Update –January 18 to January 24, 2011

The House of Representatives is in session for 2011. I hope that you find this update helpful and informative:

Governor Haley’s State of the State Address: On Wednesday, Governor Haley delivered her State of the State address. Recognizing the budget challenges we are facing this year, she focused on making tough budget decisions by examining agencies and adopting a zero based budgeting approach; realigning state agencies including placing more under the direct authority of the Governor; privatizing the school bus system; and overhauling the current outdated school funding formula. She suggested several cost-cutting measures ($120 Million worth) to address short falls in the General Funds budget including allowing generic drugs to be available more often for Medicaid recipients; consolidating prison administrative overhead; reducing the General Funds appropriations to the Arts Commission and ETV; and eliminating contract lobbyists hired by state agencies. Further, she asked that the final budget in each legislative chamber be available for review at least 72 hours before final passage – something which I supported last year but failed. Legislation is pending to make this a requirement and I am a co-sponsor.

Assistant Chief Floor Whip: House Republican Majority Leader Kenny Bingham asked me and I agreed to serve this session as one of four Assistant Chief Floor Whips for the House Republican Caucus.

Budget: I attended two House Ways and Means Committee meetings last week addressing both Other Funds in the budget and different scenarios to address the shortfall in the State’s General Funds budget. House budget leadership hopes to keep General Funds allocations to K-12 Education; Health and Human Services; Social Services; Disabilities and Special Needs; and Corrections at current levels. Rep. Bill Taylor and I also met with Ways and Means staff about Other Funds carry forward allocations within some state agencies. We will continue to work in this area before the budget debate in March.

Voter ID Bill: Also, on Tuesday, the voter ID bill which will require registered voters to show photo identification at the polls when voting passed the House Judiciary Committee by a 14-8 vote which fell along party lines. I serve on that committee and voted in favor of this legislation. The bill will now be on the House Floor for debate and passage on Wednesday of this week.

Education Cuts: New State Superintendent Mick Zais appeared before a House subcommittee last week and outlined cuts within K-12 education. He also asked for additional funding in some areas. A complete list of what he discussed can be seen by clicking here.

Clemson University: Clemson President James Barker appeared before a House subcommittee last week and provided interesting data about Clemson; its students; and state funding. For example, he said that because of Palmetto, Life, and Hope Scholarships available to resident South Carolina students, the average tuition and fees paid out of pocket by in state Freshman students at Clemson this past year was $3,462 which is about 32% of the cost of annual tuition for instate students. He said that 100% of the in-state Freshmen receive at least one scholarship and that 99% of them receive at least one of the three scholarships listed above. I have an inquiry into his office to find out how those numbers are for the non-Freshman in-state students. He also said that institutional support costs at Clemson are lower than at peer institutions such as UNC-Chapel Hill, NC State, Georgia, and Georgia Tech. To see his complete comments, you can go here.

Delay in Unemployment Checks Addressed: The House passed legislation this week to address a problem with delays with how long it takes some people in the state to receive unemployment benefits.

Tort Reform and School Choice Bills Filed: Last week, a tort reform bill similar to what the House passed last year was filed. Also, legislation to allow state tax credits in certain circumstances to qualifying families for children to attend non-public schools was filed. The bill is modeled after a similar law which passed in Florida about 10 years ago. I am studying the legislation and will provide more specifics in future update.

Energy Park at Savannah River Site: Last week, the Governor’s Nuclear Advisory Committee received a letter outlining a vision for an Energy Park at SRS. A copy of that letter can be seen here.

Savannah River Community Reuse Update: Also, there is a good summary of the Department of Energy’s Blue Ribbon Commission meeting and public hearing from January 7 in this month’s Savannah River Community Reuse Update. To see it, you may go here.

Construction Law Bill Forthcoming: A recent S.C Supreme Court decision held that insurance coverage for contractors does not cover certain “occurrences” that may arise in the construction industry. This decision surprised the business community and construction industry and legislation to address the basis for the decision is forthcoming. The Supreme Court’s decision can be seen here.

Restriction on Real Estate Transfer Fees: Last year, the House passed a bill toprohibit Transfer Fee Covenants or Freehold Licensing Arrangements as fees for residential real estate developers. The bill died in the Senate. A new bill has been filed this year and comes up for a hearing in the Judiciary Committee this week. From what I am told, the practice is not currently being used in South Carolina. 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. Several states have already passed legislation to ban the practice including North Carolina. The S.C. Realtors Association supports the proposed ban here.

Congratulations and Thank you to Roger LeDuc: As many of you know, current Aiken City Manager Roger LeDuc is retiring this week after 25 years of service to the City of Aiken. Roger has done a great job and the City and its citizens have benefitted from his efforts. Roger received both a Senate Resolution and House Resolution on Sunday commending him for his work.

Aiken County Legislative Delegation: The Legislative Delegation will meet on Monday, February 7, 2011 at 4:00 p.m. at the Aiken County Council Chambers.

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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