A Prayer For Dallas

The murders of five police officers and the attempted murder of another six police officers in Dallas leave me almost speechless; such is my sadness and anger.

We should pray continually for the police officers in our own communities who defend us but especially today, we should pray for those defending Dallas and the families of their fellow officers who sacrificed their lives for the common good. As our Lord Jesus Christ said, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

We should pray for our right to protest peaceably and to defend ourselves. The attack in Dallas last night was an attack on both. The murders (or terrorists given their method of attack and regardless of motive) prevented a large group of Americans from peaceable protesting. Americans were silenced and terrorized as unidentified gunman murdered those whose duty it was to protect the protestors and the general public. We cannot stand down from this assault.

We should pray for wisdom as we hold accountable our political and community leaders who seem not to understand the true nature of these assaults. We should condemn those use this tragedy to advance themselves or their political agenda especially an agenda designed to deny us the right to defend ourselves.

We should pray for our presidential candidates and use this opportunity to listen very closely to Mr. Trump and Ms. Clinton. Their words during this crisis will reveal if either have the high quality of leadership necessary to stand for freedom as our country moves through these perilous times.

We should pray for ourselves and for our fellow Americans to find the peace and understanding that only comes from above. We should extend peace and understanding to each other so that we may stand united against all those who would take our freedoms from us.

Caucus News – 2016 End of Session Report

The following summary was written by the SC House GOP Caucus.

Roads & Infrastructure S.1258: Following 2 years intensive debate, the House and Senate passed a bill to address the state’s aging infrastructure. The comprehensive measure revamps the existing DOT structure, leadership and funding. Providing $4 billion dollars for road and bridge repairs without raising taxes. For complete summary see separate attachment. Status: Signed by Governor

 Restructuring Ethics Commission H.3184: 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. The State Ethics Commission would be comprised of 4 members appointed by the Governor, and 2 members elected by each the House and Senate. Status: Ratified/ to be signed on June 23, 2016

 Income Disclosure H.3186: Requires members of the General Assembly to disclose the source and type of all income received from any private entity. Status: Ratified/ to be signed on June 23, 2016

Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act H.3114: House Republicans once again passed the Pain-Capable Child Protection Act. The legislation provides additional statutory protections for the unborn by shortening the amount of time a woman can abort her child down to a 20-week window. Status: Signed by the Governor

CWP Expansion H.3799: The House approved a concealed weapons permit reciprocity agreement with the state of Georgia allowing licensed CWP carriers to cross state lines without any legal ramifications. Status: Signed by the Governor

 Shortening Legislative Session S.1336: For the 10th time in the past 20 years the House has passed legislation that would shorten the legislative work session. Shortening the session each year will save valuable taxpayer dollars.  In past years, each attempt by House Republicans to shorten the legislative session has been blocked by the Senate. Finally in 2016, the Senate passed their own version to shorten the legislative session by three weeks, which the House unanimously agreed. Status: Final approval given by House and Senate

Eminent Domain S. 868: This legislation prohibits pipeline companies from using the powers of eminent domain to acquire private property for the three years. Status: Signed by Governor

Veterans Tax Break H.3147: This legislation gives retired veterans a state income tax break. South Carolina will be viewed as more veteran friendly and will be able to compete with neighboring states in attracting retiring vets. Status: Signed by the Governor

In-State Tuition for Military S.391: Grants in-state tuition rates to active duty military and their dependents. Currently, active duty military personnel who have been stationed in South Carolina do not receive in-state tuition rates. This bill grants them that privilege and allows them and their dependents to continue receiving an in-state tuition rate as long as they remain continuously enrolled. Status: Signed by the Governor in 2015

South Carolina Farmers H.4717:  This legislation established a $40 million appropriation from the Contingency Reserve Fund in response to the unprecedented damage of the October 2015 floods by assisting farmers in order to prevent the economic collapse of many of the state’s farms which could have caused a severe disruption in the state’s economy and food supply chain. Status: Vetoed by the Governor, Overridden by House and Senate to become law

 South Carolina Founding Principles Act H.3848: Legislation requiring our public school students to study the founding principles that shaped the United States. The required instruction must at least include the Federalist Papers, the structure of government and the role of the separation of powers and the freedoms guaranteed by the Bill of Rights to the US Constitution. Status: Signed by Governor

Abbeville Legislation H.4936, 4938, 4939, 4940: The General Assembly adopted four bills that address the Abbeville lawsuit. The bills will establish educational achievement goals that all high school students should have upon graduation, require the State Department of Education to monitor and assist underperforming school districts and to create an Office of Transformation within the Department of Education to provide technical assistance to underperforming schools and districts. For a breakdown on funding see separate attachment. Status: Signed by Governor

 Domestic Violence Reform S.3: Reports indicate that South Carolina’s murder rate of women killed by men sits at twice the national average. It’s unacceptable, and this measure gives law enforcement the necessary tools to reverse this pattern of abuse in our state. For 6 months, the House Special Criminal Domestic Violence Ad Hoc Committee studied all aspects of the issue. The committee listened to dozens of hours of testimony from both survivors of domestic violence and from the law enforcement and prosecutors charged with bringing justice to those who perpetrate crimes of domestic violence.

