Caucus Report – Strengthening South Carolina’s Economy

The House took action this week on two major pieces of legislation to protect our economy and promote future economic growth.

The House unanimously passed a bill to protect our state’s waterways by reaffirming an existing 2007 state law requiring the DHEC Board to gain the approval of the Savannah River Maritime Commission before taking action on any matter pertaining to the navigability, depth, dredging, sludge disposal and other collateral issues in regard to the Savannah River.

We passed this legislation because of concerns over DHEC’s decision to ignore state law by reversing a decision to deny dredging of the Savannah River to a depth of 48 feet. 

One of every five jobs in our state is directly tied to our ports, and this issue was too important to ignore.  Had DHEC followed existing law, this measure would have been unnecessary.  As evidenced by the 111-0 vote, my House colleagues were disappointed when DHEC voted to reverse its decision to deny the Savannah River dredging permit. Overwhelming evidence presented by DHEC scientists showed the dredging would cause irreversible environmental damage. 

Based on those facts alone, DHEC was correct to deny this permit. 

The decision also placed Charleston’s port at a competitive disadvantage and jeopardized the very existence of a future port in Jasper. Both of those ports are critical to our state’s future economic development. The decision also put our taxpayers on the hook for paying a significant portion of Georgia’s port dredging. 

Also this week, the House Republican Caucus, flanked by Chairman Bill Sandifer, Speaker Bobby Harrell, and Governor Haley, unveiled sweeping legislation this week designed to protect the rights of our state’s workers.

The Right to Work Act of 2012 is a central part of the Caucus’s commitment to strengthening our state’s business environment and creating jobs. The bill was pre-filed with the entire Republican Caucus signed on as co-sponsors.

Every South Carolinian should have the right to work and make a living for his or her family without being forced to join a union or pay dues. Union participation should be a matter of choice for any worker, but our workers must be protected from undue coercion or influence by unions or businesses. This legislation strengthens more than a half-dozen parts of our Right to Work Act.

The legislation requires employers to display a poster that informs workers of our state’s Right to Work protections, and clarifies language that the Right to Work must not be denied because of membership, or non-membership, in a labor organization. The legislation also increases labor organization transparency, increases civil penalties for violations, and requires written authorization for any union dues to be deducted from a worker’s paycheck.

The current Administration in Washington is engaged in a direct assault on private businesses locating in our state, as evidenced by action against Boeing and its threats of a lawsuit because we protected our workers’ right to a secret ballot.

This week, we received great news that our state’s unemployment rate has dropped to its lowest rate since 2008. Our Right to Work law is a key part of our future economic development, and one of our most important economic incentives.

The House Republican Caucus is committed to preserving the rights of workers and ensuring minimal outside interference in a business’s affairs. This is an ongoing fight that we take very seriously.

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Tommy Stringer