Legislative Oversight Committee

In addition to retaining my Education Committee assignment, I was chosen to serve on the newly created Legislative Oversight Committee. This committee was created by statute as part of the reforms contained in the Department of Administration bill that we passed last session.

The purpose of the committee is to determine if agencies are implementing and carrying out the laws passed as intended by the General Assembly and whether each agency should by continued, curtailed or eliminated.

The committee will investigate each agency once in each seven-year cycle. This may sound like a long time but considering that there are almost 300 agencies and that the committee will be investigating their performance – with subpoena power to call witnesses – and not merely reviewing what they want us to hear, we will have our work cut out for us.

Unlike other standing committees, the LOC will meet throughout the year. It was a privilege to be chosen to sit on this committee and exciting to help build a new committee from the ground up.

The Organizational Session for 2015

The House convened last week to organize for the next two year Session beginning in January 2015. During this two day meeting, we elect a new speaker, adopt the House Rules, receive our committee assignments from the Speaker, elect committee chairmen. Also each county delegation chooses where they will sit in the chamber.

Rep. Jay Lucas, from Hartsville, was elected Speaker and Rep. Tommy Pope from Rock Hill was elected Speaker Pro Tempore. Both were unopposed.

The House Rules were amended. The more significant changes included placing a 10 year term limit on the Speaker, leadership PAC’s were banned and a new Regulations Committee was created. This along with the Legislative Oversight Committee that was created last year bring much need oversight to state agencies.

I retained my committee assignment on the Education and Transportation Committee where we elected Rep. Rita Allison as the new Chairwoman. She represents both Spartanburg and Greenville counties. She brings extensive education experience and will do an excellent job as chair.

I also was appointed to the newly created Legislative Oversight Committee. We will meet next week to elect our chairman.

The only other change in chairmanships was in the Agriculture Committee who elected Rep. Davy Hiott from Pickens as new chairman.

The indictment and resignation of our former Speaker seemed far in the past after Rep. Lucas was elected as the new Speaker. The mood of the House seemed very positive as we finished up.

Though I would liked to have seen more dramatic changes to the House Rules, Rep. Lucas made a good faith effort to address the issues that I brought up to him as he was running for the Speaker’s position.

He proposed an even stricter term limit on himself than was eventually voted through, he expanded the opportunities for those representatives with less seniority to have some influence on what happens in Columbia. He also handled the committee assignments deftly which is a needed talent in his new position.

At this point, I am encouraged by our new direction. Though these changes seem small, any change of direction in politics however slight will make a major difference over time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Localizing Road Repair

In anticipation of the new Session starting in January, I’m pre-filing two similar bills that create a mechanism to transfer non-federal aid secondary roads from state to county control.

A few salient points:

SCDOT manages the 4th highest number of road miles as compared to other states. 21,000 miles of these roads are secondary and are not eligible for federal aid. These roads should be managed by the counties.

Before SCDOT can be reformed, its true scope and mission must be determined. The SCDOT should be concentrating on improving our overall state road system, not the two lane road in your neighborhood.

The bills are identical except for the funding method and a tax credit. One bill carves out funds from the existing gas tax. The other bill increases the gas tax while granting an income tax credit as an offset.

The DOT estimates that it will cost 170,000,000 per year to bring the condition of these roads from a rating of “poor” to “good.” This equals around 5 cents per gallon of gasoline.

The funds will flow through a newly created T-fund and are designated to be used only to improve current roads during the transfer process.

These bills have a sunset provision. Once the transfer is completed, the T-Fund is eliminated.

 

 

 

Happy Thanksgiving 2014

Today begins a season of Thanksgiving that culminates on Christmas Day and ends with the start of a New Year. Like many people during this time, I pause to reflect on those blessings that God has granted me.

Salvation by grace through the eternal sacrifice of Jesus Christ and the gift of faith to continue on. Though the outward advancement of the gospel by flawed human beings has not always lived up to Christ’s ideal, imagine how much worse off we would be without the influence of His inherent goodness upon us.

Forgiveness for the many flaws and shortcomings that I have.

A large, loving and supportive Southern family – both immediate and extended, living and deceased – a family who reminds me where we came from, who we are and how much we can help other people.

Continuing good health to accomplish all those things God has written for me to do.

Endless opportunities to be a good steward of my talents with family and friends, business and politics, church and charity.

The idea that America remains a shining city of freedom on a hill, that South Carolinians are stubbornly resistant to the erosion of our freedoms and that the mountains of Northern Greenville County is, without doubt, the finest place to live anywhere in the world.

Finally, I’m thankful for the small luxuries of life such as eating homemade sweet potato pie for breakfast on this cold Thanksgiving morning.

Memorial Drive Extension Bridge Update

Update as of 12/3/2014 – The SCDOT tells me that the repairs will begin in January but may take until April to be completed.

As many of you know, the bridge on Memorial Drive Extension collapsed back in August during a heavy rainstorm. Two people were injured. Since then, the road has been closed to traffic.

Many people are asking why the bridge has not been repaired after three months.

That part of Memorial Drive Extension falls under DOT control. They have told me that the bridge should be open around the first of the year.

When I asked DOT why it was taking so long to repair, they said that the culvert under the bridge was not up to current safety codes and they were designing a new base for a new bridge. They said that the design work along with the state’s procurement process pushes the completion date to the beginning of the year.

While I respect the work that DOT performs, we all know that the bridge should have been open to traffic by now.

I will continue to pressure them to speed up the process.

 

 

is a state road, the SCDOT will

 

Tommy Stringer