As a result of their findings the committee produced the Domestic Violence Reform Act. This comprehensive legislation:

  • Significantly enhances penalties for those found guilty of committing acts of domestic violence.
  • Paves the way for middle school students to receive instruction on how to identify and respond to domestic violence situations.
  • Creates the Domestic Violence Advisory Committee comprised of citizens, medical doctors, and law enforcement to review instances of death as a result of domestic violence and submit a public annual report.

Currently South Carolina’s domestic violence laws are occurrence based – an approach that has proven insufficient by itself. H 3433 institutes a hybrid model based on the number of occurrences and adds that penalties become more severe depending on the level of injury sustained, also accounting for any aggravating circumstances. Status: Signed by Governor in 2015

James B. Edwards Civics Education Initiative S.437: Currently, immigrants seeking U.S. citizenship must take the US Citizen Civics Test containing 100 basic questions about American history and government. A recent study found that 92% of immigrants pass this test, while only 4% of American high school students could do so. This bill would require the same test to be administered each year to high school juniors throughout the state. Test scores will be compiled by the Education Oversight Committee to ensure our students are armed with the basic facts they need to be the informed and active citizens our state and nation needs. Status: Signed by Governor 2015

School Choice Tax Credit H.4537: This legislation allowed an income tax credit for contributions to a scholarship fund organization that provides grants for students to attend certain independent schools. Status: Died in Senate

Judicial Selection Reform H.3979: Reformed the process used to select our state’s judges. Currently, judicial candidates are screened through a panel that is limited to selecting 3 individuals for any given judicial election. This bill would remove the cap and allow anyone who is deemed qualified to run for the bench. By doing so, we open up the process and allow everyone to participate, not just a select few. Status: Died in Senate

“Castle Doctrine” H.4703: This legislation provided immunity from criminal prosecution and civil action under certain circumstances for the use of deadly force against another person who enter a dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle, and provided a procedure for an evidentiary hearing on pretrial motion to dismiss based on the justifiable use of deadly force. Status: Died in Senate

State Retirement System Reform H. 5006, 5007:

  1. 5006 (Retirement Oversight and Investment Management):

This bill made requirements and stipulations regarding conflicts of interest and ethical standards for the Retirement System Investment Commission (RSIC). It clarifies and strengthens the governance of the RSIC and PEBA and creates term limits for members of each board. More qualifications to be appointed to the Investment Commission are established. It also reduces and limits the amount of fees by the commission to purchase investments. An oversight commission called the Review and Oversight Commission on the Retirement System Investment Commission is created and the roles and responsibilities of that commission are specified. Status: Died in Senate

  1. 5007 (Retirement System Investments Assumed Rate of Return):

This bill stated that the assumed rate of return for retirement system funds expires every four years unless the General Assembly amends the rate. If the General Assembly does not take action on the rate, then it is the responsibility of the State Fiscal Accountability Authority to set the rate. The proposed assumed rate of return must be developed in consultation with the board’s actuary. Status: Died in Senate

Education Committee – 2016 End of Session Report – K-12 Bills

Having had the privilege of chairing the K-12 subcommittee by Rep. Rita Allison, the Chair of our Education Committee, I attempted to give a hearing to as many viable education bills as possible. Needless to say, the members of the subcommittee were very busy and are to be commended for their hard work.

As chair of the subcommittee, my job was to decide which bills were to be heard, oversee the conduct of the subcommittee meeting where testimony was given and questions were debated before the bill was voted as favorable or unfavorable. If the bill passed the full Education Committee, then explained it to the full House and answered questions.

Below are explanations of the bills that became law followed by the bills that passed out of the House but died in the Senate.



Act 83 of 2015 (House bill 4084 by Stringer) specifies that charter school board members, employees, and staff are subject to ethics and government accountability requirements that are established in state law for public members and public employees. The legislation also revises charter school provisions to make specific provisions for the hiring of someone who serves as the designated school leader in charge of overseeing the daily operation of the school.


