Roads Bill Conference Committee


April 22, 2016

The House of Representatives appointed a conference committee to address its differences with the Senate on H.3579, legislation that includes DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION RESTRUCTURING AND ROAD FUNDING INITIATIVES.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4763, legislation designated as “ALICIA’S LAW” to acknowledge the advocacy efforts of Alicia Kozakiewicz of Pennsylvania who, in 2002 at the age of thirteen, survived abduction by an Internet predator. The legislation provides for a 6.1% assessment on criminal court fines to be deposited in a newly-created INTERNET CRIMES AGAINST CHILDREN FUND that is to be used to investigate, prosecute, and prevent Internet crimes against children, such as cyberenticement and child pornography, including the necessary staffing, training, and equipment. Of the revenue credited to the fund each year, sixty percent must be allocated to the Attorney General to operate the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, and the remaining forty percent must be transferred to the Department of Public Safety to provide grants to local law enforcement agencies.

The House approved S.1090 and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation names Chapter 19, Title 24 of the South Carolina Code of Laws the “JUDGE WILLIAM R. BYARS YOUTHFUL OFFENDER ACT” in recognition of the many contributions that Judge Byars has made to the juvenile justice system in such capacities as family court judge, Director of the Children’s Law Office at the University of South Carolina School of Law, Director of the Department of Juvenile Justice, and Director of the Department of Corrections.

The House concurred in Senate amendments to H.3768 and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation provides for the “SOUTH CAROLINA ABLE SAVINGS PROGRAM” that allows for the establishment of savings accounts as a means of empowering individuals with a disability and their families to save private funds to support the individual with a disability. The legislation establishes the Savings Program Trust Fund and Savings Expense Trust Fund and provides guidelines to the State Treasurer for the maintenance of these accounts. The legislation allows for state implementation that coordinates with the federal Achieving Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act of 2014.

The House approved S.849 and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation establishes REQUIREMENTS FOR INSURANCE PLAN PHARMACY BENEFITS MANAGERS TO COMPILE MAXIMUM ALLOWABLE DRUG COST LISTS that show the maximum amount for the cost of a particular generic drug that will be reimbursed to a pharmacist or pharmacy who provides covered health care services or supplies as a participating network plan provider. The legislation includes requirements for pharmacy benefit managers to make these maximum allowable cost lists available to network pharmacy providers and to review and update maximum allowable cost price information. Provisions are included that allow a pharmacy to appeal the provider’s reimbursement for a drug subject to maximum allowable cost pricing.

The House returned S.339, legislation designated as “HOPE’S LAW”, to the Senate with amendments. The legislation establishes REQUIREMENTS FOR MAMMOGRAPHY REPORTS TO BE PROVIDED TO PATIENTS THAT INCLUDE INFORMATION ABOUT BREAST DENSITY. When a mammogram shows that breast tissue is dense, the required report must include notice to the patient explaining that dense tissue is common and not abnormal, but can, however, make it harder to evaluate mammogram results and may also be associated with an increased risk of breast cancer.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.5140, a bill that makes revisions relating to a school district’s ANNUAL SCHOOL CALENDAR for teachers, staff, and students. The legislation provides that, beginning with the 2017-2018 school year, the school start date for students must not be before August fifteenth, rather than the opening date limit of the third Monday in August that is set in current law, except for schools operating on a yearround modified school calendar. The legislation revises the deadline for notification of teaching assignments and makes provisions for the types and timing of student assessments. Beginning in the 2017-2018 school year, the legislation requires, with certain exceptions, that school districts administer the statewide summative assessment for grades three through eight during the last twenty days of school and that such testing may not exceed seven days each school year.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4774, a bill to provide for a two-year REAUTHORIZATION OF SOUTH CAROLINA FIRST STEPS TO SCHOOL READINESS so that the program is extended until July 1, 2018.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.4391, a bill REVISING THE UNIFORM ANATOMICAL GIFT ACT TO ALLOW FOR THE DONATION OF BRAIN TISSUE to be used only for research or education.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4574, legislation enacting the “ELECTROLOGY PRACTICE ACT” to provide for the licensure and regulation of electrologists and electrology instructors by an Electrology Licensure Committee established under the Board of Medical Examiners. The legislation is offered as a means of ensuring minimum standards of competency for those who practice or offer instruction in electrology, which involves the permanent removal of hair from the skin through the application of an electric current.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4492, a bill revising NOTIFICATION REQUIREMENTS FOR DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SERVICES CHILD PLACEMENT HEARINGS that inform foster parents, pre-adoptive parents, or relatives providing care to abused or neglected children so that, with certain exceptions, notification must be given at least ten days in advance. The legislation includes provisions that allow these parties to file reports with the family court.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4525, a bill extending and revising provisions for DEVOTING A PORTION OF INSURANCE PREMIUM TAX REVENUES TO THE FUNDING OF FIREFIGHTING NEEDS AND EMERGENCY MEDICAL SERVICES TRAINING. The legislation extends until June 30, 2030, the requirement for using two and one quarter percent of each year’s insurance premium tax revenues to fund emergency response needs and redistributes the revenue so that one percent is transferred to the South Carolina Forestry Commission to be used for firefighting and firefighting equipment replacement, one percent is transferred to the aid to fire districts account within the State Treasury to be distributed to local fire departments for firefighting equipment replacement, and one quarter of one percent is transferred to the aid to emergency medical services regional councils within the Department of Health and Environmental Control to be used for grants to fund emergency medical technician and paramedic training.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.4556, a bill providing a PROPERTY TAX EXEMPTION FOR PERMANENTLY AND TOTALLY DISABLED EMERGENCY MEDICAL TECHNICIANS. The legislation extends to permanently and totally disabled former emergency medical technicians the homeowner property tax exemption that is currently allowed for military veterans, former law enforcement officers, and former firefighters who are permanently and totally disabled.

