Ethics and Infrastructure

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 (PACs). It even goes one step further and states that elected officials can no longer accept campaign contributions from Leadership PACs. This is an important step toward revamping the campaign finance laws in South Carolina.

Finally, the House Transportation Infrastructure & Management Ad-Hoc Committee finalized a plan to fix our state’s roads and bridges. The bi-partisan committee has been at work since last September to find solutions to fixing our state roads and bridges. The committee agreed on an initial proposal that would serve as a blueprint for one of the most important issues facing our state. The bill is expected to be introduced next week. Right now we are considering our House proposal and the Governor’s proposal from the State of the State. If you have an opinion, I’d like to hear from you.

It is an honor and a privilege to serve you in Columbia. 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 or at 963-0337 at home.

Progress Continues On Roads and Ethics

At the Statehouse this week the major focus was on finding additional money to repair South Carolina’s deteriorating roads. The issue was advanced when Governor Nikki Haley delivered her annual State of the State address. I was happy to hear the governor’s support for many of the approaches we have been debating to improve our roads and bridges across the state. That’s going to take considerably more money than is currently allocated.

The governor released her much-anticipated plan to fix the state’s aging roads and bridges which looks very similar to the common-sense proposals we have been working on in the House. Governor Haley offered her three pronged solution to paying for road and bridge improvements by proposing to raise South Carolina’s 16.5-cents per-gallon gas tax, but only if it was included in a “three part package.” That legislative package includes a major tax break for taxpayers in a 2% reduction in the state income tax top rate of 7 percent to 5 percent while restructuring the Department of Transportation to make it more efficient and responsive.

Funding additional road improvements is a complicated issue with no quick and easy solutions. It is critically important to maximize the existing funding in the budget by determining how money already budgeted can be redirected to road improvements; that’s most efficient.

We look forward to working with Governor Haley to find responsible solutions to the infrastructure challenges we face.

“Our Republican House majority is enthusiastic about working with the Governor to accomplish this shared agenda to make South Carolina an even better place to live, work, and raise a family,“ said S.C. House Majority Leader Bruce Bannister.

This week the House advanced legislation to reform our state’s ethics laws that affects all 20,000 elected and appointed officials in the state. An income disclosure measure that is part of a larger sweeping ethics reform package cleared its first hurdle in a House subcommittee and moves to the full House Judiciary Committee.

Subcommittee Chairman Kirkman Finlay noted that, “Income disclosure is the start to creating better public confidence of public officials at all levels. The goal of the legislation is to eliminate the possibility that elected officials or their immediate family are using the elected position for personal gain. This bill will be instrumental in moving our state forward on substantive ethics reform.”

Finally, as is typical in January, much work is being done in the Ways and Means Subcommittees as members begin crafting next year’s state budget. Committee meetings are of paramount importance to move newly-filed legislation forward, therefore, we spend as little time as possible on the House floor so they could have time to get our committee 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 864 963-0337 at home.

New Legislative Session Dawns

The South Carolina General Assembly convened the 121st Regular Session this week with much pomp and circumstance with the inauguration of the Governor and the oath of office administered to the state’s Constitutional Officers.

Much of this week was spent in budget subcommittee meetings for me, and working with Speaker Jay Lucas and his staff to clarify the new role of the House Operations And Management Committee, which I am Chairman. This week we reviewed the budget requests of the South Carolina Lottery Commission, the South Carolina Tuition Grants, Francis Marion University, and Coastal Carolina University.
   
The Republican Caucus is focused on the big issues of helping make the lives of citizens better and our state more prosperous with an expanding economy making more jobs available.
 
One of the top goals is to find substantial funding to pave the way to our state’s better future by strengthening our road and bridge infrastructure. Solving this challenge will provide South Carolina with a competitive advantage over other states in our effort to keep existing businesses and to attract new and expanding businesses.
  
Nearly 300 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 reach out to you to prioritize the agenda. I am holding a Town Hall meeting at the Fountain Inn History Museum on Thursday, January 29th at 6:00 PM.

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 at my office in Columbia, or 864-963-0337 at home.

The Smartphone Meets the Fourth Amendment; issues remain after SCOTUS decision

Many of us are never far from our cell phones. We certainly never leave home without them and landlines are becoming an anachronism. But, for all their utility, cell phones are poorly locked portals that lead directly into our private lives.

