Ethics, Education & Streamlining Government

Exactly one year ago this week I wrote to notify you:

The South Carolina House of Representatives advanced two important milestone pieces of legislation taking a major step forward in overhauling the state’s antiquated ethics laws that govern elected and appointed officials at all levels of government.

The first, revamps the makeup of the South Carolina Ethics Commission and turns the Commission into an independent investigative body. The independent commission is given the full resources of the South Carolina law enforcement community and is tasked with investigating ethics complaints made against elected officials. Under the House plan passed this week the State Ethics Commission is comprised of 4 members appointed by the Governor, 4 elected by the Supreme Court, and 2 members elected by each the House and Senate. The measure passed the House unanimously.

The second, bans candidate affiliated “Leadership” Political Action Committees (PAC). It even goes one step further and states that elected officials can no longer accept campaign contributions from Leadership PAC’s. This is an important step toward cleaning up the campaign finance laws in South Carolina.

I am saddened to report a year later that both bills still sit in the Senate where senators have made it clear that ethics reform is not a priority. I will continue to champion ethics reform and I ask you to stand with me. If the Senate would simply debate and vote on the important reforms we sent them last year and accomplished nothing else, they would actually have a chance making a positive difference this year.

Also this week in the House, we introduced the first phase of our education reform package. The hardworking taxpayers of South Carolina deserve a better education achievement than the “minimally adequate” standard. I will be working to help shape education reform that provides value to the taxpayer and results for parents and students. I will have more on these reforms as they move through the legislative committee process.

Finally, I am proud to report we have become more efficient this year by adopting legislative rules that keep the House ever-focused on the business of the people. We have limited ceremonial recognitions to only 15 minutes per day, allowing us to be more productive. As a conservative I am committed to continuing to streamline government.

It is an honor and a privilege to serve you in Columbia again this year. If you need help navigating state government, or have any thoughts or concerns about what we are doing, please do not hesitate to contact me at 803 734-3045 at my office in Columbia or 864 963-0337 at home.

Committee Work and State of the State

There was lots of activity in the State House this week as we continued the early stages of the legislative cycle and heard from the governor in her annual State of the State address on Wednesday evening.

My Republican colleagues and I were happy to hear the governor’s support for many of our priorities such as education reform, infrastructure improvements and ethics reform.

Echoing Governor Haley was the Republican leader of the House, Bruce Bannister (R-Greenville): “This week we heard from Governor Haley’s heart. Our caucus appreciates her positive message and optimistic tone. Governor Haley mentioned education reform, fixing our roads and bridges, and ethics reform. House Republicans have led on all three issues in the House, while the Senate has refused to act. With Governor Haley’s help, perhaps we will see movement in the Senate chamber on these important issues facing our state.”

Among other important issues, the governor also highlighted the tragedies our state encountered over the past year. The flood of 2015 was the worst natural disaster since hurricane Hugo. My colleagues and I have heard from flood victims across the state over the past months, particularly farmers who in some instances saw their entire crops disintegrate and fields ruined under standing flood waters. Agriculture represents one of the largest industries in South Carolina and if you know a farmer, you may know that one year with no yield can be the difference between having the resources to plant again next year and closing the doors. We continue to look for conservative solutions for these farmers and others affected by the flood, and I will update you as we move forward.

Finally, as is typical in January, much was done in our House committees. Once a bill is introduced, it must go through legislative committees before they come to the House floor for an up or down vote. We tried to spend as little time as possible on the floor this week so they could have time to get their work done.

It is an honor and a privilege to serve you in Columbia again this year. If you need help navigating state government, or have any thoughts or concerns about what we are doing, please do not hesitate to contact me at 803 734-3045 at my office in Columbia or 963-0337 at home.

Challenges and Conservative Solutions

The South Carolina General Assembly convened this week for the first time in 2016, marking the beginning of the second half of the biennial legislative session.

