Update – July 26 to August 8, 2010

The House of Representatives has adjourned for the 2010 session. I hope that you find this update for the past two weeks helpful and informative:

Planning for the 2011 Legislative Session: The 2011 legislative session will convene on the second Tuesday in January. I am seeking input from constituents on the critical issues facing our state and area including tax reform; spending reform; K-12 education; the costs of higher education; health care; immigration; economic development; job growth; and the underfunded liabilities in our state’s retirement systems. Your input is welcome on any issue important to you. Please email me back in response to this or future updates or contact me by phone or in person at your convenience.

States and Budget Shortfalls: We have all heard a lot about South Carolina’s budget shortfalls during the past two legislative sessions. South Carolina is not alone. In recent weeks, I read that 46 states are anticipating budget shortfalls for 2011. Only Arkansas, Alaska, Montana, and North Dakota are not at this time. States are cutting spending including state payrolls; school aid; and health care. Many are also raising taxes with 17 raising sales taxes; 13 raising income taxes; and 22 raising excise taxes. Combined state budget shortfalls are expected to be $180 Billion in 2011. I am researching to find out what Arkansas, Alaska, Montana, and North Dakota have done to remain in the black. As for South Carolina, we need to implement zero based budgeting principles in the budgeting process as to all functions, programs, and overhead of agencies. We also need to scrutinize the state budget as to how general fund, federal funds, and other funds monies are allocated, spent, and, in some cases, carried over from one fiscal year to the next.

Latest Test Results from S.C. Elementary and Middle School Students: I read an article this past week about the latest test results of South Carolina’s elementary and middle school students. Students showed improvement in reading and writing but either held steady or declined slightly in math, science, and social studies. Particularly relevant is that wide achievement gaps exist between African-American and white students in all subjects. Further, younger students (third graders) are more likely to meet standards than are older students (eighth graders). Finally, the students who are strong readers in the third grade are more likely to achieve academic success later in school. In my view, this finding again emphasizes that reading is the key to success, and it is critical that children be able to read at grade level before advancing to the next grade. To access the full article, please click here.

Prayer Rally in Aiken: I attended Monday evening’s prayer rally in the Alley before the City Council meeting. There were hundreds of people gathered to show their support of prayer at the beginning of Aiken City Council meetings. The SC House begins each day of session with a prayer. I see no reason why our City Council should not and I support beginning the meetings with prayer.

Avondale Water System Improvements Update: Work continues on the former Avondale Water System. About 50% of the lines are in the ground for phase one for the water lines. About 25% of the lines are in the ground for the sewer side of the project. Everything is on schedule to date according to the project managers.

Aiken County Legislative Delegation Meeting: The Aiken County Legislative Delegation will meet on Monday, August 16 at 5:00 p.m. at the Aiken County Council Chambers. There are two people on the agenda currently to make presentations to the Delegation. The public is invited.

Public Education Partners: Public Education Partners of Aiken County recently saw the retirement of its Executive Director Diane Mangiante after 15 years of service. Diane will be missed and her contributions over the past 15 years are much appreciated by many in our community.

Aiken Senior Extravaganza 2010: The City of Aiken will have its annual Aiken Senior Extravaganza again on Wednesday, September 15 at the H. Odell Weeks Center from 8:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. The event offers seniors, and those interested in issues facing seniors, an opportunity to spend a day in educational seminars and to browse the display fair. The educational seminars will be limited to the first 300 people to register including a t-shirt and catered lunch with Keynote speaker. The Health Fair and displays will be open to the public and pre-registration is not required. Age: 50 and over: Cost: FREE : Wednesday, September 16, 8:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. For more information, please call 642-7631.

Traveling Art Exhibit at Aiken Center for the Arts: The South Carolina State Museum and the South Carolina Watermedia Society have partnered to present the Traveling Watermedia Exhibition which is in Aiken at the Center for the Arts from August 5 – 28. The exhibition includes 30 paintings by 30 artists from around the state. Admission is free.

Speaking to Groups Around the District: Several local groups have asked me to attend one of their meetings to provide an end of session report to their members. If you have a group that would like for me to come to a meeting 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 seven 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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