Update – April 12 to April 17, 2010

The House of Representatives reconvened this past week after a two week furlough. I hope that you find this update helpful and informative:

Driving and High School Dropouts: 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. The bill received a hearing in subcommittee this past Wednesday. Both the Department of Education and Department of Motor Vehicles expressed concerns over the current draft. At the committee’s request, I redrafted the bill and will present it again this Tuesday. It is critical that the bill come out of committee this week in order to have a chance to pass the General Assembly this year. Although this bill is not the “silver bullet” to the high school dropout problem, it is part of the solution in our effort to combat the high school dropout rate in the short term.

Sprinklers Bill: After writing about this bill last week, I received lots of comments most of which were in favor of eliminating the requirement for new residential construction to have sprinkler systems installed. To recap, 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 eliminates the sprinklers requirement in new single family homes. It should be noted that the sprinkler requirement will not apply to new mobile homes. I plan to support the bill to eliminate the sprinkler requirement. The bill may come up this week.

General Reserve Fund: The House passed a bill raising the general reserve fund requirements from three percent to five percent. The bill has already passed the Senate and now heads to the Governor for his consideration.

Handguns Stored Under the Seat: The Full Judiciary Committee will consider a bill this week that would allow people to store a handgun under the seat in their car. Current law allows a handgun to be stored in the glove compartment, console, or trunk of a motor vehicle. I am talking with law enforcement and others about this bill to form a position. I welcome your feedback on this or any other bill.

Cigarette Tax: The Senate approved a 50 cents a pack increase to the cigarette tax. Under the Senate plan, most of the money (about $130 Million) will go to fund Medicaid programs. A fraction will go toward cancer research and smoking cessation programs. The Senate took out several “pork projects” which it had inserted in an earlier version of the bill. Because the Senate version is different from the bill that the House passed last year, the House will have to consider the Senate bill in the coming weeks.

Board of Trustee Elections: The General Assembly held elections for several college and university board of trustee seats this past Wednesday. While most of the seats were decided before the elections on Wednesday since many candidates withdrew prior to Wednesday’s elections, a handful of seats were not decided until Wednesday. One of the seats which received a substantial amount of media attention in recent weeks was the race for the 16th circuit seat on the USC Board of Trustees. Leah Moody, the only African American on the USC Board, was running to hold on to the seat which she had held since being appointed by the Governor to fill the seat last year after the resignation of the previous trustee holding the seat. By a vote of 80-77, Moody held on to the seat this past week. I voted for Moody.

Splash Blending Bill: The House by a near unanimous vote overrode Governor Sanford’s veto of the splash blending bill. This bill would allow small gas and oil companies and distributors to blend ethanol in South Carolina. Current law only allows large companies like BP and Exxon to blend ethanol in South Carolina. If the Senate overrides the Governor’s veto, this bill should help lower the price of some types of gas in our state.

Speaking in Aiken: Last Tuesday, I spoke at the Kappa Delta Pi education honor society induction at USC Aiken. If you know of a group that would like me to speak, please let me know.

Ola Hitt’s 100th Birthday Celebration: On Saturday, I attended Ola Hitt’s 100th Birthday Celebration at Aiken’s First Baptist Church. While there, I presented Ms. Hitt with a House resolution honoring her for her many contributions to greater Aiken and to South Carolina. Over two hundred people attended the event to honor Ms. Hitt.

Federal Government Settlement with Norfolk Southern: Recently, the Federal Government proposed a 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 filed an objection during the 30 day period to object to the proposed settlement. A public hearing is expected in Aiken at the Federal Courthouse when the Federal Court considers whether to approve the settlement. When I find out when the hearing will be, I will post it in this column. 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.

SCE&G Rate Hike Request – Local Hearing Scheduled: The State Public Service Commission (PSC) will hold a public hearing on SCE&G’s proposed rate hike request on Thursday, May 6 at 6:00 p.m. at Aiken Tech. The PSC will have to approve the rate hike request. Currently, the PSC has public hearings scheduled in Columbia (May 24), Summerville (April 26), and Charleston (April 27). I will not be able to attend the hearing that night, but I will be provided a summary of the comments. If you want me to know your thoughts, please let me know.

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 three 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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