The Republican Caucus remains focused on tackling the big issues you have told me matter a great deal to you. Our robust agenda tackles everything from roads and education, to protecting the Second Amendment. Below is a list of our conservative agenda for 2016:

Restructuring the Department of Transportation
School Choice Tax Credit
Individual Income Tax Reform
Protecting Life: Anti-Dismemberment
Judicial Reform
State Retirement System Reform
Session Shortening/Biennial Budgeting
Ethics Reform
Secure and Protect South Carolina’s Dams
Protecting the 2nd Amendment: Castle Doctrine Reinforcement
Eminent Domain Reform
Environmental Regulation Reform

In addition to these big ideas, hundreds of other bills have already been filed in the House requiring our committees to begin the task of hearings with testimony and deliberations that will result in bills being sent to the House floor for debate and votes. The business of the people of South Carolina is under way!

In the coming weeks, I will send regular updates which keep you informed of our progress as we complete the work of the people. Our agenda is ambitious and I believe we have the determination necessary to be successful.

As always, 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 at 864 963-0337 at home or 803 734-3045 at my office in Columbia.

Veterans Celebration Speech

Veterans’ Celebration
The Honorable Garry Smith
November 8, 2015

Thank you so much for allowing me to speak with you today. This is simply the most meaningful way possible to look forward to our Veterans’ Day holiday that’s coming up later in the week. To help us get in the proper frame of mind to celebrate one of the most important holidays on the American calendar we can turn to a poetic and quite appropriate comparison that Karl von Clausewitz, one of history’s most famous writers on military matters, included in his masterpiece, On War. He wrote, “Like an obelisk towards which the principal streets of a town converge, the strong will of a proud spirit stands prominent and commanding in the middle of the Art of War.” That is truly what brings us together on Veterans’ Day. We converge here to acknowledge the towering spirit and strength of the men and women who have served in our nation’s armed forces. Here in our state I do believe that military service is given pride of place. The valor and commitment of military service occupies a central position in the hearts and minds of South Carolinians. Our men and women in uniform commonly report that they feel welcomed and respected by the surrounding community when they are assigned to duty stations in this state. It’s something that’s remembered years later when decisions are made about where to spend retirement years. Our mild climate no doubt encourages retired military personnel to relocate to our state, but I’d like to think those decisions also have to do with a welcoming climate that we South Carolinians make, ourselves, by celebrating and revering military service. Military service is a centerpiece of American ideals, in general, but I think that is particularly true here in South Carolina.
In a speech he delivered in the nation’s capital while serving as President of the United States, Woodrow Wilson observed, “There is no question what the roll of honor in America is. The roll of honor consists of the names of men who have squared their conduct by ideals of duty.” That is the honor roll that we are paying tribute to on Veterans’ Day 2015 roughly a century after these words were spoken. It’s an honor roll composed of all the brave men and women whose conduct has served as a resounding answer to the call of duty. These are the people who have converted ideals into action– quite often the most dramatic, dangerous action imaginable. It is an extensive honor roll that covers a span of many miles and many years, from the World Wars, to the conflicts in Korea and Viet Nam, and, more recently, to conflicts in Eastern Europe and the Greater Middle East. We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to each and every name on that proud list. Many are not able to answer a roll call today because they sacrificed everything to safeguard our liberty and democratic way of life. We take care to remember them and value their living legacy. On Veterans’ Day we are especially grateful for all those on America’s roll of honor who are with us here today. It is our time to give thanks to all of these brave men and women for their military service and for all the contributions they have made after their time in uniform.
Decades ago, President Calvin Coolidge left us some words of warning when he said, “The nation which forgets its defenders will itself be forgotten.” Thankfully, I believe that is a danger that America is not yet facing. We are certainly not likely to forget our defenders while we’ve been witnessing example after example of the men and women of our armed services risking life and limb in order to protect the United States and to allow others to share in the freedom we enjoy here. In recent years, the courage, dedication, and skill of our defenders have been showcased for all to see. What’s more, we are, each day, welcoming our defenders back from their tours of duty abroad to join the ranks of our veterans. Having distinguished themselves during their time in uniform, they are bringing their talent and commitment to bear upon civilian life, making new valuable contributions here at home. This year, the people of South Carolina also have fresh and powerful memories of military valor that don’t have anything to do with fighting foreign adversaries in faraway lands, but instead involve battles with the forces of nature that were waged right in our own neighborhoods. During October’s historic floods, we saw our National Guard troops and other brave men and women in uniform engage in amazing acts of heroism. They rescued our neighbors from raging flood waters. They helped to feed and shelter those left homeless in the disaster. They assisted us as we repaired our shattered roadways and restored such basic necessities as clean drinking water. We are profoundly thankful for their great skill and tireless dedication. The spirit of Veterans’ Day is clearly alive and well. We are grateful to our veterans for all they have done to protect this nation and for all they continue to do, every single day, to make this country great.

