State House Update –Week of March 31-April 3, 2009

The House of Representatives met this week before the upcoming two week furlough. Several bills of interest to residents of District 81 came to the floor. First, a bill to consolidate the Employment Security Commission under the Governor’s cabinet and to create a Department of Workforce failed to pass the House. Opponents of the legislation were vocal in their objection to passing it this year and making it effective under the current Governor. I am hopeful that a compromise will be reached to get this legislation passed this year.

Second, the House passed a bill raising the cigarette tax fifty cents with most of the money targeted to provide tax credits for small businesses offering health insurance and premium assistance to low income people. An amendment to lower the increase to thirty cents failed. The bill now goes to the Senate.

Third, the House passed a bill addressing the point of sale provision relating to property taxes and assessable transfers of property. Under the bill, assessable transfers of property will be reassessed and the property taxes changed at the time of the next countywide reassessment. Current law requires the reassessment at the time of the transfer. That bill now heads to the Senate.

The uncertainty regarding the state budget continued again this week. On Friday, the Governor requested the $700 Million in State Fiscal Stabilization money. However, he will not authorize it to be spent unless an agreement is reached with the General Assembly on how to use the money to pay down debt. My understanding is that under federal law, the money has to be spent on education and law enforcement in order to get those areas to 2005/2006 funding levels. I told the Governor’s legislative liaison that it would be productive for the Governor to provide the General Assembly with a budget that is based on the current projected funds for 2009/2010. In doing so, the House would know where the Governor believes cuts can be made in order to fund education and law enforcement at the necessary levels under the stimulus funding rules and still have money available to pay down debt. I am hopeful that such a proposed budget or at the least proposed budget cuts will be provided by the Governor’s office for legislative consideration some time during the next two weeks.

I filed some bills this week as primary sponsor including a bill allowing an exception to the definition of “motor vehicle dealer” under state to include a business entity which for no fee or charge and while it is not open for business allows its property to be used either temporarily or on a recurring basis as a location where individuals may park motor vehicles to offer them for casual sale. This bill is focused on fixing the problem that resulted in the SRP Federal Credit Union being shut down on the weekend after 20 years of allowing its parking lot to be used by the public for the display of used vehicles.

I also filed bills (1) making the turkey hunting season uniform statewide at six weeks; (2) increasing the penalties for homicide by child abuse; and (3) setting up a “Silver Alert” system for missing senior citizens much like an Amber Alert system works for missing children.

During the week, I attended the unveiling of the Hydrogen fuel station at Sage Mill Industrial park; the Greater Aiken Chamber of Commerce’s legislative update with the State Chamber Chief Executive Otis Rawl; and the Horse Show sponsored by the Hitchcock Woods Foundation.

Several constituents called or emailed me during the week regarding pending legislation and matters in the district including the cigarette tax; the point of sale property tax provision the Avondale water system; and funding for K-12 education. 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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