State House Report Week 10 – Budget Week

The House debated the state budget this week and passed H. 3720, the General Appropriations Bill for FY2017/2018, and H. 3721, the Capitol Reserve Fund Appropriations Bill. My Republican colleagues and I voted on a final budget that fully funds the necessities of our state while balancing the bottom line without debt.

In a release to the media, following Wednesday night’s vote, Speaker Jay Lucas (R-Darlington) and House Majority Leader Gary Simrill (R-Rock Hill) had the following to say regarding the budget:

House Speaker Jay Lucas said, “Although new revenue is scarce in comparison to years past, the House successfully appropriated additional educational resources for South Carolina students, provided a pathway to solvency for our state’s retirement system, and assisted struggling families with Hurricane Matthew recovery. Ways and Means Chairman Brian White (R-Anderson) and the subcommittee chairman worked tremendously hard on this budget package and I am proud of the product this body has adopted as the financial blueprint for the next fiscal year.”

House Majority Leader Gary Simrill said, “Each year the South Carolina House of Representatives fulfills its constitutional responsibility to originate and pass a statewide budget plan. This year was no different, and I applaud the strong leadership from House Speaker Jay Lucas and House Ways & Means Chairman Brian White for crafting a conservative budget. Unlike Washington, D.C., we balance our budget each year and do not engage in building deficits. House Republicans again delivered a budget package that reins in government spending, and stretches taxpayer dollars without raising income taxes.”

I agree with their sentiments because much like a family budget, we prioritized needs over wants while finding a proper balance for long-term investments in the future of our state. Every dollar was scrutinized, and every penny accounted for.

Over the past three months the House Ways and Means Committee listened to testimony from dozens of government agencies and appropriated state dollars to fund the operations of state government. Some big-ticket items of note include:

  • Desperately needed funding for workforce training, allowing South Carolinians to compete in the growing technologically innovative international economy.
  • Addressing the building and maintenance needs of our state’s struggling rural school districts with $100 million for capital improvements of K-12 schools.
  • $82 million in cleanup funds to cover costs incurred following Hurricane Matthew.

Our state’s conservative approach to budgeting is one reason we enjoy an outstanding AAA credit rating. The budget now heads to the Senate for further consideration.

It is an honor to serve you and your family in the General Assembly. If you ever find yourself in need of assistance navigating state government, or if you have ideas on issues you want me to share with my colleagues in the House, please don’t hesitate to contact me at Tommy@tommystringer.com.

State House Report Week 9 – Curbing Anti-Semitism, Promoting Life, Constitutional Carry

Wednesday of this week marked the midway period for the legislative session, and what a whirlwind of activity it has been. With this years’ shortened legislative session, the crossover date for legislation has been adjusted and will now take place in about a month on April 10th. This simply means my House colleagues and I must pass any legislation to the Senate by that date in order for the bill to pass this year. We made good progress on that front this week.

Last year, our nation saw a drastic increase in anti-Semitic behavior among college students at institutions of higher learning. The nonprofit AMCHA Initiative, which tracks incidents of anti-Semitism on college campuses, reported 618 incidents of anti-Semitism for 2016 alone; a rise of over 30% in a one-year period. This week, we took bipartisan action to give our state-owned institutions of higher learning the tools they need to combat bigotry and hate while protecting freedom of speech. This legislation sends a strong message that South Carolina opposes bigotry wherever it rears its ugly head.

Two key bills also cleared the initial subcommittee process in the House Judiciary Committee. First, the South Carolina Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act cleared a key initial subcommittee with a unanimous vote. It now heads to full committee where Democrats are expected to viciously challenge the bill through all manner of legislative maneuvers. I will never waver in my support for the unborn and I look forward to voting in support of this important legislation.

The second bill of importance also clearing a key House Judiciary subcommittee this week was the Constitutional Carry bill. The measure put forth by retired law enforcement officer and pro-Second Amendment icon, Rep. Mike Pitts (R-Laurens), would eliminate the need to get a concealed weapons permit to carry a firearm in our state. However, this bill would also protect the existing CWP reciprocity agreements already in place with many other states. The measure now heads to full committee where, if approved, it will go to the House floor for a full vote.

Finally, beginning Monday, my House colleagues and I will take up the state budget on the floor. Funding the needs of an entire state is a daunting task and one I take more seriously than almost every other vote I am asked to take in the legislative process. South Carolina ETV produces a live broadcast of the House budget votes you can find on your television. I hope you will take a moment or two and watch the process to educate yourself on how state government appropriates taxpayer dollars.

It is an honor and a privilege to serve you in Columbia. If you need help navigating state government, or have any thoughts or concerns about what we are doing, please do not hesitate to contact me at Tommy@tommystringer.com

Deploy the Noriega Method to Motivate the Senate?

CNN reported today that Manuel Noriega, the former dictator of Panama, suffered a brain hemorrhage and has been put into a medically induced coma. He is 83.

Noriega gained infamy as the dictator of Panama who sought shelter in the Apostolic Nunciature, the Holy See’s embassy, after President George H. W. Bush sent the United States military to liberate Panama. Noriega refused to leave the embassy which had granted him diplomatic protection.

American troops surrounded the embassy complex and engaged in psychological warfare to force Noriega out. Among the tactics used was to play rock music at a tremendous volume twenty fours a day. One of the songs played repeatedly was “I fought the Law” by The Clash. After ten days Noriega surrendered and the Law won.

Reckon the same tactic would encourage the Senate to keep the House’s SCDOT governance reforms and pass the infrastructure bill?

“I fought the Law”

Some of the music that ousted Noriega