My Statement at Press Conference on Planned Parenthood

Thank you to all who are here today to raise our collective voices to say that the actions of Planned Parenthood, and their affiliates are inhuman, unconscionable, does not treat our most vulnerable citizens with the dignity they deserve, and will not be tolerated in South Carolina.

In response to the shocking revelations, which are not new in South Carolina, aka The Doctor Jesse Floyd tragedies of 1974 and 1992, myself and many other members of the South Carolina House of Representatives have asked the South Carolina Legislative Audit Council to conduct a very extensive review of the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Social Services, the Department of Health and Environmental Control, and the Medical University of South Carolina.

I have further asked the South Carolina House of Representatives Legislative Oversight Committee to conduct hearings on these agencies to publicly find answers to these shocking revelations. Answers that the people of South Carolina deserve to know to assure them that their children are being treated with respect, justice, and dignity.

In addition, I am drafting the South Carolina Dignified Final Disposition Act to assure that unborn children will not be disposed of as “medical waste” when they die regardless of whether their deaths are spontaneous, accidental, or induced.

Further, the broken, and to quote staff members of Planned Parenthood, the “crushed” bodies of aborted unborn children should not be sold or harvested for any purpose, including scientific research or for the body parts. This type of profiteering is inhuman, and will not be tolerated.

As Dave Andrusko, editor of the National Right to Life News says about those videos exposing the dehumanizing practices of the abortion industry, “We have seen into the heart of darkness.”

We as a society will ultimately be defined by how we treat our children, born and unborn. In South Carolina we will stand on the side of justice for these children, the sanctity of their precious fragile lives, and for their dignity in death.

Speaker Lucas Statement on Debate Over Public Monuments and Buildings

(Columbia, SC) – Today, House Speaker Jay Lucas (District 65-Darlington) issued the following statement to reiterate his position surrounding future debate over public monuments and memorials. In light of the recent tragedy, several South Carolina universities and colleges have formally asked or suggested the General Assembly address changes or exceptions to the South Carolina Heritage Act. This law, which passed in 2000, protects all monuments, historical markers, street names, and buildings named for historical figures or events.

“The South Carolina House of Representatives will not engage in or debate the specifics of public monuments, memorials, state buildings, road names or any other historical markers. The General Assembly, the House in particular, made it abundantly clear during the debate of the confederate flag that the only issue they were willing to discuss was the placement of the battle flag on the north lawn of the State House. We reached a swift resolution last week and in doing so put an end to this discussion. Debate over this issue will not be expanded or entertained throughout the remainder of my time as Speaker.”

