The Weekly Rewind: Week of January 13th

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On Tuesday, January 13, 2015, the House of Representatives convened in Columbia for the commencement of the 121st South Carolina General Assembly.

As the House begins its legislative session, the body operates under the rules it adopted (H.3001) at last month’s organizational session. The membership adopted REVISIONS TO HOUSE RULES recommended by the bipartisan Ad Hoc Rules and Procedures Committee which the Speaker of the House appointed and charged with examining current practices and rules, holding public meetings, and seeking input from House Members and the public in order to identify ways the legislative body can be more transparent and accountable. These House Rules revisions include:

• New term limits imposed upon the offices of House Speaker and Speaker Pro Tempore so that those who are elected to the offices by the body may serve in these leadership positions for no more than five consecutive terms.

• Authority for the Speaker Pro Tempore to assume the duties of the Speaker should a conflict of interest arise involving the Speaker and the performance of his duties.

• A prohibition on leadership PACs that disallows the use of these political action committees by prohibiting a House Member from, directly or indirectly, establishing, financing, maintaining, or controlling a noncandidate committee or any other sort of arrangement that receives or makes campaign contributions. This prohibition does not apply to a candidate committee or a legislative caucus committee.

• Provisions that require the Speaker to consult with the majority and minority political party leaders when making appointments to the conference committees and free conference committees that are formed to address differences with the Senate over legislation and to appoint at least one member of the minority political party to these conference committees.

• An alteration in the procedure that allows a newly-introduced bill to bypass the committee process with the unanimous consent of the body. Under the revised rules, such unanimous consent requests for a bill to go without reference to a committee can only be made after the day’s roll call has been taken and the Speaker has determined that a quorum is present.

• A new requirement for all House committees and subcommittees to take roll call votes when deciding whether to give a favorable report on legislation so as to record the names of those voting and how they vote.

• A requirement for House Members to receive explanations of all the legislation they consider which provides that, whenever a bill or joint resolution is up for second reading approval before the House, the legislation’s sponsor, the chairman of the committee that has reported out the legislation, or some other House Member must explain the legislation for at least ten minutes or until all questions from House Members are addressed, whichever comes first.

• Mandatory waiting periods established at key phases of the state government budget-writing process that afford House Members more time to see what alterations might have been made since last they considered the budget legislation. The revised rules do not allow the General Appropriations Bill and other appropriations legislation that has been returned from the Senate with amendments to be considered until their number and title have been printed in the House Calendar and their contents, as amended, have been made available online to the public for at least forty eight hours. A Conference Committee or Free Conference Committee report on appropriations legislation may not considered until the report has been printed in the House Journal and made available online to the public for at least twenty four hours. The House may, however, waive this mandatory waiting period for budget conference reports with a two thirds vote of the membership present and voting, a quorum being present.

• A requirement for House committees to review legislation that has been substantially rewritten by Senate amendments. The revised rules require, rather than simply allow, the Speaker to send to a committee any bill, joint resolution, or concurrent resolution returned from the Senate with an amendment that has so materially changed the legislation’s contents as to make it no longer substantially germane to the legislation as it passed the House. The House may, however, waive this requirement with a two thirds vote of the membership present and voting, a quorum being present.

• The creation of the Legislative Oversight Committee formed to fulfill new legislative duties under the “South Carolina Restructuring Act of 2014″ to conduct periodic reviews and launch special investigations for the purpose of determining which state government programs continue to serve worthwhile purposes and which should be scaled back or eliminated altogether. Under the committee’s review cycle, each agency, department, and office of government will be scrutinized every seven years, and special investigations may be performed as needed.

• The creation of the Regulations and Administrative Procedures Committee which is established to receive all proposed state agency regulations submitted for legislative review under the Administrative Procedures Act rather than having these proposed regulations divided up among the various standing legislative committees for review according to their subject matter. This committee must be composed of at least two members from each of the House’s six standing legislative committees.

• A revised composition for the Operations and Management Committee whose members are elected by the House to advise the Speaker on matters relating to personnel, administration, and facilities management. The revisions provide for an eight-member committee that is divided equally between the majority and minority parties and chaired by one of the majority party members.

