Update – May 31 to June 6, 2010

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

Last Week of Session: This past week was the end of the regular 2010 legislative session for both the House and the Senate. Both bodies are expected to return at least one day beginning on June 15 to address potential vetoes of some legislation passed in the last few days of the 2010 session.

State Budget: What a week on the budget! On Tuesday, members were briefed about the conference report which House and Senate conferees agreed to after session ended the previous week. Then, on Wednesday, the House voted on passing the budget with the conference report and the vote failed 47 to 69. (I was one of 23 Republicans voting against the budget proposal on Wednesday due to the concerns described below.) After that vote failed, the House Republican Caucus met for a total of nearly 5 hours on Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning. During those meetings, commitments were made to address concerns that some House Republicans had with the budget and items to be funded in the budget. Those concerns included $3 Million for a study of the I-95 corridor; ensuring that zero based budgeting requirements will be considered for the 2011 fiscal year budget; funding for certain controversial entitlement programs; and funding certain state agencies with Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) program money which may not come later this year from the federal government. Another issue raised by some members was funding of certain abortion procedures in the state health insurance plan. After satisfactorily addressing all of these concerns, a second and final vote was taken on the budget with the conference report and the budget passed by a vote of 64 to 54. (I voted for the budget on the second vote.) All House Democrats except one voted against the budget. Many of the reasons stated during the floor debate by House Democrats included that the legislature was cutting too many entitlement programs and not agreeing to raise taxes this year. Now, the budget is with Governor Sanford for his consideration. He has the line item veto power so he can veto as many single line items as he chooses. All of his budget vetoes will be considered when the House returns on June 15.

Driving and High School Dropouts: This bill (H.3645) failed to get out of the Senate last week and is dead for the year since the regular session has now ended. Several senators at different times during the day on both Tuesday and Wednesday of last week held the bill up from getting a vote on the Senate floor. Senators Ryberg and Massey, other House members, and I tried to convince each senator who held the bill up at different times to drop his opposition but unfortunately time ran out on us. However, there is no time to be discouraged. I plan to refile the bill for next session, and I have already talked with the House Education Committee Chair who has committed to getting the bill out very early in the session next year so that running out of time will not be a problem with this bill next year. Many local residents in House District 81 contacted senators last week requesting that the bill be passed and the help of each of those residents is much appreciated as it did make a difference with the senators who were contacted.

Pay Day Lenders – Closing Loophole: Time ran out on getting this bill passed this year too. To recap, 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. The bill stayed in the House Labor, Commerce, and Industry Committee and never made it to the floor for consideration. Unsuccessful efforts in the House and the Senate were made to amend bills already on the floor of either body to include the language closing the supervised lending loophole.

Other Good Bills That Did Not Pass: Other good bills which the House passed but which did not pass the Senate because time ran out included, but were not limited to, the on the record voting bill; a bill setting mandatory jail time for criminal solicitation of a minor child; a bill banning texting while driving; and a prohibition on private transfer fees. I expect these bills to be refiled next session.

Voter Identification Bill: This bill came back from its conference committee between the House and the Senate. A vote is expected on the final version on June 15. My understanding is that the bill requires voter identification to vote. The photo identification requirement will start in the 2012 elections. Also, it has an eight day period for early voting. This eight day period is from Saturday to Saturday prior to an election day. Finally, the bill still allows absentee voting under certain circumstances during the 30 days prior to an election.

Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund: Governor Sanford signed into law legislation to restore the solvency of the State’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund. New changes will start on January 1, 2011. The new law separates South Carolina businesses into twenty categories while reducing rates for those businesses that use the system the least and increasing rates for those that use the system the most. My understanding is that the Department of Employment and Workforce will send a packet to businesses explaining the new law in the near future, and it will post information the Department’s website soon.

Children’s Dental Health: According to a report from the Pew Center on the States which I received last week, South Carolina is the top state in the nation for ensuring dental health and access to dental care for disadvantaged children. Research indicates that poor dental care in children contributes to lost school time; challenges learning; and impaired nutrition and health. When we are so accustomed to seeing South Carolina near the bottom in so many areas in rankings of the fifty states, it is encouraging to see our state at the top in a positive area.

SCE&G Rate Hike Request: The State Public Service Commission (PSC) has to approve the request and a decision is expected in July of this year. 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.

Federal Government Settlement with Norfolk Southern: Senator Massey, Rep. Roland Smith, and I are writing the federal judge who recently approved the proposed federal government settlement with Norfolk Southern without a public hearing. As you may recall, Senator Massey and I both filed objections to the proposed settlement with Norfolk Southern. Additionally, other local residents did. We were all waiting to learn of a date for a public hearing to be held in Aiken at the Federal Courthouse when the Federal Court considered 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. Many people in the community are upset with how this was handled.

Congratulations to Graduating High School Seniors!: Graduations for local high schools were held this past week. All of the graduating seniors are congratulated on their accomplishment and wished the best of luck in the future!

Tea Party Rally: I was invited to speak at the tea party rally in the Alley in Aiken this past Saturday. I attended and I was impressed with the number of people in attendance.

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. We are working on securing a location and expect it to be some time during the week of June 21 or early in the week of June 28.

Speaking to Groups Around District: Several local 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 some time during the next few months, 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 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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