Organizing the House – December 2016

This past Tuesday and Wednesday, the South Carolina House of Representatives met for our organizational meeting. We took our oath of office for the coming two-year session, adopted House Rules, elected the Speaker of the House, Speaker Pro Tempore, Clerk of the House, Reading Clerk, Chaplain and Sergeant at Arms. There were no changes in any of these positions from last session.

We also received our official committee assignments. There was noticeable movement between committees with some members happy with their new assignment and others not so much. I remained on the Education Committee and Rep. Rita Allison was re-elected as our chairlady. I hope to retain the k-12 subcommittee chairmanship that I held last session but that decision will be up to Rep. Allison. The Education Committee lost some talented members but we made up for it by the experience and levelheadedness of the members who transferred onto our committee. We are looking forward to a productive session.

I was also assigned again to the Legislative Oversight Committee. My service on this committee last session was truly informative as the committee structure allows us to dig into how efficiently various state agencies are managed. Rep. Weston Newton was re-elected as chairman. He did an incredible job last session organizing this new committee and forging it into an effective oversight tool for the House.

As a member of the Joint Committee on Pensions, I continued meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday with House staff to refine a viable and fair plan to stabilize and protect our state retirement plan. I remain encouraged that members understand the accelerating risk posed to the state by the plan’s unfunded liability and seem willing to put politics aside and hammer out a bill.

Our state faces two festering financial challenges. Our statewide road and bridge system, though we have increased funding to SCDOT, remains in poor condition. We still need to create a long-term solution to bring our infrastructure up to an acceptable and safe status.

Our state retirement system continues to widen the gap between what we owe government employees in retirement benefits and how much we will actually have on hand to pay them. This unfunded liability gap must be carefully reduced and eliminated. The solution will not come in the form of a one-time fix-it bill that will eliminate the liability in one fell swoop but will require Legislative oversight and adjustments for the foreseeable future. We owe it to our state retirees who depend upon their retirement plan and to the state taxpayers who are the final safety net for the plan to implement a solution that works. There’s no room for failure on this one.

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Tommy Stringer