February 23 – February 25

Tuesday saw very little floor debate. Instead we had a Joint Assembly to hear an address by the National Commander of the American Legion .

Wednesday , we had another Joint Assembly to hear the annual address from SC Supreme Court Chief Justice Jean Toal . Unlike Tuesday though, we had a heated debate over Senate Bill 191 commonly referred to as the “Warrantless Searches” Bill or “The South Carolina Reduction of Recidivism Act of 2010″… whichever you prefer . The bill ultimately passed but was amended from the Senate version. The amendment will require local law enforcement agencies to have a written policy in place to deal with officers who violate the law or (in absence of a written policy) those officers would automatically be suspended for one day. The bill will go back to the Senate for them to consider again and either concur with our amendment or go to conference committee.

The debate actually saw the Speaker come to the dias (a RARE occurence) and got into a “dust-up” with arguably one of the best criminal-defense attorneys around, Representative Todd Rutherford . It was interesting to say the least.

After session, Ways and Means continued their work on what will be one of the “ugliest” budgets in years. It’s scheduled to see full House debate the week of March 15th.

Usually there’s not much done on Thursdays but that changed this week and will probably change the next few weeks as we’re starting to run into tight schedules with budget debate and furloughs ahead. The clock is rapidly ticking on whether bills will become law before we adjourn later this spring.

Once again, we took up a Restructuring Bill that failed by ONE VOTE just a month ago . This time by two votes, H. 4475 cleared the full House. If the Senate agrees (and the Governor is assumed to sign into law), this year’s ballot will ask voters the question to continue to elect the Secretary of State or allow the governor to appoint the position (as it used to be done years ago). I want to applaud the work of a freshman member, Tom Young (R-Aiken) , the lead sponsor of the bill. I remember how difficult it was my freshman year to get legislation passed. It’s good to see newer members continuing the push to make a difference instead of sitting back and “redshirting” their first session.

Flying under the radar this week is a resolution that many folks will be pleased passed the House Thursday. H.4585 instructs the Tax Realignment Commission to consider Act388 (Property Tax) during their discussions. You may recall last year the House/Senate set up a “comprehensive study” of our tax structure but yet did not allow Act.388 to be considered in those discussions. When the commission was established through legislation, many said the study was like a woman being “kinda pregnant”…because you either ARE doing a comprehensive study or you are NOT doing one. Now, we can legitimately say it’s comprehensive….that is, if the Senate passes this as well. Was this a legitimate attempt to listen to businesses,schools and families in our state or was it just political? I hope the former.

In other news…. H.4541 passed the House this week and would name “Sweetgrass” as the official grass of South Carolina. H.4444 passed the House and will limit the number of Weakfish Cynoscion caught in any one day from ten to one.

This week also gave me a chance to visit with more constituents at the State House! Mark Keel , Director of SC Department of Public Safety, and Colonel Kenny Lancaster , Commander of SC Highway Patrol, were in the balcony Wednesday watching the debate. Jimmy Hawk (American Legion) came to the House Floor Tuesday for the address of his National Commander. Ryan Dukes (with Blue Marlin Signature Catering) provided lunch for the Republican Caucus one day this week. Several classes of 3rd graders from Oak Pointe and Dutch Fork Elementary toured the grounds. I wish I had time to visit with all the kids!

Outside of the State House, Tuesday I spoke to the Rotary Club of the Vista Night and talked with three constituents in attendance downtown at Nonnah’s: Pat Lawter, Allan Davis and Reyburn Lominack. Thursday, I spoke with a HomeSchool American Government Class at Kennerly Road Baptist . I am always willing to speak WITH (not just speak TO) any group in our community. Schedule permitting, I’ll be there! Staying in touch and listening is the best way elected officials can represent their constituents with differing backgrounds, experience, and viewpoints. Oh, I REALLY enjoyed a first for me Friday night: performing on-stage in the Chapin Community Theatre’s presentation of “Cheaper By the Dozen” . I’ll write more about that later but I was VERY impressed with the local acting talent here in our community. That night I met constituents Tiffany (director) and George Dinsmore (lighting) and performed with constituents Josh and Sarah Bennett, The Ericksons (mom, Alex, Ashley and Gunner), Nathan Bell, Olivia Fitts and Lauren Westbury .

There are some interesting bills up this week. One that’s been getting a lot of press is the “texting while driving” bill. Stay tuned for more…