Dr. Oran Smith

Legislative Update: We Have Business Everywhere!

March 29, 2018

Dr. Oran Smith

The story is told of the Texas oil man who approached the counter at DFW airport. When the ticket agent asks him “Where to?” he replies, “It doesn’t matter, I got business everywhere.”

That sounds like Palmetto Promise Institute! Here is a pre-Easter “business everywhere” legislative report.

ESA: Hearing Date Set. The hottest school choice initiative in America will get its first hearing in South Carolina soon. If legislative scheduling holds, the Palmetto State will learn how the funds allocated to a child by the state can arrive in a scholarship account for each parent to allocate. ESAs have no rival for flexibility and empowering parents. The dollars actually “follow the child” to the educational setting best for each child as determined by his or her parent or guardian. Here is SC ESA Central.

Santee Cooper Sale Needs Action. Our comprehensive report written with two Clemson economists hit the state news feed hard last week when PPI unveiled it at a news conference. This report tells the good and bad about the state-owned utility and predicts how much more customers will have to pay for electricity due to the very political VC Summer nuclear expansion debacle. Read the details here. The legislature is taking action to temporarily suspend much, potentially all, of the rate hikes, but lawmakers need to pursue a permanent solution.

Charters: The Best of Times and Worst of Times. Erskine College’s bold entry into charter school authorizing has caused quite a stir. That happens sometimes when an entity or person has the temerity to assert that a statute should be interpreted as it is written. Yes, state law gives colleges the ability to oversee charters, and Erskine College will be the first to make higher ed authorizing a reality. This new world of charter authorizing has rankled the establishment, but done right it could be an exciting opportunity to see more education flourish.

Exceptional SC: The very successful private scholarship program benefitting special needs children that is funded by state income tax credits has been in the state budget for years, but not the state law. That could change this year if the SC Senate passes a bill that has already cleared the House that would make the Exceptional SC program permanent law. We also hope to see more funding included to meet the overwhelming student demand for participation in the program.

Consolidation Report Imminent. We have 46 counties and 81 school districts (82 when the Charter District is counted). Many of these districts are tiny, many are shrinking. Some are tiny and shrinking. But what is the optimum size? Which districts need to merge with others? How can this be done? How many taxpayers’ dollars can be saved? Stay tuned for a new report from PPI that answers all of these questions. Just in time too. The Superintendent is ramping up her calls for mergers and cooperation.

DPC Clears the South Carolina House. In a remarkable turnaround, Rep. Anne Thayer was able to get her bill out of the House without a dissenting vote. Direct Primary Care (DPC) means healthcare without insurance for those who prefer to simply exchange Cash for Care. Many DPC patients use cash for the small stuff at their primary care doctor and use their insurance for what used to be called “Major Medical” at specialists and hospitals when complications arise. DPC is sweeping the country and taking hold in South Carolina.

Tax Reform. The first steps toward comprehensive tax reform have been taken. Now it is time tee up legislation that will make it a reality. Palmetto Promise and our independent economist will be there to provide support and advice.

Other issues: The Speaker’s K-12 school Computer Science Coursework Initiative has stalled in the Senate due to one Senator’s opposition (the bill passed the House 106-1). Competency-Based Education legislation (also known as Personalized Learning) has somehow gotten caught up in specious criticism about globalism (which is odd considering CBE is about as local as you can get…customized education right down to the school desk). Maybe the letters CBE remind folks of the old OBE (Outcome-Based Education) controversy. All they have in common are two letters of the alphabet. A Dyslexia Screening Process bill is picking up momentum. This would build on our Read to Succeed initiative to identify students with “difficulties in reading, math, or writing, and who also may be at risk of experiencing difficulties in social-emotional development.”

That’s our mid-Session report. But visit our website often, with “business everywhere,” there is sure to be much more in the policy pipeline in our quest for hope and opportunity for all South Carolinians!