The House concurred in Senate amendments to H.4712, a bill making clarifications regarding the CLASSIFICATION OF OFFPREMISES OUTDOOR ADVERTISING SIGNS AS PERSONAL PROPERTY FOR TAX PURPOSES. The legislation establishes conditions under which an off premises outdoor advertising sign is classified as tangible personal property for tax purposes, and establishes provisions under which the value of a lease or lease income on such billboards may not be used in the assessment of the tax value of the real property on which the advertising sign is erected. The legislation includes provisions for any sign permit required by local, state, or federal law to be considered as intangible personal property for ad valorem property tax purposes.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4398, a bill establishing a FIREARMS EXEMPTION IN BANKRUPTCY CLAIMS. The legislation revises provisions for the real and personal property of a debtor that is exempt from attachment, levy, and sale in a bankruptcy proceeding by adding an exemption that covers any firearms not exceeding a total value of five thousand dollars owned by the debtor. The legislation revises the exemption for a debtor’s aggregate interest, not to exceed fifty thousand dollars in value by providing that, except that a surviving spouse may exempt, in addition to their interest, the aggregate interest of a deceased spouse not to exceed fifty thousand dollars in value.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4795, a bill ALLOWING A STUDENT WHO HAS BEEN AWARDED A PALMETTO FELLOWS SCHOLARSHIP THE OPTION OF DEFERRING ENROLLMENT IN A HIGHER EDUCATION INSTITUTION FOR ONE YEAR following high school graduation without declining the award.

The House returned S.1013, a bill overhauling and updating the licensure and regulation of REAL ESTATE BROKERS, SALESPERSONS, AND PROPERTY MANAGERS, to the Senate with amendments. Notably, the bill includes provisions for the operation of real estate teams supervised by a broker-in-charge and increases continuing education requirements for real estate license renewals from eight hours to ten hours.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.5023, a bill making various revisions to the SOUTH CAROLINA REAL ESTATE APPRAISER LICENSE AND CERTIFICATION ACT. Notably, the legislation makes provisions for one of the members of the Real Estate Appraisers Board to be a certified residential appraiser and includes alignment provisions for federal and state chartered banks.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3969, a bill making provisions that allow for the ELECTRONIC TRANSMISSION OF INSURANCE NOTICES AND DOCUMENTS should the insured choose to receive notices and documents electronically.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.5040, a bill updating and revising various provisions relating to the application and enforcement of the CONSUMER PROTECTION CODE.

The House amended, adopted, and sent the Senate H.5108, a concurrent resolution establishing a temporary STUDY COMMITTEE TO ASSESS THE ROLE OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT FLEETS IN HIRING ENTRY-LEVEL COMMERCIAL DRIVER’S LICENSED DRIVERS.

Thank you for the honor to represent you in the South Carolina House of Representatives and please feel free to contact me via email at or call me at my office in Columbia at 803 734-3045 or at home at 864 963-0337.

Garry R. Smith
SC House of Representatives
District 27 – Greenville County

Summary and Comparison of SC DOT Reform bills

The following is a summary and comparison of the bill passed yesterday by the SC House with the bill passed by the SC Senate.

