Legislative Report—May 29, 2014

Time is running out to get bills passed for this Legislative Session. In the process, we have tried to vote wisely, consider compromise, and keep the citizens of South Carolina as our number one concern.

H. 3945 known as the Ethics Reform Act was discussed extensively in this newsletter last week. Because the two sides could not agree on the amendments, a conference committee was scheduled to work out a compromise. The committee is composed of Reps. Delleney, Bannister, and Weeks and Senators Hayes, Rankin, and Hutto. They will report on their deliberations next week.

S. 459 is the texting bill on “Use of Cell Phone While Operating a Motor Vehicle.” The Senate bill would have banned only new teenage drivers from using a cell phone while driving. The House amended version calls for a statewide ban on all drivers from texting while behind the wheel. The Senate was not in concurrence in the House amendment. It has also gone to conference committee.

H. 3893 New Education Standards and Assessments, Referred to as Common Core was given final approval requiring SC to reconsider the national standards for student assessments. The bill was sent to Gov. Haley to be signed into law. The bill calls for new academic standards to be put in place by the 2015-16 school year. South Carolina is not the first state to withdraw from Common Core.

S. 503 is the Beach Preservation Act. The House approved a new experimental technology that could fight beach erosion along the coast. The legislation will allow reusable plastic walls known as “wave dissipation systems” to be tested in the Lowcountry. Both sides have approved the bill and it is ready for ratification.

S. 839 Industrial Hemp legalizes hemp which would let SC farmers grow and sell industrial hemp passed the House 72-28 and was sent to the Governor for her signature. Until recently, hemp was banned at the federal level. The plant is from the same species as marijuana. Hemp is useful in making clothing material, paper, rope and other consumer products.

The House concurred in Senate amendments to S. 1035, Access to Cannabidiol, a substance derived from marijuana, for treatment of severe forms of epilepsy and is ready for ratification. Known as “Julian’s Law creates a temporary study committee whose purpose is to develop a plan for the sale and use of medical marijuana in SC should the federal Drug Enforcement Administration declassify or reclassify marijuana as a controlled substance. A report is required by March 2015.

H. 3540 Removal of Officers by the Governor is a constitutional amendment which includes giving the SC voters the opportunity to decide whether to stop electing the state’s adjutant general. The Senate gave unanimous approval to a bill that would allow voters to change the state constitution to allow the governor to appoint the adjutant general with approval by the Senate. The House passed the bill earlier. SC is the only state to elect the leader of its state National Guard. Since both sides have approved the bill, it is ready for ratification and signature by the Governor.

In other actions, the Senate and House conference committee has met all week working out the differences between the Senate and House versions of the budget.

We will get a complete recap of the differences and what is proposed for the agreed budget this week and the House will then begin the debate to determine if the conference committee compromise is acceptable to the majority of members. 

The general fund budget totals $7 billion. Last week, the Board of Economic Advisors officially added almost $86 million in revenue for the state budget that takes effect July 1, a move that could mean local governments will get additional money from the state.

A highlight for this Memorial Day recognition was H. 4527 A Day of Recognition for Veterans’ Spouses and Families. House and Senate approved unanimously for passage and it has gone for ratification. This established date would be the day after Thanksgiving Day each year.

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