Act 21 of 2015 (House bill 3890 by Norrell) revises the authority for forgiving school days missed because of snow, extreme weather conditions, or other disruptions. A school district may, through a majority vote of its board, waive make-up requirements for up to three school days when the year’s scheduled make-up days have been used or are no longer available. After the 2014-2015 school year, such waivers may not be granted by a board until schools have made up three full days, or the equivalent number of hours. The State Board of Education, at the request of a local board, may grant waivers for up to three additional days beyond the three days forgiven by the local district.


Act 52 of 2015 (Senate bill 437 by Campsen) is named to honor the memory of the late South Carolina Governor and his commitment to fostering civic virtue. The “James B. Edwards Civics Education Initiative” Act requires public high school students to take the civics test that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services administers to prospective citizens to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the fundamentals of American history, and the principles and form of the United States government. Students are not required to pass this civics test, but those who do receive at least a passing grade may be recognized by the school district. Each public school, including charter schools, must report the percentage of students at or above the designated passing score on the test for inclusion on the school’s report card.


Act 25 of 2015 (Senate bill 154 by Shealy) expands the State Board of Education’s authority to waive the academic requirements for students to participate in sports and other interscholastic activities by allowing the board to grant a waiver of the requirements if a student’s ineligibility to participate in interscholastic activities is due to a long-term absence as a result of a medical condition.


 Act 152 of 2016 (House bill 3265 by Wells) requires all public school students to receive instruction in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and the use of automated external defibrillators (AED) at least once between the ninth and twelfth grades. CPR training and AED awareness must be incorporated into the health education curriculum. Districts must adopt policies that waive the instructional requirement if a student is absent on the day of instruction, has a disability and cannot complete all or a portion of the hands-only CPR requirement, or a student’s parent or guardian completes a written opt-out form.


 Act 192 of 2016 (House bill 3848 by Huggins), creates the South Carolina Founding Principles Act. The State Board of Education must incorporate “The Founding Principles” into the required study of the United States Constitution and the South Carolina Social Studies Standards. At a minimum, the board shall include the Federalist Papers, the structure of government, the role of the separation of powers, and the freedoms protected by the Bill of Rights.


Act __ of 2016 (House bill 3560 by Limehouse) provides local school boards with the option of using hearing officers to conduct teacher dismissal hearings. Hearing officers may not be a member of the local school board, or a district employee. The bill establishes procedures and requirements that must be followed should a hearing officer be utilized.


Act __ of 2016 (House bill 5024 by Clary) is a joint resolution requiring the State Department of Education (SDE) to provide training to all reading and literacy coaches and literacy teachers in kindergarten through grade three regarding dyslexia and other related reading disorders.


Act __ of 2016 (House bill 5021 by Collins) creates the Adult Students with Disabilities Educational Rights Consent Act. When students who are eligible for special education services pursuant to the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) reach the age of eighteen or are emancipated by a court, all rights given to their parents pursuant to this article transfer to the student unless one of two situations occur:


Adult students eligible for special education services, but who are not incapacitated, may delegate their right to make decisions regarding their education.


Adult students eligible for special education servicers, and who are not determined to be incapacitated, may have an education representative appointed for them. At any time during the appointment of a representative, individuals other than school district or state education agency employees who have a bona fide interest in, and knowledge of, the student may challenge the designation of the representative. An adult student may also challenge the finding that he is unable to make informed educational decisions. The authority of the representative ends if the delegation is challenged, the student is no longer eligible for special education services, or a court issues an order of termination.


Act __ of 2016 (Senate bill 1262 – by Alexander) amends the South Carolina Charter Schools Act, specifically the provisions regarding Alternative Education Campuses (AEC). The bill allows for the creation of AECs that have an explicit mission and purpose of providing specific evidenced-based services for educationally disadvantaged students who have a demonstrated need for such assistance. Charter School AECs that desire to serve educationally disadvantaged students must define their specialized mission and purpose in the charter contract. The charter must also meet the mandates of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).


Act __ of 2016 (House bill 5140 by Pope) addresses testing windows and the administration of assessments. Beginning with the 2017-18 school year, districts must administer assessments to students in grades three through eight during the last twenty days of school. The State Board of Education may grant waivers for districts that cannot meet the twenty day testing window, but the waiver must document the scope and rationale for the extension. The district must provide a plan for showing how it will comply with the testing window the following year. Summative testing for each student may not exceed eight days per school year. Exceptions are allowed for students with disabilities. If schools are unable to administer assessments due to disruptions caused by inclement weather or technology failures, the district may request a paper-based test.