H-3579 Amendment #1 – Strike All and Insert

Section 1
All Highway Commissioners are appointed by the Governor, 7 district and 1 state-wide
Keeps the qualifications for Commissioners removed in senate version
Requires that “other demographic factors such as residence in rural or urban areas” be considered
Advice and consent of General Assembly by a roll call vote of both bodies
Commissioners serve four year terms, no more than two consecutive terms, and may not serve more than 12 years, regardless of when the term is/was served (retroactive)

Section 2
Commission appoints a Secretary of Transportation with Advice/Consent of General Assembly by a roll call vote of both bodies
Secretary serves at the pleasure of the Commission

Sections 3
Places the SCDOT Chief Internal Auditor under the State Auditor

Sections 4
Repeals the JTRC code sections and eliminates the Committee

Section 5
Sections 1-4 take effect on July 1, 2016
Members serving on the Commission on June 30, 2016 shall continue to serve until their current term expires, and until their successor is appointed and confirmed
Vacancies are filled by appointment of the Governor, and serve until the end of that unexpired term
Any eligible commissioner may be reappointed by Governor on or after June 30, 2016

Section 6
Before any loan or financial assistance can be provided by the SIB, the board must submit the decision to the DOT Commission for approval, rejection, or a request for additional information from the SIB Board
Does not relate to any payment or contractual obligations that the DOT has to the bank that are pledged to any bonds issued by the bank

Section 7
SIB cannot provide financial assistance for any project below $25 M

Section 8
SIB must follow the Act 114 prioritization criteria
A Joint Resolution for a single, specific project can override this provision

Section 9
Transfers remaining $65 M of auto sales tax revenues from the general fund to the State Highway Fund at the Department of Transportation

Section 10
Except where otherwise provided, this act takes effect on July 1, 2016

Senate Passed version of H-3579

Section 1
Commissioners are appointed by the Governor, 7 district and 1 state-wide, with Advice and Consent of the Senate
State-wide appointment serves as Chairman
Requires that “other demographic factors such as residence in rural or urban areas” be considered
Commissioners serve four year terms which expire December 31 of the appropriate year
Commissioners may serve in a hold-over capacity for a maximum of 5 months
Commissioners serve out remainder of current terms

Section 2
Commission appoints a Secretary of Transportation with consultation and approval of the Governor, must have Advice/Consent of the Senate

Section 3
Before any loan or financial assistance can be provided by the SIB, the board must submit the decision to the DOT Commission for approval, rejection, or a request for additional information from the SIB Board
Does not relate to any payment or contractual obligations that the DOT has to the bank that are pledged to any bonds issued by the bank

Section 4
General Assembly must appropriate $400 M to the State Highway Fund
Does not specify recurring/non-recurring
Funds must be contained in W&Ms, House, SFC, Senate and Conference Report of the Appropriations Bill

Roads Update, Budget Debate & Gun Rights

In our 10th week of legislative session in the South Carolina House, we made headway on committee work, pouring over the Senate’s amendments to our roads plan, and taking the first steps to amend our bankruptcy laws, making them friendlier to gun owners.

My colleagues and I also worked diligently this week to clear the House calendar as we enter into the annual budget debate next week. Unlike Washington, we take time to balance our budget each year. I take a conservative approach to allocating state funds, and I value your input. Last week I sent a link to the budget proposal for fiscal years 2016/2017 as proposed by the House Ways and Means Committee. I have provided it here again in case you missed it.

The House Judiciary Committee’s General and Family Law Subcommittee approved a measure amending our state’s bankruptcy laws to ensure they are friendly to gun owners. You may ask, “What does bankruptcy have to do with the right to keep and bear arms?” Good question. During bankruptcy proceedings those who have fallen on hard times are many times required to sell off certain assets to satisfy their debts – in some cases including firearms. The provision approved this week would allow gun owners to keep up to three firearms and up to 1,000 rounds of ammunition per firearm in any bankruptcy proceeding. This ensures those who must undergo the unfortunate scenario of filing for bankruptcy do not also lose their ability to exercise one of the most important constitutional amendments.

Finally, if you were able to read my update from last week and as you may have seen in various news reports, the Senate finally sent back their amendments to our roads and infrastructure funding bill. My House colleagues and I have continued to look closely at the Senate changes. The issue of fixing our roads while creating a long-term solution to our immediate problem remains complex.

We have worked for years in the House to address the failed governance model of the Department of Transportation (DOT) tasked with paving and maintaining our roads. While the Senate roads plan does call for additional road and infrastructure funding, that money can actually only be spent as part of the budget process. We will be proactive in making sure these extra funds are part of next week’s budget debate. Also, the Senate version may not reform the DOT enough, likely requiring us to consider amending their changes for more significant reform to the DOT making the agency more accountable and efficient. After the annual budget debate which begins March 21st, we will take up the Senate’s amendments to the road funding bill, and I welcome your input.