• New procedures for hiring House staff under which the Clerk’s Office receives and reviews all applications for employment vacancies and then submits a list of the most qualified applicants to the appropriate committee chairman or other supervisory authority for consideration. The supervisory authority’s selection is then submitted to the Speaker for final appointment as a member of the House staff. Provisions are also included for conducting House employee salary reviews.

• Revisions concerning the House of Representatives Legislative Ethics Committee, which is elected by the House membership to address allegations of unethical conduct. Provisions are included under which the committee addresses alleged violations of Ethics Act provisions and provisions governing the conduct of lobbyists and refers any matters, regardless of a finding of probable cause, that are violations of law not under its jurisdiction to the appropriate law enforcement or regulatory agency. New transparency requirements are included which provide that, unless otherwise indicated by rule or statute, all meetings, deliberations, actions, issuance of advisory opinions, debates, recommendations, and other activities of the committee are subject to the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act. Provisions authorize the committee to obtain outside assistance when needed and to employ counsel who is not employed by any other House committee or office other than the House Clerk’s office.

Meet Michael Sechrest: Academy Award Winner

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I met Michael a few years ago when we lived in the same neighborhood. Our boys played together and JC was always talking about the cool video games Colin (Michael’s son) had around his house. I didn’t really understand what Michael and his company did at the time; but I knew he was good at what thaqt was…and looks like a few people have noticed Michael and his company’s impact on the film and gaming industry! Congratulations to one of our own, Michael Sechrest and Speedtree.

SpeedTree, the virtual vegetation software that has grown to dominate the worldwide visual effects and video game industries since its introduction in 2002, has received an Academy Award® from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

A Technical Achievement Award (Academy Certificate) will be presented at a ceremony in Beverly Hills, California, on February 7, 2015, to the three developers of SpeedTree: IDV co-founders Michael Sechrest and Chris King, and Senior Software Architect Greg Croft. The Scientific and Technical awards ceremony, first held in 1931, will be followed on February 22 by the globally-televised Oscars® presentation.

“The list of people who made this possible is literally in the thousands,” said Mr. Sechrest. “For more than a decade, we have received support, encouragement and invaluable insights from the best artists and engineers in the visual effects and game development industries. These customers, along with the rest of the SpeedTree team, deserve tremendous credit.”

This isn’t SpeedTree’s first brush with the Oscars. SpeedTree was featured prominently in 2009’s Avatar, which received nine Oscar nominations and three Oscar Awards. Since then, dozens more movies have added SpeedTree to their special effects, including Oscar-winning and -nominated films like The Great Gatsby and The Wolf of Wall Street, as well as blockbusters like The Avengers, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Iron Man 3, and Maleficent.

“SpeedTree is one of countless technologies and innovations that have enriched the cinematic experience for more than a century,” observed Mr. King. “We are incredibly humbled by the Academy’s recognition of our work. We’re in amazing company.”

Watch the demo reel presented to the Academy when making the case for SpeedTree in September:The actual award will be presented at a ceremony in Beverly Hills, CA on February 7, 2015, to the three developers of SpeedTree®: IDV co-founders Michael Sechrest and Chris King, and Senior Software Architect Greg Croft. The Scientific and Technical awards ceremony will be followed on February 22 by the globally-televised Oscars® presentation.

To learn more about SpeedTree, visit their website.

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Meet Ashley Dye: 6 years later

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In July 2008, when I first shared Ashley to NathansNews readers, she was a rising 5th grader at Oak Point Elementary and a member of the District Honors Choir.

Fast forward almost 7 years later and here she is a junior at Dutch Fork High School and is one of only two area juniors selected by Mid Carolina Electric CoOp to head to Washington for The Electric Cooperative Youth Tour. Congratulations again, Ashley!

The Tour has brought high school students to Washington, D.C. every June since the late 1950s. Students apply and are selected for this program by their local electric cooperative. We believe that students should see their nation’s capital up close, learn about the political process and interact with their elected officials.

The featured speakers during Youth Day provide insight to the important roles electric cooperatives play in their community. Students gain a personal understanding of American history and their role as a citizen by meeting their Representative and Senators.

