State House Week 3/15 – 3/18/2016

Not So Fast, My Friend!

The 10th week of this year’s legislative session was again dominated by road talk. The top issue for the last couple of years has been how to effectively pay more for road and bridge improvements while ensuring your tax dollars aren’t wasted.

ROADS: Finally, the Senate Decides

After nearly a year, the Senate returned to us the House legislation designed to reform SCDOT and provide additional funding (beyond the gas tax) to fix roads. Senators couldn’t buck a filibuster so their proposed 12-cent a gallon gas tax hike didn’t get included. Instead, they proposed to dip into the General Fund budget to the tune of $400 million each year. They also voted to make the Department of Transportation (DOT) a cabinet agency reporting to the Governor with the hope that will bring efficiency.

ROADS: Governor Presses for Quick Agreement

Tuesday, the very day the Senate returned the roads bill to the House, Gov. Nikki Haley met with Republican House members and insisted we concur with the Senate’s approach immediately. The Senate took nearly a year to decide on their approach and we were pressed to agree within two days.  

ROADS: Department of Transportation Audit Scheduled for Release

Within the next two weeks the Legislative Audit Council (LAC) will release the findings of its investigation into the SCDOT. LAC has been probing DOT for a year and a half at our direction. It is their most extensive audit of any state agency. It will provide insights into any issues such as evidence of gross mismanagement and/or waste. We must review their findings and include their knowledge in the decision making process for roads. We must not let this opportunity for real reform of DOT to slip by for political expediency. It’s essential we await the findings and seize the opportunity to attempt to permanently fix this agency and create real accountability. That way we have improved chances that additional monies sent to DOT will be maximized to fix roads and not wasted. We’ll be busy in April and May sorting this out.

Budget Week in the House

Next week the House focuses on one issue – approving its version of the state budget for 2016-2017 before sending it to the Senate. The state’s General Fund budget has staggered back from the ‘Great Recession’ and we’re in a lot better shape financially because business is booming in SC.

  • The last General Fund budget before the ‘Great Recession’ totaled $6.7 Billion (FY 2007-2008)
  • The General Fund spending was slashed 23% during the recovery and bottomed out at $5.1 Billion (FY 2010-2011) with many critical state services severely hampered.
  • The current General Fund budget (2015-2016) totals $7 Billion. That’s 4.3% more than the previous high of $6.7 Billion.
  • The budget proposed for next year is $8 Billion. Factor in only inflation (and not population growth) to the pre-recession budget and this year’s proposed budget represents a 5% real increase.

A big thanks to the House Ways and Means Committee and Chairman Brian White (R-Anderson) for their hard work on crafting a responsible and conservative State Budget this year.

Want to know more? Review this summary presentation of the proposed General Fund budget.

 In Other House Business:

The Tucker Hipps Transparency Act (H.4521) (Rep. Putnam, R-Piedmont)  won unanimous House approval. The legislation requires the state’s public universities and colleges maintain online for all to see a report detailing student misconduct investigations related to fraternity and sorority organizations formally affiliated with the institution. The bill was named in memory of the Clemson University student who died during a fraternity activity in 2014.

The House unanimously passed The Anti-Money Laundering Act (H.4554) (Rep. Clemmons, R- Myrtle Beach) rectifying South Carolina’s current status as the only U.S. state with no regulatory authority over money transfers of smaller amounts which has made the state a center for money laundering. Such activities facilitate organized criminal enterprises and terrorist activities.

The House unanimously passed the SC Founding Principles Act (H.3848) (Rep. Huggins, R- Columbia) requiring the study of the U.S. Constitution, the Federalist Papers, the structure of government and the role of the separation of powers and the freedoms guaranteed by the Bill of Rights to the Constitution.

Save a life by moving over! The House approved a bill by Rep. Donna Hicks (R-Boiling Springs) of which I am a co-sponsor, designating April every year as ‘Move Over  Awareness Month’ (H.4562) that emphasizes the importance of drivers moving over into an adjacent lane whenever possible when approaching or passing through a highway work zone, an emergency scene, or any other traffic incident. My nephew was severely injured and is now in a wheelchair when he was working an accident scene in October of 2014. Hopefully, this will reduce the chances of this happening to someone else.

The House again showed its support for training high school students CPR. We amended H.3265 (Rep.  Don Wells, R-Aiken is the sponsor and I am a co-sponsor) and returned it to the Senate. I’m hopeful differences can be worked out so at least one time during high school each student will receive instruction in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Oftentimes, local entities will provide the materials and training for this so that no cost is incurred by the school districts.

The House unanimously approved and sent to the Senate H.4718, a bill creating a SC Retired Educator Certificate. This bill was sponsored by Rep. Mike Anthony (D-Union) and I am a co-sponsor.  A retired educator certificate does not require completion of professional learning or renewal credit.

The House unanimously approved Rep Todd Rutherford’s (D-Columbia) bill authorizing Home Detention for Certain Non-Violent Drug Offenses (H.3130) so long as individuals are monitored by a GPS tracking device and bear the cost of the monitoring program.

The Emergency Anaphylaxis Treatment Act (H.3706) this bill, sponsored by Rep. Putnam and co-sponsored by me,  won House unanimous approval. It authorizes institutions, organizations, and businesses, such as colleges and universities, daycare facilities, places of worship, restaurants, places of employment, recreation camps, youth sports leagues, amusement parks, and sports arenas, to keep supplies of EpiPens, in stock to administer this potentially life-saving medication to those who are experiencing severe allergic reactions.

Election Time! Wednesday was the first day for filing to run in the June Republican Primary Election in SC. My paperwork was submitted at the Abbeville County Election Commission. I’m honored and humbled to serve the constituents of House District 11 and ask for your continued prayers and support.

I’m Available and AT YOUR SERVICE 

If you need assistance navigating state government, or have any thoughts or concerns about what we are doing, please do not hesitate to contact me.

About Craig Gagnon for S.C. House 11 (Abbeville and Anderson Counties)

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