Summer fun: The beach, the lake, the mountains, the State House!

Received this today from the State House Tour Office. If you’re interested this summer (or anytime), please contact me here and I can work with the office to arrange your visit!

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With the summer in full swing and Saturday tours being offered weekly, beginning July 12th, the tour office staff would love to encourage each of you to inform and invite your constituents to take advantage of “the people’s house.” With the newly offered Saturday tours, our office will be able to better accommodate the schedules of all visitors. We have seen a great deal of enthusiastic tourists and South Carolinians thus far and look forward to the upcoming months.

During week days, Monday through Friday, the State House is available to the public between the hours of 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM. On these days six guided tours are offered beginning at 9:30 AM, 10:30 AM, 11:30 AM, 1:30 PM, 2:30 PM, and 3:30 PM. On Saturdays, the State House will be available to the public between the hours of 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM. On these days five guided tours will be offered beginning at 10:30 AM, 11:30 AM, 12:30 PM, 1:30 PM, and 2:30 PM. Groups larger than 12 are encouraged to make reservations prior to their tour day to ensure space is available.

The tour office strives to assist you by providing the very best service possible to your constituents. We will happily make tour arrangements for groups from your district. You or a member of your staff needs only to forward us the pertinent contact information. Our guided tours provide a tangible opportunity for constituents to experience the beauty of the State House and gain an appreciation for the lawmaking process.

Final Report Card: 2014 General Assembly

Feel free to grade the work of the 170 members of the SC General Assembly. There’s report cards from numerous groups that are always “grading us” but we all know it’s the grade of our constituents that matter most. Most people never really follow politics (can’t blame them really) and some may forget some of the “lesser bills”; either way, here’s the summary prepared by House Research and I wanted to share with you. It’s long.

As important to hearing from you about “how we did”, it’s equally important to hear “what you’d like to see us accomplish” next session!

That session begins with reorganization (for the House, that’s usually done in December….committee assignments, seat selections in chamber, etc) and we can prefile legislation beginning in December.

So…if you have time…here’s a “Year in Review”. Feel free to provide feedback or a grade if you’d like.

2014 Legislative Overview from the House Research Office summarizing major issues as of June 27, 2014.
2014 LEGISLATIVE OVERVIEW
June 27, 2014

In its second regular session, the 120th South Carolina General Assembly authorized the most significant government restructuring that the state has seen in twenty years by approving the “South Carolina Restructuring Act of 2014″ (S.22) which makes comprehensive changes to the organization and oversight of state government that are geared towards enhancing accountability and efficiency. This restructuring initiative abolishes the State Budget and Control Board and transfers the majority of the board’s functions, including facilities management, property services, vehicle fleet management, information technology, and human resources responsibilities, to a new Department of Administration that is established in the executive branch as a cabinet agency. While the Governor assumes greater responsibility over most of the day-to-day running of state government operations, certain major financial responsibilities continue to be shared among key public officials in the executive and legislative branches of government. Composed of the Governor, Treasurer, Comptroller General, Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, the State Fiscal Accountability Authority houses such offices as the State Auditor, the Procurement Services Division, and the Insurance Reserve Fund, and is given approval authority over all decisions that relate to the state’s bonded indebtedness, lending, and major transactions involving state property. A Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office is created comprising the Board of Economic Advisors and other components of the Budget and Control Board that relate to state revenue forecasts, the preparation of the state government budget in the legislature, estimation of the fiscal impact of proposed legislation, economic research, and precinct demographics. The legislation also includes new provisions for the legislative oversight of executive departments that empower legislative committees 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 reorganized, scaled back, or eliminated altogether.

The General Assembly approved new legislation (S.137) to combat drunk driving designated as “Emma’s Law” in memory of Emma Longstreet, the six-year-old Lexington County girl who was killed in a collision with a repeat DUI offender as her family was traveling to church on New Year’s Day 2012. The new law provides for a more expansive use of ignition interlock devices installed on the vehicles of driving under the influence offenders that are designed to prevent a vehicle from being started and operated by someone who has consumed alcohol. The legislation revises current requirements for ignition interlock devices to be installed on the vehicles of repeat DUI offenders and establishes a new requirement for installing an ignition interlock device on the vehicle of someone convicted of a first offense DUI violation with a breath test registering an alcohol concentration of 0.15 or higher. Those who refuse a breath test and are subsequently convicted of a first offense DUI violation are also subject to requirements for enrolling in the Ignition Interlock Device Program in order to be eligible to drive. New ignition interlock requirements are imposed upon those convicted of a DUI offense involving death or great bodily injury and those found guilty of drunk driving that has endangered at least one passenger under the age of sixteen. Emma’s Law also enhances penalties for those who fail to comply with ignition interlock device requirements.

