Representative Bill Hixon – District 83 – South Carolina

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The House Budget 2018-2019

Dear Friends,
 
Please review some of what we passed in the House budget. Remember the Senate can completely redo the budget their way, if so we will try and come up with a compromise of the House and Senate budgets. If we cannot come up with a compromise, a conference committee will be set up of three House members and three Senators. Stay tuned. 
  
 
 
 
 

 The House Budget
 
The focus of the House was almost exclusively on the budget. Democrats were seeking to raise taxes on the people of South Carolina in two ways. The first was an increase in taxes for firearms, which would have unfairly penalized lawful gun owners. Republicans soundly defeated the Democrats' firearm tax increase. The second tax hike push by Democrats was their effort to repeal the Homestead Exemption for one year, also known as Act 388. The Homestead Exemption exempts taxes on the first $50,000 in fair market value for homeowners over age 65, the totally and permanently disabled, or legally blind. House Republicans successfully defeated this tax hike measure put forward by the Democrats.
 
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4644, a bill making revisions to SOLID WASTE MANAGEMENT provisions. The legislation makes revisions to the Solid Waste Management Trust Fund that includes recommendations from the House Legislative Oversight Committee's review of the Department of Health and Environmental Control. The legislation establishes a SOLID WASTE EMERGENCY FUND, administered by DHEC, that is to be used to address a substantial release or threat of substantial release into the environment of any pollutant or other circumstance which may present an imminent and substantial danger to human health and the environment from a regulated solid waste facility. Two and one-half percent of the funds collected each quarter for the Solid Waste Management Trust Fund must be transferred to the Solid Waste Emergency Fund until the emergency fund reaches an unencumbered balance of $1.5 million. The legislation also provides that a permit to construct a new solid waste management facility or to expand an existing solid waste management facility may not be issued until the applicant provides documentation from the applicable local government of compliance with local land use and zoning ordinances along with the permit application. The legislation establishes permitting, registration, and oversight provisions for facilities that recycle construction and demolition debris.
 
The House of Representatives amended, approved, and sent the Senate 
H.4950, the General Appropriation Bill, and H.4951, the joint resolution making appropriations from the Capital Reserve Fund, which together comprise the $8.8 billion FISCAL YEAR 2018-2019 STATE GOVERNMENT BUDGET. The budget includes $8.2 billion in recurring state general fund revenue and $145 million in Capital Reserve Funds.
 
$32.4 million is devoted to the 1% increase in the employer contribution rates for the South Carolina Retirement System and the Police Officers Retirement System that is in keeping with the schedule for addressing the unfunded liability facing the state's pensions established in Act 13 of 2017.
 
$56.4 million is included to cover the increased costs of operating the state's health and dental insurance plans with no increases in the premiums paid by employees and small increases in deductibles and co-payments. Coverage is expanded to include well visits.
 
For K-12 public education, $32 million is used to maintain the base student cost at $2,425 per pupil.
 
$60 million is provided for a statewide 2% teacher salary increase.
 
$5 million is used to increase the statewide minimum starting salary for a teacher from $30 thousand to $32 thousand.
 
$11 million is devoted to technical assistance for low performing schools.
 
$13 million in Education Improvement Act funds is included to address S.C. Public Charter School District growth. For Fiscal Year 2018-19, and with funds provided to charter school authorizers, institutions of higher education and the South Carolina Public Charter School District may not sponsor more than a combined total of sixty schools.
 
The Department of Education and the State Law Enforcement Division are directed to form a Crisis Intervention Team to develop a report on school safety plans with recommendations for the General Assembly to consider which may include such school safety measures as physical building security, bullet proof and access-controlled doors, RFID chip in student identification cards, mental health services, and school resource officers.
 
For Fiscal Year 2018-19, local school districts must observe Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and Memorial Day as legal holidays and schools and offices of the school districts must be closed on those dates. Districts may not use these dates for scheduling make-up days. Schools and school districts may utilize the funds realized from observing those holidays to provide educational training related to the Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Memorial Day observance.
 
$3 million in recurring funds and $5 million in nonrecurring funds is allocated to purchasing or leasing new school buses.
The Department of Administration is charged with reviewing the state transportation operations at the Department of Education to determine if safety improvements, efficiency, and cost savings are possible. The Department of Education is directed to take part in various state fleet programs and services.
$2 million in Education Improvement Act funds is provided for career and technology education.
 
A total of $49 million in nonrecurring funds is distributed among the state's institutions of higher learning to address various capital needs and maintenance issues.
For the upcoming fiscal year, South Carolina public colleges and universities, when reviewing, investigating, or deciding whether there has been a violation of a college or university policy prohibiting discriminatory practices on the basis of religion, must take into consideration a definition of anti-Semitism adopted by the U.S. State Department.
Full funding is provided from the Education Lottery for the LIFE, HOPE, and Palmetto Fellows higher education scholarship programs.
 
The Commission on Higher Education is afforded $17.5 million in lottery funds for need-based grants, $8.8 million in lottery funds for tuition grants, $496 thousand in lottery funds along with $1.9 million in unclaimed prize money for National Guard Tuition Repayment, and $6 million in unclaimed prize money for the Higher Education Excellence Enhancement Program.
 
$51.1 million in lottery funds is allocated for tuition assistance through the Commission on Higher Education and the Board of Technical and Comprehensive Education.
The Board of Technical and Comprehensive Education is afforded $9.4 million in lottery funds for the Ready SC Program that provides customized worker training for new and expanding business and industry at the state's technical colleges, $9.8 million in lottery funds for high demand skill training equipment to be distributed to all technical colleges, and $11 million in unclaimed prize money for workforce scholarships and grants through Career Pathways.
 
The Department of Health and Human Services is afforded $26.4 million for Medicaid maintenance of effort to address program cost growth, $3.8 million to enhance access and increase provider reimbursement rates for Autism Spectrum Disorder Services, and $4.4 million for opioid use disorder treatment and services.
 
$7.7 million is provided from the Capital Reserve Fund for a Medicaid Management Information System.
 
The budget provides for the continuation of Medicaid accountability and quality improvement programs as: the Healthy Outcomes Initiative for meeting the needs of chronically ill uninsured patients in settings outside the comparatively expensive emergency room; 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.
 
$1.5 million in recurring funds is provided for the state's telemedicine network and $5 million in non-recurring funds is provided for enhancing telemedicine infrastructure. This brings the recurring dollars total for the SC Telehealth Network to $11.5 million in combined funding through DHHS and MUSC.
 
$4 million in recurring funds is provided for a Rural Health Initiative partnership between DHHS and the USC School of Medicine to improve access to life-saving emergency room care in the wake of rural hospital closures. $2 million in nonrecurring funds is provided for medical contracts.
 
The Department of Health and Environmental Control receives $1 million for Best Chance Network/Colon Cancer preventative screenings, $499 thousand for communicable diseases initiatives, $500 thousand for HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, $350 thousand for an 
EMS Performance Improvement Center, and $1 million in nonrecurring funds for water quality initiatives.
 
From the funds appropriated to the Department of Health and Environmental Control in the fiscal year for HIV and AIDS prevention and treatment, no less than $500,000 shall be authorized for the Joseph H. Neal Wellness Center and CAN Community Health Inc. to develop a partnership to provide comprehensive medical, psychological and educational services to all patients, regardless of their financial situation, insurance status, or ability to pay.
 
The Department of Mental Health is afforded $4.5 million for supported community housing expansion, $500 thousand for school-based services, and $2 million for Child and Adolescent Intensive Community and Residential Services.
The Department of Disabilities and Special Needs receives $11.3 million for a frontline workforce pay increase and $500 thousand for the Greenwood Genetic Center for Autism Research.
 
The Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services is afforded $1.25 million for an enhanced response to Opioid Use Disorder and $1.75 million for increased opioid treatment and services.  
 
The Department of Social Services is appropriated $20.3 million for a child and family service review, $2.7 million for the state's share in a federal child care match, and $25 million from the Capital Reserve Fund for the development of the child support system.
 
The Department of Social Services is directed to promulgate rules and regulations accommodating faith-based child placing agencies that do discriminate against such agencies for declining to offer services that conflict with a sincerely-held religious belief or moral conviction.
 
A $25 thousand increase is provided for children's services at the Commission for the Blind.
 
$2.5 million in recurring funds and $2.7 million from the Capital Reserve Fund is provided for the Deal Closing Fund that the Department of Commerce uses to recruit new business to the state. The Department of Commerce is afforded appropriations of $4 million in nonrecurring funds $6 million from the Capital Reserve Fund for Locate SC to replenish its inventory of suitable sites for business relocations, $1 million in nonrecurring funds for applied research centers, $250 thousand for the SC Manufacturing Extension Partnership, 
$150 thousand for Appalachian Regional Commission statewide assessment, and $600 thousand in nonrecurring funds for the Military Base Task Force.
 
The State Treasurer is directed to loan the State Ports Authority up to $50 million in excess debt service funding to assist with cash flow needs related to the Charleston Harbor Deepening Project. When the federal government's share of the project is received, the state is to be reimbursed for the full amount of this loan.
 
$1.5 million is appropriated to the Department of Agriculture for statewide agribusiness infrastructure and site preparation for relocation prospects. $500 thousand is provided for Agribusiness Development Grants to help support the production of fresh fruits and vegetables that are available as healthy food options in rural and underprivileged urban communities.
 
The Clemson PSA receives $2 million for water resource research, $3 million from the Capital Reserve Fund for water research facility renovation, and $3 million from the Capital Reserve Fund for research and education center infrastructure.
 
The Department of Natural Resources is allocated $3 million in recurring funds and $500 thousand in nonrecurring funds for statewide public wildlife and fisheries management projects, $1.9 million for salary realignment, $404 thousand for law enforcement officer step increases, $415 thousand for vehicle rotation, and $502 thousand for information technology.
 
The Conservation Bank Trust is afforded $3.5 million in recurring funds and $1.5 million from the Capital Reserve Fund.
 
The Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism receives $11 million from the Capital Reserve Fund for beach renourishment, $3 million from the Capital Reserve Fund for State Park maintenance, $2.5 million for its Sports Marketing Grants Program, and $4.1 million in nonrecurring funds for the Parks and Recreation Development Fund for PARD grants to local communities.
 
The Sea Grant Consortium receives $50 thousand for a coastal economist.
 
The Forestry Commission is afforded $1.5 million for forester recruitment and retention, $945 thousand for forest inventory and analysis, and $1.5 million in nonrecurring funds for safer firefighting equipment.
 
The Arts Commission is appropriated $350 thousand for community arts development.
A Lottery Reserve Trust Fund is established in case the state should need to pay claims from December 2017 when the South Carolina Education Lottery issued more winning tickets than intended. The trust fund is afforded $41 million in lottery funds along with all net lottery proceeds, investment earnings, and unclaimed prize money for the year.
A proviso is included to allow Education Lottery tickets to be purchased not only with cash, but also with debit cards. Credit cards and other forms of payment remain prohibited.
$22 million is used to provide full funding for the constitutional reserve accounts that the state uses to cope with revenue shortfalls.
 
The Local Government Fund is maintained at a funding level of $222 million.
 
The Judicial Department is afforded $7 million from the Capital Reserve Fund for case management modernization, $900 thousand from the Capital Reserve Fund for building maintenance, and $1.1 million from the Capital Reserve Fund for Supreme Court security.
The State Law Enforcement Division is provided $956 thousand for law enforcement officer rank change, $1 million in recurring funds for vehicle rotation to fully implement a five-year rotation cycle, $1 million in recurring funds and $1.6 million in nonrecurring funds for technology equipment and software.
 
The Illegal Immigration Unit is transferred from the Department of Public Safety to the State Law Enforcement Division.
 
The Criminal Justice Academy is afforded $992 thousand to expand training from 12 to 15 weeks.
 
The Department of Public Safety is appropriated $1 million in recurring funds for Highway Patrol officer overtime and $400 thousand in recurring funds for local law enforcement grants.
 
The Department of Corrections receives $3.7 million for its correctional officer hiring rate adjustment and retention plan to reduce turnover rate at the agency by increasing the starting salary for a correctional officer by $750 and allowing a pay increase for existing officers. $1.7 million is provided for the first half of the department's Workforce and Reentry Services initiative for equipping inmates with skills that will help them to reenter society.
 
The Department of Corrections is directed head a review of the therapeutic use of cannabidioil oil for eligible incarcerated individuals and submit recommendations to legislators on the feasibility of conducting a pilot program and whether this CBD oil might be a more effective and less expensive alternative to the psychotropic drugs currently used to treat various mental illnesses and conditions.
 
The Department of Probation, Parole, and Pardon Services is provided $1.1 million in recurring funds for its agent vehicle support plan and $863 thousand for an expansion of its Offender Supervision Specialist Program to 8 additional counties bringing the total to 28 counties.
 
The Department of Juvenile Justice receives $3.6 million for the treatment of the severely mentally ill and $170 thousand in nonrecurring funds for child advocacy centers.
 
The Department of Administration is afforded $3 million for its statewide Information Technology Shared Services Program Management Office, $1 million for the Guardian Ad Litem Program, and $4.5 million from the Capital Reserve Fund for state-owned building maintenance.
 
The scope of the current Healthcare Employee Recruitment and Retention Program is expanded so that agencies can use the program's incentives to attract employees in other fields that are critically needed for the public's safety and welfare.
 
The State Election Commission receives $250 thousand for election security infrastructure and $4 million from the Capital Reserve Fund for the refurbishment of the current statewide voting system. In anticipation of purchasing a replacement for the current system, $4 million is placed in a New Statewide Voting System Reserve Fund.
 
The State Ethics Commission receives $133 thousand for program assistants and $123 thousand for an investigator position.
 
The Human Affairs Commission receives $20 thousand for administrative hearings and $80 thousand for compliance programs.
 
Clarification is provided for how the Department of Transportation may hold emergency meetings to address such circumstances as hurricanes, floods, ice storms, and other natural disasters.
 
The Adjutant General receives appropriations of $451 thousand for emergency preparedness operations, $120 thousand for South Carolina State Guard personnel expenses, $115 thousand for state operations expenses, and $1 million in recurring funds along with $3 million from the Capital Reserve Fund to be used with federal matching dollars for armory revitalizations.
 
The Department of Motor Vehicles is afforded $5.6 million from the Capital Reserve Fund for REAL ID implementation costs, $379 thousand in recurring funds for operators to run the federally-mandated State to State Help Desk required to maintain compliance with the REAL ID Program, and $428 thousand in recurring funds for implementing the recently enacted Moped legislation.
 