A Year of Challenges, and Success

Dear Constituents:
As the 2015 Legislative Session winds down, I would like to recap some of the progress that was made in the South Carolina House of Representatives. During this session, we were able to pass some major legislation. As a reminder, this is the first year of a legislative two-year session, therefore, any bill not passed by the Senate of through a conference committee can be continued when we return January 12, 2016. At that time surely a funding proposal will be agreed upon to repair our state’s roads and bridges.
The SC House of Representatives is paving the way for transparency, pro-business regulation, Veterans assistance and other areas in South Carolina. Here are a few of the major accomplishments from this session:
TRANSPARENCY: The House passed a package of 12 ethics reform bills, in addition to an omnibus package that rolls the reform measures into one bill. Here are the highlights of the House ethics reform package: Income Disclosure, Independent Ethics Investigation, Eliminating Leadership PACs, Publicly Posting Meeting Agendas, Freedom of Information Act Expansion, and Whistleblower Protection.
PRO-BUSINESS RIDE SHARING REGULATION: This bill allows separate licensing for transportation network companies, specifically Uber, to operate legally in South Carolina.
IN-STATE TUITION FOR MILITARY: This bill grants in-state college tuition rates to active duty military and their dependents.
BODY CAMERAS: This law provides for equipping law enforcement officers with body worn cameras that make audio and video recordings.
STRONGER HUMAN TRAFFICKING LEGISLATION: This bill allows prosecutors to engage the grand jury system for human prosecution across county lines and expands publicity of the reporting hotline.
SHORTENING LEGISLATIVE SESSION: This bill saves valuable taxpayer dollars by reducing the session by nearly two months each year.
BALANCED SC BUDGET: The House budget proposal fully funds the necessities of our state while balancing the bottom line.
As your state Representative, I am accountable to you to keep our State strong, solvent, and business-friendly. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to represent you in the Legislature. Please feel free to contact me with any comments, issues, or concerns that you may have.


Garry R. Smith

2015 House Accomplishments & Sine Die

Sine Die (Latin meaning “without a fixed day”) Adjournment fell on Thursday June 4, 2015 at 5:00pm and marked the end of this year’s general legislative session. For a bill to have become law this year, it would have needed to pass both legislative chambers by Sine Die.

The House and Senate will now work over the next week and a half in “Conference Committee” to reach final agreements on bills that passed both chambers but still need the differences between them consolidated into a final version that is acceptable to each body. At that point both chambers will come back to vote on the conference reports. The Governor will have 5 days to issue any vetoes and my colleagues will meet one last time to sustain or override her vetoes.

Below is an update on the major pieces of legislation we passed this year in the House along with a brief synopsis and where each bill currently stands. In the coming weeks I will send a final report for the end of the year where I will bring you updates on any changes among these bills.

It is an honor to serve you and your family in the General Assembly. If you ever find yourself in need of assistance navigating state government, or if you have ideas on issues you want me to share with my colleagues in the House, don’t hesitate to contact me at 963-0337 at home or 803-734-3045 at my office in Columbia.

2015 House Accomplishments

Ethics Reform H.3722: The House passed a package of 12 ethics reform bills in addition to an omnibus package (H.3722) that rolls the reform measures into one bill. Below are the highlights of the House ethics reform package.

Status: In Senate

Income Disclosure H.3186: Requires members of the General Assembly to disclose the source and type of all income received from any private entity.

Status: In Senate

Restructuring Ethics Commission H.3184: Revamps the makeup of the South Carolina Ethics Commission and turns the Commission into an independent investigative body. The independent commission is given the full resources of the South Carolina law enforcement community and is tasked with investigating ethics complaints made against elected officials. The State Ethics Commission would be comprised of 4 members appointed by the Governor, 4 elected by the Supreme Court, and 2 members elected by each the House and Senate.

Status: In Senate

Eliminating Leadership PACs H.3188: Bans candidate affiliated “Leadership” Political Action Committees (PAC). It even goes one step further and states that elected officials can no longer accept campaign contributions from Leadership PACs.

Status: In Senate

Exempting Research Professors H.3200: Provides certain exemptions to encourage state-funded university employees to develop intellectual property that benefits institutions of higher learning, making South Carolina more competitive in the effort to attract and retain top quality researchers.

Status: In Senate

Campaign Finance Laws H.3195: Prohibits lobbyist principals from paying for members of the General Assembly to attend American Legislative Exchange Council conferences. This simply removes an existing loophole in the law.

Status: In Senate

Primary Run-off Election Finance Law Reform H.3193: Clarifies how campaign funds should be attributed to primaries and primary run-off campaigns. Existing law was leading to confusion among some candidates for public office. These changes make clear which funds should be attributed to a campaign run-off election account.

Status: In Senate

Creation of Freedom of Information Act Office S.11: Establishes an office specifically designed to handle Freedom of Information Act concerns. The measure also expands the right to access existing electronic transmission of public records, sets a reasonable fee schedule for accessing records, and reduces the turnaround time on obtaining records from 15 to 10 days.