Legislators approved a prohibition on texting while driving (S.459) which makes it unlawful for a person to use a handheld wireless electronic communication device to compose, send, or read a text based communication while operating a motor vehicle on the public streets and highways of this state. Exceptions are included to cover such circumstances as summoning emergency assistance and using a navigation system. A violation, which is not a criminal offense, is subject to a fine of up to twenty-five dollars. During the first one hundred eighty days after the law goes into effect, law enforcement officers must only issue warnings for violations. Law enforcement officers are prohibited from seizing wireless devices or performing searches in enforcing a violation of this prohibition on texting while driving, and a violation must not be included in the offender’s motor vehicle records or criminal records and must not be reported to an insurer. The legislation preempts all local government ordinances, regulations, and resolutions relating to the use of wireless electronic communication devices while driving on the public roads of this state.

The “South Carolina Read to Succeed Act” (S.516) was approved to establish a comprehensive K-12 initiative for promoting reading proficiency in the state’s public schools with an emphasis on early intervention to assist students who are not demonstrating an ability to read at grade level. Early grade students who are not demonstrating proficiency in reading must be provided intensive in-class and supplemental reading intervention, and, beginning with the 2017-2018 school year, students are subject to new requirements for being retained in the third grade if they fail substantially to demonstrate grade-level reading proficiency. Prior to retention, students who score the lowest in reading assessments are afforded the opportunity to enroll in a summer reading camp. Each elementary school must employ a reading coach to serve as the school’s resource for professional development in order to generate improvement in reading and literacy instruction and student achievement. Teacher certification and professional development requirements are revised to incorporate a new emphasis on literacy instruction.

Lawmakers approved legislation (H.3893) on the adoption of statewide education standards and assessments for use in the state’s K-12 public schools which addresses issues relating to national Common Core academic standards that have become aligned with federal programs and waivers offered through the U.S. Department of Education. Under the legislation, all proposed new standards and revisions to existing academic standards that are developed by anyone other than South Carolina’s Department of Education must be sent to the General Assembly for review so that lawmakers may approve or reject them. The General Assembly and the Governor must be notified whenever the State Department of Education or the Education Oversight Committee seek to change an existing standard. The legislation accelerates the review of state content standards and requires new college and career readiness state content standards to be implemented for the 2015 2016 school year. A timeline is established for the prompt procurement of new assessments, with a September 2014 deadline, under a protocol that requires the advice and consent of a temporary special assessment panel. The legislation provides that South Carolina is no longer part of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. A “South Carolina Department of Education Data Use and Governance Policy” is also established that includes prohibitions on collecting individualized student data directly from students or families and transferring individualized data to the U.S. Department of Education.

Legislation (H.3428) was approved to provide for the reauthorization of the South Carolina First Steps To School Readiness Initiative and to make revisions to this program for providing enhanced early childhood development, education, and family support services to enable children to reach school ready to achieve academic success. New accountability provisions are established to assess student progress, evaluate the performance of programs, and require state funds to be spent only on programs that are considered proven or promising according to research and evidence. Local First Steps partnerships are afforded flexibility to enter into multicounty arrangements and collaborate in order to maximize the efficiency and effectiveness of the services and programs they provide to children and their families.

A temporary School Safety Task Force was created (H.3365) that is charged with developing standards for district level policies to promote effective school discipline and mental health intervention services and examining how improved collaboration and organization could make the most of mental health resources and funding for school-based mental health services. The legislation provides for the membership of the task force and requires its recommendations to be reported to the General Assembly by the end of the year, at which time the task force must be dissolved.