State law currently requires that the WorkKeys assessment be administered to determine career readiness, and the bill specifically requires that ACT Plus Writing be administered to gauge college readiness for the 2016-2017, 2017-2018, and 2018-2019 school years. After the 2018-2019 school year, the State Department of Education must procure a standardized national test that documents student progress toward national college and career readiness benchmarks.

Assessment results are not automatically reportable to colleges. For students with disabilities who do not wish to have the score reported, accommodations will be provided by the school according to the student’s IEP/504 plan. If students choose to use the results of the assessment for college admission, the student or parent must make that indication prior to taking the assessment. Students wishing to receive a college reportable score who need accommodations due to a disability must comply with ACT’s deadline for requesting allowable accommodations.

If funds are available, the state must provide a two-year or four-year college readiness assessment, or the WorkKeys assessment, to twelfth graders who did not meet the benchmarks in the eleventh grade.

The bill allows for school and district transitional reports in the fall of 2016 and 2017. Reports must include school assessment results, graduation rates, and college and career readiness performance.

(Note: a conference committee has been appointed for this bill. The committee’s report will be taken up June 15, so the details listed above have not received approval by the General Assembly.)


In December, the House Education Policy Review and Reform Task Force produced a report consisting of findings and recommendations addressing the Supreme Court’s decision in the case of Abbeville v. State of South Carolina. From that report, eight bills were introduced. Seven of those bills were assigned to the House Education and Public Works Committee, and six were reported to the House. The House adopted all six bills and sent them to the Senate. Four bills have been approved by both bodies and enacted. Those four bills are listed below.


Act 195 of 2016 (House bill 4936 by House Education Committee) ensures that graduates have world class knowledge based on college and career ready standards. Students should have the opportunity to learn one of a number of foreign languages, and have offerings in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, arts and social sciences. These pronouncements are based on the declaration that the principles outlined in “The Profile of the South Carolina Graduate” are the standards by which high school graduates should be measured, and are this state’s achievement goals for all high school students. Schools should strive to offer students the ability to obtain an array of world class skills such as the following: critical thinking and problem solving, collaboration, teamwork and communication, and information, media, and technology.


Act __ of 2016 (House bill 4938 by House Education Committee) requires the State Department of Education (SDE) and the Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention, and Advancement (CERRA) to collaborate with the Commission of Higher Education in surveying students enrolled in the colleges of education of South Carolina colleges and universities. At a minimum, the survey must include the following questions: whether students have considered teaching in a rural and economically challenged districts; what incentives, if any, would cause them to move to, and work in, such a district, and any additional questions SDE and CERRA consider useful. SDE and CERRA will determine if additional surveys targeted to students in other majors should be created and conducted.


Act __ of 2016 (House bill 4939 by House Education Committee) establishes a committee to review Title 59 (Education) of the South Carolina Code of Laws, determine which statutes are obsolete or inapplicable, and report its findings to the General Assembly. The committee must also identify all federal education statutes and regulations with which the state of South Carolina is required to comply and include in its report the total cost to comply with the identified federal statutes and regulations.

SDE must develop a system for providing services and technical assistance to districts on a regional basis. This assistance includes both academic and financial assistance. The State Superintendent must report on the design of the system to the General Assembly. Every year after 2016, the Superintendent must report on the assistance provided to districts and the impact of the assistance on student achievement. The SDE must monitor the professional development of teachers, staff, and administrators in underperforming districts and determine what improvements are necessary. The Department must also monitor the operations of school boards in underperforming districts and recommend improvements to them as well.


Act 178 of 2016 (House Bill 4940 by House Education Committee) codifies the Office of Transformation within SDE. The office will provide service and support to schools throughout the state, but must focus on building the capacity of staff serving in the lowest performing districts and schools. The office must provide leadership and curriculum coaches to work with teachers, superintendents, schools boards, families, communities, and other educational partners. Direct coaching and support must be provided through the analysis of data and the development of interventions. The Office must also identify best practices from other states in regard to innovations that produce improvements in academic growth and achievement of students, especially in low performing schools.



House bill 3044 provides public school districts with the option of basing their school calendars on the traditional 190 day method (180 days of instruction plus ten days for professional development, planning, etc.) or allowing them to use an equivalent number of instructional hours.   The bill retains the requirement that schools cannot open before the third Monday in August (unless a school operates on a year-round calendar). The bill is pending in the Senate Education Committee.