Cell phones, particularly the newer smartphones, are so useful precisely because they have the ability to store and retrieve an incredible amount of data anytime, anywhere. Almost everything about our families is stored on our smartphones: photographs, email and voice messages, schedules, text messages, and even Internet browsing histories are available to anyone with the skill and equipment to break into these devices. More importantly, smartphones can provide access to bank and credit card accounts, and even medical data. As a result, new challenges are presented for laws that protect personal information from theft or unauthorized search.

It is no wonder, then, that electronic communications privacy is becoming more important by the day. As technology advances, so does the ability of intruders to capture our sensitive financial and personal data for criminal purposes. At the same time, while law enforcement has a public interest in gaining access to the data used by criminals in the commission of their crimes, citizens have a constitutional right to be free from government agents rifling through their personal data at will.

Cell phone tracking by law enforcement is becoming an important crime-fighting tool, but a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling asserted that a GPS tracking device placed on a suspect’s car violated his Fourth Amendment rights. This ruling did not directly involve cell phones, but since all smartphones have a built-in GPS, it raises questions about the standards for cell phone tracking as well.

On Wednesday, June 25th, however, the U.S. Supreme Court did rule on the issue of cell phone searches in a historic unanimous decision. Chief Justice John Roberts in writing the opinion said, “Modern cell phones are not just another technological convenience,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the court. “With all they contain and all they may reveal, they hold for many Americans the ‘privacies of life,’ ” he said. He went on to say, “The fact that technology now allows an individual to carry such information in his hand does not make the information any less worthy of the protection for which the Founders fought. Our answer to the question of what police must do before searching a cell phone seized incident to an arrest is accordingly simple – get a warrant.”

While this ruling addressed the issue of cell phone searches, the fact that so much of the data from our devices are stored by services, or actually not stored on our device but by others, the problem of protection of our data still remains.

This problem is illustrated by and article written in the Wall Street Journal June 28th. This article notes that the National Security Administration collection of phone data in 2013 increased by 50%, as reported by the agency.

Citizens need to be protected from invasions of privacy by thieves and they need to know how far the government can go in accessing their personal lives. Moreover, law enforcement and businesses need certainty about the rules for accessing personal data. While Congress and some states have taken steps to provide protections, new technology frequently outpaces the law; for example, the most “recent” federal law governing searching electronic communications was adopted in 1986.

Because these issues are important to citizens throughout the country, the matter has been taken up by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which is a national conference of state legislators who meet regularly to share ideas on potential model policies that address today’s top economic issues. Through ALEC, I have been working with legislators from around the country to develop model policies to protect citizens both from technologically advanced thieves and from uncertainties in the nation’s search and seizure laws.

As a member of the ALEC Communications & Technology Task Force, I have been able to spend time with civil liberties groups, technology companies, law enforcement and scholars to discuss the many challenges presented by these issues. This task force has been instrumental in debating and drafting model policy known as the model Electronic Data Privacy Protection Act, which was finalized last year and made available to the public at www.alec.org.

Lawmakers need to give the courts some guidance about how far we want to go. The South Carolina Legislature has already begun addressing these issues. In 2014, I sponsored legislation which provided that data and location information stored in a cell phone or similar wireless communications device, and stored by third party vendors is not subject to a police search without a warrant. This bill was passed by the House but failed to pass the Senate by the end of the session. I plan to try again in the next session.

Three other states–Maine, Montana and Texas–have already acted to protect their citizens’ privacy by passing laws that require warrants for accessing smartphone location data and content. The model I developed with the help of ALEC draws heavily from these laws.

Smartphones have dramatically changed our lives, mostly for the better, and their utility has made them indispensable. It will certainly have renewed interest as the privacy of our personal and business communications becomes ever more critical.

The Flurry of the Final Week

The final week of the legislative session – sine die week or “without days” – is always a flurry of activity as legislators and senators scramble to get important legislation complete.
This week was no exception. We took a big step forward on ethics reform, protected children from drug-abusing parents, and banned texting while driving, among many other things.

The House was disappointed that the Senate stalled on Ethics Reform (again) after a compromise was reached early in the week and the House approved the compromise 110-12. One Upstate Senator filibustered the reform until a compromise was reached for the Senate to consider the legislation when we return to consider the governor’s budget vetoes on June 17th.

The Ethics Reform Act doesn’t give us everything we wanted. It doesn’t give our constituents everything you said you wanted. But too many times in the past decade, we have sacrificed good reforms at the altar of being perfect. Our ethics laws were written 20 years ago, before campaigns had credit cards, cell phone bills, or online fundraising. The law needed to be updated, and the compromise consists of many critical changes.
We approved increased transparency, more income disclosure, tighter rules on third-party money, eliminated Leadership PACs, required more proof of expenses, ended fundraising by government bureaucrats, increased regulation of lobbyists, and increased ethics enforcement and penalties. This isn’t “reform in name only” as many who are fearful of true reform may charge.