The “Back to Basics in Education Act of 2014″ (H.3905) was approved to add cursive writing and memorization of multiplication tables to the required subjects of instruction in public schools and to require students to demonstrate competence in each subject before completion of the fifth grade.

The General Assembly approved legislation (H.3853) to provide enhanced accountability for charter schools, particularly at the charter application and school closing stages. Charter schools are required to adhere to national industry standards for quality. The legislation also includes authorization for creating alternative education campuses designed to serve at-risk and challenging student populations.

[Read more...]

Veto! Any thoughts on these?

As I’ve done for several years , I’d like to ask your thoughts on Budget Vetoes 2014.

If you’ve never seen a veto message before, that link shows you the message for the 2014-2015 General Appropriations Act.

I ususally sustain several; but not before hearing from you and your rationale for why that particular veto should be overridden or sustained.

The General Assembly will return next Tuesday, June 17th, to vote on these. We actually take a little longer than we used to before I was elected. Partly due to roll call voting; also due to more deliberation from the floor instead of the usual “override them all” mentality that was around for many years.

If you see something you feel strongly about (for or against), please let me know! You can always comment here in the comment section or click “Contact” up top on the website to send me an email.

For those outside the Richland, Lexington area, be sure you let your Representative or Senator know your thoughts!

What’s going on across from Walmart?

2014 Walmart

After being asked by many of you, I figured I should post something so the community would know (not that I mind y’all stopping me in the grocery store, at dinner, church, or whenever you see me).

The Palmetto Baptist hospital system is building Medical Offices on the land across from Walmart/School District Office (fka Derrick Azalea Farm). I have not heard from the Town of Irmo when the estimated completion date will be; however, I have learned that apparently there may be a change in the design plans.

You may recall this area was annexed into the Town of Irmo and is no longer a part of “Unincorporated Richland County”. For that reason, the Town of Irmo has jurisdiction and approved the design – that included a entrance/exit on the “back side” of the property to Salem Church Road. Last I heard, those plans have been changed.

What this means for the area is that all traffic would then enter/exit at the current traffic light here for Walmart.

Local zoning matters fall to either Town of Irmo or Richland County; but I will be speaking with both as well as SC DOT to determine how the entrace/exit of these new medical offices will impact our area and what changes should be made (most notably if the approved plan will be acted upon or be allowed to change).

In the mean time, feel free to contact the Town of Irmo with any questions or suggestions.

On another note, Irmo is annexing additional property on Bickley Road in the Ballentine area. This item was given first reading on April 15th (Meeting Minutes click here)

FIRST READING OF ORDINANCE 14-05 TO ANNEX 4 PARCELS IN RICHLAND COUNTY ON THE NORTH SIDE OF BICKLEY ROAD BETWEEN WISE ROAD AND BROAD RIVER ROAD; TMS#02500-BLOCK 07-LOTS 17, 19, 21 AND 22 (STAFF) – Mr. Younginer made a motion to approve first reading of Ordinance 14-05. Mr. Hoots seconded the motion. After some discussion, the vote for first reading approval was 3 to 2. Mrs. Condom and Mr. Walker voted in opposition.

As our community continues to experience growth (we are one of the fasting growing House Districts in South Carolina) be sure to stay in touch with local zoning matters through either the town of Irmo or our Richland County Councilman, Bill Malinowski.

Elections update: Richland County needs poll workers

Are you interested in working at the polls on Election Day? Poll Workers are needed in Richland County to serve at the polls on election day.

The deadline for applying to be a poll worker for the June Primary is now TOMORROW Thursday, May 8.

To accommodate the 25 new precincts due to be in operation for the June 10 Primary, 300 extra poll workers were needed. They are close to reaching that goal, however, there is a real need for workers in our community, the Northwest area of the County – specifically Irmo and Chapin.

The poll worker coordinator suggested that this close to the deadline, it would be more expediant to come into the Election Commission office located at 2020 Hampton Streetto fill out the paperwork necessary to be considered an employee. This should not take more than 15 minutes. You will need to complete both their online training and an in-person training prior to the election. For more information, call the Election Commission at576-2200.

Each poll worker will be paid $120 for their time both training and on Election Day combined. Consider this service a way to say “thank you” to all of our public servants who fight for our right to have free and fair elections as part of our democratic republic.

