House GOP Caucus Report – Week 11 – Emma’s Law, Ethics Reform, Etc.

This is the official House Republican Caucus report on the weekly activities at the Statehouse. Mere publication on this website does not suggest my complete endorsement of all events described within.

 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.

My Campaign Platform for the June 10, 2014 GOP Primary

It has been a privilege to serve as your Representative to the General Assembly in Columbia since 2009. During this time, I have come to know many fine people in District 18. Though our conversations, I have gained a greater understanding of the effect – both good and bad – that state government has on people and businesses.

I am honored to announce that I will be on the ballot in the June 10th Republican Primary.

As a native of Blue Ridge and a business owner in Greer, I remain committed to representing our common-sense conservative values in Columbia. We need only look around us at the quality of life that we enjoy to know that maintaining and expanding these values remains our number one priority.

I have listed below a summary of my core political beliefs. However, if you want to study my positions more in-depth, please read through this website. In the name of transparency, I have published over 200 articles on this website about my work in Columbia.

Pro – Life As a father of a son with hemophilia, I know that all children are gifts from God regardless of their condition — health, financial or otherwise. I absolutely support protection for the unborn and have actively defended their rights on the House floor.  Furthermore, I understand the emotional and financial challenges faced by those who have children with special needs and the challenges that those parents face during this financial crisis. Pro-abortion supporters are on the wrong side of history. As medical knowledge advances, we are pushing back the effects of Roe v. Wade. During March 2014, I co-sponsored the Fetal Pain Awareness Act which passed the House. Please take a look at my update entitled  Pro-Abortion Fallacies  for detail of that debate. Or better yet see my floor speech on another pro-life bill from years past.

Gun Rights I fully support the Second Amendment and the rights of gun owners to protect their families and property.  As a member of the House Agriculture Committee, I consistently voted to protect our hunting and fishing rights. In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shootings, I pointed out that it was the evil acts by humans and not guns that should be blamed for that horrible event. I even published an opinion piece in The Greenville Journal entitled Slouching Toward Depravity where I concluded that  ”. . . weak-willed pundits and politicians will try to take away our guns or anything else that will grab them a headline, while we watch our children devoured by an increasingly depraved society.”

Tax Reform – As chairman of the House Republican Caucus Tax Reform Committee, I have spent the last two Sessions attempting to simplify and broaden parts of the state tax code. I sponsored seven separate bills that reformed business taxes, personal income taxes, sales taxes, fuel taxes and property taxes. Three of the bills were passed by the House and one became law. I will continue the work on tax reform in the coming session. For the latest detailed explanation of my tax reform efforts please look at my articles entitled Flat Income Tax and Tax Reform Details.

EducationAs a former trustee of Coastal Carolina University, a member of the House Education Committee and a member of the teacher incentive pay study committee, I have an in-depth understanding of what our children need to succeed in an increasingly competitive world. I remain committed to reforming our public education system to make sure tax dollars are spent in the classroom; that good teachers are rewarded; and that classroom discipline is enforced. Most importantly, I believe that each child is uniquely created by God and that parents should have the last word for their children’s education. Many people are rightly upset about the effects of the Common Core on our standards. I have spent the last year researching Common Core and have signed onto bills to repeal it and to make sure that the Legislature approves any new standards considered by the Department of Education. For more detail on my research please read my article entitled Common Core Reports.

Ethics and Campaign Reform - Good government demands that the actions of elected officials are transparent – including their campaign finances. It should be noted that my campaign account reports can be viewed at the South Carolina Ethics Commission website. Additionally, the ethics requirements for incumbents should be the same as those for challengers. The primary election debacle from 2 years ago revealed major flaws in our ethics and campaign laws. I support our current ethics bill that was passed by the House and is under review by the Senate.