Nearly 50,000 students from rural areas and small towns across America have participated in this program. Some of our Youth Tour alumni have gone on to design airplanes, to lead companies and to serve in the highest ranks of our government, including the U.S. Senate. Don’t be surprised if you run into a former Youth Tour participant who is a congressional aide on Capitol Hill. While several of our alumni work in Washington, you will find even more alumni in your own community.

Below is Ashley in 2008 on Nathan’s News

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WANTED: Community member for Transportation Committee

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We continue to see growth in our community, and with that, improvements in our infrastructure are needed. If you are interested in serving on the Richland County Transportation Committee (representing our community in House District 71), please contact me here so I can review applicants before selecting our representative before the end of the month.

Brief information about the position:

* Represent our community in identifying road improvement needs
* Decide with other members which projects will be funded with Richland County Transportation Committe Funds
* Term (usually 2 years) – at will of House Member
* Meetings are bi-monthly on the 4th Tuesday

Additional information on county transportation funding:

SCDOT “C” Program: Improving Roads in your county.

About Us:

The C Program is a long-established partnership between SCDOT and the forty-six counties of South Carolina to fund the improvements of state roads, county roads, city streets, and other local transportation projects. SCDOT, like all state transportation departments across the country have quickly learned, the job is too big to accomplish without partnerships. The C Program is successful because local leaders and citizens alike are willing to work with SCDOT to meet the needs of the communities throughout South Carolina. The South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) C Program was established in accordance with Section 12-28-2740 of the S.C. Code of Laws 1976, as amended.

The C funds are derived from 2.66 cents per gallon of the state gasoline tax. These funds are distributed to each of the 46 counties based on a three part formula. The formula allocates one third of the C funds based on the ratio of the land area of the county to the land area of the state, one third based on the ratio of the county population to the state population and one third based on the rural road mileage in the county to the rural road mileage in the state. By law, each county is responsible for establishing a County Transportation Committee (CTC) appointed by the County’s Legislative Delegation. The number of members on the committee can vary from county to county. The CTC is entrusted with the authority to select and approve projects to be funded utilizing C funds.

The law stipulates that the counties spend at least twenty-five percent of their apportionment of C funds based on a biennial averaging of expenditures, on the state highway system for construction, improvements, and maintenance. Furthermore, the counties are to spend no more than seventy-five percent of their apportionment each year on their local system. Also, the balance of uncommitted funds carried forward from one year into the next cannot exceed three hundred percent of the county’s total apportionment for the most recent year.

During 2007, the Department reorganized the Preconstruction Division of the agency in an effort to improve the delivery of projects and programs including the administration of the C Program. The new organization took the form of four statewide regional production groups, which align themselves around the Metropolitan Planning Organizations and the Council of Government statewide boundaries. This reorganization improved resource management, enhanced communication, improved project ownership, and most importantly proposes to improve the project delivery time to insure roadway projects are in place for the benefit of the citizens of South Carolina. As a result of the reorganization, each regional production group has its own C Program Manager. The C Program Administration’s staff responsibilities include administering overall C program issues including financial issues and ensuring compliance with the C fund law.

District Five rated “Excellent” on State Report Card

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From District website

Lexington-Richland School District Five is rated “Excellent” on the state report card for the fifth consecutive year and has the fourth highest absolute rating in the state, according to data released Nov. 14 by the South Carolina Department of Education.

South Carolina schools and districts receive both federal and state ratings annually. State report card ratings are part of the state’s Educational Accountability Act, whereby schools receive an Absolute rating of Excellent, Good, Average or At Risk. All schools in District Five received either Good or Excellent absolute ratings on this year’s state report card.

To view District Five’s school reports, click here !

From WLTX

SC School Districts Show Improvement on State Report Cards

Columbia, SC (WLTX) New report cards are out for South Carolina schools and school districts and they show improvement. Out of 82 school districts, 49 are rated “good” or “excellent.” That’s down one from last year, but the number of schools at the bottom, rated “below average” or “at-risk,” is 7, down from 15 in 2010. The high school graduation rate has also gone up to 80.1 percent, the highest in state history. Last year, the graduation rate was 77.5 percent.

Mark Bounds, spokesman for Lexington/Richland District 5, which got a rating of “excellent,” says the report cards are important for parents, schools, and districts.