Remember, the best way to insure fair and efficient elections is to have competent and honest poll workers running them.

Qualifications:

A resident of Richland County, or an adjoining county
If age 18 +, you MUST be a qualified registered voter to work on election day
16 & 17 year olds may serve as poll managers
Complete online and in-person training
If you are interested, please contact the Election Commission Office at 576-1512 or Click Here for the Poll Worker Application.

What will our June Primaries in Richland tell us?


Actual video sent to me by constituent November 2012 at Dutch Fork Middle School.

With June primaries just weeks away, and with the ongoing drama that lingers in the Richland County Elections Office (now back – at least for now – to a Voter Registration piece and a separate Elections piece), I want to continue to keep you informed.

For those who haven’t read Nathan’s News in the past several months, here’s a link that can help you catch up on what has happened, what I’ve been doing to help fix, and what possibly can be happening soon.

Tonight, I’m sharing information I requested earlier this week from the Elections Office.

Click this link to see Richland County precinct names, locations, number of workers that should be there on election day, number of voters and number of machines that should be there on election day

That’s a good plan – as long as it’s executed.

Of course, based on the fiasco we saw before, there are several questions that we hope will have positive answers this time around.

* Will we have long waits? (Precinct sizes have been reduced, we have enough machines, and it appears there is a plan in place – see link above – to help reduce wait time. Let’s hope it’s executed)

* How will we know where to vote this time? (I checked on this as well this week and have been told notifications will start being mailed within the next two weeks. Check your mail box and be sure to READ your card to see the precinct name – it could be new – and the LOCATION)

* Will we have enough volunteers? (Several poll workers shared with me they would not work again after what they lived through last time. Add to those concerns, the increase in number of precincts and getting the needed number of volunteers may be a huge challenge)

* What will turnout be? (Talk about voter suppression: people having to wait for five hours and then votes not being counted and then all the other drama ever since. There will be many that sit home. Of course, primaries don’t bring out large crowds anyway; but even less may show up because of the lack of confidence in the county)

* Will all the ballots be counted? (Obviously a serious concern)

* What is the status of the SLED investigation into Howard Jackson’s allegations and information? (I have little patience for things; but unfortunately things of this magnitude take time. I’m sure when everything has been reviewed, Chief Keel and his department will share what they have learned. What will they learn and what will be the outcome from that?)

One big question that has been on everyone’s mind for months is what will the county delegation do with the Elections Board? As I’ve shared previously, I hope my colleagues will join me in replacing them all with new members . Stay tuned….our delegation should be meeting in the next few weeks.

Come join us for lunch Friday!

atwater invite

While I don’t endorse in local elections, I do lend my support to candidates I feel can best bring about positive change and improvement to our state or country!

Several weeks ago I had a chance to spend time with Sally Atwater when she came to Columbia. Soon after our visit, I was pleased to see former President George H.W. Bush (“41″) offer his support to the candidate I also believe can best improve education in our state. (It just so happens she also has classroom experience, which I believe matters, and her husband and my uncle played in the same band back in their high school days together)

I hope you’ll make time to join me and my House colleagues Todd Atwater and Heather Ammons Crawford as we welcome Sally Atwater to Lexington County this Friday!

Chapin Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast

Years ago, I went to Representative Huggings and discussed the need for an Irmo Community Prayer Breakfast and can’t believe this fall will be the 9th Annual one for Irmo!

The idea came from several Mayor’s Prayer Breakfasts we have attended in Chapin , Columbia as well as other events. After a few years’ hiatus, I’m glad to see the Chapin event is back! I received this information earlier today and hope you’ll join me there next month!

Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast to Feature Dr. Tom Phillips of Billy Graham Library

Chapin, SC (March 10 , 2014) Chapin Mayor Skip Wilson is pleased to announce that Dr. Tom Phillips, Vice President of the Billy Graham Library for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in Charlotte, North Carolina, will be the guest speaker for the Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast on Friday, April 11 at 7:30 am at Town Hall.