$275 thousand is provided from the Capital Reserve Fund to the Division of Aeronautics for facilities maintenance.
 
The Lieutenant Governor's Office on Aging receives $20 thousand for state matching dollars.
 
The Department of Archives and History receives $200 thousand in nonrecurring funds for the conservation of South Carolina's seven constitutions, $250 in nonrecurring funds for the Charleston Library Society Beaux Arts Building, and $200 thousand from the Capital Reserve Fund for architectural heritage preservation.
 
The State Library is afforded $167 thousand to expand the DISCUS virtual library system and $431 thousand for bookmobile services.
 
The State Fiscal Accountability Authority is directed to develop guidelines regarding covered contracts exceeding $50,000 that state agencies enter into which incentivizes contractors to pay their employees promptly.
 
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 do not hesitate to contact me. 
 

 

 

 

 

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Three Months Into Session

Dear Friends,
 
Thank you as always for your support. On Friday March 16, 2018 I signed up to run again for House District 83. I promise I will continue to do the best job representing you, just like I have for the last eight years. Next weeks newsletter will explain 2018-2019 budget the House passed. Also I am working on the North Augusta Elementary school traffic problem on Buena Vista Avenue. And also at Paul Knox school and Pisgah Road.
 
 
 

 
HOUSE WEEK IN REVIEW

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3565, a bill addressingADMINISTRATIVE LAW COURT CONTESTED CASES INVOLVING THE CERTIFICATE OF NEED PROGRAM which requires providers of health care services, such as hospitals and nursing homes, to obtain approval from the Department of Health and Environmental Control for additions to, or significant expansions of, their facilities and services. To allow for consistency in contested matters before the Administrative Law Court, the legislation applies the same twelve-month time period approved in S.105 for resolving a contested case arising from DHEC's decision to grant or deny a Certificate of Need application.
 

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3820, a bill requiring OPIOID ABUSE EDUCATION IN PUBLIC SECONDARY SCHOOLSThis bill requires, as a part of the public school Comprehensive Health Education Program, certain instruction in prescription opioid abuse prevention in grades nine through twelve beginning with the 2017-2018 School Year. This instruction must include an emphasis on the prescription drug epidemic and the connection between opioid abuse and addiction to other drugs, such as heroin.
 
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3819, a bill establishing new REQUIREMENTS THAT MUST BE MET BEFORE PRESCRIBING OPIOID ANALGESICS TO MINORS. The legislation provides that, before the first prescription for an opioid analgesic may be issued to someone under eighteen years of age who is not emancipated, the prescriber must satisfy a set of requirements that include: assessing whether the minor has suffered from a mental health or substance abuse disorder and if prescription drugs have been taken for treatment; discussing with the minor and their parent or guardian such matters as the risks of addiction and overdose associated with opioid analgesics and the dangers of drug interactions with benzodiazepines, alcohol, or other central nervous system depressants; and, obtaining written consent for the prescription from the minor's parent, guardian, or other adult authorized to consent to the minor's medical treatment. The legislation includes requirements for the written consent, the name and quantity of the opioid analgesic being prescribed, the number of any authorized refills, and certain other information to be recorded on a "Start Talking!" consent form developed by the State Board of Medical Examiners. Exceptions are provided that apply in such circumstances as medical emergencies.
 
The House took up legislation that draws upon the work of the special House Opioid Abuse Prevention Study Committee that was appointed by the Speaker of the House to examine the growing misuse of prescription painkillers and recommend legislative actions to counter the epidemic of ruinous addiction and fatal overdoses. The House approved and sent the Senate H.4488, a bill ALLOWING OFFICIALS WHO ARE DETERMINING CAUSES OF DEATH TO HAVE ACCESS TO PRESCRIPTION DRUG MONITORING INFORMATION. The legislation expands the list of persons to which the Department of Health and Environmental Control's Bureau of Drug Control may provide prescription monitoring program data so that it also includes a coroner, deputy coroner, medical examiner, or deputy medical examiner who is involved in an official inquiry into the cause and manner of a person's death.
 
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4479, a bill that I cosponsored is revising the process for addressing LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER MISCONDUCT allegations to implement recommendations arising from the House Legislative Oversight Committee's study of the Law Enforcement Training Council and Criminal Justice Academy. The legislation authorizes the Law Enforcement Training Council to appoint attorneys employed by the Criminal Justice Academy to sit as hearing officers for contested case hearings. Under the legislation, no person who has a pending allegation of misconduct may be employed as a law enforcement officer or as a telecommunications operator or perform any law enforcement duties until a decision has been made that authorizes the employment. The legislation also makes revisions to the report that must be made to the Criminal Justice Academy whenever an officer separates from a law enforcement office. Under the changes, the supervising officer making the report would be subject to disciplinary action for submitting intentionally misleading or incomplete information, such as characterizing a situation where an officer is leaving a department due to alleged misconduct as a simple resignation. The changes are offered as a means of reducing the likelihood that a law enforcement officer leaving one police department because of alleged misconduct could be hired by another department without the allegations being addressed.
 
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4810, a joint resolution creating atemporary SCHOOL METAL DETECTOR STUDY COMMITTEE to examine whether it is in the public interest to require the installation and use of metal detectors at public schools in the state. In making its study, the committee must consider the costs and benefits of the metal detectors to the residents of this state, potential sources of funding, and the feasibility of having each school install metal detectors. The seven member committee will be comprised of three members from the Senate appointed by the Chairman of the Senate Education Committee, three members from the House appointed by the Chairman of the House Education and Public Works Committee, and one additional member with a background in law enforcement appointed by the State Superintendent of Education. After making a report of its recommendations to the General Assembly within ninety days of the effective date of this legislation, the committee will dissolve.
 
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4434, a bill making provisions for comprehensive DYSLEXIA SCREENING AND INTERVENTION IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS. This bill requires the state Department of Education to establish and provide training and support for a statewide multi-tiered support system (MTSS) framework with three tiers of interventions. The MTSS framework will consist of a data based system to match instructional resources to educational needs, an ongoing system of student assessment, and a layered continuum of support. The department would develop a universal screening process to screen for identifying students who may be at risk for problems in reading, math, writing, and social-emotional development. The screening would be used by local school districts through their existing response to intervention framework. Beginning in the 2019-20 school year, school districts are to use the universal screening process to screen each child from kindergarten through second grade at least three times a year. Each district will convene a school-based team to analyze screening data and progress-monitoring data to assist teachers and students. If the screening process indicates the student is at risk for problems the district will notify the parent or guardian and provide information regarding the problem, provide the student with appropriate intervention and monitor the progress of the student. Additionally, this bill requires the department to provide professional development resources for educators for identification and intervention methods for students who are at risk, including students with dyslexia.
 
Image result for against child abuse and neglectThe House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4705, a bill ENHANCING REQUIREMENTS FOR MANDATORY REPORTING OF SUSPECTED CHILD ABUSE AND NEGLECT. The legislation expands the category of those who are required to report suspected child abuse and neglect by adding firefighters, camp counselors, scout leaders, school or college administrators, coaches, and clerical or nonclerical religious counselors who are licensed counselors or holds themselves out as counselors or regularly counsel others. The legislation specifies that mandatory reporters must make their reports of suspected child abuse and neglect to law enforcement agencies and cannot satisfy their legal duties simply by making reports to their supervisors. The duty to report is not superseded by an internal investigation within an institution, school, facility, or agency.  
 
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3329, a bill providing ENHANCEMENTS TO HUMAN TRAFFICKING PENALTIES that draws upon the work of the Joint Citizens and Legislative Committee on Children. The legislation includes revised criminal definitions, more stringent penalties that apply when a victim is under the age of eighteen, and provisions for human trafficking specialized service providers and Human Trafficking Acute Crisis Care and Resource Centers.
 

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4672, a bill
REINSTATING VISION SCREENING REQUIREMENTS FOR DRIVER'S LICENSE RENEWALS. The legislation provides that individuals will once again be required to satisfy vision screening requirements in order to renew a driver's license by either passing a vision test administered at the Department of Motor Vehicles or providing a certificate of vision examination form executed by an ophthalmologist or optometrist.
 

The House approved and sent the Senate H.4676, a bill to provide that those included on the list of RESPONSIBLE ADULTS WHO CAN SIGN APPLICATIONS FOR THE ISSUANCE OF A BEGINNER'S PERMIT, A CONDITIONAL DRIVER'S LICENSE, AND A SPECIAL RESTRICTED DRIVER'S LICENSE can fulfill various requirements for accompanying young drivers which currently require the presence of a parent or legal guardian. The legislation also provides that someone on the list of responsible adults is authorized to sign the consent form at the Department of Motor Vehicles to register the applicant with the federal Selective Service System upon attaining eighteen years of age.  

 
V.C. Summer Nuclear Project:  The issues surrounding this project related to SCE&G, Santee Cooper, and state regulators are at the forefront facing the General Assembly.  Many constituents have contacted me with concerns as to electricity rates and the nuclear project abandonment, questions about the future of SCE&G and Santee Cooper, disdain for SCE&G's leadership, concern as to a potential SCE&G bankruptcy, and a variety of other matters related to this topic. A lot is happening with
 legislative and administrative hearings and legislative debate and I will do my best to provide up to date information through this forum and in response to constituent inquiries. 
 
Dominion Energy and SCE&G Proposed Merger: On January 3, Dominion Energy and SCANA announced a proposed merger that requires both state and federal regulatory approval. To learn more, go here. Here are some details and developments as to the proposal:
  • Dominion plans to continue charging $20 per month for the average SCE&G electricity customer for 20 years for the debt incurred by SCE&G for the failed V.C. Summer nuclear project.  To learn more about what SCE&G customers would continue to pay, go here;
  • Dominion also will rebate customers an average of $1,000 per account.  A recent story suggests that this rebate may be owed to customers regardless of whether the Dominion/SCANA merger is approved.  To see that story, go here;
  • Two weeks ago, the Federal Trade Commission granted early termination of a required 30 day waiting period for the proposed merger.  Regulatory approval is still needed in South Carolina, Georgia, and North Carolina and SCANA shareholders will have to approve too. To learn more, go here;
  • Dominion has a website set up to answer some questions which can be seen here;
  • Dominion is running television and newspaper ads in favor of their proposal and those ads encourage residents to contact legislators to express support of Dominion's proposal as to SCE&G. (Note:  After last week's Senate hearing, Dominion announced that it will stop some of its current media campaign.  To learn more, read further below.)
Dominion Energy CEO's Testimony: In January and again on February 14, Dominion Energy's CEO testified before legislative committees.  Here are some highlights of his testimony:
  • Dominion would keep SCANA as a wholly-owned subsidiary.  Essentially, SCANA would continue to operate as it does now with headquarters in Cayce.  SCANA would have an executive team that is based in Cayce.  SCANA would have one member on Dominion's 13-member board.  Ultimately, the board and CEO in Richmond would control.
  • Dominion would refund $1.3 billion to customers based on energy use over the past year.  The average residential customer would receive around $1,000.
  • Approximately 18% of SCE&G customers' bills is devoted to VC Summer.  Dominion would reduce current bills by at least 5% ($7.00-$7.50 for the average residential customer).  That reduced rate would stay in effect for 8 years.  For the next 12 years thereafter, the remaining portion of the bills devoted to VC Summer would reduce to zero.  Therefore, after 20 years, customers would no longer pay anything for VC Summer.
  • Dominion would ask for no rate increases for anything, including non-nuclear, for at least 3 years.
  • SCANA has announced the purchase of a new natural gas plant in Calhoun County to generate additional needed electricity and had proposed not charging customers for the cost of the plant.  Dominion would honor that commitment.
  • If everything is approved on the schedule Dominion and SCANA prefer, the deal would close in the Fall of 2018.
  • A story about his January testimony before the Senate panel can be seen here.  The link to the power point can be seen here.
SEC Filing as to Proposed Merger: Two weeks ago, the Securities and Exchange Commission filing for the proposed Dominion/SCANA merger was available online. Importantly, the filing says SCANA — as a stand alone company – could reduce utility rates by up to 9.75% and still maintain its investment grade credit rating.  The filing also suggests that Dominion would not be similarly limited to a 9.75% reduction ceiling since it is, and would be after a merger, a larger company than SCANA.  To see the filing, go here
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House Passes Other Legislation as to V.C. Summer:  In the past month, the House of Representatives passed the first three of six separate bills that the House plans to take up and send to the Senate related to the V.C. Summer nuclear plant issues:   
  • The first creates a utilities consumer advocate in the office of the attorney general and grants subpoena power to the advocate and the Office of Regulatory Staff.  It also removes the preservation of the financial integrity of the state's public utilities from ORS' responsibilities. 
  • The second eliminates the legislative-controlled Public Utilities Review Committee and replaces it with a new Utility Oversight Committee.  Both bills head to the Senate.
  • The third ends the terms of the current members of the Public Service Commission; sets up new qualifications; expands continuing education requirements; staggers terms; and increases reporting requirements as to travel, food, and lodging reimbursements.
V.C. Summer – Preservation of Assets: Legislation is pending to require the preservation of assets at V.C. Summer for a period of time. To learn more, go here.  Additionally, Santee Cooper announced it will pay to preserve the assets for a period of time. To learn more, go here
V.C. Summer Abandonment – Notable Developments Since September:  Notable developments on this issue since September include, but are not limited to the following:
  • Fake emails supporting the proposed merger between Dominion and SCE&G were received by members of the General Assembly in recent weeks and SLED is investigating. To learn more, go here;
  • SCE&G filed paperwork to withdraw the nuclear licenses in late December.  To learn more, go here;
  • The State's Public Service Commission decided to deny SCE&G's motion to dismiss the request to suspend its rate collections related to the V.C. Summer project.  To learn more, go here;
  • The South Carolina Electric Cooperatives have requested legislative leadership to form a special committee to review whether to sell Santee Cooper. To learn more, go here;
  • SCE&G announced its proposal for addressing the situation including reducing electric rates by 3.5%.  To learn more about that, go here
  • SCE&G announced a change in leadership effective January 1, 2018. To learn more, go here;
  • The S.C. Supreme Court assigned a circuit judge to oversee litigation involving V.C. Summer and SCE&G. To learn more, go here
  • The State's Office of Regulatory Staff filed a petition at the Public Service Commission requesting that customers be refunded and that SCE&G stop collecting the portion of monthly bills which is supposed to be for the nuclear project construction;   
Sale of Santee Cooper?: Meanwhile, a valuation of Santee Cooper is being conducted.  Policy makers will use the valuation to determine what options exist for the possible sale of some of Santee Cooper's assets.   To learn more facts about Santee Cooper, go here.
 

