Representative Bill Hixon, District 83 – Newsletter
Weekly Legislative Update   –  March 1, 2011
Dear Friends,

There are a lot of things happening in Columbia. As most of us already know, our region was hit with bad news coming from SRS. It is never easy to deal with the loss of jobs, especially when they are your neighbors. In this weeks update, I have some information on what we are doing in the State House to do our part in insuring the future of SRS.

Last week we passed the Charter School Bill. Also, the budget has passed through the House Committee and should be on the floor for debate in next couple of weeks.

I introduced a new bill that will help honor veterans and I have also included updates on several other issues in this weeks legislative update.

I hope that you find this weeks update helpful and informative:

SRS Jobs and Future of H Canyon:  
We have all been very concerned with all the recent news coming out of SRS. Anytime there are reductions in our regional work force regardless of the reason, it will have a negative impact that is felt immediately. There seems to be a perception that the jobs being eliminated are the ones created by the Federal Stimulus Act. Well,  I have been informed that some of the ones losing their jobs have been there a long time. I will be looking into this and many other issues in the coming weeks concerning SRS.

While we are now dealing with job losses based on decisions made in the past. We are focusing on the future and taking every chance we can get to let the DOE (Department of Energy) and SRNS(Savannah River Nuclear Solutions) know how important it is that we preserve the talent pool that is currently at SRS. President Obama's proposed federal budget cuts of $100 million from H Canyon projects will need to be reversed. SRNS executives confirmed that if H Canyon isn't fully funded it will result in the loss of "several hundred jobs" beyond the 1400 positions that we are dealing with now.

The goal is to shift some employees to other projects. These are highly skilled workers; their talents will be lost. There is an additional concern that less funds means H Canyon, which is a unique, historic facility, won't receive needed maintenance to insure its viability in the future. That could be catastrophic. Emphasizing that point, Sen. Greg Ryberg stated, "We can't afford to lose good people and that unique asset." Rep. Tom Young expressed concern that the talent pool will be disbursed and the trickledown effect on the local economy could be devastating."  We all agreed that that reversing Obama's funding reduction at H Canyon is critical to the survival of employment at SRS. Our SC Senators and Congressmen are pressing for funding.

I am working with our Aiken Legislative Delegation to help setup a meeting with the Georgia Delegation so that we can meet about this important issue as well as other issues that effect the CSRA such as the Savannah River. 

National Poll on Tax Increases: 
A national poll taken this week illustrates what my constituents have been telling me. The USA Today/Gallup poll showed large majorities of Republican and independent voters do not want tax increases and conservatives support cuts to state government programs.(You can see all the poll numbers here)

Key results:
71% oppose increasing sales, income or other taxes while 27% are in favor that approach.
53% oppose reducing pay or benefits for government workers while 44% are in favor.
48% opposed reducing or eliminating government programs while 47% were in favor of cuts.
(Remember this is a NATIONAL poll)

Budget Has Passed House Committee:
The House of Representatives will debate the 2010-2011 budget in a few weeks, but most of the heavy lifting was completed by my colleagues on the Ways and Means Committee this week. Much has been said in the national news over the last few weeks about budget deficits in states across the country. (See the national poll here)

Here in South Carolina we were able to; Increase the base student cost – the amount per student that we give to local school districts – by 10.5 percent. The House budget writers saved money by combining many agencies.

Here are the highlights…

  • The budget increases the 'Base Student Cost' sent to K-12 public schools by 10% to $1,780 per child. That's a benchmark school funding number.
  • There is also a move here to streamline the number of pots of state money that go to public schools to allow local school districts to have more flexibility on spending.
  • The other huge budget category is Medicaid. This budget provides the rapidly expanding Medicaid program with an additional $380 million. $157 million comes from the increased cigarette tax revenues using money that has accrued since the tax took effect in July as well as half the money the state expects to collect during the next fiscal year.
  • Most importantly, the budget plan gives Medicaid officials flexibility in setting provider rates cutting the fees paid to doctors and hospitals.
  • State public colleges and universities would receive $117 million less, a 5.6% cut in the state monies received this year, ending June 30, 2011.
  • No cost-of-living raises for state workers for the second consecutive year.
  • $180 million set aside in the 'rainy day fund'.
  • The Department of Corrections was combined with the Probation, Pardons, and Parole.
  • The Arts Commission and the State Museum were moved to the Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism.
  • Consumer Affairs was given to the Secretary of State.
  • Additional $10 million to assist the Department of Commerce to recruit new business to South Carolina and $13 million in new job training for our state's technical colleges.