“We are excited to have Dr. Phillips come to Chapin to address our community as we embark on our 14th Annual Community of Character Service Day which occurs on April 12,” said Mayor Wilson. “The theme for our breakfast is For Giving, and we look forward to an inspirational message on how giving of ourselves to help others can make such a difference in our lives and for those around us.”

Phillips has been the vice president of Crusades, executive director of the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove in Asheville, North Carolina, and a senior crusade director with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association for many years, directing crusades in several cities in the United States and Canada. He has also served as the director of Counseling and Follow-up, working in that capacity in the United States, Canada, Australia, England, Mexico, Brazil and the Far East. He has played a key role in the development of current materials and programs.

In addition, Dr. Phillips was president of Horizon College in San Diego, California as well as president and CEO of International Students, Inc., based in Colorado Springs, Colorado, from 1994-2001. He received his Doctor of Ministry and Master of Divinity degrees from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he was formerly a field supervisor for the Doctor of Ministry Program. He graduated magna cum laude from the University of Mississippi.

The Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast will be the first in recent years and will include participation by Chapin area ministers as well, including Rev. Jody Flowers of Chapin United Methodist Church, Rev. Dr. Ben Sloan of Lake Murray Presbyterian Church, Rev. Dr. Mark Scott of St. Francis of Assisi Episcopal Church and Bishop William Woodard, interim pastor of Mt. Zion Baptist. David Clifton who leads the Fellowship of Christian Athletes program for Lexington-Richland School District 5 will also be participating.

Businesses or individuals interested in participating for the Prayer Breakfast may contact Karen Owens at 803.575.8039 or by email at karen@chapinsc.com. Limited sponsorship opportunities are available.

Road Improvements: Richard Franklin and more…

2014 Richard Franklin

For any pothole or resurfacing requests of Richland County Roads, please email ombudsman@rcgov.us or contact our local county councilman, Bill Malinowski. If the road is maintained by the SCDOT, then contact me directly.

Ever since I was elected, it seems “potholes, intersections and roads” are what most people seem to care most about. Over the years, we’ve seen several improvements in the area. Too many to post over. Here’s a post from the past from the past and another years ago , most importantly, here is the latest information on some “most talked about” areas in the district:

1) Kennerly Road/Coogler Road intersection. No timetable but this is one of the intersections slated to be funded by the “Penny Tax” in Richland County. Years back, Senator Courson and I worked to get “flashing signals/signage” but even today there are still accidents at this location.

2) There is NO ‘bridge’ being considered from our area to Blythewood across Broad River (aka a northern arterial/connector from I-77 to I-26 over the Broad River) It’s not in any 20 year plans but it seems the “myth” always comes up every few months or so.

3) Richard Franklin Road. Finally! Contracts are being let and a full depth reclamation/resurfacing is expected to be completed by the end of summer.

4) Traffic Light at intersection of Highway 6 and Farming Creek. Work should begin spring 2014.

5) Replacing Shady Grove Bridge (over I-26) with a new 2-lane bridge. Should occur in 2014.

Also slated for 2014:

* Broad River Road (I20 to Koon Road) slated for resurfacing
* Capers Chapel Road – Chipseal resurfacing
* Julius Richardson Road – Thin lift resurfacing
* Lykes Lane – Thin lift resurfacing. (While Lykes Lane is no longer in District 71 after reapportionment, I remember years ago everyone appreciating the traffic signal there and wanted to let them know I haven’t forgotten about them).

Be safe out there! And if you’re curious about funding for our roads. I have offered several proposals to my colleagues before voting to raise your taxes!

Back to Back to Back!

2014 Dutch Fork Girls Basketball
Photo courtesy of Rick Henry’s twitpic last night. Follow Rick on Twitter at RickHenry10

You may have thought I was talking Gamecocks v Clemson baseball series….or football (but I’d be 2 games short using that title)….sorry Clemson friends : )

Instead, I’m talking about the ladies on the Dutch Fork Basketball team…who have done it again after defeating Greenwood 62-55 last night in the 4A Title Game.

Congratulations to Coach Norris and her team on another championship season! This was just what the school needed after an emotional past few weeks following the recent death of Da’Von Capers. In case you missed it, here’s a good article The State ran earlier this week .

I look forward to bringing these champions to the State House chamber again this year and recognizing them for their success on and off the court!