It’s good to be home!

After session ended last Thursday, I headed out on another mission trip with my company, Movement Mortgage. Partnering with International Cooperating Ministries, the Movement Foundation has more than 30 churches currently being built in Guatemala. Spending time in Central America again and visiting these villages and people, I was able to gain more perspective on many things – mainly, how fortunate we are here in Chapin and Irmo. Also, I’m reminded of just how blessed I am in many ways – one of those being a public servant for you. Thank you for this awesome privilege to continue to represent you in Columbia. I’m not sure what God’s plan is for me in this role; but I appreciate the opportunity I’ve been given. To whom much is given, much is expected!

This week’s highlights begin with Education.

Representative Huggins and I both met with leaders of the River Springs School Improvement Council to discuss their concerns with the “Education Bill” which is moving through the House. Both the House and Senate are working hard on this issues and it’s good to see both sides of the aisle work to make this comprehensive reform bill the best it can be for our students and teachers.

Presently, I’m not one of the 70+ Cosponsors of the bill. I’m wanting to hear more from our teachers and parents before taking that step. I do like many parts of the bill; but have concerns with others. Ultimately, I lean in favor of supporting the bill with the hope that we can amend on the floor to improve or correct some areas of concern. A few items that I’d like to clarify in the bill are:

-All teachers will get a raise. The base starting teacher pay will increase to $35,000. All other teachers will receive a raise that will bring them above the Southeastern average with a goal of moving teacher pay to the national average within 5 years.

-The Zero-to-Twenty Committee is not another oversight committee. It will consist of a unique group of individuals – not bureaucrats – who will monitor our education system from pre-kindergarten to post-graduation and make suggestions to the General Assembly on how to improve the education-to-workforce pipeline.

-This bill will eliminate 4 of the 6 mandated state assessment test…giving teachers more time for classroom instruction. We will eliminate the 8th grade science test, the 5th and the 7th grade social studies tests, and the U.S. History end-of-course test. Doing away with these tests will save an estimated $3.1 million and allow more time for classroom instruction.

-This bill allows the elected State Superintendent of Education to remove a principal or teacher as a last resort if, after intensive assistance, a school has chronically underperformed for 3 of the last 4 years. Any teacher or principal can be hired back at the discretion of the State Superintendent of Education.

Education Reform Meeting

Over 1,000 teachers, students and other members of the public had the opportunity to give their input on H. 3759 during the K-12 subcommittee meeting on Tuesday night. The subcommittee, and many other Representatives not on the Education Committee, stayed for the entire 5-hour meeting to listen to feedback on different components of the bill. Right now, there are eighty bipartisan cosponsors on the legislation, each of whom are dedicated to providing students with a quality education that prepares them with the skills they need to succeed.

Civil Asset Forfeiture

On Wednesday, a bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced legislation that would change the way civil forfeiture cases are handled. Right now, law enforcement can seize property from residents, sometimes without charging or convicting them of a crime, and then profit from the proceeds. H. 3968 ensures that no person can lose their property unless they are convicted of a crime.

Tucker Hipps Transparency Act

The House passed H. 3398 on Wednesday to make the Tucker Hipps Transparency Act permanent. This law requires public institutions of higher education to maintain a report of student misconduct investigations related to fraternity and sorority organizations.

DUI Driving Law

In an effort to crack down on drunk driving, the House passed a bill that will end a loophole in our current DUI law that allows those charged with drunk driving to get back on the road within days of their arrest. H. 3312 would force DUI offenders to have ignition-interlock devices (breathalyzers) in order to start the engine of their cars. The proposed law unanimously passed second reading and is supported by Governor McMaster and Attorney General Alan Wilson.

The Budget

This week Representative Huggins and I will be busy finalizing the House version of the state budget. This is my second term on the budget committee (Ways and Means) and it’s an awesome responsibility to prioritize and invest your tax dollars each year. Once we pass the budget through the committee, it will head to the House floor for all to debate beginning Monday, March 11th.

Those are just some of the highlights from this week. If you don’t see legislation important to you listed above, please reach out to me so I can provide an update for you.

If you have suggestions or ideas on how to improve our state, please pass those along as well. This week, a Chapin High student came to visit and share his ideas for a 4 day school week. Did you know at least 1 district in 25 states currently operate using a 4 day school week? It’s certainly an interesting concept and one that this young man had done his research. I’m open to hearing any ideas you have. Who knows, maybe together we can change things for the better! This is exactly how you’ve helped me provide more transparency at the State house, helped our Autism children and families, helped our senior citizens, and soon you will have helped me provide more energy options for our state! Keep the ideas coming and let me work for you!