In the State House the Week of March 4th, the following bills were acted upon. I voted in the affirmative for the following:
The House approved S.326 and ordered the legislation enrolled for ratification. The joint resolution directs the State Law Enforcement Division to distribute two hundred fifty thousand dollars to the South Carolina State Firefighters Association to provide for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder insurance and programs for firefighters.
The House approved and sent the Senate H.3294, a bill increasing the age limit in Safe Havens for Abandoned Babies provisions that designate locations, such as hospitals, police stations, and fire stations, where someone may leave an infant under certain circumstances without criminal penalty. The legislation provides that the safe haven provisions apply to infants who are up to one year old rather than the current standard of no more than sixty days old.
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3973, a bill establishing the crime of female genital mutilation. The legislation establishes felony criminal provisions that apply to the mutilation of the genitalia of females who are under the age of eighteen or older females who are unable to consent to the procedure. The legislation also revises the Children’s Code to add female genital mutilation to provisions addressing child abuse and harm.
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3263, the “Armed service Members and Spouses Professional and Occupational Licensing Act”. The legislation establishes a protocol that allows the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation to expedite the issuance of professional and occupational licenses to spouses of military personnel transferred to South Carolina when the spouse holds a professional or occupational license issued by another state that has similar requirements.
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3200, the “South Carolina Lactation Support Act”. The legislation requires employers to make reasonable efforts to provide workers with reasonable unpaid break time and space to express milk at work. The legislation does not require employers to compensate employees for breaks taken to express breast milk unless the employer already provides compensated breaks and does not require employers to create a permanent or dedicated space for use by pumping employees.
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3586, a bill revising and updating the Coordinated Statewide 911 Emergency Telecommunications System.
The House approved and sent the Senate H.3601, a bill establishing a procedure that allows a court to grant a conditional discharge for a first-time offender charged with public drunkenness and disorderly conduct.
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3029, a bill expanding state political party executive committee jurisdiction to include county officers. The legislation expands political party state executive committee authority so that it includes hearing protests and contests in county officer, and less than county officer, elections. The legislation repeals provisions for hearings by county executive committees and appeals from decisions of county executive committees.
The House approved and sent the Senate H.4157, a joint resolution to extend the deadline to submit offers for a solicitation for a statewide voting system solution for the South Carolina Elections Commission and to create a special evaluation panel to evaluate and score each proposal for new voting machines.
The House approved and sent the Senate H.4054, a joint resolution to allow for the submission of less than three qualified applicants to the Governor to serve as executive director of the Department of Employment and Workforce.
The House rejected (I voted no) H.3031, a bill revising voter registration deadlines. Although current voter registration deadlines are quite cumbersome, the efforts to move the deadline to 25 days prior to an election from the current 30 days are a rather sticky business. The deadline should be moved to 35 prior to elections, not moved up. However, the Federal Election Laws prohibit making the deadline greater than 30 days prior to the election.
This past week was “Budget Week,” the weeklong debate on the $8.7 billion 2019-2020 budget. After going through the budget line by line and working past midnight, we successfully sent this year’s budget to the Senate with only one “nay” vote.
After months of working with Gov. McMaster, building consensus, and many hours of debate, we passed our General Appropriation Bill for the 2019-2020 fiscal year. This year’s budget is focused on investing in education and workforce development by increasing teacher pay, providing tuition assistance, and funding for workforce training programs.
Not only does the budget not increase taxes, it actually provides tax relief in the form of a rebate for everyone who pays income tax.
Many amendments were proposed, one of which was to eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood. Last year’s Planned Parenthood budget amendment (de-funding Planned Parenthood) was not crafted well and it backfired and ultimately cost SC taxpayer $2 million. This year’s amendment was crafted well and will wait for the Governor to receive a waiver from the Federal government before any de-funding takes place.
The budget will now go to the Senate for their consideration.
The House budget contains:
• Nearly $160 million to provide every teacher a pay raise, helping to ensure that we recruit and retain the very best teachers. 30% of the budget surplus from last year will be devoted to raising teacher pay.
• $50 million for high-poverty school districts to use for building renovations and upgrades.
• $20 million for new and improved textbooks and instructional for our schools.
• $10 million to hire 120 more school-resource officers for schools that don’t already have one and cannot afford them.
• $41 million to raise state employee salaries.
• $49.7 million to cover state employee health and dental insurance increases.
• $32 million for retired state employees, who are covered by the state’s retirement system, to return to work without facing a $10,000 salary cap as long as they have been retired for a year.