We started the second half of the 119th Session this past Tuesday. Generally, the first couple of weeks are filled with committee meetings so that legislation, including the budget bill, can start moving. It should be noted that I have moved committees from the Agriculture Committee to the Education Committee. Though I will miss battling DHEC regulations, I am looking forward to debating education regulations along with the anticipated texting ban bill.
The House Republican Caucus passed most of our two year agenda last year. So, we are pressing on with tax reform, pension reform and Dept. of Transportation reform. As I have mentioned before, I am the chairman of the Caucus Tax Reform Advisory Committee. I will be presenting our final report to the Caucus in the next couple of weeks. Our goal was to lay a foundation that will enable tax reform to take place over the next three years.
Given the reported problems with DOT finances, I have anticipated that reform effort by signing onto H4444 which moves control of the DOT to the Governor.
Reform of the state retirement plan will be a major battle. Other than the changes required to keep the plan solvent, I will be looking for legislation that will prevent the General Assembly from making changes to the plan that could potentially increase the plan’s unfunded liability.
In anticipation of k-12 education funding reform that will hopefully happen next year, I have signed onto another school choice bill. Education improves when parents have more control of their children’s educational opportunities. We must realize that our entire k-12 system – public, independent and home schools – are major assets to our state. We must take steps to improve the performance and access to the entire system.
Another issue that has impacted the Blue Ridge and Greer community involves the way that we elect judges. Currently, the Judicial Merit Selection Committee determines who is qualified to be elected as a judge. Their current rules require them to report out no more than three candidates even though they may have determined more than three are qualified. We have a local magistrate that has filed to be elected to the Family Court in Greenville three separate times. Each time he was found qualified, but the committee refused to report him out. Each time they have reported out other candidates with less experience. This appearnesss of bias is unfair to the candidate and unfair to our community. I have signed onto H4514 in hopes of correcting this issue.
Budget projections show that might have as much as $1billion in new revenue this year. I am most interested in seeing some of these funds used to further pay down our unemployment system debt to the federal government. We also need to devote some of the funds to repair of our infrastructure. Most importantly, some funds could be used in conjunction with tax reform efforts to pass on a tax break to the citizens of our state.
I am looking forward to the new year and I anticipate positive reform bills to pass. I remain honored to represent District 18 in the SC House.