The 121st General Assembly began January 13, 2015. As each of us are working on our personal New Year's Resolutions, we are also resolving to make SC more business friendly and redirecting budgeted money to improve South Carolina's roads and bridges. Speaker Lucas assigned me to the Department of Transportation Infrastructure and Management Ad-Hoc Committee. We have been meeting monthly about reforming the SC Department of Transportation (DOT).
In order for me to have a strong voice in Columbia, I have to communicate with my constituents. And that means 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.
I hope that you find this update helpful and informative. If I can help you with any issue, please let me know. Thank you for reading and allowing me to serve you.
Legislative Update – January 27, 2015
Business Advocate Award
On January 20, 2015 the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce awarded me with the Business Advocate Award at the Columbia Mariott. It is an honor to receive this award because it goes only to those legislators who scored 100% in the Chambers 2014 Legislative Scorecard and are true friends of business. This is the third time I received this award and it is quite an honor.
State of the State Address
I was honored to be on the escort committee and escort Governor Nikki Haley into the House Chamber for her to deliver her 5th State of the State Address on Wednesday, January 21, 2015. A major focus this week was on finding additional money to repair South Carolina's deteriorating roads and bridges. The issue was advanced when Governor Nikki Haley delivered her annual State of the State address. My republican colleagues and I were happy to hear the governor's support for many of the approaches we have been debating to improve our roads and bridges across the state. These improvements are going to take considerably more money than is currently allocated in the budget.
Governor Haley released her much anticipated plan to fix the state's aging roads and bridges which looks very similar to the common-sense proposals we have been working on in the House. Governor Haley offered her three pronged solution to paying for road and bridge improvements by proposing to raise South Carolina's 16.5 cents per gallon gas tax, but only if it was included in a "three part package." That legislative package includes a major tax break for taxpayers in a 2% reduction in the state income tax rate from 7% to 5% while restructuring the Department of Transportation to hopefully make it more efficient and responsive. Reducing the state income tax cuts over a billion dollars out of our recurring dollars in the budget.
Funding additional road improvements is a complicated issue with no quick and easy solution. It is critically important to maximize the existing funding in the budget by determining how money already budgeted can be redirected to road improvements. Before I can completely accept Governor Haley's plan, I need a lot more questions answered.
Reforming Ethics Law
This week the House also advanced legislation to reform our state's ethics laws that affects all 20,000 elected and appointed officials in the state. An income disclosure measure that is part of a larger sweeping ethics reform package cleared its first hurdle in a House subcommittee and moves to the full House Judiciary Committee. Ethics reform bill H.3184 includes a definition of candidate, income disclosure for public officials, non-candidate committees, investigative process for members of the House and Senate, independent oversight, independent investigations, and appointments by the House of Representatives and Senate to the Ethics Commission.
The House Judiciary Committee also moved to the floor for debate H.3188, redefining committees involved in the electoral process and disallowing Leadership PACs.
Finally, as is typical in January, much work is being done in the Ways and Means Subcommittee as members begin crafting next year's budget. Committee meetings are of paramount importance to move newly-filed legislation forward; therefore, we spend as little time as possible on the House floor so they could have time to get our committee work completed.
The House Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs Subcommittee on Wildlife, of which I am the chairman, met Tuesday afternoon and approved H. 3266 the Trespasser Responsibility Act, by a vote of 4 to 0. This act puts into statute what has long been common law practice in SC and most states, a landowner has no liability for harm caused to an individual trespassing on their land. However, courts in other states have adopted provisions requiring landowners to exercise a duty of care for all entrants, even those unlawfully trespassing. This bill would prevent that happening in SC. H.3266 now moves to the full House Agricultural, Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs Committee for consideration. This is a great bill.
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.