What’s In The Hopper?

January 3, 2014


The Forum is watching the Legislature for YOU…

Like it or not, the actions of the South Carolina General Assembly can have a powerful impact on the pocketbooks of families like yours…on your freedom to work, access health care and educate your family.

The legislature usually takes the summer and fall off and returns in January. To get ready to return for their January through June session, members of the Senate and House started putting bills in the stream in December. In the waning days of 2013 some interesting legislation was filed that could have a significant impact on your life. As always, we will be watching these bills to protect you and your family.

Teaching Excellence. Rep. Andy Patrick (R-Beaufort) has filed H.4419, a bill to reform the way we evaluate the performance of teachers. The Forum’s Take: These changes have been needed for decades. Much of the content of H.4419 came out of a series of listening sessions hosted by Students First and co-hosted by Palmetto Policy Forum.

Less Duplication. Rep. Bakari Sellers (D-Bamberg) has filed H.4352, a bill that would among other things do away with the Education Oversight Committee (EOC). The Forum’s Take: The EOC is a South Carolina oddity meant to provide an independent agency to keep tabs on the State Board of Education (SBE). But what we really need is an representative, accountable SBE, not duplicate agencies and diluted accountability.

Special Help for Special Needs. Senator Wes Hayes (R-York) has filed S.867, a bill to allow tax credits for contributions to scholarships for kids with special needs to attend private schools designed to serve them. The Forum’s Take: This is an exciting opportunity (that has worked well in other states) to help our neighbors afford the specialized education their kids need but can’t always find in the public system.

Local Control of Curriculum. Senator Chip Campsen (R-Charleston) has filed S. 888, a bill to clarify the process for adopting academic standards and assessment. The Forum’s Take: a bill like this would have saved a lot of heartache if in place before the adoption of Common Core State Standards. It makes sure elected representatives (not just bureaucrats) have a say in our school curriculum.

Free Enterprise. Rep. Joshua Putnam (R-Anderson) has filed H. 4369, a bill to allow advertisements on school buses to help pay for purchasing new school buses. Decision on whether to participate would be made by local school boards. The Forum’s Take: Our state-run bus system is a national anomaly…and finding ways to introduce more free enterprise into it is a good idea.

Finance Reform. Rep. Jenny Horne (R-Dorchester) has filed H. 4407, a bill to reform the way schools and education are financed in South Carolina. Children’s Agency. Rep. Horne has also filed H. 4409, a bill to create a new South Carolina Department of Child and Family Services within the Governor’s cabinet. The new agency would replace the Department of Juvenile Justice and assume certain functions of the Department of Social Services and the Governor’s Office. The Forum’s Take: These are interesting concepts. A key factor in each is whether the changes will help provide relief for the taxpayer.

Higher Taxes. Rep. Wayne George (D-Mullins) has field H. 4361, a bill to exempt from the cap on property taxes the cost of repairs and improvement of existing school facilities. The Forum’s Take: How would “repairs and improvements” be defined?

Senator Kevin Bryant (R-Anderson) has filed S. 886, a bill to authorize out of state insurers to offer health insurance policies within South Carolina. The Forum’s Take: Nearly every proposal to reduce healthcare costs in the last decade has included erasing the state line barriers to competition. Worth a hearing.

Rep. Bill Taylor (R-Aiken) has filed H. 4422, legislation to create a “Federal Education Funding Study Committee.” The Committee would study federal funding of public education in the state and issue a report aimed at improving efficiency and transparency. The Forum’s Take: A critical first step toward reducing federal spending is make state citizens aware of how much Washington takes, ties up in mandates – and then “gives back” – to South Carolina.. The bill could be expanded beyond education.

Rep. Bill Taylor (R-Aiken) has filed H. 4372 and Sen. Larry Grooms (R-Charleston) has field S.833, and Sen. Mike Fair (R-Greenville) has filed S.830, legislation to evoke Article V of the US Constitution. If a sufficient number of states pass this legislation, a convention of states would be called by Congress to amend the Constitution to place limits on federal government power and spending and to enact term limits on federal officials. The Aiken Standard wrote an informative story. The Forum’s Take: While there is no silver bullet to restore a century or more of eroded federalism, the Article V strategy is certainly an interesting one, and more likely to succeed than Nullification of federal laws.

Rep. Joshua Putnam (R-Anderson) has filed H. 4379, a bill to move the date for consideration of the state budget within the House of Representatives from March 31 to March 10, the net effect being to shorten the legislative session. The Forum’s Take: Taxpayer groups and business leaders have been calling for a shorter session for over two decades. This concept it worth consideration.

Senator Katrina Shealy (R-Lexington) has filed S. 901, a bill to phase out the personal income tax. The Forum’s Take: There is a 50-state competition for free enterprise. States that are reducing income taxes, like Kansas and Tennessee, are reaping great benefits in the form of more and better jobs for their citizens.

Rep. Raye Felder (R-Horry) has introduced H. 4356, a “local option motor fuel user fee,” that would allow a county to impose a tax not to exceed two cents per gallon on fuel to fund road improvement projects within the county. Senator Ray Cleary (R-Georgetown) had filed S. 891, a bill to increase the gasoline tax from 16 cents per gallon to 36 cents per gallon graduated over time. The Forum’s Take: Our infrastructure needs are enormous and represent a legitimate function of government. Because they increase taxes, these bills may not be the answer, but they represent the beginning of a crucial conversation about how we prioritize and pay for this vital backbone of job creation in our state.

STAY TUNED for more to come when the legislature convenes again in a few days.