Caucus News – Gun Rights, Accountability and Juvenile Justice

The following report was prepared by the House GOP Caucus –

Protecting Gun Rights, Increased Accountability & Juvenile Justice

This week in Columbia we hit the ground running strengthening our gun laws, streamlining government, and continuing our work in legislative subcommittees.

Due to a recent South Carolina Supreme Court decision, we had to go back and apply a fix to an existing statute pertaining to the Stand Your Ground law. The fix sets forth the judicial procedure to assert the Castle Doctrine defense. It also strengthens the existing Castle Doctrine which includes provisions that prohibit criminals from using a Stand Your Ground defense while committing a crime. The measure is strongly backed by the pro-second amendment National Rifle Association and it passed the House unanimously.

We also gave more clarification to a 2014 measure passed by a statewide constitutional amendment that allows the governor and lieutenant governor to run on the same ticket. The bill allows the governor to assign duties to the lieutenant governor, very similar to the functional relationship between the president and vice president. This “good government” measure increases accountability in the executive branch and creates important safeguards.

This week a House Judiciary Subcommittee passed a bill that would cause the State Superintendent of Education to be appointed by the Governor instead of elected by popular vote. This would increase the amount of accountability surrounding the office of the Superintendent of Education by allowing the Governor to directly oversee the delivery of public education to South Carolina’s children. Reforms like this one deliver a better return on the taxpayer investment and real results for parents and students.

Finally, the legislative oversight committee continued its inquiry into the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ). The inquiry surrounds new requests for additional resources from the DJJ to address growing concerns at facilities in our state. It is important the DJJ recognize signs of peril in young offenders and provide them proper rehabilitative structures, thus helping the offender regain control of their life while saving taxpayers from footing the bill for repeat offenders. The committee is engaged in a thorough examination of the DJJ and its operations and will make their findings public when complete.

Caucus News – Better Education

The following report was prepared by the House GOP Caucus –

Exactly one year ago this week we wrote to notify you:

The South Carolina House of Representatives advanced two important milestone pieces of legislation taking a major step forward in overhauling the state’s antiquated ethics laws that govern elected and appointed officials at all levels of government.

The first, 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. Under the House plan passed this week the State Ethics Commission is comprised of 4 members appointed by the Governor, 4 elected by the Supreme Court, and 2 members elected by each the House and Senate. The measure passed the House unanimously.

The second, bans candidate affiliated “Leadership” Political Action Committees (PAC). It even goes one step further and states that elected officials can no longer accept campaign contributions from Leadership PAC’s. This is an important step toward cleaning up the campaign finance laws in South Carolina.

We are saddened to report a year later that both bills still sit in the Senate where senators have made it clear that ethics reform is not a priority. We will continue to champion ethics reform and ask you to stand with me. If the Senate would simply debate and vote on the important reforms we sent them last year and accomplished nothing else, they would actually have a chance making a positive difference this year.

Also this week in the House, we introduced the first phase of our education reform package. The hardworking taxpayers of South Carolina deserve a better education achievement than the “minimally adequate” standard. We will be working to help shape education reform that provides value to the taxpayer and results for parents and students. We will have more on these reforms as they move through the legislative committee process.

Finally, we are proud to report we have become more efficient this year by adopting legislative rules that keep the House ever-focused on the business of the people. We have limited ceremonial recognitions to only 15 minutes per day, allowing us to be more productive. As conservatives we are committed to continuing to streamline government.

Tallying the Scorecard at the Gorilla Miniature Golf Club

This may be an allegory or it may just mean that I’m bored on a Friday afternoon  . . .

I learned my tendency to ignore scorecards from playing miniature golf at the beach. No matter how many holes I sink with one putt, either my ten-year-old son beats me with some improbable shot or some huge menacing plastic gorilla on the back nine grabs my golf ball. Then my son just laughs and laughs.

