Update – January 26 – January 28, 2010

The House of Representatives met this past week. I hope that the following report is useful to you:

First, at the beginning of the week, representatives from the State Commission on Higher Education spoke at the downtown Rotary Club. Their presentation emphasized the need to support higher education and getting more people educated. South Carolina is 39th in the country in the percentage of people with a bachelor’s degree or higher. We are also 45th in the country in per capita personal income. If we can raise the number of people getting two year degrees or higher, then we will see lower unemployment, less poverty, better health, higher labor force participation, and less incarceration. I hope you join me in making higher education a priority to transform our economy and quality of life.

Second, on the House floor, the final vote was taken on Wednesday on my bill to let the people decide whether the Secretary of State should be popularly elected or appointed by the Governor. I worked to secure the 83 votes necessary for passage. Unfortunately, the bill failed by one vote: 82 to 34 . I am hopeful that we will get another chance to vote on this legislation later in the session. This is one of several restructuring reform bills that I am working to move through the General Assembly.

Third, a House subcommittee approved a proposal to reduce the public school year by 5 days and to eliminate testing of students not required under federal law. Many of you responded to me last week on this issue and nearly everyone who responded is against reducing the public school year by 5 days. I do not support reducing the school year by 5 days. We have to find ways to cut spending with the smallest impact possible on students and teachers in the classroom. This measure now heads to the House Ways and Means Committee where it will be considered with others in the general fund budget preparation process.

Fourth, Employment Security Commission (ESC) reform is a top priority this year as I reported in the past few columns. Two weeks ago, the House approved several systemic changes including restricting state payments to employees fired for gross misconduct or drug use and restricting claims by employers who cost the system more than they contribute. This week, the Legislative Audit Council’s Management Review of the ESC was issued and it revealed the following:

• The ESC did not warn the General Assembly that the unemployment trust fund balance plummeted from a $835 million surplus 10 years ago to an $800 million deficit today.
• The ESC did not properly investigate mismanagement.
• S.C. workers fired for misconduct collected $171 million over three years – equating to 10 percent of the jobless benefits paid during that three years.
• While the ESC is charged with helping South Carolinians find jobs, only 40 percent of the jobs available in our state are listed with the ESC.

The Full report can be found at www.lac.sc.gov. Legislation to reform this agency and to restore the trust fund is very much needed and will be filed soon.

Fifth, I attended two meetings this week of the Valley Public Service Authority as the Board continued to work on the sale of the Avondale Water System serving Graniteville, Vaucluse, and portions of Warrenville. Despite several recent “bumps in the road,” it appears that the transfer will take place as hoped by February 16, 2010. Many people are working to make sure that the transfer becomes a reality.

Several residents of House District 81 were at the State House this week for various reasons including Dr. Susan Winsor; Chuck Munns; Ronnie Lee; Ingrid Kupprat; and Mary Jo Dawson. I enjoyed meeting with each of them as to their respective concerns.

Finally, last week I asked that you let me know about road problems with potholes or other issues in our district by emailing me at TomYoung@schouse.gov or calling me so that I can let the SCDOT and/or the County know about the problem. I heard from many of you and I have let the appropriate agencies know of those concerns.

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

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