Update: May 3- May 8

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) was amended on third reading last week on the House floor after two state home school associations expressed concern over language in the bill that may affect how often home school students and their parents report attendance to their home school governing board. Opponents of the bill have also been spreading inaccurate statements including that the bill raises the mandatory school attendance age to 18 and that students who graduate from high school early before age 18 cannot get or keep a driver’s license until they reach age 18. The bill does neither of these and these statements are not accurate. The bill will be up for final third reading passage on Tuesday, May 11. An effort to kill the bill last Thursday was pushed back by a vote of 67-35. The bill must pass the House this week and then 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. It is undisputed that the high school dropout rate perpetuates social ills such as crime, teenage pregnancy, infant mortality, juvenile delinquency, and high unemployment. If you also believe that this bill is long overdue, then I encourage you to contact as many state representatives and senators as you can asking them to support passage of H.3645.

High School Students and Technical Coursework: During the debate about the high school dropout bill, some people have asked about nontraditional course work and what is available for students in South Carolina public schools. I researched and found out that there are a total of 39 Career and Technology Centers in the state with an enrollment of 30,098 students. There are 104 Comprehensive High Schools that offer a full compliment of Career and Technical Programs as part of the high school program. The remaining 100 high schools feed into one of the 39 Career and Technology Centers. Also, these 100 high schools offer Career and Technical Programs on their campuses as well. A total of 170,000 of the 200,000 high school students in South Carolina public schools take one or more technical courses. Here in Aiken County, over 400 students are enrolled at the Career and Technology Center across from Aiken Tech. They can take courses related to computers, electrical, automotive, cosmetology, and other fields while also continuing to get their basic core curriculum in one of the seven county high schools.

Voter Identification: The House approved legislation on Wednesday that will require voters in South Carolina to present a valid photo identification when casting a ballot in elections. The bill now heads to a conference committee because there are differences in the House and Senate versions as to the length of time to be allowed for in person early voting and absentee voting. Requiring photo identification to vote has been instituted in other states and upheld as constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court. If a resident voter does not have a photo identification, then the S.C. Department of Motor Vehicles is authorized to issue one under the legislation. I voted in favor of the bill.

Cigarette Tax: The Senate voted 41-1 to concur with the House’s amendments to the cigarette tax legislation. The bill raises the cigarette tax 50 cents a pack. 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. There is no funding for projects in communities located along I-95. (An earlier Senate version included such spending.) The Governor is expected to veto the bill. I plan to vote to override the veto based largely upon the overwhelming feedback from hundreds of people in District 81. I appreciate feedback on this or any other issue.

Handguns Stored Under the Seat: The Full Judiciary Committee considered this bill that would allow people to store a handgun under the seat in their automobile. Current law allows a handgun to be stored in the glove compartment, console, or trunk of a motor vehicle. The bill was amended to allow Concealed Weapon Permit Holders to store a gun under the seat of a vehicle. I supported the amendment.

Protection of Police Officers: The Full Judiciary Committee also passed legislation that will require violent crime offenders to have an identification code placed on the back of their South Carolina driver’s licenses for up to five years after the completion of their sentence and/or parole. The intent is to alert police officers to former violent crime offenders in a roadside stop quicker than the time it takes for the officer to go back to the patrol vehicle and enter the driver’s license information and criminal history. The bill has already passed the Senate. I support the legislation.

Real Estate Transfer Fees: The House did not get to this bill last week. To recap, 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 plan to vote in favor of the bill prohibiting this practice in South Carolina.

State Budget: The House is waiting on the Senate budget to come back to it for consideration. If the House concurs, then it goes to the Governor. If the House does not concur, then it goes to a Conference Committee. Hopefully, House members will be provided details of the Senate budget this week

MCA Sign Company Investment for Aiken County: Last week, the S.C. Department of Commerce and the Aiken/Edgefield Economic Development Partnership announced that MCA Sign Company (“MCA”) will locate its new company headquarters in Aiken County. MCA has been in business for over 100 years and is consolidating its operations in several states into one location here in the former Avondale Horsecreek building in Graniteville. MCA’s investment will total $12 Million and it plans to employ 125 people at the site.

SCE&G Rate Hike Request – Local Hearing Held on May 6: The State Public Service Commission (PSC) held a public hearing on SCE&G’s proposed rate hike request on Thursday, May 6 at 6:00 p.m. at Aiken Tech. Another hearing is scheduled in Columbia on May 24. A transcript of the Aiken hearing is to be made available soon. I will provide a link to it in a future column.

Federal Government Settlement with Norfolk Southern: A date has not been set 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.

Congratulations!: Congratulations to all of those who graduated from USC Aiken and Aiken Tech last week. Additional congratulations to Aiken resident Paul Rideout who was named the U.S. Small Business Administration Financial Services Champion of the Year. Paul is a Senior Vice President at Security Federal Bank.

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.

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.

Leave a Comment