What isn’t in the bill is a body that will do independent investigations of public officials – including statewide officials, members of the General Assembly, and judges. Senators on the conference committee told the media in no uncertain terms this week that they would not approve that reform.

Ethics Reform cuts to the heart of good government. We must trust our leaders. The House decided to follow in Ronald Reagan’s footsteps and get what we could today and come back for the rest tomorrow. Governor Haley indicated her support for the bill on social media on Thursday, and we hope the Senate will follow suit.

We approved a ban on texting while driving. You are still allowed to text while stopped at a stoplight or stop sign, but not while the car is moving (except in case of emergency). Fines begin at $25, but you will not receive points for a citation. South Carolina is one of the last states in the union to pass such a ban, even though the House has given preliminary approval to such measures a few times.

One final piece of legislation that we approved Thursday was Jaidon’s Law. The bill gives our courts clear guidelines on when to terminate parental rights, specifically when the parents or guardians have a history of drug abuse or child abuse. It also requires drug-abusing parents pass drug tests and treatment programs as a condition of keeping their parental rights. Our thanks to Rep. Mike Forrester of Spartanburg for his dogged pursuit of this legislation over the last two years.

One thing that didn’t get done this year was more funds to repair our crumbling infrastructure. The House overwhelmingly appropriated money from the sales tax on cars (a more stable funding source than the gasoline tax) to the Department of Transportation. The legislation did not make it out of the Senate. Instead of $41 million a year dedicated to fixing roads and bridges, the Senate only approved about $15 million.

As always, it is a privilege to serve you in the South Carolina House. If you ever need help with state government, or have any thoughts or concerns about what we are doing, please do not hesitate to contact me at 963-0337 or at my office in Columbia at 803 734-3045.

The Final Stretch for True Ethics Reform

The string of headlines on ethics issues over the past six years means the time has come to strengthen our laws. I have written about this issue a number of times over the past two years as the House has studied and debated the Ethics Act.

This week, the House put the finishing touches on a bi-partisan Ethics Reform Act that passed 110-0. A true recounting of this issue would take many pages (or pixels on your computer screen), so here are a few of the major reforms our Ethics Reform Act fixes:

1) Independent Investigations for Reported Ethics Violations: We established a 12-member independent panel responsible for investigating every ethics matter that arises for members of all branches of the government: executive (including local officials), legislative, and judicial. This body only has the authority to receive and investigate complaints. Adjudication of those complaints will go back to the appropriate enforcement committee. Two members would be appointed by the House, two by the Senate, four by the Governor, and four by the state Supreme Court.
Who would be on this committee was a point of contention, since it is imperative that we remove as many sources of conflicts of interest as possible. Nobody on the committee may be a public official, an office holder, a family member of an official, been a lobbyist for the previous four years, or a judge. In addition, we excluded anybody who had made a campaign contribution to the person who nominated them or anybody who is a business associate of the person nominating them. The members of the committee must also avoid making any political contributions or engaging in any political activity covered by the ethics act.
2) Expanded Income Disclosure: This legislation requires reporting of the source of any private income by the filer or their immediate family members. It requires the reporting of the specific source of income received from a lobbyist principal, state or local government source, or business regulated by the filer. This will give the public new access to information on the potential conflicts of interest that may arise with public officials.
3) Banned “Leadership PACs”: We removed language that allows political action committees controlled directly or indirectly by a candidate to exist.
4) Financial Records: The legislation allows an official’s ethics supervisory committee to request banking records that are required to be maintained by public officials. Public officials must now keep these records for four years (to match the statute of limitations). We changed this so the committees may substantiate information on a candidate’s quarterly disclosures.
5) “Black Out” Period: We require candidates to file a final pre-election report 48 hours before the election in order to disclose final contributions and expenditures.
6) New Restrictions on Campaign Funds: The law adds language detailing how candidates may reimburse themselves with campaign funds for travel and associated expenses by limiting mileage reimbursement to the IRS established rate, and limiting other travel expenses to either campaign events or events that fall within the scope of the candidates official duties. (And the law more strictly defines what official duties are.”
The legislation also clarifies that equipment purchased for campaign use must be consumed by the campaign or become an asset of the campaign. It requires payment for campaign services to be contemporaneous with the provision of those services and disallow immediate family from being paid by a campaign. It also disallows cash expenditures from campaign accounts.

