The past two weeks have been extremely productive in the Senate.
Last week, Senate Majority Leader Harvey Peeler introduced the South Carolina Read to Succeed Act. The bill would require third-graders who do not read on grade level to be held back for a year of reading-intensive instruction. A similar program has been successful in Florida.
A bill calling for a constitutional amendment to approve letting the governor appoint the state’s superintendent of education failed last week. The bill was rejected by Senate Democrats, but Sen. Larry Martin, who supports the measure, changed his vote at the last minute in an effort to keep it alive, once he saw it would fail. Senator Martin’s procedural move will allow us to get another vote in coming weeks. Allowing the governor to appoint the state’s schools chief would bring more accountability and greater focus on education issues in the governor’s office.
On Monday, The State newspaper published an article titled “SC Senate Cranking Out Bills.” The article highlighted our increased efficiency during this year’s legislative session.
Only three days later, we moved three more important bills, continuing our quick work for South Carolinians.
The early voting and NDAA nullification bills, both set for special order last week, passed the Senate on third reading. A bill expanding gun rights for CWP holders was placed in special status.
The early voting bill, S.4, will allow South Carolinians to cast ballots during a seven-day period prior to Election Day. The bill should also help to eliminate the long lines that were seen at the polls during the 2012 election.
S.92 nullifies the enforcement of the federal National Defense Authorization Act that deals with unlimited detainment of any American citizen suspected of terrorism. The bill is intended to prevent the federal government from overreach, and act as a constitutional check on unlimited federal power.
The CWP bill, S.308, will allow South Carolinians who possess concealed weapons permits to legally carry firearms in restaurants.
We will be out of session for the following two weeks, but look forward to returning refreshed and ready to continue improving the state.
Last week, we kicked off what will be a productive year in the Senate. On Tuesday, we released our official jobs and reform agenda. Our goal in 2013 is to create jobs, grow the economy and reform government, and the agenda will help us accomplish that.
For the jobs portion of our agenda, we plan to focus on three specific areas: transportation reform, spending caps, and cyber security.
With Congress’ recent inability to deal effectively with the Fiscal Cliff, we are also focusing on a spending cap to provide for sustainable and predictable growth in state spending. The cap will protect taxpayers, businesses and those served by our government by helping guard against unexpected tax increases or cuts to services.
Due to the recent security breach of the Department of Revenue, we’re making an increase in cyber security another priority. We want South Carolinians to feel secure when conducting business in the state, and we believe it’s the government’s responsibility to provide funding to state agencies to achieve that level of safety.
Our government reform agenda contains three specific items as well: Ethics reform, ballot reform, and creating a Department of Administration.
The Senate, House, and Governor’s Office are all currently reviewing SC’s antiquated ethics laws and making recommendations to modernize them. We strongly believe that South Carolinians deserve a transparent government with leaders who can be held accountable for their decisions.
The Senate Judiciary Committee passed two bills this week. The first, S.2, sponsored by Senator Campsen and others, will fix the ballot issue that resulted in more than 250 people being removed from the 2012 ballot. The second, S.3, sponsored by Senators Larry Martin, Wes Hays and others, will deal with a perceived loophole in the current law that allows so-called internet “sweepstakes machines” to operate. The bill will clarify that these machines are indeed illegal gambling. Law enforcement is using the current law to enforce the ban and have seized over 1000 machines statewide.
We will also focus on the Department of Administration. Last year, the Senate passed the first bill by either legislative chamber, eliminating the Budget and Control Board and creating the Department of Administration. We believe that clear lines of accountability are a necessity in state government.
In addition to prioritizing these issues this week, we also re-elected Senator Peeler as Senate Majority Leader, and Senators Danny Verdin and Shane Massey were named as Majority Whips.
We are all very eager to tackle these issues in 2013. Based on a great start, we are confident it will be a successful year in the Senate.
“South Carolina has worked in conjunction with its partners to develop a comprehensive, statewide strategy whose purpose is to help families stay in their homes or otherwise avoid preventable foreclosure.”
For more information about this organization, visit www.scmortgagehelp.com.
The Senate finished March by passing a number of important bills.
First, the Senate Republican Caucus passed a bill that will pave the way for charter school expansion in South Carolina.
Charter schools are an important part of the educational system in South Carolina, giving educators the flexibility to create schools that best fit the needs of the local community. They are public schools, funded and overseen by the state.
We have many great public schools in South Carolina, but in order to compete nationally, we need to encourage innovation in education. But for too long, local districts have often stymied charter schools’ efforts to get going.
The Senate passed a bill to streamline many aspects of charter school creation and the admissions process. It also sets new, simpler guidelines for charter school governance, and it allows colleges and universities to voluntarily sponsor these institutions. All in all, we believe it will stimulate the growth of charter schools in South Carolina and remove administrative roadblocks for those already operating.
Second, we passed a bill to prevent workers fired for misconduct from collecting unemployment benefits – a move that could save the unemployment system $50 million per year.
The bill is aimed at protecting businesses from having to pay out benefits for workers fired under these circumstances. It also protects consumers by keeping costs low, and protects taxpayers at a time when the state is still working to pay back loans made to the unemployment trust fund.
The changes to current law are necessary because a state agency’s broad interpretation of the old law resulted in $50 million in benefits awarded to people fired for misconduct last year alone. The bill will strictly define how to deal with these types of claims, making it consistent with federal law, and eliminating these unjustified benefits.
Third, the Senate is working to pass a bill that would free South Carolina from provisions of Obamacare and allow the state to regulate healthcare decisions within its own borders.
While we hope the Supreme Court does the right thing and strikes down Obamacare, we cannot wait, and have decided to act now. However, Senate Democrats are currently throwing up some procedural roadblocks to the bill.
The bill would make South Carolina a part of an interstate compact, in which each state joining the compact would gain the right to bypass federal healthcare regulations and instead allow the states to make those decisions. It would effectively negate Obamacare regulations like the health rationing panel. Similar legislation has already been passed in six states, and has been fast-tracked in four others.
We at the Senate Republican Caucus hope you have a restful Spring Break, and a great Easter spent with family.