Status: Sent to Governor

Whistleblower Protection H.3202: Strengthens the existing whistleblower law and provides additional monetary incentives for government employees to report misuse of taxpayer dollars. The hope is that where fraud exists, that this provision empowers state employees to come forward with that information, saving taxpayer dollars.

Status: In Senate

Publicly Posting Agendas H.3192: Tightens the requirements on all government bodies by requiring them to post a public meeting agenda prior to engaging in official business. This measure sheds sunlight on all government bodies and gives the public a better idea of what their government is doing and when they’re doing it.

Status: In Senate

Small Business Regulatory Sunset Reform Act H.3006: This act places a sunset provision on all future regulation laws. Many regulation laws are outdated, and this new measure would give an automatic expiration to regulation laws five years after implementation. This ensures we don’t have cumbersome and outdated regulations hampering business owners.

Status: In Senate

Shortening Legislative Session H.3014: For the 10th time in the past 20 years the House has passed legislation that would shorten the legislative work session. Shortening the session by nearly 2 months each year would save valuable taxpayer dollars. Each attempt by House Republicans to shorten the legislative session has been blocked by the Senate.

Status: In Senate

Human Trafficking S.196: A cross-county jurisdictional loophole in the current law was brought to our attention by prosecutors recently. As a result, the House passed a measure that would allow prosecutors to engage the grand jury system for individuals who are trafficking humans over county lines. In an effort to increase reporting from exploited individuals and prosecute their traffickers, a previously established information and reporting hotline would be strengthened by expanding the publicity of the hotline to high public traffic areas.

Status: Signed by Governor

CWP Expansion H.3799: The House approved a concealed weapons permit reciprocity agreement with the state of Georgia allowing licensed CWP carriers to cross state lines without any legal ramifications.

Status: In Senate

Ride Sharing Deregulation – Uber H.3525: The House addressed issues surrounding the ride sharing industry that specifically impacted Uber and other transportation network companies (TNC). In South Carolina, we’ve always had taxis and they fall under the management of the Public Service Commission (PSC). However, the business model for TNCs, like Uber, wouldn’t be viable if each driver had to pay for a taxi license.

In January, the PSC issued a cease and desist order against Uber effectively shutting them down. In response, this “business positive” bill was drafted to set up a framework that allows TNC’s, specifically Uber, to operate legally. H. 3525 establishes that framework and allows the TNC companies to get one license – allowing all of their drivers to operate under that single license.

Status: In Conference

Roads & Infrastructure H.3579: Following 7 months of testimony and hours of debate with much input, the House passed a bill to address the state’s aging infrastructure. The comprehensive measure revamps the existing DOT structure, leadership and funding model. It’s important to note that House Republicans were able to include a provision that also provides income tax relief to South Carolina taxpayers.

Status: In Senate

Balanced Budget H.3701: The Republican Majority in the House voted in unison to pass the 2015-2016 fiscal year budget. Balancing our state budget is something House Republicans take very seriously. The House budget proposal fully funds the necessities of our state while balancing the bottom line without incurring any new debt. Today’s economy requires families and businesses to do more with less money. The House Republican majority sent a clear message that government should be held to that same standard.

Status: In Conference

Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act H.3114: House Republicans once again passed the Pain-Capable Child Protection Act. The legislation provides additional statutory protections for the unborn by shortening the amount of time a woman can abort her child down to a 20-week window.

Status: In Senate

Emergency Preparedness H.3168: The House took preemptive action by approving a bill that would guarantee the State of South Carolina is adequately equipped to deal with emergency situations. Preparation for emergency scenarios is a vital aspect of protecting South Carolinians for decades to come, which we can ensure by giving our state law enforcement agencies the ability to obtain necessary resources in our times of greatest need.

Status: Signed by Governor

Protecting Our Citizens H.3145: Gives certain legal protections to bystanders who rescue those trapped inside sweltering cars and trucks. One of the core functions of a limited government is providing for the safety of our children and otherwise vulnerable adults.

