Update – May 24 to May 30, 2010

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

Memorial Day: On Saturday, I was in the Aiken Memorial Day Parade. We really enjoyed it; it was well attended; and the organizers did a great job with making sure that it went well. I hope that all of you took time over the weekend to remember the sacrifices of those who gave their all for us while wearing our country’s uniform.

Last Week of Session: The House and Senate meet this week and will adjourn on Thursday, June 4 for the year. Both bodies are expected to return at least one day later in June to address potential vetoes of some legislation passed in the last few days of the 2010 session.

State Budget: House and Senate conferees met this past week to work out differences in the House and Senate versions of the budget. My understanding is that they finished meeting late on Thursday after agreeing not to include fee increases in the general fund budget and restoring some of the money which had been cut from rural health care programs the week before in the House budget. Members will be provided more details this week when session returns.

Driving and High School Dropouts: This bill (H.3645) has passed the House and is now in the Senate. It passed the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday, May 25. It is now in the Senate for consideration. As of today, one Senator is holding up the bill – Senator Kevin Bryant. His number is (803) 212-6024 and his email is KevinBryant@scsenate.gov. Please contact him and ask him to lift his opposition to this bill. 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. It is undisputed that the high school dropout rate perpetuates social ills such as crime, teenage pregnancy, infant mortality, juvenile delinquency, and high unemployment. All of these areas cost taxpayers money in some way or another. The statistics show that about 80% of those who dropout do so in the 9th or 10th grade. If we can get more kids to stay in school until the 11th grade, then it is much more likely that they will graduate. The data also shows that those who finish high school will earn about $1 Million more on average over their lifetime than those who do not finish high school. Raising the average educational attainment of our citizens will also improve the quality of our state’s workforce helping make our state more attractive to new industry expansion. The bottom line is we have to encourage more kids to stay in school and finish versus dropping out. 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. If you also believe that this bill is long overdue, then I encourage you to contact as many state senators as you can and ask them to support passage of H.3645.

Pay Day Lenders – Closing Loophole: Last year, the General Assembly passed legislation imposing strict regulations on the pay day lending industry. Before the effective date of that new legislation, some lenders in the state late last year switched their licenses to become supervised lenders. Supervised lenders can charge any interest rate as long as they are licensed, notify the state, and post the rate. They can offer small unsecured loans for terms longer than a two-week pay day loan. To fix this loophole, the Senate passed a bill making the terms of a supervised loan 120 days or more and requiring such loans to be secured by personal property and not a post-dated check which is the collateral for a pay day loan. The Senate bill arrived in the the House on April 20. Since that time, the bill is in the House Labor, Commerce, and Industry Committee and not made it to the floor for consideration. Thus, efforts are ongoing in the House and the Senate to amend bills already on the floor of either body to include the language closing the supervised lending loophole.

Spending Limitations Bill: The House passed statutory language this past week to limit state spending to the consumer price index (CPI) plus population growth. Under the House bill, the legislature could spend surpluses in future years on temporary tax relief, one time infrastructure improvements, one time school improvements, and other similar items. The bill now goes back to the Senate. I voted for the bill.

Grandparent Visitation: Unlike other states, South Carolina Family Law has not been as friendly toward grandparents and their visitation rights where the parents are divorced and/or a parent is deceased. Last week, the House passed a bill that allows the Court to grant grandparent visitation rights if the Court finds that the child’s parents are depriving the grandparent visitation with the child and that the parents are unfit or that there are compelling circumstances to overcome the presumption that the parental decision is in the child’s best interest.

Surface Water Withdrawal: Water rights and surface water withdrawal is becoming a big issue around the nation including here in South Carolina. Over the past four years, a wide consortium of business groups, conservation groups, and concerned citizens have worked on a surface water withdrawal permit law for South Carolina. This bill passed the House this week. Aspects of the bill include requiring a permit from the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) for surface water withdrawals of 3 million gallons or more per month and requiring applicants to demonstrate “reasonable use;”
directing DHEC to establish the minimum instream flow and safe yield for all river basins in the state (Minimum instream flow is the flow downstream of a point of withdrawal not subject to allocation that is necessary to maintain the biological, chemical and physical integrity of the stream); and “grandfathering” existing surface water withdrawers into the program at their current level or at a reasonable predicted future level of use. Existing withdrawers must adhere to permit criteria and then submit a full application upon renewal. I supported the legislation.

SCE&G Rate Hike Request: SCE&G has lowered its rate hike request from nearly 10 percent to 4.88 percent. The rate increase would be phased in over three years: 2.5 percent in July 2010, 1.2 percent in July 2011, and 1.18 percent in July 2012. Under the proposal, the average residential customer’s bill would go up about $69.48 a year, or about $5.79 per month if approved. The State Public Service Commission (PSC) has to approve the request and a decision is expected in July of this year. A transcript of the May 6 Aiken hearing on this issue can be reviewed by clicking here.

Federal Government Settlement with Norfolk Southern: As you may recall, Senator Massey and I both filed objections to the proposed settlement with Norfolk Southern. Additionally, other local residents did. We have all been waiting to learn of a date for a 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. Apparently, on May 19, without our knowledge, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Justice obtained the federal judge’s approval to the settlement without a public hearing. Senator Massey, Rep. Roland Smith, and I did not learn that this happened until May 24, and we are very upset that the public was not given an opportunity to attend a public hearing even after objections were noted requesting that a public hearing be held. We are looking into what, if anything, can be done at this time.

Visiting the State House: Recently, the third graders from St. Mary’s school visited the State House for a tour. Also, local physician and Congressional candidate Mike Vasovski visited the House of Representatives last week. If you are planning to visit the State House, let me know and I will do all that I can to assist you in your visit.

Aiken County Public Library Summer Reading Program: The annual summer reading program for children through the 5th grade has started at the Aiken County Public Library. The Program runs through July 31. Children who read the required number of books will receive a medal and a certificate of completion. Reading is essential to doing well in school. Please encourage as many young people as you can to read this summer. For more information, call the Aiken County Public Library or go to this link.

Town Meeting: I am planning a town meeting to provide an end of session report for the latter part of June. I will provide more details as to the date, location, and time in next week’s report.

Speaking to Groups Around District: Several groups have asked me to come to provide an end of session report to their members. If you have a group that would like for me to come, please let me know.

Email Updates: Many people in District 81 are receiving this email update. However, there are many others who do not receive them because I do not know their email addresses. If you know of people who do not receive my updates but they would like to, please email their names and email addresses to me.

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 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