The budget now goes to the full House for debate in two weeks.

The first thing everyone must remember is that the General Assembly is not the US Congress. We must approve balanced budgets and we have no way to print money to cover shortfalls. We may spend only what comes in from tax revenues. So when our state is facing another major cut in revenue, we must make cuts in spending. Cutting programs is not always popular. We know that. But in lean times, our conservative philosophy dictates that government should live like a family – you have to tighten your belts and spend less. However, that is not the philosophy shared by all of the members of the House.

The Veterans Bill:
I am honored to have introduced a new bill (H-3760) that calls for state issued ID's to include a veteran status designation. This bill will allow veterans to add a veteran designation to either their drivers license or state issue ID if they desire to. Veterans will only need to provide the Department of Motor Vehicles a DD Form 214, this form establishes the person's qualifying military service in the United States Armed Forces. I am proud to say that this bill has been heavily co-sponsored by my colleagues with over 46 signatures.
Charter School Bill Passes House:
The House passed the Charter School bill (H.3241).  I voted for the bill and it passed 85-32. The bill was amended so that no local district money is spent on the state-sponsored charter schools.  These schools include both (1) brick and mortar schools of which there are 11 statewide and (2) virtual schools of which 223 students in Aiken County attend.  The bill also allows students enrolled in public charter schools to play sports at the school where they would normally attend if the public charter school does not offer the same sport.
Concealed Weapons Permit:
A bill (H.3292) which will simplify the list of places where concealed weapon permit holders may legally carry their weapons is pending in a House Judiciary subcommittee.  While the bill increases the number of places where a concealed weapon would be allowed, it would still prohibit them in places like jails, courthouses, election polling places, and anywhere that federal law prohibits them.  It also will allow private property owners like churches and businesses to prohibit them on private property. There seems to be several issues that have come up with this bill that I have been watching very closely. I am a SC State Constable and I work and ride with law enforcement often. I want to make sure that we keep our law enforcement personnel safe. This bill currently says that SC citizens at least 21 years old, and who can legally own a gun, can carry a concealed weapon without a permit. State Law Enforcement Division Chief Reggie Lloyd testified that SLED is not opposed to these provisions.  A representative of the SC Sheriff's Association testified against these provisions expressing concern about allowing people to carry a concealed gun without any training. I am very interested in your thoughts on this issue.
Changes in the Voting ID Bill:
Republicans in the Senate overcame Democratic obstructionism, procedural gimmicks and even a mountain of 480 amendments to pass the voter ID bill. SC voters will have to show photo identification at polls under the legislation that passed the Senate. Voters currently can show either a driver's license or voter registration card, which lacks a photo. Senators amended our House bill and exempted people who are 65 years old and over from having to get IDs to vote. They also created an 11-day early voting period ending three days prior to an election. The measure died last year with the House and Senate unable to agree on a compromise between their two versions. I voted in favor of this bill.
Aiken Town hall Meeting with the Governor:
Gov. Nikki Haley's "The Movement" tour to focus on Haley's push for legislative report cards and potential business reforms will be held in March. The March 15 meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. in the first floor conference room of the Aiken Municipal Building. Attendees can access the building from 215 The Alley.
GOP Precinct Reorganization:
RRepublican precincts in Aiken County will be holding their bi-annual reorganization meeting next Thursday evening, March 3. Learn more at:



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You can also go to the new House Roll Call Votes Page to see how all the representatives have voted on the important bills.

Thank you for the privilege of serving you in Columbia.  If I can ever be of assistance to you, or if you have ideas on issues you want me to share with the rest of the General Assembly, please don't hesitate to contact me at Home at 803-278-0892 or at work 803-279-8855.



Bill Hixon


Representative Bill Hixon – SC House of Representative – District 83
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