Status: In Senate

Domestic Violence Reform S.3: Reports indicate that South Carolina’s murder rate of women killed by men sits at twice the national average. It’s unacceptable, and this measure gives law enforcement the necessary tools to reverse this pattern of abuse in our state. For 6 months, the House Special Criminal Domestic Violence Ad Hoc Committee studied all aspects of the issue. The committee listened to dozens of hours of testimony from both survivors of domestic violence and from the law enforcement and prosecutors charged with bringing justice to those who perpetrate crimes of domestic violence.

As a result of their findings the committee produced the Domestic Violence Reform Act. This comprehensive legislation:

Significantly enhances penalties for those found guilty of committing acts of domestic violence.
Paves the way for middle school students to receive instruction on how to identify and respond to domestic violence situations.
Creates the Domestic Violence Advisory Committee comprised of citizens, medical doctors, and law enforcement to review instances of death as a result of domestic violence and submit a public annual report.
Currently South Carolina’s domestic violence laws are occurrence based – an approach that has proven insufficient by itself. H 3433 institutes a hybrid model based on the number of occurrences and adds that penalties become more severe depending on the level of injury sustained, also accounting for any aggravating circumstances.

Status: Signed by Governor

James B. Edwards Civics Education Initiative S.437: Currently, immigrants seeking U.S. citizenship must take the US Citizen Civics Test containing 100 basic questions about American history and government. A recent study found that 92% of immigrants pass this test, while only 4% of American high school students could do so. This bill would require the same test to be administered each year to high school juniors throughout the state. Test scores will be compiled by the Education Oversight Committee to ensure our students are armed with the basic facts they need to be the informed and active citizens our state and nation needs.

Status: Signed by Governor

Judicial Selection Reform H.3979: Reforms the process used to select our state’s judges. Currently, judicial candidates are screened through a panel that is limited to selecting 3 individuals for any given judicial election. This bill would remove the cap and allow anyone who is deemed qualified to run for the bench. By doing so, we open up the process and allow everyone to participate, not just a select few.

Status: In Senate

In-State Tuition for Military S.391: Grants in-state tuition rates to active duty military and their dependents. Currently, active duty military personnel who have been stationed in South Carolina do not receive in-state tuition rates. This bill grants them that privilege and allows them and their dependents to continue receiving an in-state tuition rate as long as they remain continuously enrolled.

Status: Signed by Governor

Certificate of Need H.3250: This bill revises and streamlines the Certificate of Need process and repeals it completely in 2018. The House overwhelmingly supported this measure which helps to limit the regulation of healthcare providers around the state.

Status: In Senate

Patent Infringement H.3582: Patent trolls hinder private development projects and stifle innovative research from the private sector. This measure ensures that South Carolina innovators receive added legal protections for their unique ideas. By creating a safe haven for innovation, we increase our marketability to research institutions and aid our economic progress.

Status: In Senate

SC State Resolution H.3663: The House took forceful and necessary action to solve the well-publicized troubles at SC State University. The House unanimously passed a joint resolution to put SC State back on track that:

Removes the current SC State board members.
Gives authority to newly appointed interim board members.
Allows the interim Board of Trustees to remove the current President if they deem that action necessary.
Status: Signed by Governor

Read to Succeed Act S.364: Focuses on early intervention in literacy. Provides for reading coaches and summer reading camps with the goal of having every child in SC reading on grade level before they leave the third grade.

Status: Signed by Governor

Adjutant General S.8: The House has passed this bill many s and the Senate finally agreed this year to allow the next Adjutant General to be an appointee rather than elected. This new form of origination allows politics to be removed from the duties of the state’s top military officer, very similar to the national model.

Status: Signed by Governor

Overseas Military Voters H.3154: This measure ensures each ballot cast by overseas military personnel is not only counted, but streamlines the process while enhancing their access to voter registration.

Status: Sent to Governor

Senate Inaction, Supreme Court Chief Justice & College Savings Plan

The final week of the legislative session is upon us, and with most of the House’s major work complete, all eyes were trained on the Senate.

Budget: The Senate recently completed its budget debate. After my colleagues and I made some changes this week, we sent it back to the Senate in order to move the final budget to a House-Senate conference committee. However, because it took the Senate so long to finish the budget the first time, we will most likely have to return to Columbia after the final day of session to complete it.