“Just like students get report cards, it’s important that schools get report cards so that our community understands where we are and where we’re going,” he says. “It’s important for the district because it gives us a target. The grade is important so we know where we are today, but it also gives us information that we can use to get better every day.”

The state won’t issue report cards for the next two years as it transitions to a combined state and federal report card for schools. Now, those are separate, which can cause confusion. For example, 51 percent of the state’s schools were rated “excellent” on the state report card but only 13 percent got the top ranking on the federal report card.

State education superintendent Dr. Mick Zais says, “Moving to one accountability system and just one annual report card will make it easier for everyone to understand how their school district and school is performing.”

He wants the new combined report card to be weighted heavily toward the federal guidelines because they’re more rigorous and hold schools to a higher performance standard.

Meet James Burns : Governor’s Chief of Staff

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Nathan’s News readers met James earlier this year . Actually, most of you in the community know James already or have seen him on the ball fields at Chapin, helping the booster club, or being involved in other areas around town.

This week he was named as Chief of Staff at the beginning of Governor’s Haley second term. I know James well and I know he will serve that office and our state exceptionally well.

From www.governor.sc.gov

Gov. Nikki Haley Announces New Chief Of Staff

COLUMBIA, S.C.- November 13, 2014 – Governor Nikki Haley today announced James H. Burns, a partner with Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP, as her new chief of staff. Gov. Haley’s current chief of staff, Ted Pitts, will be stepping down from his role and joining the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce.

“From the moment we stepped into office, I have been incredibly blessed to have Ted Pitts as a member of my staff and for the past fourteen months serving as chief of staff,” said Gov. Haley. “His character, ability, and sense of duty made him indispensable – and he is not only a trusted adviser but someone who I also consider a dear friend. Whether in the National Guard, as a member of the General Assembly, or in the governor’s office, I know how much time and dedication he has given to South Carolina, and I want to personally thank him for his contributions to our state and wish him all the best going forward.”

Prior to being partner at Nelson Mullins, Burns was deputy assistant for legal and legislative matters for the Office of the Vice Chief of Naval Operations at the Pentagon, and served in the United States Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps (JAG) from 2002-2008. Burns is a 1996 graduate of The Citadel and a 2002 graduate of the University of South Carolina School of Law. He is the former chairman of the South Carolina State Ethics Commission and worked as pro bono counsel to the South Carolina Ethics Reform Commission.

“As a widely respected member of both the legal and professional community, James Burns will be a great addition to Team Haley, and I am excited to start working with him and continue building on the progress we have made.” said Gov. Haley. “His integrity and outstanding reputation as a leader, combined with his understanding of both our policy and legislative goals, is exactly what we need to start this second term the same way we ended the first – fighting to make South Carolina a better place to live. The last four years have been great ones for our state, but we still have a lot to accomplish and I know that James is the best person to help us get the job done.”

“What Governor Haley and her team have accomplished over the past four years is remarkable, and I could not be more honored to be named her next chief of staff and to follow in Ted’s footsteps,” said James Burns. “Under the governor’s leadership and vision, our state has reached new heights. I look forward to doing my part to not only continue this record of success, but to build on it.”

The transition will take place over the next few weeks.

Burns, 40, currently resides in Richland County and is married with three children.

Grateful and honored to represent you in Columbia!

Thank you

My family and I again appreciate your support yesterday (and throughout the years)!

Public service is a calling for me and one I take seriously. Everyday I walk the steps of your State House, I realize the weight of the decisions before us in Columbia. I could not serve without the support of my family at home or without the input and advice from those of you who stay involved and are willing to share your expertise and opinions with me.

As I share with my colleagues “elected officials who stay in touch year round – instead of just at election time – are far better able to serve their constituents.” That is what I’ve strived to do since 2004 and will continue to do for our community.

As always, I encourage you to visit my site often (I’ll post more starting next month when we return to Columbia). Please call or email with advice and opinions ; and feel free to invite me to visit with your neighbors, church or civic organizations.

I’m here to help,

Nathan

Signs, Signs, Everywhere Signs

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With the November election less than a month away, inevitably people start to ask me “Nathan, who should I vote for?”

