Update –November 9 to November 18, 2010

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

S.C. House of Representatives Meets this Week: The S.C. House met yesterday and today of this week for the organizational session which takes place every two years some time during the month following the November elections. There are 20 new House members after the November 2, 2010 elections – 17 Republicans and 3 Democrats. Out of 124 members, there are now 76 Republicans and 48 Democrats.

Election for Speaker of the House: The election for Speaker of the House took place today soon after the beginning of the organizational session. The candidates were the current Speaker Bobby Harrell from Charleston and Ralph Norman from Rock Hill. Speaker Harrell won reelection by a vote of 112 to 5. Everyone from Aiken County voted for Harrell. Norman, from York County, received 4 votes from York County and one vote from Lexington County.

My Vote for Speaker of the House: During the past two and a half months, I received requests from people in the district to vote for Harrell and requests to vote for Norman for various reasons. In deciding how I would vote, I did several things including the following:

• I talked with both candidates about their reasons for running and their plans to work with Governor-elect Haley to move our state forward.
• I considered the fact that during my two years in the House of Representatives with Harrell as Speaker, the House has passed a number of reform and restructuring bills only to see them fail in the Senate. Those bills included legislation to remove the power of the State Budget & Control Board; to increase transparency by requiring more on the record votes; to create a joint ticket with the governor and lieutenant governor; to have state constitutional officers appointed by the governor instead of up for election; to reform the tort system including limits on punitive damage awards; to ban texting while driving; and to require that those under 18 either stay in school or graduate early in order to have the privilege to drive.
• I verified that Governor-elect Haley does not have a public favorite, and I noticed the endorsement of Harrell by U.S. Senator Jim DeMint; Congressman Joe Wilson; Attorney General Henry McMaster; State Treasurer-elect Curtis Loftis; Congressman-elect Tim Scott; and immediate past State Republican Party Chairman Katon Dawson.
• I confirmed that Harrell will support and not oppose efforts to increase transparency in the coming session.
• I also sought the counsel and opinions of many people including other elected officials both in and around our district.
• I prayed about the decision, and I studied a number of issues both raised by the candidates and the people who contacted me about my vote.
• I considered issues that may impact our district and Aiken County in the next two years including redistricting of Congressional, Senate, and House districts and working with the Department of Commerce and the legislature both to attract new industry and to help existing businesses.

After carefully weighing all the positives and negatives of voting each way and considering the various reasons offered both for and against each candidate, I decided that the best decision for our district and Aiken County was for my vote to go with Speaker Harrell. While a few people may have preferred that I vote for Norman regardless of other factors simply out of disdain for Harrell, I am confident that I made the right decision. I hope that most people in our district who were interested in the Speaker’s race trust my judgment and recognize that my decision was not made in haste but was the product of careful consideration and reflection as to what is best for our district, Aiken County, and our state at this time.

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 unfunded liabilities in our state’s retirement system. Your input is welcome on any issue important to you. Please email me back or contact me by phone or in person at your convenience.

Aiken County Legislative Delegation: Our legislative delegation met on Monday, November 8. Rep. Roland Smith was elected Chairman and Sen. Greg Ryberg was elected Vice-Chairman. The next meeting is on Monday, January 10, 2011 at 5:00 p.m.

Technical Colleges: South Carolina has several technical colleges located around the state. These colleges are critical in preparing our state’s workforce for maintaining existing industry and attracting new companies to our state. Some interesting statistics about our S.C. Technical Colleges are as follows:

• 2008-2009 annualized total enrollment was 226,042;
• 52% of all undergraduates in SC public higher education were enrolled in a SC Technical College in Fall 2009;
• 97% of all students enrolled in SC Technical Colleges in Fall 2009 were SC residents;
• 85% of Technical College students remain in SC upon graduation.

Aiken County Veterans Affairs/Veterans Day: Last Thursday, November 11, on Veterans Day, I attended the service at the Aiken County Veterans’ Park. In addition, our legislative delegation received an annual report from Aiken County Veterans’ Affairs. A copy of that report can be seen by clicking here.

York Street Bridge in City of Aiken: The S.C. Department of Transportation (DOT) has informed me the DOT will replace the York Street bridge over the Norfolk Southern Railroad bed in downtown Aiken. They will provide more detailed information of the project schedule in the near future.

Congratulations to the Aiken High Volleyball Team!: Aiken High’s volleyball team won the State Championship the weekend before last after defeating Rock Hill. The team will be honored on February 2, 2011 at the State House when the players and coaches are recognized by the S.C. House of Representatives.

Celebrate Aiken! Photos Needed: To debut the results from Aiken’s Tomorrow: Local Acts-Global Impacts, the updated City of Aiken Strategic Plan, and in support of the grand finale Celebrate Aiken! Birthday Party to be held at the USCA Convocation Center from 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, December 18th, 2010, the City of Aiken is asking citizens—whether pros or amateurs—to submit their photos to be considered for inclusion in super-sized birthday cards for Aiken’s turning 175 on December 19th, 2010 as well as an additional one for Aiken when it turns 200 on December 19th, 2035. Categories of photos for each card will be Aiken as a: Green City, Historic City, Family City, or as a Business City. Rules for submitting photos and the link to digitally upload your photos to be considered can be found at: http://www.cityofaikensc.gov/photo_submissions/
Deadline for submissions is midnight Sunday, November 21, 2010.
If you have questions, contact Richard Pearce at rpearce@cityofaikensc.gov or 642-7657.

Speaking In Schools: Last month, I was invited to speak to the 3rd grade students at East Aiken Elementary School. While there, I provided each of them a copy of the South Carolina symbols and emblems booklet. If you would like for me to speak with students in a local school, 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 general terms, most paved roads in the County are maintained by SCDOT and are identified on the road-sign poles by a small black and white sign listing the road number, such as S-2-1669. On the other hand, nearly all unpaved roads in the County are maintained by the County.

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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