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 963-0337 at home or 803 734-3045 at my office in Columbia.

Roads Update, Pro-Life Action & Budget Movement

We finished up the week of legislative session in the South Carolina House clearing the way for South Carolina institutions of higher learning to be more competitive in addition to making significant headway on important pro-life reform.

After a year of pressure from South Carolinians who continue to suffer on our hazardous roadways, the Senate has finally amended and returned the road/DOT reform bill we sent them last year. We will be discussing and debating their revisions this week.

Citizens should expect and receive certain basic services from their government, safe roads and bridges being chief among them. I continue to hear from voters in our district that fixing our roads remains their top priority. My House colleagues and I do not intend to delay the passage of this important road funding legislation and will address it as quickly as we are able to do so.

I’m pleased to report we have but one final hurdle to clear in getting the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act to a conference committee. In conference, minute details can be cleared up between both the House and Senate allowing a final passage in both legislative bodies placing the bill on Governor Nikki Haley’s desk for her signature. As House conservatives, we have been working for many months to move this important legislation, and I am hopeful that in the coming weeks I will be able to report our efforts have been successful. Protecting the unborn from violent pain while in the womb is not a political issue, but a moral imperative that I am proud to support.

Finally, after many months of deliberation in subcommittee and full committee the House Ways and Means Committee introduced the state’s annual budget for fiscal year 2016/2017. The bill is currently in the process of being printed and preparations are underway for initial debate on the House floor. Funding our necessities in South Carolina with your precious tax dollars is a responsibility I take seriously.

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 803 734-3045 in Columbia or 963-0337 at home.

Senate Plan is not Reform or Common Sense

“This week, the Senate will be debating the gas tax bill. They have changed the House version (that I voted against) and have somehow managed to make it even worse. The governor asked for reform, but what they did instead was shuffle pool chairs and add a few more. The “reform” aspect turns the commission from Congressional Districts to Councils of Government (COGs). COGs are regional unelected groups that would still be influenced by the General Assembly. The governor would pick the 10 commissioners, but he/she would only get a choice of three candidates that were screened by legislative review boards. The senate amendment also adds an $800 million gas tax hike with little to no income tax reform. It’s time for my colleagues and I in the House of Representatives to stand up against this bad bill. Let me be clear. I will not vote for the Senate plan or any other plan that includes a gas tax should it get back to the House. In fact, I took my name off of H. 3580, which was Governor Haley’s plan because after further review, I knew it was a bad plan and would ultimately be a tax hike on my constituents and other South Carolinians. What the SCDOT needs most is common sense reform, which includes putting the department completely under control of the governor with advice and consent only from the senate and eliminating the State Infrastructure Bank.” (Here’s the common sense reform)

Protecting Gun Rights, Increased Accountability & Juvenile Justice

This week in Columbia we hit the ground running strengthening our gun laws, streamlining government, and continuing our work in legislative subcommittees.

Due to a recent South Carolina Supreme Court decision, we had to go back and apply a fix to an existing statute pertaining to the Stand Your Ground law. The fix sets forth the judicial procedure to assert the Castle Doctrine defense. It also strengthens the existing Castle Doctrine which includes provisions that prohibit criminals from using a Stand Your Ground defense while committing a crime. The measure is strongly backed by the pro-second amendment National Rifle Association and it passed the House unanimously.

We also gave more clarification to a 2014 measure passed by a statewide constitutional amendment that allows the governor and lieutenant governor to run on the same ticket. The bill allows the governor to assign duties to the lieutenant governor, very similar to the functional relationship between the president and vice president. This “good government” measure increases accountability in the executive branch and creates important safeguards.

This week a House Judiciary Subcommittee passed a bill that would cause the State Superintendent of Education to be appointed by the Governor instead of elected by popular vote. This would increase the amount of accountability surrounding the office of the Superintendent of Education by allowing the Governor to directly oversee the delivery of public education to South Carolina’s children. Reforms like this one deliver a better return on the taxpayer investment and real results for parents and students.

Finally, the legislative oversight committee continued its inquiry into the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ). The inquiry surrounds new requests for additional resources from the DJJ to address growing concerns at facilities in our state. It is important the DJJ recognize signs of peril in young offenders and provide them proper rehabilitative structures, thus helping the offender regain control of their life while saving taxpayers from footing the bill for repeat offenders. The committee is engaged in a thorough examination of the DJJ and its operations and will make their findings public when complete.

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.

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.