State House Update – January 12 – January 14, 2010

The General Assembly reconvened this week for the first time for the 2010 session. Here are some of the noteworthy things that happened this week in the House.

First, the House Ways and Means Committee met on January 12 to hear from the State economist as to the State’s projected revenue for 2010. The news is not good. Even though revenues were substantially down in 2009, 2010 revenues now are projected to be 7.4% less than 2009. Significant decreases have occurred in both income tax and sales tax collections. The 2009 revenue decline was the worst decline since before 1950. Obviously, we need serious consideration to overhauling our tax structure. In this area, we learned this week that the Tax Realignment Commission requested an extension of the deadline to provide its report and recommendations from March 15, 2010 to November 15, 2010.

Second, the House passed a Joint Resolution allowing for immediate action to assist in restructuring the Employment Security Commission (ESC). The legislation restricts the discretion that ESC commissioners have concerning unemployment benefits to employees fired for gross misconduct. Also, it increases oversight of benefit payouts including limiting employer filed claims to those companies with a positive cash balance in the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund. Although this legislation does not address all long term issues at the ESC, it does address some short term issues. Long term legislation is being drafted and expected to be filed in the coming weeks. Since the beginning of 2009, the ESC has borrowed more than $700 million from the federal government to pay claims and in the past four years over 20% of benefits paid have gone to claimants who were fired for misconduct or who voluntarily quit their jobs. It is obvious that serious reform is needed in this area.

Third, on the House Floor, my bill to let the people decide whether the Secretary of State should be popularly elected or appointed by the Governor passed the House on both second (77-41) and third readings (72-44). However, neither vote reached the necessary two thirds majority (83 votes in favor) for this issue to go to the voters. (It has to be voted on by the people since it will alter the State Constitution.) I am expecting another vote this week on Reconsideration and I am hopeful that we can reach the necessary two thirds vote in favor. The bill that would allow the voters to decide whether or not the State Superintendent of Education should be appointed by the Governor is on the House calendar but has not yet had second reading.

Fourth, the resolution to censure Governor Sanford came up on Wednesday, January 13. After less than one hour of debate, the Resolution passed overwhelmingly 102 to 11. It now heads to the Senate. I do not expect the House to focus on any other issues related to Governor Sanford this session based on what we know now.

Fifth, I attended the Conservation briefing on Wednesday morning to learn what issues are important to the Conservation community this session. These issues include keeping the Conservation Bank alive; protecting our water; and reducing mercury pollution. I was glad to see Dr. Harry Shealy from Aiken at the event as he addressed the attendees about the history and importance of the Conservation Bank.

As to the Avondale Water System in our district, everything is still on schedule for the January 29, 2010 sale of the system serving Graniteville, Vaucluse and portions of Warrenville.

I recorded a new video posted on my website briefly touching on issues that we face as the session begins. Please take a look.

Finally, if you notice road problems with pot holes or other issues in our district, please email me at as soon as you can so I can assist you in letting the SCDOT and/or the County know about the problem.

Thank you for the opportunity to represent you. Please let me know if I can help you in any way.

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