 

State Government News
 
Tax Reform Planned Introduced in House of Representatives: The S.C. House Tax Study Committee filed legislation to reform the tax code in South Carolina by replacing the personal income tax brackets with a single flat, income tax rate of 4.85% and phasing out existing sales tax exemptions on groceries, medical bills, and other services over the next five years resulting in a decrease in the statewide sales tax rate from 6% to 3%.To learn more, go here.

 

Constituent Information
State House Tours:  Tours are available for the S.C. State House by calling by going here.  If you set a tour between January and June and it is on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday, please let me know so I can do my best to see you.  The State House is open on Saturdays for guided and unguided tours from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm.
South Carolina Tourism: To learn more about tourist attractions and tourism opportunities in South Carolina, go here.
Thoroughbred Country — South Carolina Regional Tourism Organization:  To learn more about tourism in the four county region of Aiken, Allendale, Bamberg, and Barnwell, go here.

Aiken County Tourism:  To learn more about tourism options in Aiken County, go here.

 

 

 

 

 

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Two Months Into The 2018 Session

Dear Friends,

I will continue on trying to get the trash picked up in our area. SCDOT will start back picking up trash again closer to this years Masters. I am continuing to work on getting the grass cut at the welcome center on I-20. I have been promised it will be looking great before this years Masters. This is the gateway to North Augusta, South Carolina. Please let me know if I can help you in anyway.
 
 

 

HOUSE WEEK IN REVIEW
The House of Representatives concurred in Senate amendments to H.3653, a bill imposing LIMITATIONS ON NUISANCE SUITS RELATED TO MANUFACTURING AND INDUSTRIAL USES OF REAL PROPERTY, and enrolled the legislation for ratification.  Addressing situations where urban growth has prompted residential development to expand into previously outlying areas where established industrial facilities have been operating, the legislation imposes limitations on nuisance suits that nearby residents can bring against pre-existing industrial, manufacturing, transportation, and warehousing facilities that are complying with environmental permits and are otherwise operating lawfully.  Affording legal protections like those already provided for agricultural operations, the legislation proposes to codify the common law defense of 'coming to the nuisance' as a means of promoting economic development.
 
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3529, a bill establishing the
GENERAL ASSEMBLY'S EXCLUSIVE AUTHORITY OVER THE REGULATION OF AUXILIARY CONTAINERS, such as plastic grocery bags, disposable cups, and takeout food boxes.  This legislation provides that any regulation regarding the use, disposition, sale, or any imposition of any prohibition, restriction, fee imposition, or taxation of auxiliary containers must be done only by the General Assembly.  This authority supersedes and preempts any local ordinance enacted by a political subdivision, but the legislation does not apply to auxiliary container regulations adopted before January 31, 2018, including regulations with a delayed implementation date or that are conditioned on future municipal action.  A municipality located within a county that has adopted an ordinance before January 31, 2018, may pass the same or similar ordinance.  The legislation does not impose limitations on county or municipal ordinances regulating solid waste disposal or recycling programs.  The legislation does not apply to the use of auxiliary containers within the boundaries of a State park, on a property owned by a county or municipality, such as coastal tidelands and wetlands, or on a public beach, river, or other body of water maintained by a county or municipality.
 
The House approved S.297, a bill relating to PERFORMING SECURITY OFFICER DUTIES PENDING THE ISSUANCE OF A REGISTRATION CERTIFICATE, and enrolled the legislation for ratification.  The legislation revises provisions relating to private security officer registration certificates issued by the State Law Enforcement Division, to provide that, pending issuance of a registration certificate, a security officer may perform professional duties for up to thirty days, rather than twenty days, after receipt by SLED of his application for registration.
 
The House returned S.185, a bill providing FUNERAL SERVICE CONSUMER PROTECTIONSthat address solicitations from remote, out-of-state companies, to the Senate with amendments.  The legislation establishes provisions that target the practice of allowing or permitting an Internet service provider, unlicensed person, establishment, or entity to engage in the practice of funeral service, embalming, cremation, or conducting business as a funeral home, funeral establishment, crematory, or mortuary.  Under the legislation, an advertisement must include the physical address of the funeral home, funeral establishment, mortuary, or crematory where the advertised services will be provided. The State Board of Funeral Service is charged with promulgating regulations establishing additional requirements for advertisements relating to providing funeral services, including Internet advertisements.
 
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4655, the
"SOUTH CAROLINA INSURANCE DATA SECURITY ACT".The legislation establishes standards for data security and standards for the investigation of and notification to the Director of the Department of Insurance of a cyber security event that impacts insurance licensees.
 
The House approved and sent the Senate H.4654, a bill REVISING FINGERPRINTING REQUIREMENTS FOR INSURANCE PRODUCER LICENSURE including provisions that allow these criminal background screening requirements to be satisfied without submitting a new set of fingerprints when a set of fingerprints is already on file, such as when a license is being renewed.
 
The House approved and sent the Senate H.4656, a bill UPDATING AND ENHANCING FINANCIAL SOLVENCY REQUIREMENTS FOR REINSURERS to bring South Carolina into compliance with the most recent standards of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners so that the state can retain NAIC accreditation and continue to enjoy legal reciprocity with other states.
 
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4612, legislation authorizing
SURETY BONDS FOR GENERAL AND MECHANICAL LICENSURE APPLICANTS.  Rather than providing financial statements showing a minimum net worth, this legislation affords applicants for general and mechanical licensure the option of satisfying financial requirements by providing a surety bond in an amount of two times the required net worth for the applicant's license group.  The surety bond option is offered as a means of accommodating those who operate under an employee option stock program arrangement which makes it difficult to satisfy minimum asset requirements.
 
Pray For The Victims and Families Of The Florida School Shooting
Americans grieve for the tragic loss of life from the Florida school shooting. Precious young lives ended in a senseless massacre perpetrated by a troubled youth. My prayers go to the families who lost loved ones in their most difficult hour.
 
This event calls for soul-searching by each of us. Foremost, let's acknowledge that evil exists and always has. No measures taken by man can completely protect us in our open and free society we so cherish. It's clear there were signs of the shooters intention on social media and elsewhere. While most of us are reluctant to meddle, for the safety of all we need to heed the advice of law enforcement: "If you see something, say something."
  
Unquestionably, public safety is the #1 priority of government. Regrettably, both nationally and in SC, as the Florida school tragedy was still unfolding, some politicians and media-types reflexively resumed their clarion call for gun control. While gun control is their top priority they ignore the other real culprits. 
 
Legislatively, the solutions to keep students safe are complex and expensive and no single response insures complete safety. In SC, there are currently bills pending in the legislature to address several issues. One calls for armed Resource Law Enforcement Officers in every school. Another would require metal detectors in every school. Still others address student bullying.
 
There are a host of practical solutions that could be put in place by school districts. Among those are more intensive training for teachers and administrators to respond appropriately to active shooters. Some suggest changing requirement for schools to better focus on skipping the fire drills because daytime school fires rarely occur. Time and effort might better be applied to practicing active shooter drills. Sure, that's scary and some school leaders and parents would prefer to avoid the issue, but it's evident that is a better response to today's dangers. 
 
Others have suggested arming and training volunteer teachers to carry concealed weapons and serve as the first line of defense before police arrive. Still others suggest our retired military be trained to serve in schools that don't have Resource Officers. It is clear that one solution is not the end all; all potential solutions should be considered. We all need to work together to find practical and meaningful solutions to protect students at school.
 
School Choice Moves Closer to Becoming Permanent Law in SC
The House also gave initial approval to legislation granting permanent status to Exceptional SC, a program that allows students with exceptional needs to receive an education that meets their needs. The bill codifies and makes permanent what South Carolina has been doing by annual budget proviso the past few years. This new step gives certainty to the program so parents, students, and donors know it's going to be there next year and the year after without fail. Currently, the program exists as a tax credit capped at $11 million annually. Throughout this process, we learned of additional donors above the $11 million level who have expressed interest in participating in the program. The next step is to increase the $11 million tax credit.
 

 

Animal Protection
Image result for animal protectionThe Senate unanimously passed legislation (S.841) that includes basic restrictions on dog tethering and minimum standards of care in animal shelters. It also requires convicted animal abusers to pay for the cost of caring for their animals while their cases are prosecuted, which can cost county shelters and non-profit agencies many thousands of dollars a year. The House will take up a bill that would double the penalties on anyone who tortures or intentionally kills police animals. A Committee advanced the legislation that would increase the maximum prison sentence from 5 years to 10 years and double the fine to $10,000. The proposal is named "Hyco's Law" after an Anderson County K-9 that was shot and killed while chasing a suspect.

 

 

 
Nuclear issue update
The bipartisan House Utility Ratepayer Protection Committee that I am on met again this past week to further discuss the future of electric cooperative ratepayers who rely on Santee Cooper for their electricity. The Committee's main concern, and my main concern, continues to be the protection of all ratepayers. The fact-finding meeting lasted several hours as representatives from the electric cooperative industry discussed their current status and future trajectory. As with SCE&G ratepayers, Santee Cooper also passed on VC Summer costs to electric cooperative ratepayers. While each power bill might vary depending on the service region, electric cooperative ratepayers, as a whole, pay about 5% off their total electricity costs in VC Summer fees. The House has approved a bill that would prevent SCE&G from charging customers for the unfinished nuclear reactors if it merges with Dominion Energy.
 
Combating Scammer & Spoofers
The House Labor Commerce and Industry Committee finalized plans to vote on a bill tocombat telephone scammers and spoofers. For those not familiar, using local phone numbers to disguise the true geographic location of the caller is a technique called spoofing. These scammers target the elderly and in some cases even use social media to mine information then used to confuse unsuspecting victims. The new bill set to be voted on would set regulatory penalties and allow state enforcement authorities to investigate and fine people who break the anti-spoofing law.
  
The "State of SCDOT" 
SC's Secretary of Transportation, Christy Hall, presented her "State of SCDOT" report for 2018 saying SCDOT is currently at its highest level of construction of the past decade while more and more projects are being planned and designed. The new revenue generated by the passage of the Roads Bill last year amounts to about $150 million in 2018. Currently, SCDOT has approximately $3 billion in road and bridge work on the streets. This figure represents three times the level work the agency was able to provide just a few short years ago. The plan is to double the paving program by incrementally increasing it each year to match the phasing in of the gas tax increase. Each county will see a dramatic increase in these projects over the next 10 years. Secretary Hall's presentation of the 2018 State of SCDOT can be found here: SCDOT Presentation.  

 

 
Legislators Promote SRS Pit Production
I signed a letter along with the Aiken County Legislative Delegation joined together to support relocating plutonium pit production to the Savannah River Site. The Delegation sent a letter was to National Nuclear Security Administration leaders. Plutonium pits are grapefruit-sized triggers for nuclear weapons. They have not been made since 2011 and have historically produced at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. The Trump administration NNSA has been directed to produce a minimum 80 pits per year by 2030. A 2017 NNSA analysis shows two possible solutions: revitalizing the New Mexico lab or bringing pit production to SRS. With it would come billions of dollars of investment in SRS and 800 permanent jobs.
 
Improving Utility Oversight
The House passed legislation (H.4377) to reform the Public Service Commission (PSC) by a vote of 108-1. The legislation (1) strengthens ethical standards to limit outside utility influence (2) requires stricter questioning of parties by commissioners before making a decision (3) provides ability to inspect utility construction sites and (4) staggers the election terms for current commissioners. 
 
The PSC is the agency authorized by the legislature to regulate utility companies and set power rates. Indeed, the PSC is also the entity responsible for approving nine SCE&G rate increase adjustments used to fund the VC Summer project. The reforms adopted by the House will give the PSC a more defined role with the goal of preventing another massive debacle in the future.
 
Conservation Bank Wins House Approval
The State Conservation Bank, which helps secure financing for land to be bought or preserved for conservation, will cease to exist June 30th unless its authorization is renewed. The House took a major step forward by approving the re-authorization and sending the legislation to the Senate. It has not been smooth sailing for the Conservation Bank. Last year an audit found a majority of the bank's money was used to preserve land not open to the public. The bill (H. 4727) passed by the House revamps the agency by making it permanent, like other state agencies, in exchange for less funding each year. The Conservation Bank has protected more than 300,000 acres since its creation 14 years ago.

 

 

 

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2018 Session

 

Dear Friends,
 
This is my first newsletter of our 2018 session, we have many bills to review and hear in the next few months.The Senate and the House of Representatives will meet each Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday between now to mid May.  I hope that you find this update helpful and informative.  If I can help you with an issue, please let me know. Thank you for the opportunity to serve you in the SouthCarolina State House.
 

 

SCE&G & V.C. Summer Nuclear Issues
V.C. Summer Nuclear Project:  The issues surrounding this project related to SCE&G, Santee Cooper, and state regulators are at the forefront facing the General Assembly.  Many constituents have contacted me with concerns as to electricity rates and the nuclear project abandonment, questions about the future of SCE&G and Santee Cooper, disdain for SCE&G's leadership, and a variety of other matters related to this topic. Dominion Energy's CEO appeared before both Senate and House committees last week. I expect a lot to develop over the coming weeks with legislative and administrative hearings and legislative debate and will do my best to provide up to date information through this forum and in response to constituent inquiries. 
 
 HOUSE WEEK IN REVIEW

 
The House of Representatives took up two of the bills that draw upon the work of the special House Utility Ratepayer Protection Committee which was appointed by the Speaker of the House following the announcement from Santee Cooper and SCANA's South Carolina Electric and Gas that construction on the V.C. Summer nuclear reactors in Fairfield County was being abandoned after billions of dollars in fees had been collected from South Carolina's ratepayers under the Baseload Review Act to support the failed nuclear power project.
                                         Ratepayer Protection
In a nearly unanimous vote the S.C. House passed a bill repealing the Base Load Review Act and ending payments by SCE&G customers in paying for the abandoned V.C. Summer nuclear project. The Ratepayer Protection Bill (H.4375) that I cosponsor drops the 18% nuclear surcharge on SCE&G customers' bills to 0% while giving direction to the Public Service Commission to keep rates as low as possible while the SCANA merger is evaluated. It also repeals the Base Load Review Act and guarantees that no future projects can recover costs under the law abused by SCE&G.
 
