Update – February 16 to February 18, 2010

The House of Representatives met this week and meets again next Tuesday, February 23. I hope that you find this update helpful and informative:

Yucca Mountain: This week, I met with state and county leaders as both the State and Aiken County consider ways to combat the recent Obama Administration decision to close Yucca Mountain as the permanent site for the nation’s spent nuclear waste. Despite nearly thirty years of public investment and research in the Yucca Mountain project, the Obama Administration’s recent budget decision to close Yucca Mountain is being made without congressional input or approval. The Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 appears to require that Congress must affirmatively approve the change that the Obama Administration is trying to do. The County and the State are considering legal action to obtain an injunction to prevent any federal government action to stop the Yucca Mountain program without congressional approval. As of today, Aiken County is moving forward and we are waiting to hear from the Attorney General as to whether South Carolina will join in the County’s effort. As I wrote last week, many people are working to ensure that high level spent nuclear waste currently stored at SRS does not remain there permanently.

State Budget: We met with members of the House Ways and Means Committee this week. The Committee will finish work on the budget next Friday. That budget is expected to show substantial additional cuts in many state agencies as the state continues to experience the economic downturn and decreased state revenues. I along with other members of the House not on the Ways and Means Committee suggested that the Committee look hard at eliminating funding for some state agencies that are not essential to the operation of state government. I believe that we should consider eliminating funding for a nonessential state government programs before we cut education, law enforcement, and health care programs. As I wrote a few weeks ago, South Carolina is one of 46 states experiencing significant budget problems this year. The budget process will be intense and painful, but I can assure you that I will do all that I can to make the best of this tough situation.

Employment Security Commission (ESC) Reform: The House approved a bill this week that reforms the ESC in the wake of the recent audits listing many problems.
The reforms approved Wednesday include creating a new Department of the Workforce in the governor’s cabinet, and moving several workforce and unemployment responsibilities from the ESC and the Department of Commerce to the new agency. The legislation also abolishes the board of the ESC and puts an executive director in charge. This is the second ESC reform bill to be approved by the House this year. The first was a series of procedural reforms that included 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. I support both bills which now are in the Senate.

Economic Development: The economic development bill prepared by House leadership this past fall was approved in committee this week and will be on the House floor next week. The legislation includes several tax and regulation changes that businesses said are necessary to help business in creating more jobs. I am joining several House members to include more in the bill to help small businesses in South Carolina. If you have ideas on what the State can do to help small business in the current economic climate, please email me back.
Campaign Finance Reform: This bill has been worked on since early last year and passed the House this week. It requires all elected officials and candidates for those offices from city council candidates to state-wide candidates to file on-line so that their financial reports (contributions and expenditures) can be easily viewed by voters too. The bill also addresses the so-called “black out” period which exists between the time that a candidate files the last pre-election report and the day that the voters go to the polls. This “black out” period is roughly the last twenty days before the election. The bill says that state law now requires that contributions received in the “black out” period have to be reported within 48 hours of receipt. I cosponsored and supported the bill. The bill now heads to the Senate.

Driving and High School Dropouts: The bill that I sponsored last March prohibiting possession of a driver’s license until age 18 unless the young person is enrolled in, or has completed, high school did not come up this week in subcommittee. It is set for a subcommittee hearing this coming week with the House Education and Public Works Committee. As I wrote last week, I have spoken to many groups of students from 3rd graders to 12th graders and I mentioned this bill. Without exception, this bill gets their attention and I am confident that if it becomes law this year, then it will be a way that we can combat the high school dropout rate in the short term.

Texting While Driving: On Tuesday, the full House Education and Public Works Committee passed out the ban on both texting and cell phone use while driving. The bill now heads to the House floor. I have received lots of feedback on this issue. Everyone who has talked to me has stated that they want a ban on texting while driving. However, as to cell phone use, folks are mixed on that issue. I welcome feedback on this or any other issue.

Avondale Water System: Great News! The closing to transfer the system from Avondale to VPSA and Aiken County took place this week on February 16, 2010. Thank you to all of those people with VPSA, the County, the State, the Legislative Delegation, Avondale, and other concerned citizens who worked real hard over the last eighteen (18) months to make this transfer a reality to help the affected areas of our District and County.

Golf Cart Use: Last year, I was contacted by several folks in our district asking me to look at expanding the distance from a home or business in which a golf cart could legally be driven on secondary roads. After review, I sponsored a bill last year to allow golf cart use on secondary roads within five miles of the owner’s home or business. Current law allows use within two miles. The bill came up this week for a subcommittee hearing. At the hearing, the Director of the State Department of Public Safety stated that he did not have any data to support his opinion but he provided some reasons as to his personal belief that expanding the distance was not a good idea. I agree and I have taken the necessary steps to stop the legislation from going further.

Job Fair: Early last Fall, I asked the Employment Security Commission to host a Job Fair here in greater Aiken to assist those who are looking for work. That Job Fair is set for Saturday, March 27 at a location and time to be determined. I will post more information when I know it.

Road Issues: If you see a road problem, you can call the SCDOT at 641-7665 or Aiken County at 642-1532 to report the problem. If you do not get a prompt response, please let me know at TomYoung@schouse.gov or call me. In the past four weeks, I have received many different reports of problems and I have relayed those to the appropriate agencies. The SCDOT and the County Transportation Committee have identified a list of roads in Aiken County that have been prioritized for resurfacing. I have posted the list of primary roads and it can be accessed at this link.

Thank you for the opportunity to represent you. Please let me know if I can help you in any way or if you have questions about these or other issue

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