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
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.