 
Provisions Included in the Ratepayer Protection Bill:
  • Repeals the Base Load Review Act
  • Defines the terms "prudent" and "imprudent"
  • Removes the nuclear premium and drops the rate from over 18% to 0%
  • Authorizes the PSC to set an interim rate
  • Suspends automatic stay                                                                                                                                       

 
House Speaker Jay Lucas Said, " Since last August, the House had worked diligently to develop aresponsible plan forward that protects ratepayers and prevents them from paying for a failed  nuclear project. Our members followed through with our commitment to halt SCE&G from recouping more of its customers' hard-earned dollars for the failed VC Summer nuclear project. Setting the nuclear premium rate to zero percent provides South Carolina ratepayers with immediate relief while private sector business negotiations continue before the Public Service Commission. As this innovative approach works its way through the legislative process, I am hopeful the senate will act quickly in an effort to protect ratepayers from corporate greed."
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate (H.4379), a bill creating a 

UTILITIES CONSUMER ADVOCATE within the Attorney General's Office to safeguard the interests of consumers in dealings with public utilities that offer such essential services as electrical power, gas pipelines for heating and cooking needs, water, sewerage, and telecommunications.  The new Utilities Consumer Advocate must be an attorney qualified to practice in all the state's courts who is to be appointed by the Attorney General to serve at the pleasure of the A.G.  The legislation includes provisions to prevent conflicts interests, including prohibitions on gifts and campaign contributions from public utilities.  The Utilities Consumer Advocate is charged with representing the public utility interests of consumers which includes providing legal representation of the consumer interests before state and federal regulatory agencies.  Along with the Public Service Commission's Office of Regulatory Staff, the consumer advocate is charged with monitoring existing regulations, rate structures, and policies of those agencies of special interest to utility consumers and report to the public through the news media proposed changes under consideration and the effect of those changes on the lives of the citizens of the state.  The consumer advocate is authorized to initiate, continue, or intervene in legal proceedings on behalf of the public at large.  The consumer advocate must make an annual report to the General Assembly on the year's activities on behalf of the interests of utility consumers.  The legislation includes provisions to afford the consumer advocate access to records of the Office of Regulatory Staff and other state agencies.  The Public Service Commission's Office of Regulatory Staff is directed to make use of its subpoena powers at the consumer advocate's request.  A misdemeanor criminal penalty is established for failure to provide information requested.  The financial integrity of public utilities is eliminated as a concern for the Office of Regulatory Staff.

 

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4378, a bill that replaces the Public Utilities Review Committee with a new twelve-member UTILITY OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE composed of six legislators holding key leadership positions, two members of the general public appointed by legislative leaders, and four members of the general public appointed by the Governor.  The legislation establishes qualifications and duties for committee members.  The oversight committee is charged with screening Public Service Commission candidates and making nominations for the election of commissioners by the General Assembly, nominating a qualified candidate for the Governor to consider appointing as the Executive Director of the Office of Regulatory Staff, and reviewing candidates for appointment to the South Carolina Public Service Authority Board of Directors as submitted by the Governor to determine whether they meet the qualifications.  The annual budget proposals of the Office of Regulatory Staff and the Public Service Commission must be reviewed and approved by the oversight committee and the salary of the Executive Director of the Office of Regulatory Staff is set by the oversight committee.  The oversight committee is required to make annual performance reviews of the Public Service Commission, the individual commissioners, the commission's Office of Regulatory Staff, and the ORS Executive Director.  The oversight committee must develop and distribute to those appearing before the PSC an anonymous and confidential survey to evaluate the commissioners on such matters as their temperament, knowledge, and whether they appear to be influenced by political considerations or the parties who appear before them.  The oversight committee is authorized to evaluate the actions of the Public Service Commission so that the members of the General Assembly may better judge whether these actions serve the best interests of the citizens of South Carolina, both individual and corporate.  The oversight committee must conduct an annual review of the State Energy Office's action plan.  The oversight committee is authorized to conduct other studies and make other pertinent reports and recommendations to the General Assembly.  The legislation includes provisions to prevent conflicts interests for those serving as committee members.            
                                                                                               
      Road Way Trash 

 

 The House this week passed legislation that I cosponsor that should increase enforcement of SC's littering laws by reducing the fine against it. The legislation came from law enforcement because they believe the state's current fine structure is so high that some officers are hesitant to enforce it. The bill (H.4458), which passed 100-4, creates a fee structure that is based on the amount of litter involved. For instance, tossed litter under 15 pounds could lead to a $25-100 fine. Litter up to 500 pounds could lead to $200-$500 fines or up to 30 days in jail. The sentence would increase after a second violation. More than 500 pounds of litter could spark a $1,000 fine or 90 days in jail. The bill also lets judges sentence violators to community service – picking up litter. The measure was sent to the Senate.
 
 
 

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3920, a bill establishing REQUIREMENTS FOR PUBLIC SCHOOLS TO POST THE TOLL-FREE HOTLINE FOR REPORTING CHILD ABUSE, NEGLECT, AND EXPLOITATION to the Department of Social Services.  The legislation provides that, beginning in the 2018-2019 School Year, each public school and charter school shall post at least five signs that provide the statewide toll-free telephone number that may be used to report incidents of child abuse, neglect, and exploitation to the Department of Social Services along with related information about reporting allegations.  A school must display the sign conspicuously in at least one high-traffic common area that is readily accessible to and widely used by students.  Virtual schools must post the required information electronically in appropriate places in the school's learning management system.  
 
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3699, legislation that authorizes the SHARING CHILDREN'S HEALTH INFORMATION WITH CAREGIVERS in abuse and neglect cases, placements, or adoptions.  The legislation removes prohibitions from sharing with foster parents, or other caregivers, the medical, mental health, and other known, or reasonably obtainable, information about children necessary to provide them with adequate care. This disclosure requirement applies to abuse and neglect cases, placements, or adoptions.  The legislation provides additional immunity protections for those who report suspected child abuse or neglect.
 
The House amended approved, and sent the Senate H.3701, a bill addressing KINSHIP FOSTER PARENTS, which requiresthe South Carolina Department of Social Services [SCDSS] to inform relatives of children, who are placed with them, about opportunities to become licensed foster parents.  Potential kinship foster parents would be required to undergo background checks that include checking the Central Registry of Child Abuse and Neglect cases.  The legislation sets forth the responsibilities of kinship foster parents and makes provisions for kinship care to be monitored by SCDSS.  The legislation requires the agency to maintain specified kinship foster care data.  The legislation also incorporates provisions addressing children victimized by human trafficking, including sex trafficking, within definitions of 'child abuse or neglect' and 'harm'.
 
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate to H.3068, a bill to provide for the "UNIFORM ATHLETE AGENTS ACT OF 2017".  The legislation updates protection of student athletes and makes extensive changes to the elements of the athlete – agent relationship. The substantial changes include the definitions of athlete agent and student agent, definitions of licensure and representation, clarifications regarding signing, requires more information regarding registering with the Department of Consumer Affairs (including social media accounts – noting the expanded impact of social media on the solicitation and recruitment of student athletes by athlete agents) and also includes information regarding previous convictions and bankruptcies.  The provisions of the Administrative Procedures Act apply.  More direct powers are given to the Department for the suspension or revocations of registrations. The bill also requires clear notices associated with the signing of athletes to athletic directors.  Educational institutions or student athletes may bring actions if the athlete is adversely impacted by actions or omissions of the agent.  The legislation also includes provisions regarding reciprocal registration between states and adds new requirements to signing agent contracts. 

 

New School Busses:

State education officials immediately moved to buy new school buses after the Senate voted unanimously to join the House in overriding Gov. McMaster's vetoes against using surplus lottery funds to pay for school buses. After the vote, state Education Superintendent Molly Spearman said her office would use the $20.5 million to buy more than 200 badly-needed buses to replace aging, fire-prone vehicles. That means 210 old and dangerous school buses will be taken off the road. 

 

 
Shielding Execution Drug Companies: Legislation was introduced in the House this week aimed at protecting the identities of companies that provide the state with execution drugs. The bill (H.4629) would make drug suppliers part of the execution team, thereby, providing protection to companies so they will be less reluctant to sell drugs to the state, knowing they'll be used for an execution. SC's supply of lethal injection drugs expired in 2013. The state has not conducted any executions since 2011, in part because of no available drugs.

 

DUI-E to Get First Hearing

So many people want to testify in favor of the Driving Under the Influence of Electronics (DUI-E) legislation that a series of hearings are planned. In an unusual step, the bill (H.4480) will be heard by a Joint Subcommittee consisting of the Transportation and Motor Vehicles Subcommittee.  
 
 

South Carolina Department of Revenue — Guidance on Refundable Motor Fuel Income Tax Credit:  The gas tax/roads bill legislation enacted in May allows a refundable motor fuel income tax credit for tax years 2018 through 2022. The 2018 tax year started January 1. The Department of Revenue issued guidance on that tax credit  which can be seen here.

 

SCDOT Road Project Link: SCDOT has created an interactive map to allow citizens to see the road and bridge projects going o n around the state.  To view it, go here.

 

Local Road and Bridge Project Update:  To see the road and bridge project update from my August 2 district email, go here.

Real ID Update

What is the Status of South Carolina's Extension Request?: Homeland Security granted South Carolina's request for an extension until October 10, 2018 to comply with Real ID requirements.  After South Carolina is fully compliant, then the state will have an extension through September 30, 2020. We will keep you updated through this forum and the press as we learn more information.  Homeland Security's enforcement page can be seen here.

 

Real ID — Frequently Asked Questions — SCDMV: SCDMV's list of Frequently Asked Questions with answers related to our state's compliance with the federal Real ID law.  This is an important document that can help answer many constituent questions.  See the list with answers by going here.  A recent article in the newspaper also summarizes some of the issues and questions with answers which can be seen here.
 

Pet Care Legislation: The Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee sponsored S.841 which represents the work of a study committee composed of membership from state agencies, local governments, veternarians, animal welfare advocates, and others.  The bill is on the Senate calendar for debate and potential passage in February.  In the past three weeks, I have heard from many local residents who support the bill.  To see the bill, go here.
 
 

Aiken County Legislative Delegation:  The local legislative delegation office is staffed by the delegation secretary Jeannie Cadden in the Aiken County Government Building on University Parkway.  Ms. Cadden works on both Aiken County and Edgefield County legislative and constituent matters. One of the services provided by our local delegation office is the processing of paperwork associated with becoming a notary public.  If you need help with this or other matters, let me know by responding to this email or call Jeannie in the delegation office at 803-642-1694
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Merry Christmas

CTCT-20171220_120559

Peace, joy, and good will to all

 

These are popular sentiments year-round, but especially during the Christmas season. 

In the hustle and bustle of our lives, it's important to find a place of peacefulness and sanctuary. A time of restfulness and renewal. It helps us express the true meaning of Christmas, no matter where we are or what we're doing.

 

I would like to express my gratitude for the opportunity to serve you and your family throughout the year. My commitment is to provide you with the best possible representation, and that is a commitment I honor not only during this special season, but throughout the year.

 

My best wishes are extended to you and your family for a wonderful holiday season and may peace, joy, and good will surround you in the days to come.

 

The Magic of Christmas never ends and its greatest of gifts are family and friends.

 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!  
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Roads Bill Passes & Sine Die- Legislative Update 5/18/17

Roads Bill Passes & Sine Die
 
Sine Die (Latin meaning "without a fixed day") Adjournment occurred this past Thursday, May 11, 2017, at 5:00 pm and marked the end of this year's general legislative session. For a bill to have become law this year, it would have needed to pass both legislative chambers by Sine Die. This always adds increased pressure in the final week of legislative session.
 
While some of my House colleagues and I helped pass many significant pieces of legislation last week, the most anticipated action was the passage of a bill to fix our roads and bridges. H-3516 passed the House 99-20. The House and Senate hammered out an agreement that had enough support to pass both legislative bodies. 
 

When I ran for the House in 2010 I made a promise to you to stay in touch with you, listen to your advice and concerns, then make the best decision based on facts and numbers, and vote on the bill that best fits my district and state. After years of meetings and reviews of SCDOT our state budget and revenues, the best way to keep our roads in good repair is to ask those who use them to help pay for the up keep. Non residents will pay 30-32% of this revenue. The best way to fix our roads and bridges in this state is to raise the gas fee 2 cents per gallon a year for 6 years, totaling a max of 12 cents per gallon. At the end of the 6 years (2023) our gas fee will be 28.75 cents per gallon. This will result with a total of $625 million per year to go towards fixing our roads and bridges. Not one person I talked to want to live in 2017 on a 1987 income. "Just fix the roads" I was told. These reasons are why I voted yes to the roads bill.
 
Old Gas Fee Formula
 
Below is the present 1987 funding of the 16.75 Motor Fuel User Fee. There is less than ONE CENT left to fund state system needs after requires transfers to other entities, matching money for federal highway dollars, and daily highway maintenance costs.

 

 

 
Reforms the Department of Transportation (Starting July 1, 2017)
 

Reform/Governance
* 9 Highway Commissioners – 7 District and 2 At-large
* All appointed by the Governor and sent to the Senate and the House
* 7 District appointees approved by a separate weighted vote of only the Senators and a separate weighted vote of only the Representatives of district legislative delegations
* 2 At-large via advice and consent of the General Assembly
* Commissioners may be removed from office by the Governor without legislative approval
* Commission is removed from the day-to-day operations of the department; requires Commission to hold at least 6 meetings annually with one week notice, and publish reports/audits online
* Prohibits Commissioners from participating in the awarding of contracts, selection of consultants or contractors, etc
* Commissioners cannot have direct or indirect interest in any contract during term or up to 1 year after
 
Funds Transfer
* Deleted Act 98 Fund transfer of $50 M from GF starting in FY 18-19
* Act 275 clean-up: SCDOT can reduce the allocation to the state-funded resurfacing program in proportion to what is needed to fund the project in proportion to the amounts required by the DOT to fund repairs maintenance and improvements to the existing transportation system
 
User Fee Increase
* 2 cents/year for 6 years, total increase of 12 cents/gallon – not indexed
 
DL Fees
* No increases or changes
 
CTCs
* Increase in C-Fund allocation to 3.99 cents over a four (4) year period beginning July 1, 2018
* Must be used on the state highway system
* Donor bonus increase from $9.5 M to $17 M – additional $3.5 if needed to make donor counties whole
 
Infrastructure Maintenance Fee/Sales Tax on Motor Vehicles
* Vehicle sales – 5% fee with $500 cap in place of sales tax
* Out of state – $250 fee
 
Tax Relief
* Dual Wage Earner Cap increase from $30k to $50k over 6 years
* Manufacturing Property Tax 10.5%-9% over six years
* Non-refundable tax credit for working poor equal to 125% of federal EITC – phased in over six years
* Increases College Tuition Tax Credit for 4 and 2 year institutions to 50% of tuition capped at $1,500
* Motor Fuel User Fee Rebate:
o Refundable income tax credit equal to the lesser of the amount spent on maintenance or the amount of the increase in the motor fuel user fee
o Uses funds from $250 out-of-state transfer fee first, then funds from SCDOT
Sunsets in tax year 7
o Capped at $114 M in year 6
 
Total New Funding for Roads
* $177 M in 2018
* $625 M in 2023
 
Total Tax Relief
* $114 M Motor Fuel Tax Credit – Covered by increased revenue from out-of-state fee and SCDOT
* $105 M in General Fund Tax Relief by 2023 – offset by deletion of $50 M GF transfer to SIB

 

 

 
In order for me to have a strong voice in Columbia, I have to communicate with my constituents. And that is you! My website, newsletters, mailers, and Facebook are the communication tools that I use. It takes extra time, staff, and campaign funds to maintain these tools. 
 