Obviously, they don’t recall that I have made it a practice not to endorse in local races . Instead, I believe our community has many opportunities to meet and learn about these candidates and can decide on your own who to support.

For example, you can catch candidates for County Council visiting the Ballentine Dutch Fork Civic Association or all the School Board candidates at this year’s voting forums . Many officials and candidates attended the 9th Annual Irmo Community Prayer Breakfast while some attend Irmo and Chapin chamber events . In the next few weeks, my guess is you’ll receive a lot of literature from these candidates and maybe even a visit at your front door step from a candidate or two.

Take time to read, learn and even ask questions before deciding whom to support. While some in the community will show up to vote (which, based on low turnout is actually more than the majority of people in the state will do), others will choose to display signs, make calls, and contribute financially. Whatever level of support you wish to give, do so in favor of your candidate and not campaigning negatively about other candidates.

Please look at the issues, the job and the candidates qualifications. If there are votes some officials have cast that you don’t like, that’s a legitimate concern. If there’s an issue one candidate addresses more than another candidate, maybe that’s your guy/gal. But please don’t succumb to personal vendettas or he said/she said spats that do nothing but divert attention from building up our community. And PLEASE don’t resort to vandalizing/removing signs of an opponent. We’re better than that in Chapin and Irmo.

One last thing that’s been on my mind for sometime is this – our school board currently has no minority representation. With seven members chosen to represent a district that has a diverse population from elementary schools to our high schools, shouldn’t our board be more diverse?

I hope you’ll get out and vote Tuesday, November 4th. Please check your Voter Registration Card to be sure you go to the correct precinct and remember to bring a photo ID with you to the polls!

2014 Irmo Community Prayer Breakfast

2014 Prayer Breakfast Invite

Years ago, Representative Huggins and I wanted to do provide something for Irmo that was missing. Chapin has their Annual Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast and we felt Irmo could benefit from something similar as well.

We continue to rotate among churches in the area and would love to bring to your church in the coming years! This year we’re back at Gateway Baptist (site of our 3rd Annual Prayer Breakfast years ago). Next year, plans are to have St. Paul AME Church host the 10th Annual event in their new facility!

Thanks to the support of our sponsors, we’ve been able to provide the event for FREE to the community the past few years and hope to continue to do so!

To sponsor ($100 for table of 8) or to simply RSVP a free spot for the event, email Mary Lou Stinson at mlbstinson@yahoo.com or call her directly at 351-5197.

This year’s speaker is Chris Joye (too many titles and accolades to list, so I’ll share his most important), father. Chris will share the Mark Joye story. Mark is a recent Wofford College graduate and former standout golfer at Dutch Fork High School.

Chip and I look forward to another packed house later this month! If you’ve never joined us, please click on the links below to see videos and programs from years past.

8th Annual- Program
7th Annual – Video and Program
6th Annual – Video and Program
5th Annual – Video and Program
4th Annual – Video and Program
3rd Annual – Video and Program
2nd Annual – program

UPDATE: Richard Franklin Road improvements

2014 Richard Franklin Road

Those living in the area have seen the signs, trucks, pylons, and markings that signal the beginning of much awaited repairs to the area. Earlier this year I shared what was in the works and last month shared the latest .

I want to thank you for your patience and especially the SC DOT for bringing this project to fruition.

Below is detailed information so you’ll know what’s going on and so you’ll be patient as the work will cause some inconveniences in the coming weeks.

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The roadway that is being reclaimed is State Road S-40-1333. The road names associated with this work and limits are as follows:

• Lowman Home Barn Road
o From the intersection of Lowman Home Road (S-40-216) (3 way intersection) to Johnson Marina Road (S-40-618)
o ~0.3 miles
o Reclamation, widen shoulder 2 ft each side, resurface

• Richard Franklin Road
o From Johnson Marina (S-40-618) to Wonder Dr / Old Road (S-40-1333 Loop)
o ~0.95 miles
o Reclamation, widen shoulder 2 ft each side, resurface

• Wonder Drive / Old Road
o Loop Road
o ~1.06 miles
o Reclamation and resurfacing only

The total roadway work is ~2.31 miles in length. The approximate costs for this work was estimated to be in excess of $533,000 but may be less due to the actual amount of cement used in the reclamation process based on the design.