The 117th General Assembly convened on January 8th. Two new House Members were sworn in, Shannon Erickson, representing Beaufort County, and Heyward Hutson, representing Charleston and Dorchester Counties.
Of interest in the first week of session, was one key action. The House amended, approved, and sent to the Senate legislation that revises a traffic provision intended to facilitate the overtaking of slow-moving vehicles by faster-moving vehicles and establishes a new requirement that an operator of a motor vehicle shall allow a safe operating distance between the motor vehicle and a bicycle when passing and overtaking a bicyclist. The legislation specifies that a bicyclist is not required to ride on the shoulder of the roadway in order to comply with the requirement of riding as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway. Of course, safety is the main goal here as in all cases. Each driver must take responsibility of their actions to insure safer highways and roads.
During the past two weeks, the members of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee have been holding hearings to address wishes and concerns of state agencies. My subcommittee, Higher Ed, and cultural agencies have met several times. This past week, we heard from the State Library representatives. I was very pleased to have Sue Rainey, Darlington County librarian, to meet with our committee and spend time with her discussing the needs of public libraries.
First reading was given to these and other bills that were referred to the Ways and Means Committee. H.4402 is a bill that would establish the South Carolina Coordinating Council for Economic Growth, and provides for the membership, functions, and duties of the council to include the formulation of a statewide economic development strategic plan. H.4443 is a joint resolution that would establish the State Retirement Systems Defined Contribution Plan Study Committee and requires the committee to issue a final report and recommendations before September 1, 2008. H.4444 is a bill that would move the date of the annual August sales tax holiday to the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday before the third Monday in August. Under the schedule provided by current law, the sales tax holiday runs from the first Friday in August through the following Sunday. H.4460 is a bill that establishes a procedure allowing counties to impose a school construction impact fee to be used to provide a credit against property taxes imposed to pay bonded indebtedness for public school construction. H.4463 is a bill that provides for South Carolina residents who otherwise qualifies for the LIFE, HOPE, or Palmetto Fellows Scholarship but who attends school in another state because no public college or university offers his chosen major shall receive the scholarship for which he qualifies to be used for payment of tuition at the out_of_state institution.
One of the Ways and Means subcommittees that oversees the Budget and Control Board and retirement agencies had a meeting this week to discuss the retirement benefits. Among those attending this subcommittee hearing were members of the Darlington County Retired Teachers Association, which included Messrs Jimmy Newsome, Perry Bell and David Neilson. I am always very happy to see friends from Darlington and Chesterfield Counties at the State House, and I encourage each of you to take an active part in the legislative process. I encourage your participation in issues of concern.
Illegal immigration has taken the forefront around the state of South Carolina. The Education Committee is studying a bill in regards to SC access to education. H.4451 is a bill that prohibits illegal immigrants from receiving state aid for education. In an attempt to address the State' s increasing number of students dropping out of school, H.4459, would establish the "South Carolina Drop-out Prevention Act of 2008," which would direct the State Department of Education with available funds provided by the General Assembly, to establish in conjunction with local school officials, alternative schools in those districts or a combination of districts where alternative schools are not yet established and for which there is a justified need. The bill also provides that students who have dropped out of school or who have been expelled or suspended from school may attend alternative schools.
The Judiciary committee has given first reading to H.4400. This is a bill that would make numerous revisions in laws that pertain to illegal immigrants. Proposed changes include, but are not limited to, public employment, public benefits, wage withholdings, criminal penalties for harboring illegal immigrants, Civil penalties for employers that terminate a legal worker while retaining a person known to be an illegal alien, and a prohibition on illegal immigrants attending public institutions of higher learning or receiving certain postsecondary education benefits.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve you. I appreciate your interest in working together to make Darlington and Chesterfield Counties a better place to live and work. Please continue to stay in touch with me so that I may be an effective representative for you. If you have a comment or opinion concerning the issues in this report, or if I may be of assistance to you at any time, please call your legislative office in Columbia (803-734_3097) or my home collect (843-393-2079).