If you would like to contribute, please mail a check to Hixon for House, P.O. Box 7927, North Augusta, SC 29861. You can also make a contribution online on my website.
 
I hope that you find this update helpful and informative. If I can help you with an issue, please let me know. Thank you for reading and allowing me to serve you.
 
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Legislative Update   –  May 18, 2017              
 
The House of Representatives concurred in Senate amendments to H.3221 and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation establishes a statewide program for 
ADDRESSING UNSOUND SCHOOL DISTRICT FINANCES which affords the State Department of Education authority that extends beyond academic matters to include fiscal affairs. Under the legislation, the State Department of Education is to work with district superintendents and finance officers to develop and adopt a statewide program with guidelines for: (1) identifying fiscal practices and budgetary conditions that, if uncorrected, could compromise the fiscal integrity of a school district; and (2) advising districts that demonstrate these financial problems on the corrective actions that should be taken. The department must establish three escalating levels of fiscal and budgetary concern so that the State Superintendent of Education can declare a 'fiscal watch', a 'fiscal caution', and a 'fiscal emergency' with regard to school district finances. The succeeding levels of budgetary concern carry increasingly stringent requirements for school district recovery plans, audits, and inspections as well as more intensive technical support from the state department. Should a school district's finances warrant the most severe level of concern prompting the State Superintendent of Education to declare a 'fiscal emergency', the State Department of Education is authorized to take intensive steps including assuming control over the district's financial operations to preclude a default on any type of debt and prevent further decline in the district's finances. These provisions also apply to the statewide charter school district and a variation of these fiscal accountability measures applies to special schools where a state agency operates as a Local Education Agency, such as the educational programs of the Department of Juvenile Justice, the Wil Lou Gray Opportunity School, and the Governor's Schools.

 

 

The House approved S.415 and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation provides for comprehensive PROBATE COURT REVISIONS to bring greater statewide uniformity to the probate process, reduce costs for filing probate actions, and enhance protections for the disabled, such as allowing for the appointment of a limited guardian when an incapacitated individual is capable of managing most of their affairs.
 
The House concurred in Senate amendments to H.3587 and enrolled the legislation for ratification. The joint resolution creates a temporary SEIZURE SAFETY IN SCHOOLS STUDY COMMITTEE to examine such issues as: the state of epilepsy awareness among public school teachers, staff, and administrators; basic training in seizure response appropriate for school personnel; and, existing laws, regulations, and policies affecting epilepsy and seizure safety in public schools. The legislation provides for the composition of the fourteen-member committee, four of whom are legislative representatives with the others representing the medical, education and parent communities. Recommendations must be reported to the General Assembly before January 31, 2018, at which point the study committee is dissolved.
 
The House concurred in Senate amendments to H.3559, and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation creates the SOUTH CAROLINA INDUSTRIAL HEMP PROGRAM to allow for the cultivation of industrial hemp by residents of the state for potential use in such varied products as cloth, construction materials, cordage, fiber, food, fuel, paint, paper, particleboard, and plastics. Under the program, the Department of Agriculture will allow up to twenty permits for the cultivation of up to twenty acres of land per permit in the first year, up to forty permits for the cultivation of up to forty acres in the second and third years, and afterwards the department, along with institutions of higher learning, will evaluate the program to determine the number of permits to be issued and the amount of acreage permitted. When applying for a permit, each applicant, at a minimum must submit to the department, global positioning system coordinates of where the industrial hemp will be grown and such other required information as fingerprints and the appropriate fees required by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) to perform a fingerprint based state criminal records check and for the Federal Bureau of Investigation to perform a national fingerprint-based criminal records check. No person who has been convicted of any felony, or any person convicted of any drug-related misdemeanor or violation in the previous ten years from the date of the application, shall be eligible to obtain a permit. Before the department will issue a permit to the applicant, the applicant must have proof of a signed purchaser with a contract. The department may charge fees to administer the program, not to exceed one thousand dollars annually per registrant. Applicants must provide written consent allowing SLED to enter onto all premises where industrial hemp is cultivated, processed, or stored for the purpose of conducting physical inspections or ensuring compliance with the program. The legislation includes requirements for periodic laboratory testing to ensure that industrial hemp crops do not have unlawfully high levels of delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, and samples with unlawfully high THC levels are required to be destroyed. Criminal penalties are established to address the cultivation of industrial hemp as a means of disguising marijuana production or distribution operations. A violation is a misdemeanor that carries a term of imprisonment for up to three years and/or a fine of up to three thousand dollars. Universities are authorized to conduct research on industrial hemp as an agriculture commodity and work in conjunction with the Department of Agriculture to identify solutions for applications, applicants and new market opportunities for industrial hemp growers.
 
The House concurred in Senate amendments and enrolled for ratification H.3879, a bill INCREASING BURIAL EXPENSES PAYABLE UNDER WORKERS' COMPENSATION laws for accidental workplace deaths by setting the maximum amount payable to families at twelve thousand dollars, rather than the current maximum of twenty-five hundred dollars for such funeral expenses.
 
The House concurred in Senate amendments to H.3150, legislation REVISING ELECTIONS PROVISIONS, and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation revises provisions for special elections so that the state's calendar for setting those special election dates will allow for compliance with the requirements of the South Carolina Uniform Military and Overseas Voters Act. The legislation requires that general elections be held for uncontested municipal races by eliminating an exception that currently allows a general election not to be conducted to fill a municipal office when only one person has filed for the office and no one has filed a declaration to be a write-in candidate.
 
The House concurred in Senate amendments to H.3531 and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation imposes RESTRICTIONS ON THE OWNERSHIP OF LARGE WILD CATS, NON-NATIVE BEARS AND GREAT APES as a means of furthering conservation efforts for the welfare of vulnerable, threatened, and endangered species while protecting the public against the potential safety risks posed by holding these wild animals in captivity. The legislation's restrictions on keeping all lions, tigers, leopards, jaguars, cougars, cheetahs, snow leopards, and clouded leopards, all bears that are not native to South Carolina and not subject to oversight by the state's Department of Natural Resources, and all species of chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans do not apply to a list of exemptions, such as nonprofit animal protection organizations, veterinary hospitals, university laboratories and research facilities, and properly licensed zoos, circuses, and animal breeders. The legislation provides that it is unlawful for a person to import into, possess, keep, purchase, have custody or control of, breed, or sell within this state, by any means, a large wild cat, non-native bear, or great ape, including transactions conducted via the Internet. Someone in legal possession of a large wild cat, non-native bear, or great ape prior to January 1, 2018, is authorized to keep the animal for the remainder of its life subject to the conditions of the legislation which include registering the animal with the animal control authority for the city or county in which the animal is located and immediately notifying the animal control authority and local law enforcement agencies upon discovery that the animal has escaped. The possessor of the animal shall be liable for any and all costs associated with the escape, capture, and disposition of a registered animal. The legislation makes provisions for animal registration, including fees, inspections by local animal control authorities, and the confiscation of noncompliant animals. A violator of the legislation must be fined not more than one thousand dollars or imprisoned for not more than thirty days for a first offense, and must be fined not more than five thousand dollars or imprisoned for not more than ninety days for a second offense.
 
The House concurred in Senate amendments and enrolled for ratification H.3349, a bill UPDATING THE NURSE LICENSURE COMPACT to make the changes that are required for South Carolina to maintain its membership in the multi-state compact.
 
The House approved S.570 and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation revises provisions governing PLANT NURSERY registration and fees for growers and dealers of trees, plants and shrubs.
 
The House approved to S.465 and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation revises permitting provisions to accommodate OUT OF SEASON SHELLFISH HARVESTING IN MARICULTURE OPERATIONS that involve the controlled cultivation of oysters and other shellfish in confinement from seed size until harvest.
 
The House gave second reading approval to S.444, regarding AUTOCYCLES. The legislation revises motor vehicle provisions to systematically replace references to an "automotive three-wheel vehicle" and similar terminology with the term "autocycle" in order to conform state law to standard manufacturers' definitions widely adopted by states. The legislation's revisions do not impact the licensing, titling, and registration requirements of autocycles or motorcycle three-wheel vehicles.
 
The House returned S.173, a bill providing for CONTINUING EDUCATION ON MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS, to the Senate with amendments. The legislation revises continuing education requirements for law enforcement officers to incorporate mandatory training in mental health issues that covers such topics as responding to situations where individuals are experiencing a mental health or addictive disorder crisis. The legislation also makes provisions for training and counseling regarding law enforcement officers who are experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder.
 

 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 do not hesitate to contact me.
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6 Days Left- Legislative Update 5/1/17

6 Days Left for Road Fix

 

It's hard to believe the first year of our two-year legislative session is nearing a final close. It is during these final 6 days of the regular legislative session where consensus is built, and bills make their way to the desk of the governor. For the second week in a row, the clock ticked while the Senate engaged in a contentious debate of the House roads bill. In a break of good news, the Governor also signed 5 new pieces of legislation, chief among them a bill to bring solvency to the public employee retirement system.
 
While my colleagues and I have done our part in the House to address education, workforce development, infrastructure, and the public employee retirement system among many other things, the Senate remains stuck in a rut of inaction.  Ours is a part-time legislature meeting Tuesday through Thursday for about 18 weeks out of the year. We are now in our 16th week and only six regular days of session remain under normal circumstances.
 
In the House, my colleagues and I spent time in committees reviewing Senate bills and vetting additional legislation. This week, we will take up Senate amendments to the budget which passed a number of weeks ago, evaluating each through a lens of fiscal responsibility. The state budget will likely go to a conference committee where additional differences will be ironed out prior to a final vote being taken. 
 

The Roads Bill
 
Addressing the condition of our state's roads and bridges is the top priority of nearly every legislator in the House and Senate. After two weeks of public debate on the matter, I was pleased to see the Senate give the House roads bill a final vote. At approximately 10:30 p.m. Wednesday night, and after nearly 75 proposed amendments, one final amendment was added to the roads bill by senators and a successful vote for passage was taken.

 
To be sure, the Senate version is not ideal or perfect – far from it. Many in the Senate would even agree with this conclusion. Among other things, the Senate version of the roads bill doubles driver's license fees, includes a wealth redistribution element more commonly known as the "Earned Income Tax Credit," provides tax credits for college students, and almost completely removes the DOT governance model contained in the House bill. In keeping with the legislative process, the bill now heads back to the House where we will begin debate on the merits of these Senate changes and work out the policy differences between the two plans. I voted for the House bill. I am not in favor of all the Senate changes. More than likely this bill will end up going to a conference committee.
 
Public Employee Retirement System
 
As I have stated before, both the House and Senate reached a legislative agreement on the first phase of the long-term approach to securing the public employee retirement system. This monumental undertaking was a problem created over a number of years, and will take just as many if not more to be fully resolved.
The first step, one that stops unfunded liabilities from increasing, was signed by Governor McMaster this week. The House and Senate will continue work through the summer and winter months to craft the next phase of legislation ensuring the retirement system remains fiscally sound and secure. 
 
 
I invited the North Augusta girls' basketball team to the State House to honor them for winning the 2017 AAAA Championship title. The team took top honors at the state competition on March 4, 2017, at the Colonial Life Arena. The team, coaches, and school officials were recognized and commended for capturing the Championship title. I am forever grateful for the pride and recognition that the young women of North Augusta High School basketball team have brought to their school and community!
 
In order for me to have a strong voice in Columbia, I have to communicate with my constituents. And that is you! My website, newsletters, mailers, and Facebook are the communication tools that I use. It takes extra time, staff, and campaign funds to maintain these tools. 
 
If you would like to contribute, please mail a check to Hixon for House, P.O. Box 7927, North Augusta, SC 29861. You can also make a contribution online on my website.
 
I hope that you find this update helpful and informative. If I can help you with an issue, please let me know. Thank you for reading and allowing me to serve you.
 

 

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Legislative Update   –  May 1, 2017              
 
The House of Representatives concurred in Senate amendments to H.3792, a bill addressing MINIMUM STANDARDS FOR RESTROOMS AVAILABLE AT MIDDLE AND HIGH SCHOOL STADIUMS, and enrolled the legislation for ratification. This legislation establishes minimum standards for the numbers of restroom plumbing fixtures available for men and women at middle school and high school stadiums as a means of relieving public schools from the financial burden placed upon them by current requirements. The legislation's minimum standards apply notwithstanding otherwise applicable building codes and plumbing codes.

 

The House approved S.181 and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation provides RECYCLING COMPANIES with the same protections afforded suppliers of virgin materials under South Carolina's Hazardous Waste Management Act. The revisions are in keeping with changes adopted at the federal level under the Superfund Recycling Equity Act.
 

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3549, legislation ALLOWING THE ISSUANCE OF PERMITS FOR ON-PREMISES CONSUMPTION OF ALCOHOLIC LIQUOR WITH THE CONSENT OF NEARBY SCHOOLS. The legislation revises provisions that prohibit liquor licenses and permits from being issued to businesses located within certain distances of churches, schools, or playgrounds, so as to allow a permit for on-premises consumption of alcoholic liquor to be issued to a business so long as the local school board of any school located within the proximity provides a statement that it does not object to a permit being issued. Legislation was approved in 2014 to allow nearby churches and playgrounds to provide such permission.
 

