Dear Friends, 


The SC House of Representatives did not meet in regular session this week.  We took one of our three planned furloughs this week and we are saving taxpayers over $50,000. We plan these furloughs because we know that we can complete the people's work in less time and for less money.  This week's furlough was timed so that it would come before the critical time in the state budget writing process when the budget would be before the full House Ways & Means Committee.  We also have scheduled furloughs this year for the weeks before and after Easter so Members can spend that time with their families. Combined, these three weeks of furlough will give taxpayers a savings of over $150,000. 
Last week I attended a very important meeting in North Augusta that included Mayor Lark Jones, City Administrator Todd Glover, President of North Augusta Chamber of Commerce Brian Tucker and some of our communities most prominent business owners and developers. This meeting was planned to discuss what it means to be "Business Friendly", and what we can do to grow and attract more businesses to North Augusta. I was very pleased with the turnout and all the ideas that were discussed. I look forward to hearing in the near future which ideas will take shape.
I hope that you find this update helpful and informative:

 Legislative Update   –  February 17, 2012


House Republican Caucus Announces New 2012 Agenda: 
The South Carolina House Republican Caucus unveiled its 2012 Legislative Agenda last week focusing on a fairer tax code, stronger Right to Work laws, healthier retirement system, ensuring the First in the South Primary, and pushing last year's reforms through the S.C. Senate. 
In the 2012 Agenda, we are focusing our sights on ensuring long-term growth and fiscal stability:
Tax Reform: 
Comprehensive Tax Reform is an absolute necessity in growing our economy. House Republicans are committed to making our tax code flatter, fairer and more competitive. The process of comprehensive tax reform begins by flattening the personal income tax brackets, reducing the manufacturing property tax rate, lowering the business tax rate to level the playing field for existing and new businesses in this state and addressing many of our sales tax exemptions that have outlived their purpose. The road to comprehensive tax reform in South Carolina starts NOW.   
Strengthening S.C.'s Right-to-Work Laws will send a clear message that our state is open for business. Now more than ever, it is evident that the NLRB and the Obama Administration have targeted Right-to-Work states like South Carolina and private businesses like Boeing that have chosen to call our state home. House Republicans are fighting against union attacks on our businesses. We will do what it takes to protect the future of our state's growing workforce. The Right to Work Act of 2012 strengthens existing laws while introducing new items that will deter forced unionization in our state. H. 4652 received committee approval and was passed on the House floor.   
Retirement System: 
Ensuring the Solvency of our Retirement System is essential for the long-term stability of our state's finances. For the past months, legislators have been working on a solution to the liability of our state employee retirement system that protects our current retirees while safeguarding those currently paying into the system.  
First in the South: 
Cementing the "First in the South" Presidential Primary will ensure that South Carolina's voice will continue to be heard on the national stage and our state's economy will continue to benefit from these important elections. House Republicans will fight to make sure South Carolina keeps our position as the standard-bearer of Presidential Primary elections and that our tradition of picking Presidents endures.
Bridgestone Hiring for New Aiken County Plant:  
Bridgestone is hiring for its new Aiken County manufacturing plant which is under construction.  
To learn more, go here
Poor Report Card for SC Public Education: 
ALEC, a nonpartisan association for state lawmakers, has released its annual Report Card on American Education and SC is not doing well by their benchmarks. SC received an education policy grade of C+; but, out of 50 states and the District of Columbia, South Carolina was at the bottom receiving a ranking of 50th based on NAEP (National Assessment of Education Progress) performance. The report measures the overall 2011 NAEP scores.
Port Bill to Face Governor's Veto: 
The House unanimously voted to agree with Senate amendments to a bill that says DHEC's board overstepped its authority when it granted Georgia permission that helped clear the way for an expansion project at the Savannah port. This port competes with the Charleston port. A spokesman for Gov. Haley says she will veto the bill. It will then come back to the General Assembly for a very quick veto override. 

Officer Down & the Blue Alert System: 

Legislation has been approved by the House and Senate that would create a "Blue Alert" system to more promptly inform police agencies and residents when an officer is seriously injured, killed or kidnapped in the line of duty. The system would be modeled after "AMBER Alerts" in which the public is told about missing children through electronic message boards, emails and text messages. I am a co-sponsor of this bill.