While this legislation may not fix every ethics issue that every person may have, this goes a long way toward updating our 20-year-old Ethics Act to better reflect the realities of modern campaigns. There is no doubt that more tweaks and clarifications will be needed as these reforms are implemented, but after two years of bi-partisan study and debate in the House, this is a strong reform law that duly earned the support of many outside watchdog groups after it was approved this week.

As always, it is a privilege to serve you in the South Carolina House. If you ever need help with state government, or have any thoughts or concerns about what we are doing, please do not hesitate to contact me at 963-0337 at home or 803 734-3045 at my office in Columbia.

The Home Stretch for Legislation

There are nine days left in the legislative session for 2014. Last week, I wrote a bit about the House’s conservative achievements for the year.

This week marked the final week of committee meetings in the House, as we reserved the final three weeks of the session for floor work and conference committees. We were heartened to see the Senate approve its version of the state budget this week – raising expectations that we could have the state budget finalized, and vetoes considered, before June 5th.

As I write this, there are 242 pieces of House legislation still awaiting action in the Senate. We’re certainly not calling for the Senate to pass all of them. But as the House Republicans have contentiously worked on passing a conservative agenda during the 2013-2014 session, we have once again witnessed much of that progress stall in the Senate.

This isn’t something new. Since the voters gave Republicans control of the House in 1994, we have voiced frustrations with the Senate’s inability to get conservative reforms passed. Term limits, a shorter session, numerous tax cuts, regulatory reform, and government streamlining have all repeatedly met their end in the Senate.

We approved a Department of Administration – giving the governor control of the executive branch – for 5 years before it was finally signed into law earlier this year. Shorter session legislation has been approved in every legislature for 20 years. Even this year’s attempt to shorten the session by one lone week remained marooned in a Senate committee.
So, as time winds down, what is still pending?

Legislation that prevents unauthorized search and seizure of your smartphones without a warrant, especially now that our phones carry sensitive personal information that the government has no inherent right to seize;

Legislation requiring drug-tests for people receiving unemployment benefits;
Legislation prohibiting the implementation of Obamacare in South Carolina;
Legislation establishing accountability-based funding for our colleges and universities;
Legislation to allow the voters to decide if our Adjutant General should be appointed and not elected (legislation promoted by the current Adjutant General);
Legislation allowing the dependents of our service men and women to receive in-state tuition at our public colleges;
Legislation that will make our roads safer by putting new restrictions on texting while driving;
Legislation expanding criminal background checks for childcare workers;
Legislation reauthorizing the First Steps program;
Legislation reforming our antiquated school funding formula;
Numerous pieces of legislation to protect and enhance our state’s charter schools;
Numerous pieces of legislation restricting the use campaign funds; and
Legislation requiring a fiscal impact statement be computed for new regulations.


I have good, hard-working conservative colleagues in the Senate who feel the same frustrations, and this is not a criticism of their efforts to promote these reforms. The House worked hard, with much input from our constituents, to get these bills to the Senate. We hope the Senate will consider these bills in the time they have left.

As always, it is a privilege to serve you in the South Carolina House. If you ever need help with state government, or have any thoughts or concerns about what we are doing, please do not hesitate to contact me at 963-0337 at home, or 803 734-3045 at my office in Columbia.

