This week marked the beginning of the 2nd regular session of the 122nd South Carolina General Assembly. We returned to Columbia with a long list of issues to tackle and 18 weeks to complete the work of the people. I am thankful for the trust you have given to me to represent you and our community in Columbia.
After hearing from our constituents over the past several months, many of us have discussed a Business Plan for 2018 focusing on a broad range of issues. Each item contained in the plan directly affects the lives of South Carolinians and will require serious debate.

For several years, we’ve seen results through debates on infrastructure improvement, workers’ compensation reform, property tax reduction, strengthening immigration laws, ethics reform and elimination of the Budget and Control Board, among many others. It’s my hope we will see results on this plan as well and Representative Huggins and I will keep you updated each week here through the Irmo News.

Ratepayer Protection Package
Based upon extensive study and review by the House Utility Ratepayer Protection Committee (formed after the VC Summer fallout), the legislative package proposed in our plan lowers current rates and prevents consumers from paying a single penny more for the costly failed project. Additionally, the bills modify existing law and put proposals in place that advocate for South Carolina ratepayers. Just this week, I was honored by my colleagues to be named a CoChair of the bipartisan SC Energy Caucus. We formed to not only focus on the ratepayers of our state but also to look at our state’s energy policy and consider alternatives and options that currently do not exist in the monopoly that is our energy providers.

Retirement System Reform Phase II
Last year, the House passed Phase I of retirement reform which placed the state retirement system back on a path toward solvency. When finalized by the Joint Committee on Pension Systems Review, the recommendations in Phase II will complement the achievements of Phase I by providing the most cost-effective retirement solutions that keep employee recruitment and retention competitive while also balancing long-term affordability for taxpayers. It remains important to note that these changes would only apply to future employees.

Addressing the Opioid Epidemic
The SC House Opioid Abuse Prevention Study Committee recommends several new pieces of legislation and supports the passage of a series of bills filed in the first year (2017) of the session in addition to non-statutory recommendations. The comprehensive approach, among other things, limits the overprescribing of opioids and encourages additional prescriber education on addiction symptoms and safe prescribing practices, tracks opioid overdose antidote administrations, institutes licensing guidelines for addiction counselors, expands access to life-saving opioid treatment programs, reduces damaging stigmas, encourages additional research on opioid misuse prevention, and empowers community and faith-based solutions. Representative Huggins has been a leader on this issue for many years.

Education Reform
The legislation uses only the state portion of the child’s per-pupil funding to create an optional education savings account (ESA) directed by parents of students meeting certain eligibility qualifications. ESA funds may only be used by parents on an approved list of services and providers to customize their child’s education. ESA eligible student populations include: students with disabilities diagnosed by a physician or psychologist; students residing in a household eligible for free and reduced lunch; current and previous foster care students; and children of military families.

Entitlement Reform
The bill would require able-bodied adults to actively seek work in order to receive food stamp benefits. While currently administratively enforced by the South Carolina Department of Social Services, this bill would make the practice permanent law.

In the coming weeks, I will be asked to vote on each of these matters, and I welcome your feedback and input regarding these and other issues that are of interest to you. Please contact me through my website or call me directly at home at 732-1861.

It’s an honor to again serve you and your family as your State Representative in Columbia!