Weekly Legislative Update from Rep. Tom Young – Februrary 28, 2012 through March 5, 2012

The House of Representatives is back in session for 2012.  I hope that you find this update helpful and informative.

Senator Ryberg’s Retirement Announcement:  On Friday morning, long time Aiken County Senator Greg Ryberg announced that he will not seek reelection to Senate District 24.  Senator Ryberg has been a stalwart for conservative principles and fiscal responsibility in the S.C. Senate. We thank him for his service and his leadership on many critical issues during the past 20 years.  He will serve through the end of the year as our State Senator.  To see his letter to the District and community, go here.

Last Week’s Legislative Session

Governor’s Veto — Savannah River and DHEC: Last week, by a vote of 111-1, the House overrode Governor Haley’s veto of a joint resolution suspending all DHEC decisions since 2007 concerning navigability, depth, and dredging on South Carolina’s portion of the Savannah River.  The Senate also overrode the veto unanimously by a vote of 39-0.  The resolution is intended to restore the authority of the Savannah River Maritime Commission and to override DHEC’s November decision to grant a permit for the State of Georgia to dredge the Savannah River as part of Georgia’s port deepening project.  Both the Charleston and the Savannah ports need to be deepened to accommodate larger ships coming to the East Coast through an expanded Panama Canal.  It is widely believed that the DHEC decision will assist the Savannah Port at the expense of the Charleston Port to which at least 1 in 5 jobs in South Carolina are tied.

State Retirement Systems: Last week, members of House Ways and Means filed a bill aimed at preserving and strengthening the State Retirement Systems.  The bill 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 or reach age 65 with 5 years of service before becoming eligible for benefits. The TERI program would also be terminated.  A Senate Committee is also working on this issue.  A House Ways and Means sub-committee will take testimony on this bill Tuesday afternoon.

High School Dropout Bill: The Senate Education Committee unanimously approved this bill (H.3164) last Wednesday. Senator Ryberg was instrumental in getting the bill passed in leading an effort to defeat an amendment which may have killed the bill for this session.  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 or (2) where he or she joins the military at age 17. Numerous reports show that high school dropouts in general increase the costs to taxpayers in areas such as crime, teenage pregnancy, infant mortality, health problems, juvenile delinquency, and single parent families living in poverty. Thank you to the many people who called and emailed in favor of this bill.

Home-Based Food Production:  Across the state, there have been numerous complaints from people who have not been allowed to sell their home made cakes, cookies, jams, and other goodies at such places as the Aiken’s Farmer’s Market due to DHEC regulations requiring them to have a commercial kitchen. Last week, the House passed legislation (H.4689) aimed at addressing these concerns. The bill reduces stringent regulations and allows the production and sale of such foods as long as certain sanitation requirements are met and the foods are not made to be sold wholesale.  The bill now goes to the Senate.

This Week’s Legislative Session

Bills on House Calendar: The full House may debate the following bills this week:

  • Department of Transportation (DOT) reform;
  • Failing or refusing the drug test of a prospective employer while unemployed will result in disqualification for additional unemployment benefits;
  • Freedom of Information Act improvements.

Budget Week Next Week:  The House will consider the State Budget next week starting on Monday, March 12.  The House is expected to meet daily until a budget is passed and sent to the Senate.
Other Topics of Interest

Aiken County Career Center:  Located across from Aiken Tech, his facility assists local high school students who may not have an interest in the traditional college prep courses in high school.  Of the students participating from Aiken County high schools,  95.8% graduate on time within 4 years.  Programs offered are as follows:  see website.  Currently, there are 18 teachers at the facility assisting 670 students.  This is a great program which is doing wonderful work to keep students in school and help them learn a skill. 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.

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, visit www.lswia.org.

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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