A Strong Record of Achievement

With four weeks left in the legislative session, the race is on to get important legislation finished and to Governor Haley’s desk.
Looking back on the two-year session, the House Republicans have a long list of notable achievements. Since voters gave us control of the House in 1994, most of our state’s major reforms originated as priorities of the House Republican Caucus. This year was no exception.
Here are just a few of the notable bills that we passed and their status:
ELECTION REFORM – This legislation fixed the problems that plagued the 2012 election and made our election system more efficient and streamlined. This legislation has been signed into law.
COMMON CORE – The House and Senate have approved legislation preventing the implementation of the Common Core education standards and removing the state from the Common Core organization beginning next year and revert to our strong, state-created standards.
ID THEFT PROTECTION – In addition to providing ID fraud protection to all South Carolinians, we approved legislation making it easy to put a freeze on your credit report to prevent thieves from stealing your identity to take out loans, apply for credit cards, or anything else that requires a credit check.
OBAMACARE – The House Republicans have fought back more than a dozen attempts by the Democrats to implement Obamacare and radically expand Medicaid spending. We successfully opted-out of the Medicaid expansion, opted-out of the exchanges, and ordered local governments not to join on their own. We’ve worked for two years to fight Obamacare with every tool at our disposal. Most of the legislation is still in the state Senate.
RESTRUCTURING – The House approved the biggest restructuring of our government since Carroll Campbell was governor. That legislation created a Department of Administration and moved nearly all of the day-to-day operations of the state government under the control of the governor and out of the hands of the unaccountable Budget and Control Board, which was eliminated. This bill is now law.
Two other bills awaiting consideration in the Senate include shortening the legislative session (something the House has approved a dozen times since 1994), and legislation allowing voters to decide of the state Adjutant General should be elected or appointed by the governor.
SECOND AMENDMENT – We approved two bills that protected the rights of gun owners that were signed into law. The first allows concealed weapons permit holders to take their weapons into restaurants and bars – provided they do not consume alcohol. The second expands our state background checks to flag people who have mental health issues. That legislation came following the incident at the Ashley Hall school when a mentally ill woman brought a gun to the school and an amazing tragedy was narrowly averted.
EMMA’S LAW – The General Assembly approved Emma’s Law, which requires repeat DUI offenders to install ignition interlock devices on their cars. I have written about this bill several times in the past few months.
ETHICS – The House will soon consider our Ethics Reform Act (after the Senate watered the bill down and sent it back to us last month). We approved this legislation last year and the Senate sent it back to us in April. We are committed to getting this legislation to the governor’s desk before the end of the session.
DATA PRIVACY PROTECTION – We approved legislation that prevents the state, or law enforcement, from eavesdropping on your smartphones and/or searching your smartphone without a warrant. These are vital protections that the federal courts have not given us, but are vital now that many of us carry sensitive personal information on our phones. This legislation is pending in the Senate.
BUDGET – The House approved two balanced budgets that prioritized education funding and our infrastructure needs. We have approved balanced budgets in every year that the Republicans have controlled the House.
A few other items of note that are still pending in the Senate as time runs short:
Legislation requiring people getting unemployment benefits to be drug-tested;
Legislation allowing the dependents of our service men and women to receive in-state tuition at our public colleges;
Legislation putting new restrictions on texting while driving;
Legislation expanding criminal background checks for childcare workers;
Legislation reauthorizing the First Steps program;
Numerous smaller pieces of legislation restricting the use campaign funds; and
Legislation requiring a fiscal impact statement be computed for new regulations.

It was a very busy two years, but as we come to the close of the session, we can hang our hats on a number of significant reforms that will be felt throughout our state in the coming years.
As always, it is a privilege to serve you in the South Carolina House. If you ever need help with state government, or have any thoughts or concerns about what we are doing, please do not hesitate to contact me at 963-0337 at home, or at my office in Columbia at 803 734-3045.

Moving Critical Legislation to the Senate

We spent a number of very long days on the floor this week clearing legislation off the House calendar before the May 1 “Crossover Deadline” – which is essentially the day all legislation must reach the Senate to be considered.
We don’t believe every bill must be passed, but we want to consider as much legislation as possible. That may mean passing the bill and sending it to the Senate, but it may also mean voting down the bill or sending it back to committee (which at this stage of the session, essentially ends a bill’s chance to be considered).
Here are a few of the big items we considered this week:
COMMON CORE – The House Education and Public Works Committee approved legislation that removes South Carolina from the group of states developing the Common Core standards. The legislation also prevents schools from sharing data about students. The House Republican Caucus has opposed the implementation of Common Core in our 2014 Agenda, and we are excited that this legislation will be on the House floor before the Crossover Deadline on May 1. The Senate is considering similar legislation.
ELECTION REFORM – We approved legislation this week that would allow the state to oversee county election commissions that don’t follow the law. This comes in the wake of the debacle in Richland County in 2012 when poll workers knew the county didn’t send enough election machines to certain, very busy precincts. This will allow the state to step in and fix the problem – ensuring everyone has a chance to cast their vote in future elections.
TEXTING – The House approved a statewide ban on texting while driving on Wednesday. The penalty is the same as not wearing a seat belt, and we prevented the police from seizing your cell phone. The House Republicans believe that distracted driving is a serious problem, though we disagree about the best way to stop it. Because major cities such as Charleston, Mount Pleasant, and most recently Greenville, have approved texting bans, the need for a statewide regulation to trump local bans is gaining importance.
EMMA’S LAW – I’ve written extensively about Emma’s Law over the past few weeks, but I’m proud to announce that as I write this, the Senate has approved the House’s bill and Emma’s Law is going to Governor Haley’s desk. This bill is a critical step toward stopping the repeat DUI offenders that endanger all of us on the road.
FURLOUGH – The House will be on furlough for the next two weeks as we take our traditional Easter break to be with our families – and saving $100,000 for the taxpayers. For more than a decade, the House has approved measures to shorten our legislative session – one of the longest in the nation, especially when compared to the size of our state. The Senate has never approved the measures.
If we count the two weeks where winter weather cancelled session, the House will have taken a month off this year and we still have a strong record of achievement:
A balanced budget,
The “Restaurant Carry” Bill,
The Department of Administration government restructuring bill,
Legislation keeping violent offenders from being released on bond,
New restrictions on abortions after 20 weeks, and
Emma’s Law.