My scorecard obliviousness carried with me when I was elected to the House. At the end of my first year I was surprised at the number of special interest groups that graded arbitrary parts of my voting record. I really hadn’t noticed that they were grading me. I was just voting. But I did think it odd.

It was as if the miniature golf gorillas had formed a club to keep tabs on the players. Then they decided to create a scorecard to track how players performed. The scorecard would focus only on those holes where gorillas hang out – you know, eating ants and chewing on the occasional cigarette butt while waiting on the next unsuspecting player. The scorecard could then be used to raise money from their gorilla benefactors. It was a brilliant gorilla idea.

Scorecards are effective gorilla tools (as long as they have those jumbo number 2 pencils handy to check off the score. They really find tiny golf pencils awkward.) Scorecards keep the gorillas happy by identifying those players most to hate. They keep their benefactors happy by making them feel part of the solution – a solution that only benefits members of the gorilla club.

Don’t get me wrong, I certainly believe that huge menacing plastic gorillas have the right to form clubs and look out for the interests of their gorilla members. Gorillas have the right to narrowly construe their scorecards to downgrade those players who most successfully putt the ball by their opposable-thumbed grasping gorilla hands and into the hole. Gorillas have their role to play on miniature golf courses. I welcome their participation especially when they stay true to their stated mission.

What happens when the gorilla club focuses on something that’s not pertinent to their mission? Like maybe a member doesn’t like the flag pin on the 18th hole, even though his hole provides him with all of the ants, cigarette butts and golf balls that he can devour.

Maybe something about that flag pin doesn’t seem right – color, design, shape – so the gorilla club decides the 18th hole should have no flag pin and puts it on their gorilla scorecard. Players who putt with the flag pin up are graded down. Players who remove the flag pin to putt are gorilla heroes – even though there are no gorillas on the 18th hole.

Suddenly a line has been crossed. The gorilla club has diluted its integrity by focusing on an issue that clearly does not affect them. They have confused the players and have rendered themselves as ineffective and nonthreatening as the windmill on the next hole, just gently spinning in the breeze.

k-12 Sub-Committee Meeting No 2

The k-12 sub-committee held the second hearing of the new session this week to consider the following bills:

H4536 – A bill to increase the compulsory age of attendance from seventeen to eighteen. The sub-committee adjourned debate on the bill.

H4505 – A bill to provide that a student attending the SC National Guard Youth Challenge Academy who is sixteen and unable to remain enrolled due to the necessity of immediate employment would be able to take the GED. The sub-committee adjourned debate on the bill.

Caucus News – Much Was Done

The following report was prepared by the House GOP Caucus –

There was lots of activity in the State House this week as we continued the early stages of the legislative cycle and heard from the governor in her annual State of the State address on Wednesday evening.

We were happy to hear the governor’s support for many of our priorities such as education reform, infrastructure improvements and ethics reform.

Echoing Governor Haley was the Republican leader of the House, Bruce Bannister (R-Greenville): “This week we heard from Governor Haley’s heart. Our caucus appreciates her positive message and optimistic tone. Governor Haley mentioned education reform, fixing our roads and bridges, and ethics reform. House Republicans have led on all three issues in the House, while the Senate has refused to act. With Governor Haley’s help, perhaps we will see movement in the Senate chamber on these important issues facing our state.”

Among other important issues, the governor also highlighted the tragedies our state encountered over the past year. The flood of 2015 was the worst natural disaster since hurricane Hugo. We have heard from flood victims across the state over the past months, particularly farmers who in some instances saw their entire crops disintegrate and fields ruined under standing flood waters. Agriculture represents one of the largest industries in South Carolina and if you know a farmer, you may know that one year with no yield can be the difference between having the resources to plant again next year and closing the doors. We continue to look for conservative solutions for these farmers and others affected by the flood, and I will update you as we move forward.

Finally, as is typical in January, much was done in our House committees. Once a bill is introduced, it must go through legislative committees before they come to the House floor for an up or down vote. We tried to spend as little time as possible on the floor this week so they could have time to get their work done.

Tommy Stringer