The South Carolina House of Representatives had a busy week producing an initial state budget, moving again on ethics reform, and continuing to push for increased transparency in government.
In an overwhelming 90-16 vote, which I supported, the House passed H.3191, the first major update of S.C.’s Freedom of Information Act in nearly thirty years. It puts enforcement teeth into the law to prevent governmental bodies from refusing to hand over public documents. The legislation will utilize the ‘Office of Freedom of Information’ within the Administrative Law Court allowing citizens and public bodies to resolve FOIA disputes without having to file a costly lawsuit. Among other things, the legislation cuts the time for receiving a requested response for documents from 15 days to 10, sets limits on costs to search for items, and requires copies be provided at the prevailing local copy rates.
I also supported H.3192, clarifying a law following a Supreme Court ruling. Receiving final passage, this bill makes clear that a public agenda is required before a government body meets – giving no less than 24 hours public notice. It also states that only agenda items may be considered during the meeting, but does provide an exemption in cases of emergency. This gives greater public awareness and ensures government on all levels in South Carolina is not allowed to operate in secret.
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3044, a bill establishing School Calendar Flexibility provisions by revising various statutory requirements that set the length of the school year in terms of a minimum number of days so that these requirements may also be satisfied with an equivalent number of hours. Under the revisions, a local school district is afforded greater authority in deciding how best to structure the instructional day and how many days of instruction comprise the school year. The number of instructional hours in an instructional day may vary according to local board policy and does not have to be uniform among schools in the district. Limitations are imposed that relate to school year start dates and set times for the administration of the statewide testing program. I supported this bill.
The House amended and gave second reading approval to H.3432, a bill to provide that Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and Memorial Day must be recognized as holidays for all local school districts of the state and that the schools and offices of the districts must be closed on those dates. This new requirement will begin with the 2016-2017 school year and districts may not schedule make-up days on either holiday. Although I agree that these days should be holidays, I did not support this bill as I felt calendar options are best left to the local School Districts.
The House amended, approved and sent the Senate H.3265, a bill that includes within Comprehensive Health Education Programs new requirements for public high school students to receive Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) training. At least one time during the entire four years of grades nine through twelve, each student must, under the new requirements, receive instruction in CPR that includes training in such matters as hands‑on CPR and awareness in the use of an automated external defibrillator (AED). I supported this bill as it an important skill for our students to learn and many local Red Crosses and other groups have expressed a desire to provide the instruction at little or no cost to the schools.
The House approved and sent the Senate H.3037, a bill revising eligibility criteria for in-state higher education tuition rates for Veterans and their dependents. The legislation provides that an honorably-discharged veteran of the Armed Services of the United States, who has evidenced intent to establish domicile in South Carolina and their dependents, are entitled to receive in‑state tuition and fees at state institutions without the requirement of a one year of physical presence in this state.
I supported this bill to help our veterans.
Finally, for those of you who are interested in charitable raffles, the House approved (which I supported) and sent the Senate H.3519, a bill to provide for the ratification of the Amendment to the SC Constitution authorizing charitable raffles conducted by nonprofit organizations that was approved by the state’s voters at the last general election. With the Senate’s approval and the Governor’s signature, we can no longer be in technical violation of the law when we conduct raffles – like the ones at the High School football games that many groups use to raise money.
As always, thank you for the privilege of serving you in Columbia. If I can ever be of assistance to you, or if you have ideas on issues you want me to share with the rest of the General Assembly, please don’t hesitate to contact me at home at (864) 366-4112 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org