Grassroots Success: Thank you to all of those who responded to our “Finish the Job” campaign and contacted your senators. Thanks to weeks of effort from so many in the grassroots, the Senate finally passed H.3114, the pro-life Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. There are many important reforms and pieces of legislation passed by the House that are stuck in the Senate. Don’t let up now. For a detailed description of other items stuck in the Senate, click here.

Senate Filibustering: Based on the filibustering going on in the Senate as of late, we took the responsible steps of passing a continuing resolution to make sure that if the Senate can’t pass a budget, government would not shut down.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Election: This week the House met with the Senate in a joint assembly to elect our state’s next Supreme Court Chief Justice. In a unanimous decision, members of both chambers selected Justice Costa Pleicones to lead the high court. This marks the first new Supreme Court Chief Justice in 15 years.

College Savings: If you or someone you know had a baby on May 29, that person is eligible for a grant of $529 to start a 529 college savings plan. The privately funded grant is available to anyone opening an account for their child by August 30. Contact the State Treasurer’s Office for more information.

June 4th is “Sine Die”–the official end of the session. I’ll update you next week on when the House will have to return to session to consider the budget, any outstanding conference committee reports, or governor’s vetoes.

It is an honor to serve you and your family in the General Assembly. If you ever find yourself in need of assistance navigating state government, or if you have ideas on issues you want me to share with my colleagues in the House, don’t hesitate to contact me at 963-0337 at home or 803 734-3045 at my office in Columbia.

Criminal Domestic Violence & Pro Life Update

With two weeks remaining in the regular legislative session for 2015, my House colleagues and I reached an agreement this week with our Senate counterparts to give substantial reform to our state’s domestic violence laws.

South Carolina is 2nd in the nation for number of women killed by men in a domestic dispute with 36,000 annual reports of domestic violence. Last year a task force was created in the House chaired by my colleague Rep. Shannon Erickson to develop legislation to end this cycle of abuse in our state. The Committee developed a comprehensive approach which passed the House in April. The Senate sent us their version, and we’ve reached a compromise.

Provisions Included in the Compromise:

Changes the current penalty occurrence-based model to a hybrid approach that considers degree of injury, number of occurrences, and possible aggravating circumstances. New categories: Domestic Violence High and Aggravated Nature (DVHAN), 1st Degree, 2nd Degree, and 3rd Degree.
Amends the definition of “moderate bodily injury” to create a more understandable and useable definition for prosecutors.
Extends time period for a bond hearing to ensure a judge has all necessary information.
Creates a Domestic Violence Advisory Committee to study domestic violence cases. This Committee would make recommendations to the General Assembly. The Committee is made up of many directors of state agencies.
Batterer’s Treatment Programs would be selected and approved by the prosecuting agency, as opposed to the current model with the Department of Social Services (DSS) approving the programs.
Expands domestic violence education from only high schools to also include middle schools.
Allows judges to proceed with the case without the presence of the victim.
Permits DSS to study a voucher system for child care to accommodate care for children while victims appear in court.

Last week I sent you a list of bills stalled in the Senate. Many of you took action. Thank you to all those who acted, there’s no question the Senate and the Governor are hearing your voices. Thanks to you, this week the Senate moved one step closer to passing our Pain-Capable Pro-Life bill. That’s a great start, but I still need your help. Among the items we have already passed that still remain stalled in the Senate are:

H3184 – Ethics Reform
H3006 – Pro Business Regulatory Reform
H3014 – Shortening Legislative Session
H3799 – Concealed Weapons Permit Expansion
H3523 – Pro Business Ride Sharing Deregulation
H3145 – Protecting Vulnerable Citizens
For a more detailed description of ethics reform and other issues, click here.

Please take a moment to call or email your Senator and the Governor and ask them to take action on these important matters facing our state.

It is an honor to serve you and your family in the General Assembly. If you ever find yourself in need of assistance navigating state government, or if you have ideas on issues you want me to share with my colleagues in the House, don’t hesitate to contact me at 963-0337 at home or 803 734-3045 at my office in Columbia.