The House approved and sent the Senate H.3926, a bill providing updates and REVISIONS TO THE PHARMACY PRACTICE ACT to add definitions, provide specific guidelines, health and safety standards, and procedures for compounding pharmacies and pharmacists regarding the preparation of compounded medications. The legislation establishes current good pharmacy practices for the preparation and dispensing of compounded products, workplace safety, equipment maintenance, record-keeping, and consumer protection. The legislation provides public health standards for the compounding area environment, preparation, labeling, storing, dispensing, and distribution of sterile preparations. Authority is included for compounding materials in advance and storing them when a need for the supply can be anticipated.
 

The House approved and sent the Senate H.4119, a bill providing AUTHORITY FOR RENAL DIALYSIS FACILITIES TO DELIVER LEGEND DRUGS OR DEVICES TO PATIENTS.
 

The House approved and sent the Senate H.4005, a bill designating the third week in October of each year as "SOUTH CAROLINA NATIVE PLANT WEEK".
 

 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 do not hesitate to contact me.

 

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Crossover Success- Bill Hixon Legislative Update 4/17/17

Crossover Success!
 
 
My fellow House Republicans and I set out with a "Business Plan" in January addressing these key areas of importance in our state:
 
1.) Improving Education in Rural Communities
2.) Instituting Workforce Development through K-12 Computer Science Training
3.) Providing a Long-Term Solution to the Infrastructure Crisis
4.) Securing the Future of the Public Employee Retirement System
 
I'm pleased to report on Thursday, April 6th, the House adjourned for the Easter furlough period having completed each objective. Please find an update of each below:
 
Improving Education in Rural Communities
For too long, we did not adequately address the needs of our poor rural school districts. In a 2014 decision, the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled we must do more to address the inadequacies that exist from county to county. This year, the House budget appropriated $100 million for poor school districts to maintain and improve the environments in which children learn. We also increased per-student payments by $38 million, a $50 per student increase, placing the total base student cost at $2,400. These per-student dollars go to each school district to cover the state portion of public education funding.
 
Instituting Workforce Development through K-12 Computer Science Training
It's no secret that South Carolina has the best pro-business climate in the Southeast. We've worked hard to recruit high-paying employers to our state, employers who expect us to ensure the next generation of workers is adequately prepared to fill these jobs. As part of that preparation, and in preparation for an increasingly competitive international marketplace, my colleagues and I passed legislation instituting computer science training beginning in the K-12 system. The earlier we introduce advanced technology to our students, the less we have to do on the back-end to prepare them for a high-paying job.
 
Providing a Long-Term Solution to the Infrastructure Crisis
Just under 1,000 people died on our roads last year. Due to the current state of our roads, it costs the average SC motorist an additional $1,300 – $1,800 annually to operate a vehicle. Each day, the average Palmetto State driver wastes an average of 34 minutes stuck in traffic. These facts and figures are unacceptable and saddening. In the House, we passed a pay-as-you-go road funding solution with DOT reforms and increased accountability. Last week, the governor suggested a borrow-it-all approach for fixing our infrastructure woes. I am not for the state selling bonds for the repaving of our roads and repairing of our bridges. The Senate has not passed any plan. I remain committed to addressing our infrastructure needs this year and will keep you updated on the matter.
 
Securing the Future of the Public Employee Retirement System
It was no surprise the state retirement system suffered during the Great Recession. The market decline coupled with poor management decisions resulted in unprecedented losses to the retirement system which had to be addressed. I am pleased to report that this week the House and Senate passed a conference report, now on the governor's desk, bringing solvency to the system nearly every public employee depends upon. Our public employees are the backbone of everything we do in South Carolina, and the promises made to them concerning their retirement will be kept.
 
In order for me to have a strong voice in Columbia, I have to communicate with my constituents. And that is you! My website, newsletters, mailers, and Facebook are the communication tools that I use. It takes extra time, staff, and campaign funds to maintain these tools. 
 
If you would like to contribute, please mail a check to Hixon for House, P.O. Box 7927, North Augusta, SC 29861. You can also make a contribution online on my website.
 
I hope that you find this update helpful and informative. If I can help you with an issue, please let me know. Thank you for reading and allowing me to serve you.
 
Legislative Update   –  April 17, 2017                                                   
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3930, a bill providing AUTHORIZATION TO CARRY A HANDGUN IN PUBLIC WITHOUT A PERMIT, either openly or concealed, implementing what is often called "Constitutional carry" or "permitless carry" in South Carolina. In making its revisions, the legislation retains most of the current provisions relating to concealable weapons, including: the issuance of concealable weapons permits by the State Law Enforcement Division; the posting of notification that allows a business owner to prohibit concealable weapons on the premises; the homeowner permission required for carrying a concealable weapon into a private residence; and a list of places where concealable weapons are not allowed such as schools, daycare facilities, hospitals, courthouses, and the meeting places of government bodies. The new provisions for carrying a handgun lawfully in public, concealed or not, without a requirement for obtaining a concealable weapon permit apply only to those individuals who may legally purchase a firearm from a properly licensed and certified firearms dealer. The legislation specifies that the intent to use a handgun unlawfully against another person must not be inferred from the mere possession, carrying, use, or concealment of the handgun, whether it is loaded or unloaded. The legislation also provides for South Carolina to honor valid out-of-state permits to carry concealable weapons that are held by residents of other states, who are least twenty-one years old or military personnel of any age.

 

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3566, a bill establishing CONDITIONS UPON WHICH SCHOOL FIRST RESPONDERS MAY POSSESS FIREARMS ON SCHOOL PREMISES while rendering aid in crisis situations. The legislation makes provisions for the Law Enforcement Training Council to develop guidelines for a one-week training program offered by the Criminal Justice Academy to the emergency medical service personnel and firefighters who serve as school first responders which provides certification that, along with a valid concealed weapons permit, allows them to possess firearms on school premises while they are responding to a campus shooting or other emergencies.

 

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3969, a bill that revises SCHOOL PERFORMANCE RATINGS in establishing a single public education accountability system that meets both state and federal requirements. Through Act 200 of 2014, the General Assembly charged the Education Oversight Committee with developing and recommending a single accountability system that met both state and federal requirements. The EOC, working with the State Department of Education and other stakeholders, submitted recommendations for updating the Education Accountability Act to the General Assembly in January of this year. House Bill 3969 creates one report card with one overall rating for school performance that incorporates both state and federal requirements. Under these uniform provisions, a school's progress towards meeting or exceeding the criteria of the Profile of the South Carolina Graduate is measured with the performance ratings of: Excellent, Good, Average, Below Average, and Unsatisfactory. The same categories of performance ratings also must be assigned to individual indicators used to measure a school's performance, such as academic achievement, student growth or progress, graduation rate, English language proficiency, and college and career readiness. The legislation discontinues the assignment of performance rankings to entire school districts. To further increase transparency and accountability, the legislation requires that, by the 2019-2020 School Year, the school's report card must be furnished to parents and the public no later than September first. The legislation makes revisions regarding which standardized tests are administered to assess student achievement. The legislation requires the state to use a value-added system that calculates student progress or growth, and a local school district may, in its discretion, use the value-added system to evaluate classroom teachers using student progress or growth. Confidentiality provisions are included to exempt data relating to specific teacher effects on student progress or growth from public disclosure. A longitudinal data system is established in order to better assist with policy and fiscal decisions ranging from pre-kindergarten to college. The Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office, First Steps, SDE, the Commission on Higher Education, DSS, the Technical College System, the Department of Commerce, the Department of Employment and Workforce, and other state agencies and colleges are charged with establishing and maintaining the system. Working with the Education Oversight Committee, the State Department of Education shall design and pilot district accountability models that focus on competency-based education for a district or school or on regional or county economic initiatives to improve the postsecondary success of students. A district may apply to the department and the committee to participate in the pilot.

 

The House approved and sent the Senate H.3968, a bill providing for ENHANCED SCREENING FOR THOSE SEEKING PROFESSIONAL AND OCCUPATIONAL LICENSING AND CERTIFICATION. This bill makes revisions to add to the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation's broad authority to revoke professional and occupational authorization enhanced authority to deny initial authorization so the department can deny the authorization to engage in a profession or occupation for any reason that it can revoke such authorization. The legislation's enhanced security provisions are applied to a list of seventeen professions and occupations selected due to the likelihood that the professional may be alone with clients and vulnerable individuals.

 

The House concurred in Senate amendments to H.3793, legislation authorizing certain applied, non-research HIGHER EDUCATION DEGREE PROGRAMS at four-year colleges and universities, and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation makes provisions for bachelor of science degrees in Mechanical Engineering and Electrical Engineering at South Carolina State University, doctoral degrees in Nursing Practice at Francis Marion University and the University of South Carolina Aiken, a doctor of philosophy degree in Education Administration at Coastal Carolina University, and a doctor of philosophy degree in Computer and Information Science at the College of Charleston. Approval by the Commission on Higher Education is required for all of these degree programs. The new degree programs are only allowed so long as new state general funds are not appropriated for their operation.

 

The House approved S.354 and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation makes provisions for DEPARTMENT OF MENTAL HEALTH CRISIS STABILIZATION UNIT FACILITIES where individuals entering hospital emergency rooms suffering from mental illness or substance abuse issues may be transferred to begin receiving appropriate care. This bill makes provisions for a crisis stabilization unit facility operated or authorized by the Department of Mental Health which provides a short-term residential program offering psychiatric stabilization services, detoxification services, and brief, intensive crisis services twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. The legislation exempts a crisis stabilization unit facility from the Certificate of Need process and requires a crisis stabilization unit facility to obtain a license from the Department of Health and Environmental Control.

 

The House concurred in Senate amendments to H.3438 and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation establishes a protocol AUTHORIZING PHARMACISTS TO SUBSTITUTE INTERCHANGEABLE BIOLOGICAL PRODUCTS that have been approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration. Such substitutions may only be made when a practitioner's prescription provides authorization. The legislation provides labeling requirements and establishes a process for notifying prescribers of the specific biological product that a pharmacist dispenses to a patient.

 

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate to H.3823, a bill REQUIRING HEALTH CARE PROFESSIONALS TO REPORT THE EXPOSURE OF INFANTS TO ALCOHOL OR DRUGS. The legislation adds physicians, nurses, and medical or allied health professionals to the list of those who are required to report instances of suspected child abuse or neglect by mandating a report to the Department of Social Services whenever they encounter a child, birth to one year, who is diagnosed with neonatal abstinence syndrome or a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, or a child, birth to one year, who is medically affected by the prenatal substance exposure to a controlled or illegal substance, or withdrawal from alcohol or a controlled or illegal substance. These reports do not, however, create any presumptions that child abuse or neglect has taken place. The reporter may assist DSS in developing a safety plan for these children and their caregivers. As with other mandatory reporters of suspected child abuse and neglect, provisions are included to shield those acting in good faith from legal liability.

 

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3864, a bill revising MOTOR VEHICLE CHILD SAFETY SEAT REQUIREMENTS. The legislation updates age, weight, size, and position requirements for lawfully securing infants and children in approved motor vehicle child safety seats. Child passenger safety restraint system requirements provide for a progression from rear-facing seats for infants, to forward-facing seats, to belt-positioning booster seats, and ultimately, when a child is at least eight years old or at least fifty-seven inches tall, to a properly fitting adult safety seat belt.

 

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3865, the "SOUTH CAROLINA PREGNANCY ACCOMMODATIONS ACT". The legislation enhances state laws that combat pregnancy discrimination, promote public health, and ensure full and equal participation for women in the labor force by requiring employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees for medical needs arising from pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions, including accommodations for lactation, that allow employees to remain on the job. The South Carolina Human Affairs Commission is charged with promulgating regulations to carry out this act, which shall identify some reasonable accommodations addressing medical needs arising from pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions that must be provided to a job applicant or employee affected by these known limitations, unless the employer can demonstrate that doing so would impose an undue hardship.

 

 The House approved and sent the Senate H.3809, bill facilitating ACCESS TO A YEAR'S SUPPLY OF CONTRACEPTIVE DRUGS, such as birth control pills, patches, and rings, that can be obtained all at one time rather than through periodic refills over the course of a year. The legislation establishes requirements that all individual or group health insurance policies providing coverage for contraceptive drugs must provide reimbursement for a twelve-month refill of contraceptive drugs obtained at one time by the insured, unless the insured requests a smaller supply or the prescribing provider instructs that the insured must receive a smaller supply. The Department of Health and Human Services is directed to require all Medicaid health plans to include this option of dispensing a twelve-month supply of contraceptive drugs. Provisions are included for on-site dispensing of the prescribed contraceptive drugs, which include all drugs approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration that are used to prevent pregnancy such as hormonal drugs administered orally, transdermally, and intravaginally.

 

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3824, a bill establishing REQUIREMENTS FOR HEALTH CARE PRACTITIONERS TO REVIEW A PATIENT'S CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE PRESCRIPTION HISTORY. The legislation establishes a protocol for conducting a review a patient's controlled substance prescription history, as maintained in the prescription monitoring program, before a practitioner issues a prescription for a Schedule II controlled substance.

 

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3821, a bill providing for a MANDATORY HIGHER EDUCATION CURRICULUM ON PRESCRIBING CONTROLLED SUBSTANCES in the training health care professionals. The bill requires public and private institutions of higher education offering degrees in a health care profession that allows graduates to prescribe controlled substances listed in Schedules II, III, and IV to develop mandatory course work on the prescription and monitoring of controlled substances, including Schedule II drugs used to treat or manage pain. The coursework must include instruction on strategies to recognize and reduce the likelihood of patient addiction to opioids and other controlled substances.

 

The House approved and sent the Senate H.3559, a bill creating a three-year PILOT PROGRAM FOR THE CULTIVATION OF INDUSTRIAL HEMP. The Department of Agriculture will allow up to fifteen permits to be issued annually, to South Carolina residents, for the purposes of a pilot program with each permittee allowed to grow industrial hemp on up to twenty acres of land. When applying for a permit, each applicant, at a minimum must submit to the department, global positioning system coordinates of where the industrial hemp will be grown and such other required information as fingerprints and the appropriate fees required by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) to perform a fingerprint based state criminal records check and for the Federal Bureau of Investigation to perform a national fingerprint-based criminal records check. No person who has been convicted of any felony, or any person convicted of any drug-related misdemeanor or violation in the previous ten years from the date of the application, shall be eligible to obtain a permit. Before the department will issue a permit to the applicant, the applicant must have proof of a signed purchaser with a contract. The Department may charge fees to administer this pilot program, not to exceed two hundred and fifty dollars annually per applicant. Applicants must provide written consent allowing SLED to enter onto all premises where industrial hemp is cultivated, processed, or stored for the purpose of conducting physical inspections or ensuring compliance with the Industrial Hemp Pilot Program. The legislation includes requirements for periodic laboratory testing to ensure that industrial hemp crops do not have unlawfully high levels of delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, and crops with unlawfully high THC levels are required to be destroyed. Criminal penalties are established to address the cultivation of industrial hemp as a means of disguising marijuana production or distribution operations. A violation is a misdemeanor that carries a term of imprisonment for up to three years and/or a fine of up to three thousand dollars. Research Universities may conduct research on industrial hemp as an agriculture commodity and shall work in conjunction with the Department of Agriculture to identify solutions for applications, applicants and new market opportunities for industrial hemp growers.

