Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Town Hall Meeting Thursday, August 23 6pm Powdersville Fire Department

On Thursday, August 23rd we will have a town hall meeting at the Powdersville Fire Department at 6pm. We’ll go over a few highlights from the ’07 session and what we can look forward to next near. As always, your comments, suggestions and even complaints are welcome.

Treasurer - Upon the unfortunate news of our treasurer’s drug charge, Ken Wingate was appointed to serve during the suspension. After the resignation of our treasurer, the General Assembly elected Converse Chellis to this position.

Session Highlights
It has been a busy session working on new legislation. Our regular session is in recess so you are safe until January. It is great to be home for a few months!

Worker’s Compensation Reform (passed) – We all respect the need to support an injured employee, but reform will result in lower rates for employers; leading to more jobs in the Palmetto State. The General Assembly passed meaningful reform and Gov. Sanford has signed the bill into law.

Ultrasound Requirement (In conference) – My bill has passed the SC House (H. 3355) and the Senate (S. 84). I’ve always supported pro-life legislation, but this bill is different. The choice is still intact, but we are requiring the abortionist to offer ultrasound images before the mother can receive an abortion. Statistics show as high as 85% of mothers receiving an ultrasound choose life. The House & Senate differences will be worked out in a Conference Committee before being sent to the Governor. Hopefully, his pen will see this bill next session.

Department of Transportation Reform (passed) – This bill has had an up and down ride; gone from a full cabinet agency to no real reform at all. At one point, the bill was amended to nothing more than “rearranging the deck chairs on a sinking Titanic.” However, this bill was greatly improved in a conference committee and signed into law.

Education Open Enrollment (vetoed) – I supported Jim Rex’s plan of open enrollment, yet Gov. Sanford vetoed this bill because he did not believe the legislation offered enough educational options. This veto was sustained in the House. Perhaps, we will revisit this concept next year and have an opportunity to provide more choices for our children.

Budget, Spending, Tax Relief – With more than 1 & ½ billion new dollars coming in Columbia, I can’t imagine not sending YOU some of your money back. We’ve eliminated the sales tax on groceries and eliminated the lower income tax bracket. I usually support tax cuts, but elimination is much better, don’t you think? Unfortunately, the budget was still laden with pork barrel earmarks. Although I voted to sustain most of the Governor’s 243 line item vetoes, most were over ridden.

OPEB - Did you know our school teacher’s and highway patrol’s retirement benefits are in jeopardy? OPEB stands for other post employment benefits. These benefits are mandated by statute, yet have a $9 billion deficit. This year only a piddle ($50 million) was set aside for this future liability. This will be my focus next year. The earlier we can close this gap, the less tax dollars we’ll spend in the future.