Beginning with the 2016-17 school year, House bill 3432 requires local school districts and schools to close in observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and Memorial Day. Schools may not use either day as a make up for inclement weather. The bill is pending in the Senate Education Committee.


 House bill 3512 allows school districts to teach students about the “history, customs, and symbols of traditional winter celebrations.” The bill allows students and district staff to offer holiday greetings including, but not limited to, “Happy Hanukkah,” “Happy Holidays,” and “Merry Christmas.” Districts may display “scenes or symbols traditionally associated with…winter celebrations including, but not limited to, a menorah, a nativity scene, and a Christmas tree” on school property. The bill is pending in the Senate Education Committee.

If such displays are created, the scene or symbol must include more than one religion associated with the winter celebration, or one religion associated with the celebration and one secular scene or symbol if an equal number of each are displayed. Displays encouraging adherence to a particular religious belief are prohibited. This bill is pending in the Senate Education Committee.


House bill 3420 requires the State Department of Education (SDE) to issue high school diplomas to South Carolinians who enlisted in any branch of the United States military while enrolled as a high school student of this State from June 26, 1950 through July 27, 1953 (Korean War), or November 1, 1955 through August 15, 1973 (Vietnam War). In order to receive a diploma, veterans must present documentation of school enrollment and a copy of their honorable discharge to SDE. The bill was adopted by the House and sent to the Senate.


Section 59-19-315 provides that the term of office of every elected school board member must begin one week following the certification of his or her election. If House bill 3657 is enacted, legislation (particularly local legislation) that alters the beginning of the term of office would control.


House bill 4718 creates the South Carolina Retired Educator Certificate. Retired educators are allowed to receive the Retired Educator Certificate if they previously held a South Carolina renewable, professional educator certificate, and do not hold any other valid South Carolina educator certificate. The initial retired educator certificate is valid for thirty years. A certificate may be continuously renewed after thirty years for a period of ten years. SDE is to create a process of submitting renewal requests. Teachers are required to participate in district professional development.


House bill 4774, as amended by the House, reauthorizes the First Steps to School Readiness initiative until July 1, 2017.


 The following Abbeville bills were not voted upon by the Senate.


House bill 4937 reestablishes the South Carolina Education and Economic Development Coordinating Council. The Council is comprised of the 28 individuals, including, but not limited to, the following: the State Superintendent of Education; Director of the Department of Employment and Workforce; the Secretary of Commerce; Executive Director of the Commission on Higher Education; Executive Director of the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce; Chair of the Education Oversight Committee; legislators; business leaders; and representatives from the K‑12 and higher education sectors. The Chair must be one of the Governor’s appointees.

The Council must advise the State Department of Education (SDE) regarding implementation of the Education and Economic Development Act (EEDA), review accountability and performance measures, report on the progress and compliance of the EEDA to the General Assembly, Governor and others, make recommendations for statewide awareness of EEDA, and provide input to the Department of Commerce and State Board of Education.


 House Bill 4941 requires the State Department of Education (SDE) to establish a program for identifying fiscal practices and budgetary conditions that could compromise the fiscal integrity of a school district. The program must contain the following three levels of concern: “fiscal watch,” “fiscal caution,” and “fiscal emergency.” SDE must work with district superintendents and finance officers to develop the program’s guidelines.

If the Superintendent determines corrections have not occurred, or there is a law enforcement investigation involving the district, a fiscal watch must be declared. If an audit shows the district is operating outside of accounting principles or does not maintain at least a two percent reserve fund, a watch may be announced. Once a watch is in place, a district must submit a recovery plan to the State Superintendent within sixty days. If approved the district must implement the plan, and SDE will provide assistance.

A district may not be released from a fiscal watch in the same fiscal year in which it was declared, but it may be released the following fiscal year if SDE believes that corrections have been implemented. If audits show the possibility of a fiscal emergency, the Superintendent may declare a “fiscal caution.” If the audit shows one of the following the Superintendent must declare a fiscal caution: accounting practices are outside acceptable accounting limits; a district’s audit is more than sixty days late; audits from the past two years show conditions that may lead to a fiscal emergency; district records are unauditable; the district is not maintaining a two percent fund reserve; there are significant weaknesses and deficiencies that have a significant impact on the district; or, there is a law enforcement investigation involving the school board.

Should a district fail to develop or follow a correction plan, be at risk of defaulting on any type of debt, be under a fiscal watch or fiscal caution for three fiscal years, or have problems that are severe enough to necessitate additional action, the State Superintendent must declare fiscal emergency. Once declared, the State Auditor must direct SDE to assume emergency management of the district until the emergency is ended.

Tommy Stringer