Weekly Legislative Update from Rep. Tom Young – Feb 7, 2012 to Feb. 13, 2012

Weekly Legislative Update from Rep. Tom Young – Feb. 7, 2012 to Feb. 13, 2012

The House of Representatives is back in session for the 2012 session although the House will not meet this week. The House returns to session on Tuesday, February 21.  I hope that you find this update helpful and informative.

Good News for Greater Aiken! — State Infrastructure Bank Funding:  On Thursday, the State Infrastructure Bank Board approved up to $13.5 Million in funding for Aiken to use for road improvements for 3 projects as follows:

  1. Widening of the 118 Bypass (Hitchcock Parkway) to four lanes from Blockbuster to Richland Avenue;
  2. Widening of University Parkway to four lanes from Richland Avenue to in front of USC Aiken;
  3. Construction of a right turn lane from Dougherty Road on to Whiskey Road.

This is the result of at least 3 years of the combined efforts of our local legislative delegation; the City of Aiken; Aiken County; and the Greater Aiken Chamber of Commerce.   This is also believed to be the largest State Infrastructure Bank Board funding approval for greater Aiken.

Last Week’s Legislative Session

Chief Justice Delivers State of Judiciary Address:  On Wednesday, Chief Justice Jean Toal of the S.C. Supreme Court delivered her annual State of the Judiciary address.  To address the statewide backlog in Family Court, she asked for 6 additional Family Court judges.  The Governor also advocated for 3 more Family Court judges in her State of the State Address last month.  To read Chief Justice Toal’s remarks, go here. The Power Point which the Chief Justice used can be seen here.

High School Dropout/Driving Bill:  The Senate Education K-12 subcommittee passed the high school dropout/no drive bill.  The 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 contains a hardship provision for some limited exceptions including (1) where the young person has to go to work to support himself or his immediate family; (2) where the young person has a medical condition which requires the ability to drive to and from the doctor; (3) and where the young person is 17 and joins the military or national guard. The full Senate Education Committee will consider the bill on Feb. 29.

DOT Reform: The House Judiciary Committee approved a bill which will overhaul the governing authority of the State Department of Transportation (DOT) and require that the DOT prioritize road projects in each of the State’s 7 engineering districts as part of the Department’s annual budget request.  The bill now heads to the House floor on February 21.

Texting While Driving:  The House Public Works Committee passed a bill that bans texting while driving a motor vehicle.  Based on the feedback from many people in District 81, I plan to support the ban on texting when the bill comes to the House floor later this month.

Right To Work Law Advances:  On Wednesday, the House approved legislation intended to strengthen our right to work laws.  The bill includes provisions to do the following:

  • increases transparency of all labor organizations by requiring financial filings with the Dept. of Labor, Licensing, & Regulation;
  • clarifies language stating South Carolina’s existing state policy that a person’s right to work must not be denied because of membership or non-membership in a labor organization;
  • requires that written or electronic authorization from the employee for payroll deduction of labor union dues is required & that such authorization is revocable at any time by the employee.  This ensures that all workers who are union members have the right to resign membership and stop paying dues at any time without penalty if they choose to do so.

Blue Alert Program Approved:  Last week, the House gave final approval to legislation establishing the “Blue Alert Program” within the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) as a means of rapidly sending out information to law enforcement agencies and the public to assist in capturing a suspect when a law enforcement officer is seriously injured, killed or kidnapped in the line of duty. The system would be modeled after “Amber Alerts” in which the public is told about missing children through electronic message boards, emails and text messages.

State Retirement Systems:  On Wednesday, a House Ways and Means subcommittee outlined its current proposals for preserving and strengthening the State Retirement Systems.  The subcommittee’s proposal increases current state employees’ contributions into the retirement system by 1 percent, prohibits including vacation or sick days in retirement benefit calculations and uses five years of salary to calculate benefits versus three. New hires would be required to work 30 years before becoming eligible for benefits. The TERI program would also be terminated.  The sub-committee is drafting legislation now and expects a bill to be filed within the next 3 weeks. A Senate Committee is also working on this issue. The current proposals from this House sub-committee can be seen here.

Drug Test Results Can Disqualify Ongoing Unemployment Benefits:  The House Judiciary Committee approved a bill last week which states that if a person receiving unemployment benefits applies for a job and (1) takes a drug test required by the prospective employer and fails it OR (2) refuses to take a drug test as required by the prospective employer, then the person can no longer receive unemployment benefits from the Department of Employment & Workforce. State law already disqualifies workers fired for illegal drug use from collecting unemployment benefits. The bill now heads to the House floor.

Freedom of Information Act Bill Moves Forward:  Rep. Bill Taylor’s bill to improve the SC Freedom of Information Act related to requests for information from government entities received approval of a House Judiciary sub-committee last week.  The bill will be on the House Judiciary calendar on Feb. 21.

Other Topics of Interest

SRS and New Missions:  Last week, the Columbia Regional Business Report featured a story about the new missions at SRS. To see the article, go here.

Bridgestone Hiring for New Aiken County Plant:  In case you missed it last week in this column, Bridgestone is hiring for its new Aiken County manufacturing plant which is under construction.  To learn more, go here.

Friends of the Aiken County Public Library:  The Friends of the Library is a non-profit community organization of volunteers who promote the Aiken County Public Library. To learn more, go here.

SCDOT Weekly Update:  The Department of Transportation started a weekly update in August to inform the public about what is going on at the agency as to its financial situation and other matters.  To see the latest, go here.

Greater Aiken Young Professionals (AYP):  This group was started 4 years ago and is affiliated with the Greater Aiken Chamber of Commerce.  AYP’s mission is to provide an environment for young, career-minded individuals between the ages of 22 and 39 to meet and develop both socially and professionally.   AYP’s next networking event is Thursday February 16, 2012 at the Hilton Garden Inn from 6-8 pm.  If you are or someone you know is interested in becoming a member please go here. Inquiries and reservations for the kickoff event should be made by email to ayp@aiken-yp.com.

Constituent Information

Speaking with Groups Around the District: Several local groups have invited me to attend one of their meetings to provide a legislative update.  If you have a group that would like for me to come to a meeting, please let me know.

Help for Displaced SRS Workers: If you or someone you know lost a job at SRS, there is a One-Stop Transition Center open in downtown Aiken at Park Avenue and Laurens Street to assist workers displaced at SRS with finding new work.  The Center is open from 7:30 am to 4:30 pm Monday through Friday. For more information, go here.

Report Waste, Fraud and Abuse in State Government:  To report waste, fraud and abuse in state government, you can call: 1-855-SC-FRAUD.

Facebook:  I have a Facebook page for Representative Tom Young. Please “like” the page to receive updates during the week from me on Facebook.

Tom Young’s Website: My website can be reached at www.reptomyoung.com. There are links to a variety of constituent services; the status of sponsored bills; and roll call votes. Please add my web site as a bookmark on your computer.

State House Tours:  Tours are available for the S.C. State House by calling (803) 734-2430.  If you set a tour between January and June and it is on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday, please let me know so I can do my best to see you.

Email Updates:  If you know of people in or around District 81 who do not receive my updates but they would like to get them, please email their names and email addresses to me.

Road Issues:  If you see a road problem, 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. Generally, 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. Most unpaved roads in the County are maintained by the County.

Thank you for the opportunity and the honor 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.


Tom Young

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