FOR SAFE HAVENS FOR ABANDONED BABIES provisions that allow mothers who intend to abandon their infants to leave babies at hospitals, police stations, fire stations, staffed houses of worship, or certain other sites designated as safe settings. The legislation requires a facility, agency, or other location designated as a safe haven to post a notice prepared by the Department of Social Services on its premises that is prominently displayed for view by the public stating that it is a safe haven at which a person may leave an infant. I also supported this bill.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3251. In response to a maternal death rate in South Carolina that exceeds the national average, the legislation establishes the MATERNAL MORBIDITY AND MORTALITY REVIEW COMMITTEE under the Department of Health and Environmental Control to review maternal deaths and develop strategies for their prevention. Committee members shall serve without compensation or reimbursement for expenses. The committee is set to dissolve after five years, unless reauthorized by law. I voted in favor of this bill.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.3324, a joint resolution establishing a COMMITTEE TO STUDY STATE AND LOCAL LEVEL VETERANS ISSUES and make appropriate legislative recommendations for improving the structure, delivery, and coordination of veterans services in South Carolina. The committee is comprised of the members of the Joint Legislative Veterans Issues Study Committee created in 2010 or their successors, three members appointed by the Governor, and three members appointed by the Adjutant General. The committee is charged with studying and evaluating: the current relationships between the county veterans affairs offices and the executive and legislative branches of state government; the relationships between the county veterans affairs offices and the South Carolina Division of Veterans Affairs; and, the relationships between the South Carolina Division of Veterans Affairs and the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. In addition, the committee is tasked with reviewing the current mission of the 2010 Joint Legislative Veterans Issues Study Committee and determining whether its functions should be expanded or codified. The committee must submit a written report of its findings and recommendations to General Assembly and the Governor by February 1, 2016, at which point it is dissolved. Veterans issues are very important to me. I supported our veterans with an affirmative vote.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.3165, a bill INCLUDING MOPEDS AMONG THE MOTOR VEHICLES THAT ARE SUBJECT TO DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE OFFENSES and certain other traffic violations. The legislation revises the definition of “motor vehicle” under the Uniform Act Regulating Traffic on the Highways by removing the specific exemption currently provided for mopeds so that the operator of a moped may be charged with DUI violations and ticketed for certain other traffic offenses. I supported this measure.

The House amended H.3142, legislation establishing SAFETY REQUIREMENTS FOR MOPEDS, and gave the bill second reading approval. The legislation establishes requirements for moped operators and passengers to wear reflective vests and for a moped to be equipped with a rear red tail light that flashes continually while the moped is in motion. The legislation provides that it is unlawful for a person to operate a moped on the public roads in this state that have a speed limit of greater than fiftyfive miles per hour. A moped, while traveling along a multilane highway, must be operated in the farthest right lane except when making a left turn. The original bill prohibited mopeds from operating on roads with a speed limit above 35 mph. I fought for an amendment proposed by Rep. Walt McLeod (D-Newberry) that would increase it to 55 mph. The amendment passed, so I voted for this bill.

The House returned H.3118, legislation relating to the HUNTING AND TAKING OF WILD TURKEY, including conservation measures that may be needed to address observed declines in the state’s wild turkey population, to the Senate with amendments. I supported this bill.

The House approved S.411 and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation designates the month of October of every year as “ITALIAN AMERICAN HERITAGE MONTH” in South Carolina in order to recognize Italian Americans for their many contributions to our state and nation. I supported this measure.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3305, legislation INCLUDING ORAL FLUIDS TESTS AMONG THE ACCEPTED FORMS OF DRUG SCREENING REQUIRED FOR RECEIVING UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS. I supported this bill.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3576, a bill relating to the STATUS OF A NONPROFIT YOUTH SPORTS ORGANIZATION COACH. The legislation establishes conditions under which a written agreement between a nonprofit youth sports organization and a coach constitutes conclusive evidence that an independent contractor relationship, rather than an employment relationship, exists between the nonprofit youth sports organization and the coach for purposes of workers’ compensation, unemployment insurance coverage, and federal and state income tax withholdings requirements. This bill had my support.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.3464, legislation updating LICENSING REQUIREMENTS FOR BARBER SCHOOLS AND SCHOOL INSTRUCTORS with language that would allow the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation to continue to receive Title IV funding from the federal Department of Education for barber schools. I supported this measure.

The House approved S.177, regarding CERTIFICATION OF DOMESTIC AND FOREIGN RECORDS, and enrolled the bill for ratification. The bill amends Rule 902 of South Carolina’s Rules of Evidence relating to self-authenticating documents, adding two types of self-authenticating documents (Certified Domestic Records of a Regularly Conducted Activity and Certified Foreign Records of a Regularly Conducted Activity) so that South Carolina conforms to Federal Rule 902. I voted for this measure.

The House approved S.397, legislation providing for the ALIGNMENT OF STATE INCOME TAXI LAWS AND THE FEDERAL INTERNAL REVENUE CODE, and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation updates year references in provisions relating to the application of the federal Internal Revenue Code to state income tax laws. This is a bill that appears each year.
I voted for this this measure.

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