Economic Growth – In my work, I have the opportunity to talk with many small business owners about the challenges that they face. I share with them their frustration at government regulations that are designed to prevent them from doing what they do best – growing the economy and creating jobs. When I was first elected, I was on the Agriculture and Environmental Affairs Committee. During my time there, I served on the regulations sub-committee where I had the opportunity to fight over-regulation at the source – when they come up for initial approval. I fully support Gov. Haley’s current efforts to control the growth and reduce the number of regulations so that our economy can have room to grow. I also believe that our poorly maintained road systems has a negative impact on our future economic development. I have spent a considerable amount of time researching possible ways to increase funding for our roads. For a more detailed list of articles please refer to Tax Reform and Gas Tax Articles.

Immigration The federal government has failed to protect our borders against illegal immigration.  We all realize that illegal immigration has become a serious local problem.  I believe that current laws should be enforced so that illegal aliens and other criminal elements do not want to come here.  During my first legislative session, I helped sponsor H4919 – The Illegal Alien Enforcement Act which was modeled on the recent legislation passed in Arizona.

Restructuring When I first ran for office, I emphasized the need to reduce the size of state government through efficient reform. After years of trying, we finally passed a Department of Administration bill this year. This bill moves the vast majority of the administrative functions of state government – human resources, information technology, state vehicles, and “general services” – under the control of the Governor for the first time. The bill also effectively eliminates the old Budget and Control Board – a quasi-legislative/executive agency that controlled much of state government.

Marriage & Family – I believe that marriage is reserved for one man and one woman. Furthermore, I believe that the traditional family structure remains the best foundation that society can be built upon and that it must be protected.

If you support my common-sense conservative agenda, I ask for your support on June 10th.

BMW Expansion and the Next 20 Years

BMW announced yesterday that it will invest $1 billion which will add 800 jobs and increase vehicle production from 300,000 per year to 450,000. Studies show that for 1 job added at BMW an additional 3 jobs are added elsewhere in South Carolina.

The positive impact over the next twenty years of BMW’s new $1 billion investment cannot be overstated. BMW’s highly sought after automobiles reflect the ingenuity of our neighbors here in Greer who work with the best automotive engineers in the world.

BMW’s announcement combined with the recently completed Inland Port greatly enhances Greer as a major manufacturing hub which will continue to attract future business. The citizens of Greer and the Upstate will benefit from increased job opportunities and a higher standard of living.

However, we must not rest on our current success. We must remember that increased funding to technical education and infrastructure twenty years ago played a large role in the construction of the Inland Port and BMW’s ability to expand today. If we want to celebrate another major BMW expansion in 2034, we must recommit ourselves to advancing our technical educational system and most importantly, finding new revenue streams to renew our deteriorating road system.

Pro-Abortion Fallacies in the Fetal Pain Awareness Debate

The South Carolina House passed out a bill to prevent abortions after 20 weeks except to save the life of the mother. The bill was based on medical evidence that the pain channels of an unborn child are developed by 20 weeks. Since the unborn child feels pain like a human, he should be treated like one. The vote was 84 to 29 with several Democrats joining the Republican majority.

As a co-sponsor of the bill, I was encouraged by some level of bi-partisan support for this issue. Yet quite a few pro-abortion Democrats opposed the bill.

Their logic against the bill and my rebuttals are as follows:

1. The legislation will be found unconstitutional and we will waste tax money by having to defend it.

Elected representatives have the ethical duty to provide a voice for those who are powerless to speak for themselves, especially when the law itself prevents them from speaking.

Throughout American history, this duty has driven our elected officials to challenge the prevailing law of the day. Starting with our claim to the rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, we challenged the legality of taxation without representation. We challenged the legality of slave ownership, segregation, restriction on females voting, discrimination against the disabled, the list is endless. No Democrat would dare argue that tax money was wasted in challanging those laws.

Medical advances are showing that unborn children react to pain like human beings, contrary to the assertion in Roe v. Wade that they are just extensions of the woman’s body. It is our ethical duty to challenge that law until it is struck down.

2. Pro-Life legislators are hypocrites because we cease caring about the child after it is born by not providing more government assistance.