 

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4033, a bill I sponsored, establishing the offense of ENDANGERING A HIGHWAY WORKER while driving in a highway work zone and failing to obey traffic control devices or traveling in undesignated lanes. The legislation establishes an array of penalties for violations, including a fine of not more than five thousand dollars when the driver causes a highway worker to suffer great bodily injury. The legislation also eliminates the four point driver's license violation provided for a driver's failure to use a turn signal and instead provides for a violator to be fined twenty-five dollars.

 

The House approved and sent the Senate H.3297, a bill authorizing NATIONAL GUARD VETERAN'S DESIGNATION ON DRIVER'S LICENSES. The bill provides authorization for the Department of Motor Vehicles to issue a driver's license or special identification card with the veteran's designation to qualifying individuals who served in the National Guard for at least twenty years.

 

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3209, a bill providing greater clarification and uniformity for CRIMINAL RECORD EXPUNGEMENT provisions. The legislation makes provisions for offenses that are no longer crimes to be eligible for expungement if the elements of the former criminal offenses are consistent with current-day offenses. The legislation clarifies that these expungements apply retroactively as well as to out-of-state convictions.

 

The House approved and sent the Senate of H.3290, a bill addressing PLEA AGREEMENTS RELATING TO UNIFORM TRAFFIC TICKETS. The legislation provides authority that allows not only a law enforcement officer who has issued a uniform traffic ticket, by also a solicitor or anyone else authorized to prosecute an offense, to invalidate a uniform traffic ticket and issue a ticket for a different offense as part of a plea agreement.

 

The House approved and sent the Senate H.3093, a bill making provisions for a RETENTION OF THE OWNER-OCCUPIED SPECIAL PROPERTY TAX ASSESSMENT RATE FOR A DECEASED INDIVIDUAL'S ESTATE. The legislation provides that when a homeowner receiving the four percent property tax assessment ratio dies, the property shall continue to receive the special owner-occupied assessment rate until the deceased's estate is closed, or upon recording of a deed or deed of distribution out of the estate, whichever occurs first. This extension of the special assessment rate only applies if the property is not rented.

 

The House approved and sent the Senate H.3895, a bill updating and clarifying the duties of the REVENUE AND FISCAL AFFAIRS OFFICE.

 

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3137, a bill revising provisions governing authorized TASTINGS CONDUCTED BY MICRO-DISTILLERIES.

 

The House approved and sent the Senate H.3933 which provides for the Department of Motor Vehicles to issue two ADDITIONAL DEALER LICENSE PLATES TO A MOTOR VEHICLE DEALER WITH A SERVICE GARAGE at the dealership to facilitate loaner vehicles provided to customers during repairs.

 

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3271, a bill that provides for various STATUTORY UPDATES AND REVISIONS RECOMMENDED BY THE HOUSE LEGISLATIVE OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE as a result of its study of the Comptroller General's Office. The legislation addresses statutory accounting responsibilities relating to the Department of Motor Vehicles.

 

The House gave second reading approval to H.4005, a bill designating the third week in October of each year as "SOUTH CAROLINA NATIVE PLANT WEEK".

 

The House rejected H.3744, a bill revising MAGISTRATE COMPENSATION.

 

 

 

 

 

 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 do not hesitate to contact me.

 

 

 

 

 

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Bill Hixon Legislative Update 3/16/17

Curbing Anti-Semitism, Promoting Life, Constitutional Carry
 
Wednesday of last week marked the midway period for the legislative session, and what a whirlwind of activity it has been. With this years' shortened legislative session, the crossover date for legislation has been adjusted and will now take place in about a month on April 10th. This simply means my House colleagues and I must pass any legislation to the Senate by that date in order for the bill to pass this year. We made good progress on that front last week.
 
Last year, our nation saw a drastic increase in anti-Semitic behavior among college students at institutions of higher learning. The nonprofit AMCHA Initiative, which tracks incidents of anti-Semitism on college campuses, reported 618 incidents of anti-Semitism for 2016 alone; a rise of over 30% in a one-year period. Last week, we took bipartisan action to give our state-owned institutions of higher learning the tools they need to combat bigotry and hate while protecting freedom of speech. This legislation sends a strong message that South Carolina opposes bigotry wherever it rears its ugly head.
 
Two key bills also cleared the initial subcommittee process in the House Judiciary Committee. First, the South Carolina Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act cleared a key initial subcommittee with a unanimous vote. It now heads to full committee where Democrats are expected to viciously challenge the bill through all manner of legislative maneuvers. I will never waver in my support for the unborn and I look forward to voting in support of this important legislation.
 
The second bill of importance also clearing a key House Judiciary subcommittee this week was the Constitutional Carry bill. The measure put forth by retired law enforcement officer and pro-Second Amendment icon, Rep. Mike Pitts (R-Laurens), would eliminate the need to get a concealed weapons permit to carry a firearm in our state. However, this bill would also protect the existing CWP reciprocity agreements already in place with many other states. The measure now heads to full committee where, if approved, it will go to the House floor for a full vote.
 
Earlier this week the House passed a budget for the 2017-2018 years. Most of my next newsletter will contain more information on this budget. I hope to have this out to you this coming week.
 

In order for me to have a strong voice in Columbia, I have to communicate with my constituents. And that is you! My website, newsletters, mailers, and Facebook are the communication tools that I use. It takes extra time, staff, and campaign funds to maintain these tools. 
 
If you would like to contribute, please mail a check to Hixon for House, P.O. Box 7927, North Augusta, SC 29861. You can also make a contribution online on my website.
 
I hope that you find this update helpful and informative. If I can help you with an issue, please let me know. Thank you for reading and allowing me to serve you.
 
 
Legislative Update   –  March 16, 2017
 

 

 

HOUSE WEEK IN REVIEW

 

The House of Representatives amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3247, a bill making comprehensive statutory revisions regarding MOPEDS. The legislation establishes new requirements for registering and licensing mopeds with the Department of Motor Vehicles. New safety requirements are established for mopeds including requirements for moped operators and passengers to wear reflective vests at night. 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 fifty-five miles per hour. A moped, while traveling along a multi-lane highway, must be operated in the farthest right lane except when making a left turn. No person may operate a moped at a speed in excess of thirty-five miles an hour. As with motorcycles, a person under the age of twenty-one may not operate or ride upon a moped unless he wears a protective helmet. Mopeds are exempted from ignition interlock device requirements of driving under the influence provisions. Those who sell mopeds are required to post signs that provide brief explanations of such matters as age restrictions, maximum speeds, and the definition of a moped. A moped seller is not required to obtain a motor vehicle dealer's license. The legislation replaces the multiple, sometimes conflicting, definitions for mopeds currently found in statutes with a single new definition for mopeds and makes other revisions to allow for greater consistency in the way that the laws governing motor vehicles, including DUI offenses, are applied to mopeds.

 

The House approved and sent the Senate H.3643, a bill which provides that in reviewing, investigating, or deciding whether there has been a violation of a college or university policy prohibiting discriminatory practices on the basis of religion, South Carolina public colleges and universities shall take into consideration the DEFINITION OF ANTI-SEMITISM established in this legislation for purposes of determining whether the alleged practice was motivated by anti-Semitic intent. The legislation derives its definition from a fact sheet issued in 2010 by the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism of the U.S. Department of State. The legislation specifies that its provisions are not to be construed to diminish or infringe upon any free speech rights protected under the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States or Section 2, Article I of the South Carolina Constitution, 1895.

 

The House amended and gave second reading approval to H.3652, a bill relating to ACCEPTABLE MATERIALS FOR WATER PIPES IN LOCAL GOVERNMENT PROCUREMENT PROJECTS utilizing state funds. The legislation provides that all piping materials that comply with sound engineering practices and meet project requirements as determined by an engineer, employed or retained by a governmental body or any political subdivision, must be allowed to participate in the bidding process when a governmental agency is procuring piping materials for a water supply, wastewater, stormwater, or storm drainage project for which state funds are used. The legislation does not prohibit governmental agencies' officials or engineers from choosing a material at their discretion for such projects. The provisions of the legislation do not apply if a supplier has pipe or piping materials suitable for a project purpose in stock or in inventory.

 

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3587, a joint resolution creating a temporary SEIZURE SAFETY IN SCHOOLS STUDY COMMITTEE to examine such issues as: the state of epilepsy awareness among public school teachers, staff, and administrators; basic training in seizure response appropriate for school personnel; and, existing laws, regulations, and policies affecting epilepsy and seizure safety in public schools. The legislation provides for the composition of the fourteen-member committee, four of whom are legislative representatives with the others representing the medical, education and parent communities. Recommendations must be reported to the General Assembly before January 31, 2018, at which point the study committee is dissolved.
 
The House approved and sent the Senate H.3513, a bill creating a SOUTH CAROLINA RETIRED EDUCATOR CERTIFICATE that may be held by a retiree who previously held a South Carolina renewable, professional educator certificate. An initial retired educator certificate is valid for thirty years. A certificate may be renewed and is valid for ten years. Renewal of a retired educator certificate does not require completion of professional learning or renewal credit. An educator who works under the retired certificate must work under a letter of agreement. Holders of such certificates are not exempt from professional development that is required by the local school district.
 
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3793 a bill authorizing certain applied, non-research DOCTORAL DEGREE PROGRAMS at four-year colleges and universities. The legislation makes provisions for a doctoral degree in Nursing Practice at Francis Marion University, a doctor of philosophy degree in Education Administration at Coastal Carolina University, and a doctor of philosophy degree in Computer and Information Science at the College of Charleston. Approval by the Commission on Higher Education is required for all of these degree programs. The new doctoral degrees are only allowed so long as new state general funds are not appropriated for their operation.
 
The House returned S.198 to the Senate with amendments. The legislation revises provisions for MINORS OBTAINING BEGINNER'S PERMITS OR DRIVERS' LICENSES UNDER THE AUTHORIZATION OF RESPONSIBLE ADULTS who are willing to assume the obligation imposed for the licenses or permits. In an effort to ease and normalize the procedures for adults sponsoring minors under their care for permits and licenses, the legislation expands the list of those who may sign the application for a beginner's permit or driver's license of an unemancipated minor so that it includes not only mothers, fathers, legal guardians, and adults willing to assume responsibility for the minor, but also specifically references such individuals as stepparents, individuals who have custody, care, and control of the minor, as well as foster parents, pre-adoptive parents, or persons responsible for the welfare of the child who resides in a child caring facility or residential group care home, upon written approval by the Department of Social Services. The legislation includes provisions for obtaining beginner's permits and driver's licenses when DSS has guardianship or legal custody of the minor. The disclosure of information by DSS to the Department of Motor Vehicles in order to provide approval is not to be considered an unlawful dissemination of confidential information.
 
The House approved S.365 and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation makes provisions for the Department of Motor Vehicles to issue COASTAL CAROLINA UNIVERSITY "2016 BASEBALL NATIONAL CHAMPIONS" SPECIAL LICENSE PLATES.
 
The House approved and sent the Senate H.3256, a bill making provisions for the Department of Motor Vehicles to issue PALMETTO CROSS SPECIAL LICENSE PLATES to recipients of the Palmetto Cross Medal, which is a National Guard award presented by the Adjutant General in the name of the Governor to South Carolina citizens, military or civilian, who have distinguished themselves conspicuously by extraordinary heroism at the risk of their own lives under justifiable circumstances, or who have performed exceptionally outstanding service so as to make a lasting contribution to the state or nation.
The House approved and sent the Senate H.3861, a bill making revisions needed for MAINTAINING REAL ESTATE LICENSE RECIPROCITY ARRANGEMENTS WITH OTHER STATES. The legislation revises the authority of the Real Estate Commission to recognize nonresident real estate licenses on active status from other jurisdictions which reciprocate, so as to remove the requirement that these out-of-state applicants seeking licensure in South Carolina must complete successfully the state portions of the applicable examinations before their licenses will be recognized.
The House amended, approved, and sent to the Senate H.3792, a bill addressing MINIMUM STANDARDS FOR RESTROOMS AVAILABLE AT MIDDLE AND HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL STADIUMS. This legislation establishes minimum standards for the numbers of toilets and sinks available for men and women at middle school and high school football stadiums as a means of relieving public schools from the financial burden placed upon them by current requirements. The legislation's minimum standards apply notwithstanding otherwise applicable building codes and plumbing codes.
 