No State Law for Football: 

The rival football game between Clemson and South Carolina will not be mandated by law. The fear that the ACC and the SEC might change their policies towards the number of out of conference teams they can schedule each year, was the reason this bill was proposed. The bill came up before the House sub-committee and it was unanimously rejected.  No reason for the government to get involved in this.
Fake Pot is Banned: 
The House approved and sent to the Senate (H-3793) a bill addressing SYNTHETIC MARIJUANA AND OTHER SYNTHETIC DRUGS. The legislation adds numerous materials, chemical compounds, mixtures and preparations, including those commonly known as bath salts, spice, and K2, to the list of Schedule I controlled substances, which are unlawful for members of the general public to purchase, sell, distribute, manufacture, or possess.  
Court Ordered Joint Custody: 
Definitions of Joint and Sole custody will be clearly stated for the first time in decades. The South Carolina's child custody law has varied greatly depending on which family court judge was hearing the case. The proposal lists 15 factors that judges can consider in awarding custody. There were 3,372 child custody and visitation cases filed statewide last fiscal year, which ended June 30, plus another 987 cases in which modification of child custody or visitation was sought, according to figures from the S.C. Judicial Department. The bill unanimously cleared the House last week and is now in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Drivers License Suspension Bill: 
The House amended, approved, and sent to the Senate (H-4571) This bill makes revisions pertaining to the REPEAL OF SECTION 56-1-754, WHICH RELATES TO THE SUSPENSION OF A DRIVER'S LICENSE OF A PERSON CONVICTED OF A CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE VIOLATION. This particular code section was repealed by the General Assembly last year by Act 13 of 2011. This new legislation enacts language in order to carry out the intentions of the General Assembly when it enacted this legislation to discontinue the suspension of the driver's license of a person who was charged with a controlled substance violation before April 12, 2011, but whose conviction occurred on or after April 12, 2011. 
Right to Work Bill Advances: 
Following a lengthy debate on the House floor last week, the House voted 86-25 to approve  (H-4652) a bill by LCI Chairman Bill Sandifer (R-Oconee) that strengthens the State's Right to Work Laws. The legislation allows employers to hang posters notifying employees of the provisions of the state's right to work law. It prohibits local or state governments from requiring project labor agreements when awarding government contracts, incentives, or tax credits. It also requires that employees who are union members and who have authorized a payroll deduction for union dues to be allowed to stop the deduction at any time. The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration. I am a co-sponsor of this bill. 
Nixing Benefits for Drug Users: 
Legislation suspending unemployment benefits of anyone failing a drug test as part of a job application is heading to the House floor. State law already disqualifies workers fired for drug use from collecting unemployment benefits. This bill addresses those already receiving benefits. Their benefits would be suspended if they test positive for illegal drugs while applying for a new job.   
Driving/Texting Ban: 
The House Education and Public Works Committee approved (H-4451) a bill to prohibit texting while driving, sending the bill to the House. The bill goes to the floor with amendments to decrease the amount of the fines and which changes the violation in accidents resulting in great bodily injury or death from a felony to a misdemeanor. SC is one of only 8 states having no statewide driving-while-texting ban. I am a co-sponsor of this bill. 
Department of Transportation Reform: 
This week both House and Senate committees took up possible reform of the SC Department of Transportation (SCDOT).  Back in 2007, a law restructuring the SCDOT put the agency in the Governor's Cabinet and gave oversight to a seven-member commission, six of whom are elected by legislators from each congressional district.  Interest in additional reform has been sparked by the obsession with funding the new interstate starting in Myrtle Beach, Governor Haley's desire to eliminate the SCDOT Commission, and SCDOT's cash flow issues which prevent paying paving contractors on time. 
The House Judiciary Subcommittee gave preliminary approval to a bill (H-4625) that would give the governor full control of the S.C. Department of Transportation and create an advisory committee for the SCDOT.  However, the bill is a work in progress and may be changed when it reaches the full House Judiciary Committee.  The reform effort is an attempt to remove politics from the decision making at the SCDOT – good luck on that! 
However, the SC House plan appears to be on a collision course with a SC Senate plan. SC Senate Transportation Committee Chairman, Larry Grooms, also wants to get rid of the SCDOT commission, but thinks a legislative oversight board should replace it.  He is concerned about one person (governor) having full authority over one of South Carolina's largest and most influential agencies. 

Please be sure to stay up to date with all that is going on in Columbia. If you have any questions, comments or concerns, I am always available.

You can view Live Broadcasts of the South Carolina House of Representatives daily legislative sessions by clicking Here

Go to the new House Roll Call Votes Page to see how all the representatives have voted on all 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