State House Update for Week of February 24-26, 2009

The House of Representatives met three days this past week. Before telling you about some of the bills that came up on the floor, let me update you on the state budget. The Ways and Means Committee submits its budget proposal to the full House this week. The House will debate the budget next week starting on March 9. The budget situation is very fluid due to requirements attached to some of the money being offered in South Carolina’s portion of the federal stimulus package. It is important for the public to know that 70 percent of our state general fund budget is money that goes to K-12 education; higher education; and Medicaid. The other 30 percent goes to the rest of the state agencies. If we take the federal stimulus money for education and Medicaid, we still will not have a balanced budget and those areas – education and Medicaid – are not subject to cuts under the rules attached to the stimulus money. Therefore, if we take the stimulus money for education and Medicaid, then we have to find some where in the other 30% to cut to balance the budget. The other alternative is to raise taxes which the majority of the House does not want to do if at all possible. We have a lot of work ahead of us in the House over the next two weeks. Please let me know your thoughts on this issue if you would like by email at or phone at 649-0000.

On the House floor, we passed several bills this week including a bill requiring photo identification as a requirement to vote and a bill that will require a woman seeking an abortion to wait 24 hours after getting an ultrasound test conducted by her physician before having the procedure performed. Both of these bills passed after much debate and even a walkout protest by several lawmakers who opposed the voter photo identification requirement bill.

Other bills passed this week included the turtle bill important to many folks in our district and a bill to prohibit fusion voting. Fusion voting is where a candidate is listed on the ballot by more than one party for the same office. An amendment to this bill also passed that eliminates “straight party” voting on the ballot. I supported this amendment as did nearly all other Republicans and some Democrats. Some of our local elections are non-partisan including the school board and voters who punch the “straight ticket” do not vote in those elections unless they know to look for the non-partisan elections. All of the above listed bills now go to the State Senate.

On Thursday, I filed a bill as cosponsor to enact the “South Carolina Fiscal Accountability Act” which will require the legislative audit council to conduct evaluations of programs of certain state agencies and departments to determine if these programs have outlived their usefulness; will provide for a procedure to implement recommendations after such evaluations; and will require “zero-base” budgeting principles in preparation of the state’s budget.

During the week, I was visited by several folks from our District including Mary Nadal-Mayer and Kristyne Blake from the Aiken Board of Realtors and Mayor Fred Cavanaugh visiting with the Municipal Association. We also had Legislative Shadow Day on Wednesday where student leaders from area high schools came to learn more about what happens in the daily activities at the legislature. Students attending from schools in our district included Keely Reichel and Marsh Moton from Aiken High; Ryan Wisz and Jourdan Dible from South Aiken High; and Laura Glover and Michele Falin from Midland Valley High. They were escorted by Debbie Hubbard and Kim Hart from Aiken County Schools.

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; Hitchcock Woods storm water runoff and erosion in Sand River; and funding for state and local governments. I appreciate all of the insight from folks in our district.

Thank you for the opportunity to represent and to serve you.

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