The Last Resort: SC infrastructure needs and how to address them:
  1. South Carolina has grown.
    • In 1990, population was 3.5 million
      • Resident population grew 15% from 1990-2000, and another 15% from 200-2010
      • Projected increase of 8.5% from 2010-2020, and by 2030 , projected to have a population of 5.1 million, representing a 28.3% increase since 2000
      • Per capita income in SC in 1987 was $13,055; by 2015 it had more than doubled to $38,302
  2. SC's road system has grown and its needs have, too.
    • SC fourth-largest state road system in the country, even though we are ranked 24th in population and 40th in land area
    • Since 1987,the state System has increased by 7,425 lane miles (83,173 to 90,598)
      • These additional lane miles can be the result of capacity projects that add extra lanes to existing roads, but can also be the result of newly-constructed roads (often from local MPO/COG projects)
    • Capacity needs continue to grow as population increases, and maintenance needs also grow accordingly
    • According to LAC report, of all states, SC dedicates the smallest amount of revenue to state roads relative to the size of the system and amount of traffic it carries
  3. Road funding has NOT kept pace with growth.
    • SC motor fuel user fee has not been increased since 1987, putting us at a disadvantage compared to neighboring States
    • LAC report states that "revenue sources are not increasing enough to cover rising costs due to inflation" ($1 in 1987 = $0.47 today) – If revenues aren't even keeping pace with inflation, they certainly can't keep pace with the state's growth and the additional stress it puts on our roads
    • SCDOT has been living on a fixed income since 1987–even as the number of SCDOT employees has decreased by nearly 10% since 1994, employer costs have more than doubled due to increases implemented by the General Assembly, and cost of materials has increased
    • Of the 16.75 Motor Fuel User Fee, there is less than ONE CENT left to fund state system needs after required transfers to other entities,
      matching money for federal highway dollars, and daily highway maintenance costs [See chart below]
  4. We have implemented significant reforms to SCDOT, with further improvements in H. 3516.
    • Act 114 of 2007
      • Governance – Clarified SCDOT Commission selection process and instituted term limits for Commissioners
        Project Prioritization – Established a requirement to evaluate, prioritize, and select projects based on set criteria, bringing a greater deal of objectivity and transparency to the project selection process; these IiSt5 can viewed on the SCDOT website today
        Auditing – E5tablished a Chief Internal Auditor under the Commission and required two hours of ethics training every other year for all staff and Commissioners
    • Act 275 of 2016
      • Governance- Allowed Governor to appoint all Commissioners with advice and consent of Legislative delegations and provided additional term limits for Commissioners
        Lines of Authority – Required all Infrastructure Bank projects to be ranked according to Act 114 criteria and receive SCDOT Commission approval
        Auditing – Moved the SCDOT Chief Internal Auditor under the State Auditor for increased accountability
    • Reform proposed in H. 3516
      • Governance- - Streamlines appointment process by allowing the Governor to appoint Commissioners with advice and consent of the General Assembly, eliminates the Joint Transportation Review Committee, and allows the Commission to appoint the Secretary Financial – Establishes the Infrastructure Maintenance Trust Fund at the SCDOT, which may only be used for "repairs, maintenance, and improvements to the existing road system" and directs all new revenue raised by H. 3516 to be deposited into this fund
5. We must address funding needs to fix our roads–it IS the last resort.
  • SCDOT needs an additional 51.1 B per year for 23 years ($25.3 B) to bring all existing pavements to a state of good repair
  • As the state grows, additional investment will be required to address capacity improvements like widening and expansion to relieve congestion and aid in freight mobility
    • The State has poured hundreds of millions of general fund dollars into our roads since 2014–this is unsustainable in light of other statewide needs such as unfunded pension liability and rising education and healthcare costs
    • If we do not increase the dedicated revenue provided to SCDOT through the Motor Fuel User Fee and other non-general fund sources, our roads continue to decline
  • The cost of inaction–as roads continue to decline, the cost to repair them increases at least $385 M each year

Summary of H.3516 as Amended 3/1/17
 
Motor Vehicle Sales Tax
* Establishes an Infrastructure Maintenance Fee (1 time 5%) must be paid prior to registration
* $500 cap applied to vehicles purchased in SC – collected by dealers at point of sale
* $250 cap applied to vehicles registered in other states & then registered in SC
* Active Duty Military, Spouses and Dependents are exempt from the $250 transfer fee
* Collected by SCDMV upon initial registration – $20 M/year in previously uncaptured revenue
* All new revenue deposited into Infrastructure Maintenance Trust Fund
* $90 M/year in total new revenue from the Infrastructure Maintenance Fee
* Effective date – July 1, 2017
* EIA is held harmless with no changes to current revenue (20% of revenues from first $300)

 

 

Hybrid and Electric Vehicles
* Biennial Fee
* $60 fee for Hybrids – $120 fee for Electric Vehicles – $1.35 M/year
* All new revenue deposited into Infrastructure Maintenance Trust Fund 
* Effective date – January 1, 2018

Motor Carrier Road Use Fee
* Imposed in lieu of property taxes on Large Commercial Vehicles
* Captures previously uncollected revenue from out-of-state motor carriers
* Based on fair market value, average statewide millage rate, assessment ratio of 9.5%, and portion of miles driven in SC compared to total miles driven
* Holds counties harmless – maintains existing distribution formula for collected amount
* New revenue from out of state truckers – $9 M/year – Infrastructure Maintenance Trust Fund
* Effective date – January 1, 2019

RFA Fiscal Impact Statement Revenue Estimates (updated 2/27/17)

Year 1 – FY 2017-2018 – $177 M to SCDOT
Year 2 – FY 2018-2019 – $258 M to SCDOT – $13 M increase to C-Fund
Year 3 – FY 2019-2020 – $339 M to SCDOT – $26 M increase to C-Fund
Year 4 – FY 2020-2021 – $408 M to SCDOT – $40 M increase to C-Fund
Year 5 – FY 2021-2022 – $479 M to SCDOT – $53 M increase to C-Fund
  

 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 do not hesitate to contact me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Legislative Update 2/20/17

Our 5th week of legislative work in 2017 was the busiest yet as committees and subcommittees continued to iron out a wide variety of legislation. The legislative process requires most bills to begin in committee for in-depth examination prior to being debated and voted upon by the full House body. In fact, hundreds of bills are sent to committees and subcommittees each year, but most never make it to the House floor. This week I'll highlight a few bills that have moved from committee to the House floor.
 

Business License Reform
Current state law allows cities to levy business licensing fees on businesses that wish to operate within city limits. For years the business community has sought reforms to this structure to reduce the burdens placed on businesses while still ensuring businesses pay their fair share and contribute to the operating funds of cities in which they exist. Business advocates say the current law creates incentives for businesses to locate outside city borders, effectively avoiding the licensing fees, which in turn can drive up the cost of doing business. A pro-business reform that would address these issues has cleared a key House committee last week and now heads to the House floor for a full vote.
 
Movement on Roads Legislation
It's abundantly clear the number one issue in South Carolina today is addressing the unsafe state of our roads and bridges. We currently lead the nation in traffic fatalities – surpassing even large states like California and Texas in annual traffic deaths. This week a bill aimed at fixing our broken roadways cleared the House budget-writing committee by a vote of 20-0. The legislation would give the Governor control of the South Carolina Department of Transportation, raise the road user fee by 2 pennies per gallon each year for 5 years, and create a Highway Maintenance Trust Fund to ensure 100% of revenues go directly (and only) toward our roads and bridges. The proposal now goes to the House floor for debate and a vote.
 
Freedom of Information Act
Finally, a bill that would establish a Freedom of Information Act Office for use by citizens and journalists has cleared a final vote in the House Judiciary Committee. The pro-transparency measure would streamline the current process used by those seeking access to government documents. After all, government operates in the public sector and the laws instituting the FOIA process are intended to ensure the business of the public remains public. This bill enhances those laws and makes compliance easier and cheaper for both government entities and those seeking government documents alike
 
In order for me to have a strong voice in Columbia, I have to communicate with my constituents. And that is you! My website, newsletters, mailers, and Facebook are the communication tools that I use. It takes extra time, staff, and campaign funds to maintain these tools. 
 
If you would like to contribute, please mail a check to Hixon for House, P.O. Box 7927, North Augusta, SC 29861. You can also make a contribution online on my website.
 
I hope that you find this update helpful and informative. If I can help you with an issue, please let me know. Thank you for reading and allowing me to serve you.
 

 Legislative Update   –  February 20, 2017

The House of Representatives amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3218, a bill to provide for "dams and reservoirs safety act" enhancements in light of problems experienced during the catastrophic floods of October 2015 and Hurricane Matthew one year later. The legislation affords the Department of Health and Environmental Control regulatory authority over smaller dams that are currently exempt from regulation in instances where DHEC determines that the dam's failure or improper reservoir operation may cause serious damage to homes, industrial and commercial facilities, public utilities, main and secondary highways, or railroads. Such smaller dams have only been subject to DHEC regulation when the department determines that their failure may cause loss of human life. The legislation makes provisions for maintaining more extensive and up-to-date records on regulated dams and reservoirs by requiring their owners to provide DHEC annually no later than July first of each year with current contact information regarding the owner, including name, home or business address, phone number, and any email address, together with a completed dam owner checklist on a form provided by the department. The owner of a dam or reservoir classified as a high or significant hazard is required to provide DHEC annually no later than July first of each year a current emergency action plan, including updated contact information for emergency management officials, such as police, fire, EMS, or utility departments or personnel, and for downstream residents and business owners located in the inundation zone for that dam or reservoir. The legislation specifies that it is not, however, the owner's responsibility to notify any downstream residents or business owners located in the inundation zone of a failure or potential failure. The owner must, instead, notify emergency officials and DHEC's Dams and Reservoirs Safety program of the actual or potential failure, and it is the responsibility of the emergency management officials identified in the emergency action plan to inform those located in the inundation zone and to cause them to be evacuated if it is considered necessary. Under the legislation, DHEC shall not require any changes to a dam or its appurtenant works due to the reclassification of the dam unless failure would likely cause loss of life, or the department, through inspection, identifies repairs that must be made.
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3340, a bill addressing the repair of roads in the state highway system that ran along the top of breached dams. In the interest of public health and safety, the legislation establishes deadlines for the owner of a failed or breached dam which has a public road or highway in the state highway system running across the top of it to provide a written notification to the State Department of Transportation and the Department of Health and Environmental Control indicating whether or not the owner intends to repair the dam to appropriate standards and the date by which the repairs are anticipated to be completed. Provisions are made for notifying dam owners of these reporting requirements. The legislation establishes a protocol for how the Department of Transportation is to proceed with road repair efforts if no written communication is received from a dam owner, if a communication indicates a dam owner does not intend to repair the dam, or if intended dam repairs are not completed as scheduled.
 
The House approved and sent the Senate H.3221, a bill establishing a statewide

program for addressing unsound school district finances which affords the State Department of Education authority that extends beyond academic matters to include fiscal affairs. Under the legislation, the State Department of Education is to work with district superintendents and finance officers to develop and adopt a statewide program with guidelines for: (1) identifying fiscal practices and budgetary conditions that, if uncorrected, could compromise the fiscal integrity of a school district; and (2) advising districts that demonstrate these financial problems on the corrective actions that should be taken. The department must establish three escalating levels of fiscal and budgetary concern so that the State Superintendent of Education can declare a 'fiscal watch', a 'fiscal caution', and a 'fiscal emergency' with regard to school district finances. The succeeding levels of budgetary concern carry increasingly stringent requirements for school district recovery plans, audits, and inspections as well as more intensive technical support from the state department. Should a school district's finances warrant the most severe level of concern prompting the State Superintendent of Education to declare a 'fiscal emergency', the State Department of Education is authorized to take intensive steps including assuming control over the district's financial operations to preclude a default on any type of debt and prevent further decline in the district's finances.

 
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3220, a bill reestablishing the South Carolina education and economic development coordinating council to review the progress, results, and compliance with the Education and Economic Development Act and to make recommendations for better achieving the act's goals of implementing career pathways in the state's public schools and fostering a better prepared workforce and student success in post-secondary education. The council is comprised of the following members representing the geographic regions of the state and must be representative of the ethnic, gender, rural, and urban diversity of the state: (1) State Superintendent of Education or his designee; (2) Executive Director of the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce or his designee; (3) Executive Director of the State Board for Technical and Comprehensive Education or his designee; (4) Secretary of the Department of Commerce or his designee; (5) Executive Director of the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce or his designee; (6) Chief Executive Officer of the South Carolina Manufacturers Alliance or his designee; (7) Executive Director of the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education or his designee; (8) Executive Director of the Office of First Steps to School Readiness or his designee; (9) the following members who must be appointed by the State Superintendent of Education: (a) a school district superintendent; (b) a principal; (c) a school guidance counselor; (d) a teacher; and (e) the director of a career and technology center; (10) the following members who must be appointed by the Chairman of the Commission on Higher Education: (a) the president or provost of a research university; (b) the president or provost of a four-year college or university; and (c) the president of a technical college; (11) ten representatives of business appointed by the Governor, at least one of which must represent small business and one whom must represent the health care industry. Of the representatives appointed by the Governor, five must be recommended by statewide organizations representing business and industry. The chair is to be selected by the Governor from one of his appointees; (12) Chairman of the Education Oversight Committee or his designee; (13) a member from the House of Representatives appointed by the Speaker of the House; and (14) a member from the Senate appointed by the President Pro Tempore. A sunset provision is included in the legislation so that the council will expire after five years unless it is reauthorized by the General Assembly.
 
The House approved and sent the Senate H.3442, a bill affirming rights to adopt children in the temporary custody of the department of social services in response to recent South Carolina court opinions that the state's laws do not accommodate such adoptions.
 
The House approved and sent the Senate H.3517, a bill providing special authorization for charitable hunting and fishing programs for terminally ill youth. Under the legislation, the Director of the Department of Natural Resources may issue special authorization for hunting and fishing to any person not more than twenty-one years of age who has been diagnosed with a terminal or life threatening illness or injury where all license, tags, and fees are waived. Those seeking special authorization must be sponsored by a nonprofit charitable organization that has within its mission to provide opportunities and experiences to persons with life threatening illnesses or injuries.
 
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3531, a bill that imposes restrictions on the ownership of large wild cats, non-native bears and great apes as a means of protecting conservation efforts for the welfare of vulnerable, threatened, and endangered species and protecting the public against potential safety risks relating to holding these wild animals in captivity. The legislation's restrictions on keeping all lions, tigers, leopards, jaguars, cougars, cheetahs, snow leopards, and clouded leopards, all bears that are not native to South Carolina and not subject to oversight by the state's Department of Natural Resources, and all species of chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans do not apply to a list of exemptions, such as nonprofit animal protection organizations, veterinary hospitals, university laboratories and research facilities, and properly licensed zoos, circuses, and animal breeders. The legislation provides that it is unlawful for a person to import into, possess, keep, purchase, have custody or control of, breed, or sell within this state, by any means, a large wild cat, non-native bear, or great ape, including transactions conducted via the Internet. Someone in legal possession of a large wild cat, non-native bear, or great ape prior to January 1, 2018, is authorized to keep the animal for the remainder of its life subject to the conditions of the legislation which include registering the animal with the animal control authority for the city or county in which the animal is located and immediately notifying the animal control authority and local law enforcement agencies upon discovery that the animal has escaped. The possessor of the animal shall be liable for any and all costs associated with the escape, capture, and disposition of a registered animal. The legislation makes provisions for animal registration, including fees, inspections by local animal control authorities, and the confiscation of non-compliant animals. A violator of the legislation must be fined not more than one thousand dollars or imprisoned for not more than thirty days for a first offense, and must be fined not more than five thousand dollars or imprisoned for not more than ninety days for a second offense.
 
 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 do not hesitate to contact me.

 

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