Just last week, we passed a $24 billion state budget. That budget represents a $24 billion wealth transfer from taxpayers who earned the money to groups that the government has decided needs the money more than the original taxpayer. How much more should we give?

3. Pro-Life legislators are hypocritical because many support the death penalty.

We should all pause at the thought that our government has the right to take the life of any American citizen, even after due process of law.

However, human nature demands justice and the death penalty prevents justice from devolving into revenge. I rarely use Scripture to argue politics, but I will reference it in this case as it is the foundation of  our judicial code. In Genesis, God did not execute the first murderer. When Cain killed Abel, God marked Cain and said no one was to touch him. It was not until later, when God realized how bloodthirsty human beings could become, that death became the penalty for murder.

The opponents of the bill did not spend time arguing that the mother has the right to abort her child regardless of the pain inflicted. They also did not argue that the child could merely be anesthetized then aborted. I guess even the most hardened pro-abortion supporter did not want to go on record with those arguments – especially in an election year in South Carolina.

We should remember that many pro-abortion Democrats believe that abortion is a core reproductive right and provides the worldwide answer for women to achieve equality. Just this month on International Women’s Day, Hilary Clinton addressed the UN and said - 

“There is one lesson from the past, in particular, that we cannot afford to ignore: You cannot make progress on gender equality or broader human development, without safeguarding women’s reproductive health and rights. That is a bedrock truth.”​ In other words, if you want to get ahead, kill your unborn children.

Ms. Clinton and other pro-abortion advocates are on the wrong side of history on this particular issue. The quicker they realize it, the more lives will be saved. Until then, pro-life advocates will continue speaking for those who cannot.

House GOP Caucus Report – Week 9 – More Jobs, Pro-Life Victory and Data Security

This is the official House Republican Caucus report on the weekly activities at the Statehouse. Mere publication on this website does not suggest my complete endorsement of all events described within.

With the State Budget behind us and in the Senate, the House turns our attention to the traditional “second half” of the legislative session.

This week was filled with busy committee meetings where a number hearings were held on key legislative issues, and we had a major pro-life victory on the House floor.

First, the House approved a bill that bans abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. It was approved by a bi-partisan 84-29 margin. The bill is the “fetal pain” bill – so named because new research shows that babies can feel pain after 20 weeks.

Some of the bill’s supporters also pointed out that the current 24-week threshold was established by the courts decades ago because that was a date when a baby is viable outside the womb. New medical technology has pushed that back. While opponents spent much time on the House floor pretending to be federal judges, the specifics of the bill – written by Rep. Wendy Nanney of Greenville – have not be litigated in a federal court.

Second, a House Judiciary Subcommittee began hearings legislation on our data security privacy act. With so many people owning iPhone and Android smartphones these days, the typical phone is no longer something with just call records on it. Yours includes location information, personal pictures, private emails, sensitive contacts, calendars, and personal records such as your banking information.

You are protected from the government searching such data in your home – a law enforcement agency must secure a warrant – but our antiquated electronic privacy laws do not provide protection for information stored electronically. It has never been easier, or cheaper, for a government to access, record, and retain the seemingly mundane details of our daily lives.

This legislation is a Republican Caucus agenda item, and has the support of a diverse constellation of groups from major tech companies such as Google, to conservative groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council, and even the liberal ACLU. All of them understand that we need these protections. We look forward to a floor debate on this legislation very soon.

Finally, we received more great news on the jobs front as we try to get this wicked winter behind us. Our state’s unemployment rate fell to 6.4 percent – well below the national average, and nearly 6 percent below the peak in 2010. Local economists praised the rate of job growth in our state, which means we’re creating jobs in our state, not losing people from the workforce (which is lowering the rate nationally). South Carolina is on a strong path as we push into 2014, and I hope we see this number continue to fall as we head into the summer and fall. It is our goal that every South Carolinian who wants a job should have a job. It’s a lofty goal, but we’re on the right track.

Tommy Stringer