Representative Bill Taylor does a great job with e-mails to his constituents with a summary of what’s going on in the General Assembly. So, today, I’m going to take the lazy route and post his. Thanks Rep. Taylor!
Tribute, Honor, Respect
It is vitally important we each remember the words of President George Washington:
“The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive the Veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation.”
Memorial Day is upon us, a time when we gather to remember those who have fought and in some cases died for our country, and to celebrate their service and sacrifice that makes the United States a beacon of hope and freedom for the rest of the world.
Please join us tomorrow (Saturday) at 1:00pm in downtown Aiken for the traditional Memorial Day parade. It is one way to put into practice George Washington’s admonition and to demonstrate your patriotism and respect for veterans. It’s also a wonderful ‘teachable moment’ for children and grandchildren. See you there!
Monday at 11:00 am, we will officially commemorate Memorial Day at Aiken’s Veterans Memorial Park on Richland Ave East. The James L. Hammons Marine Corps League Detachment #939 sponsors the memorial service where we remember and honor all of our fallen comrades from all wars.
AHEAD NEXT WEEK
SC Fair Tax Gets it’s First-Ever Hearing: Next Wednesday morning (May 29th) a House Ways & Means subcommittee will convene the first-ever hearing to consider the South Carolina Fair Tax Act (H.3116). The purpose of the hearing is to explain the mechanics and economic benefits of the state Fair Tax. Fair Tax supporters are encouraged to attend the hour-long hearing. It starts at 9:00 a.m. in Room 521 of Blatt Building on the State House complex (Assembly & Pendleton in Columbia).
THIS WEEK’S LEGISLATIVE DIGEST
This year’s session of the General Assembly is winding down with two weeks left before we are required to adjourn the regular session. Here’s a digest of this week’s top activity:
Senate Passes Budget:
The chief function of the General Assembly is to create an annual state budget. That process starts in the House. We approved and sent the Senate our budget in March. The Senate concluded a couple of weeks of debate Thursday passing its version of the 2013-2014 state budget which now heads back to the House and a conference committee to work out a compromise on the two versions. Stay tuned.
Key highlights of the Senate’s $6.3 billion general fund spending plan for 2013-14:
Road Repairs: A deal to spend up to $500 million to repair roads and bridges was approved. The deal was made when the Senate voted to spend $50 million a year to repair state roads and bridges. The money would go to the State Infrastructure Bank, which would use it to borrow up to $500 million.
School Choice: One-year issuance of tax credits for donations for private school tuition for disabled students. Private school teachers can deduct $275 dollars for school supplies.
School Buses: Another $23.5 million for new school buses to help replace a portion of the state’s aging fleet.
4K Kindergarten: An additional $26 million to expand optional, full-day 4-year-old kindergarten to all school districts where more than 75 percent of students live in poverty.
Local Gov’t Support: Approved $30 million for aid to local governments after the Senate Finance Committee had stripped $20 million out of the House version. Local governments claim this funding is critical because some localities have a weak tax base that is not yet back to pre-recession levels.
Senate Rejects Medicaid Expansion: A move to expand SC’s Medicaid program under ObamaCare was defeated in the State Senate after lengthy debate. The vote of 23-19 stopped the Medicaid expansion in next year’s budget.
Cyber Security: The House Ways and Means Committee debated legislation that would enhance cyber security across all state agencies. Last fall, international computer hackers broke into the computers at the Department of Revenue and stole personal information – including Social Security numbers, bank account numbers, and credit card numbers – for more than 3.6 million South Carolinians. Improving data security and implementing procedures to keep this from happening again is a top priority. The plan consolidates information technology and security for state government under one entity – so security measures for critical information are uniformly strong across agencies.
CWP Bill Advances in the House: A House judiciary subcommittee advanced legislation that would allow concealed weapons permit holders to carry guns into restaurants that serve alcohol — so long as they do not drink. The House panel removed language which passed the Senate that banned guns in bars after midnight; those restrictions had been added last month by Senators. The NRA praised the subcommittee’s action in removing the “arbitrary restrictions.”
Drug Testing & Jobless Benefits:
On a 93-19 vote, the House passed legislation that would revoke jobless benefits for an unemployed worker who fails a drug test. 17 Democrats joined all House Republicans in approving the bill. The legislation heads to the Senate.
Drug Abuse: The SC Inspector General’s Office says there is a significant problem with prescription drug abuse in the state. The report recommends all doctors be required to use the state’s current prescription tracking program and that regulators focus on those physicians who prescribe drugs at above-average rates.
No to Weed: The House rejected a move to legalize medical marijuana in SC.
Beer Debate: Beer, booze & gambling always make for lively debates at the State House. That was the case when the House considered a bill passed by the Senate that would allow pint sales at breweries — permitting them to sell up to 48 ounces of beer to a customer in a 24-hour period. State law currently limits them to 4-ounce pours at tastings, The House gave final approval in 73-37 vote. It now goes to the Governor.
H.S. League: The Senate approved changes to governance of the controversial SC High School League, creating an independent appeals panel to hear grievances and serve as the final word in disputes with schools. It also changes consideration of sanctions based seriousness, frequency and other factors. The House took similar action in March.
Fighting Like Cats & Dogs: Animal shelter and rescue organizations jammed a House committee meeting in their ongoing tussle with some veterinarians over a bill (H.3492) that changes requirements for shelters. Veterinarians contend some shelters are practicing veterinary medicine without proper regulation and that the nonprofit groups are using public funds to provide services that compete with private businesses. Barbara Nelson, head of the Aiken SPCA, spoke eloquently in defense of our SPCA and other shelters. The Agriculture Committee adjourned debate on the bill until next year.
Gov. Haley has signed a bill that calls for flags atop state buildings to be lowered to half-staff when an SC resident in the military loses their life. It’s another small way we in the Senate believe we should recognize those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.
This Memorial weekend say a prayer for the families of those who gave their lives so we may live free.
Thank you for the privilege of serving you in Columbia. If I can ever be of assistance to you, or if you have ideas on issues you want me to share with the rest of the General Assembly, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
In your Service,
Bill Taylor, 803-270-2012, Representative, South Carolina General Assembly, www.Taylorschouse.com
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Hat’s off to the 2013 class of Wagener-Salley High School. The graduating seniors and other students were lauded for their performance in the classroom and elsewhere during the Honors and Awards Convocation today. It was great to see so many ACHIEVERS recognized.