And on top of all of that, we’re anxious to debate the Common Core law, and a committee was hard at work this week re-writing the Ethics Reform Act that doubled in size when it returned from the Senate a few weeks ago.
I’m looking forward to a very busy final six weeks of this year’s session.
As always, it is a privilege to serve you in the South Carolina House. If you ever need help with state government, or have any thoughts or concerns about what we are doing, please do not hesitate to contact me at 963-0337 at home or 803 734-3045 at my office in Columbia.

Sprinting toward the “Crossover” deadline

There are two legislative weeks left before the “Crossover” deadline – the date when legislation must reach the Senate to be considered in the normal course of business. That means April is always a busy month in the General Assembly and this week was no exception.
Here is a quick breakdown of this week’s major activity:
EMMA’S LAW – The House approved a strong anti-DUI law that we hope will keep repeat DUI offenders off the roads. “Emma’s Law” was named for Emma Longstreet, a 6-year-old girl from Lexington County who was killed by a repeat offender drunk driver two years ago. The law requires some DUI offenders to install an ignition interlock device on their vehicles and closes loopholes that made it easier for those convicted of a DUI to get back on the road without having to use an ignition interlock device.
Ignition interlock devices require a driver to breathe into the device before starting the car. If the driver has been drinking, the car won’t start. Expanding the use of these interlock devices is a critical step in making our roads safer. This bill will now go to a House-Senate Conference Committee to finalize language before going to the Governor for her signature.
ETHICS REFORM – A special House subcommittee began re-writing our Ethics Reform Act that the Senate loaded up by doubling the size of the bill. As I wrote last week, the primary reason for sending it to subcommittee is to write our own provisions into the legislation so we can work with the Senate in a conference committee. Our goal is to get this back out quickly so we can send a strong Ethics Reform Act to Governor Haley.
“CBD” and CHILDREN’S SEIZURES – The House approved an extremely limited use of a non-psychoactive cannabidiol, known as CBD oil. This is to be used in a supervised medical setting for children with severe epilepsy. A similar bill passed the Senate last week without an opposing vote. The Senate bill allowed for clinical trials at the Medical University of South Carolina, the House bill took the law a small step further and allowed the parents to possess the CBD oil. This extract has given hope to parents who have children with extreme cases of epilepsy. This bill will also head to a conference committee.
ARTICLE V CONVENTION – We began debate on the Article V Convention of States legislation – a way to rein in the out-of-control federal government. Article V of the Constitution provides that if two-thirds of the states submit an application to Congress, Congress must call a Convention of States for the purpose of proposing amendments to the Constitution.  A Convention of states can only propose amendments, and cannot change the Constitution by itself. Each state would have only one vote proposed amendments, and any amendment approved by the convention would still require ratification by 38 state. Amending the Constitution is not something to be taken lightly, and this is a difficult process designed by our Founding Fathers. Nevertheless, as dissatisfaction with the federal government increases in all segments of our population, it is time we take back our federal government.
NATIONAL REPUBLICAN VISITS – The House Republican Caucus was honored to have former Congressman and MSNBC “Morning Joe” host Joe Scarborough here to speak to us on Tuesday. He signed copies of his book and spoke to the Caucus about national political issues. As we move forward into 2015, please take the time to seek out these prominent Republicans when they visit our state. One of the biggest benefits of having the First in the South Presidential Primary is that we all get to meet, hear, and shake hands with national conservative figures between now and February 2016.
As always, it is a privilege to serve you in the South Carolina House. If you ever need help with state government, or have any thoughts or concerns about what we are doing, please do not hesitate to contact me at 963-0337 at home or 803 734-3045 at my office in Columbia.