State House Update for Week of February 10-12, 2009

The House of Representatives met three days this week with work taking place in committees and on the House floor. The full Ways and Means Committee met to discuss the state budget. Because of the federal stimulus package uncertainty, the Ways and Means Committee will not submit a budget to the full House for at least another week. The full Ways and Means Committee voted to end the TERI program to new enrollees effective July 1, 2009 and it voted not to provide funding for the State Conservation Bank for previously identified and approved conservation projects. The budget situation is somewhat fluid until we know more certainty about South Carolina’s portion of the federal stimulus package.

The Judiciary Committee met and approved bills including a bill that will require photo identification in addition to a voter registration card when a voter goes to vote.

On the House floor, we spent most of Wednesday debating a bill regulating pay day lenders. Several amendments offered to strengthen the bill unfortunately failed. One amendment in particular would have prohibited electronic transfers of funds on such loans making business very difficult for out of state internet lenders. The Senate now takes up the bill where it is possible that this provision could be added. I will ask several senators including Senators Ryberg and Massey to add this provision to the Senate version of the bill. Despite the amendments that failed, the House bill is an improvement from current law in that it limits a consumer to one loan at a time; requires the industry to establish a real time database to keep track of all loans in the state; provides an extended payment plan at no extra cost to the consumer; and requires a “cooling off” period after ten consecutive pay day loans.

During the time leading up to the pay day lending debate, I learned that the regulations on the title lenders need to be updated. I am working with other House members to file a bill later this session to strengthen state law on title lenders.

On Thursday, I filed a bill (H.3532) as primary sponsor with 28 cosponsors to create a long term care insurance premium state tax deduction. The deduction would be 25% of the annual premium or $1,000 – whichever is less. With the number of cosponsors, I am hopeful that we can push this bill through this session.

Judicial elections also occurred this week. Positions were filled for circuit court; family court; and administrative law court. By the time that the votes were to take place on Wednesday at high noon, only one seat was still contested – an at large circuit judge seat. The race was close being decided by two votes (83-81). One uncontested election did not occur because it was postponed so that the Judicial Merit Screening Commission could reconvene about some issues that arose on the eve of the election about the candidate.

During the week, I met with leaders from USC Aiken and the USC system to discuss concerns with higher education. Additionally, I attended the retired public school educator’s breakfast and discussed concerns including state health insurance and funding for public education.

Several constituents called or emailed me during the week regarding pending legislation and matters in the district including the Graniteville/Vaucluse water system; funding for K-12 education; and the 24 hour waiting period abortion bill. I appreciate all of the insight from folks in our district.

Thank you for the opportunity to represent and to serve you. Please let me know your thoughts and concerns by email (, phone (649-0000), or direct mail (PO Box 651, Aiken, SC 29802).

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