Update – April 5 to April 9, 2010

I hope that you and your family enjoyed Masters week which was also Spring Break here in Aiken County for the schools. The House of Representatives did not meet this past week. The House is on furlough and reconvenes this week on April 13. I hope that you find this update helpful and informative:

Cross Over Deadline: May 1 is the “Cross Over Deadline” in the General Assembly. This means that for any bill that is still pending to have a chance to pass this year, the bill has to pass either the House or the Senate on or before May 1 and then go to the other body for consideration. If passage of the bill does not meet that deadline, then the bill essentially dies for the year unless it can be tacked on to another piece of legislation that makes the deadline. Because of the “Cross Over Deadline,” both the House and the Senate will be busy in the coming weeks.

Driving and High School Dropouts: I expect this bill to come up this week in subcommittee as we try to beat the “Cross Over Deadline.” This bill prohibits possession of a driver’s license until age 18 unless the young person is enrolled in, or has completed, high school. The bill does have a hardship provision for some limited exceptions. 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.

Sprinklers Bill: South Carolina has adopted certain portions of the model residential building code effective January 1, 2011. One of the requirements of the code is that newly constructed single family homes after January 1, 2011 will have to have sprinklers installed in them. The cost can add several thousand dollars to the expense of building a new home. Legislation is pending which would eliminate the sprinklers requirement in new single family homes. It should be noted that the sprinkler requirement will not apply to new mobile homes. Compared to the other 49 states, South Carolina has one of the highest percentages of its citizens living in mobile homes. I am planning to support the bill to eliminate the sprinkler requirement. I welcome your feedback on this or any other issue.

Prescribed Burning: Last year, Horry County saw a huge forest fire which burned thousands of acres of forestland and also burned many homes in the greater Myrtle Beach area. Forestry officials working with many conservation groups and other parties have crafted a bill which will change the liability standard in current state law to encourage more landowners to use prescribed burning techniques. The bill will be on the House calendar when we return. In Aiken, prescribed burning is used in Hitchcock Woods each year to burn undergrowth. I have spoken with the Hitchcock Woods staff and others about the pending legislation and the benefits of prescribed burning. I will support the bill.

Census: By now, you should have received your census form in the mail. I strongly encourage you to complete it and return it. Census data will determine how billions of dollars in federal aid to states is divided for highways, airports, Medicaid, housing, and business loans. Each gain or loss of 500,000 residents is worth about $1.5 Billion in federal aid to a state. Additionally, the Census data will be used to reapportion the seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. Right now, South Carolina is projected to gain one seat giving our state 7 members of the U.S. House instead of the current 6. Other states expected to gain seats are Georgia, Florida, Texas, Nevada, Utah, Oregon, and Washington.

Federal Government Settlement with Norfolk Southern: In the past four columns, I wrote about the Federal Government’s proposed settlement with Norfolk Southern as to the Government’s lawsuit for environmental contamination after the 2005 chlorine spill in Graniteville. The proposed terms of the settlement include $4 Million being paid by Norfolk Southern to the Government’s Oil Spill and Hazardous Waste funds. Also, the local communities affected by the spill will receive 3,000 fish released into Langley Pond and some trees to be planted along Horse Creek. I am very disappointed in the proposed terms and what is being offered to the local communities affected by the spill. Last week during the 30 day period to object to the proposed settlement, I filed an objection as an elected official representing much the affected area. A public hearing is expected in Aiken at the Federal Courthouse when the Federal Court considers whether to approve the settlement. We do not know the date of that hearing yet but will make sure it is in the local papers when we do know. The proposed Settlement may be examined on the following Department of Justice Web site: http://www.usdoj.gov/enrd/Consent-Decrees.html.

Celebrate Aiken!: I attended the Jim Harrison “Scenes of Aiken” Exhibition on March 31 at the Aiken Center for the Arts on Laurens Street. The exhibit will be displayed through May 8. If you have not seen it, I encourage you to do so. Mr. Harrison’s art includes over 20 new originals of local scenes here in greater Aiken.

Small Business Development Center at USC Aiken: Recently, I visited the Small Business Development Center at USCA. This facility has a lot to offer both to existing small businesses and to those looking to start a business. If you are interested in these types of services, please check out the Center’s website at http://www.usca.edu/sbdc/.

SCE&G Rate Hike Request: Several Aiken County residents have contacted me and others on the legislative delegation about SCE&G’s proposed rate hike request. The State Public Service Commission (PSC) will have to approve the request. Currently, the PSC has public hearings scheduled in Columbia (May 24), Summerville (April 26), and Charleston (April 27). The Aiken County Legislative Delegation requested a public hearing to be held by the PSC here in Aiken County. As of now, we expect this hearing to be on May 6 in the early evening at a location to be determined.

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 two and a half months, I have received many different reports of problems and I have relayed those to the appropriate agencies.

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 issues. Your feedback is meaningful and appreciated.

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