Legislative Update – April 23, 2014

April 23, 2014 in Legislative Updates by Tommy Pope

Tommy is out of session this week but he’s still in Columbia meeting with the Constitutional Laws Subcommittee to continue work on the ethics bill. He discusses the details of the bill and where it goes from here.

Statehouse Report #12 – Moving Critical Legislation to the Senate

April 10, 2014 in Legislative Updates by Tommy Pope

 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.

Legislative Update – April 9, 2014

April 9, 2014 in Legislative Updates by Tommy Pope

This week we’re debating the bingo bill and continuing work on the ethics and school start date bills. We also asked the 3rd graders from Larne Elementary what they thought – you’ll hear what their response was in the video!

Statehouse Report #11 – Sprinting toward the ‘Crossover’ Deadline

April 3, 2014 in Legislative Updates by Tommy Pope

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.

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