Update – April 26 to May 1, 2010

The House of Representatives met this past week. I hope that you find this update helpful and informative:

Driving and High School Dropouts: This bill (H.3645) passed its second reading on the floor on Thursday afternoon by a vote of 67-29. However, the bill did not receive unanimous consent for third reading on Friday before the “crossover deadline” of May 1. Because the bill did not receive third reading before the “crossover deadline” of May 1, two thirds of the Senate will have to agree to take up the bill this month. Otherwise, the bill will not become law this year and it will have to be refiled next year starting over the process to become law. To recap, 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 including where the young person has to go to work to support himself or his immediate family. 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. In fact, South Carolina first recognized the need for this legislation in 1989 in the Governor’s Commission on the Future Report. Since then, a generation of children have passed through our schools. If you also believe that this bill is long overdue, then I encourage you to contact as many state senators as you can asking them (1) to take up H.3645 and (2) to support H.3645 this month.

School Districts and Pay Raises: On Tuesday, the House voted to give School Districts the discretion this year to decide whether or not to give teachers in the district their annual pay raises. Under the measure approved by the House, school districts which decide not to give teachers pay raises cannot then give administrators pay increases. In other words, districts cannot raise administrators’ pay without also raising teachers’ pay. I voted in favor of this legislation.

Warrantless Searches: On Wednesday, the House overrode the Governor’s veto of this bill by one vote – 74 to 37. I voted to override the veto. To recap, this bill allows warrantless searches of people on either probation or parole. The bill has substantial support from law enforcement agencies and local governments across the state as it is widely viewed as a way for authorities to combat criminal activities by repeat offenders. Both the House and Senate passed the bill earlier this year. Governor Sanford then vetoed this bill. The Senate then overrode the veto. Now, the House has done the same.

Restructuring — Superintendent of Education: Last year, I filed several restructuring reform bills including legislation to allow South Carolina voters to decide whether to amend the State Constitution so that certain constitutional officers who are currently popularly elected would in the future be appointed by the Governor as part of the Governor’s cabinet. The bill concerning the Secretary of State was the first to reach the House floor for a vote. It received the necessary two thirds vote in favor in the House in late February and then went to the Senate. On Thursday of this past week, the bill concerning the Superintendent of Education failed to receive the necessary two thirds vote (83 votes) in favor in the House falling short with 72 votes. That bill is now defeated for this session.

Real Estate Transfer Fees: A bill is pending that will prohibit Transfer Fee Covenants or Freehold Licensing Arrangements as fees for residential real estate developers. This practice is not currently being used in South Carolina to my knowledge. However, it is a growing trend in some other states and current state law will not prohibit it if it was to happen here. The way it works is that the residential real estate developer attaches covenants to the properties in the new subdivisions. The covenants provide that fees are to be paid to the developer or some trust for the benefit of the developer every time the property changes hands over a period of up to 99 years. In other words, it allows the developer to create a stream of passive income for many years to come after the subdivision is built, every lot/house is sold, and all active participation in the subdivision by the developer is ended. Buried in the covenants is a fee (usually a percentage of the price of the home) that is required to be paid to the developer or his successor upon the sale or transfer of the property. I just learned about this last week and a bill to prohibit this practice is on the fast track in the House. I plan to vote in favor of the bill prohibiting this practice in South Carolina.

Cigarette Tax: As I wrote last week, the House agreed to a 50 cents a pack increase to the cigarette tax. Under the 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. A push to lower the tax to 30 cents failed in the House. The House removed any funding for projects in communities located along I-95. The Governor is expected to veto the bill. I plan to vote to override the veto based based largely upon the overwhelming feedback from hundreds of people in District 81. I appreciate feedback on this or any other issue.

Sprinklers Bill: The House also passed the sprinklers bill this week. 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. The “sprinklers bill” eliminates the sprinklers requirement in new single family homes. It should be noted that the sprinkler requirement in the residential building code will not apply to new mobile homes. I voted in favor of the bill to eliminate the sprinkler requirement.

State Budget: Early Friday morning, the Senate finished working on its version of the State Budget. I will provide more information when the Senate bill comes back to the House in the next couple of weeks.

Visitors at the State House: Dr. Beth Everitt, Superintendent of the Aiken County Public Schools, was at the State House on Wednesday. She was joined by other school board members including Rosemary English, Levi Green, Wesley Hightower, and Ray Fleming. Also, at the State House this past week was Dr. Ronnie Lee who is a candidate for the Clemson University Board of Trustees. Finally, Barb Rollins and several students from the Aiken area in the AAA Home School Band performed on the State House grounds on Wednesday.

SCE&G Rate Hike Request – Local Hearing is this week on May 6: 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.

Federal Government Settlement with Norfolk Southern: I do not know the date for the public hearing to be held in Aiken at the Federal Courthouse when the Federal Court considers whether to approve the Federal Government’s settlement with Norfolk Southern. When I find out when the hearing will be, I will post it in this column.

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

Responding to Email Feedback: I have received a very large volume of email feedback two weeks ago. I am responding to it as quickly as I can. Please know that if you have not heard back from me, you will soon.

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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