Dr. Akil Ross – next Director of Secondary Education

For full article from the District’s web page, click here.

IRMO – Dr. Akil Ross has been named Lexington-Richland School District Five’s next Director of Secondary Education.

Ross has served as principal of Chapin High School since 2010 and in October was named the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) 2018 National Principal of the Year. He will replace Reggie Dean, who will retire at the end of the school year.

“After accomplishing amazing things in my career and at Chapin High School, I have now come to a point in my leadership that calls me to coach and mentor principals,” Ross said. “The success we have had at Chapin High serves as a model for schools across the state and country, and this position will allow me to coach and mentor instructional leaders.”

Under Ross’ leadership, Chapin High was recognized as a South Carolina Palmetto’s Finest Award recipient in 2015. He also challenged his faculty to aim for a 100 percent graduation rate. That challenge sparked the analysis of trend data to identify students most at risk of dropping out, then soliciting funding for a “school after school” to extend instructional services for those students. Graduation rates at the school reached a high of 96 percent in 2016.

The Weekly Rewind – February 9th


February 9, 2018

The House of Representatives concurred in Senate amendments to H.3653, a bill imposing LIMITATIONS ON NUISANCE SUITS RELATED TO MANUFACTURING AND INDUSTRIAL USES OF REAL PROPERTY, and enrolled the legislation for ratification. Addressing situations where urban growth has prompted residential development to expand into previously outlying areas where established industrial facilities have been operating, the legislation imposes limitations on nuisance suits that nearby residents can bring against pre-existing industrial, manufacturing, transportation, and warehousing facilities that are complying with environmental permits and are otherwise operating lawfully. Affording legal protections like those already provided for agricultural operations, the legislation proposes to codify the common law defense of ‘coming to the nuisance’ as a means of promoting economic development.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3529, a bill establishing the GENERAL ASSEMBLY’S EXCLUSIVE AUTHORITY OVER THE REGULATION OF AUXILIARY CONTAINERS, such as plastic grocery bags, disposable cups, and takeout food boxes. This legislation provides that any regulation regarding the use, disposition, sale, or any imposition of any prohibition, restriction, fee imposition, or taxation of auxiliary containers must be done only by the General Assembly. This authority supersedes and preempts any local ordinance enacted by a political subdivision, but the legislation does not apply to auxiliary container regulations adopted before January 31, 2018, including regulations with a delayed implementation date or that are conditioned on future municipal action. A municipality located within a county that has adopted an ordinance before January 31, 2018, may pass the same or similar ordinance. The legislation does not impose limitations on county or municipal ordinances regulating solid waste disposal or recycling programs. The legislation does not apply to the use of auxiliary containers within the boundaries of a State park, on a property owned by a county or municipality, such as coastal tidelands and wetlands, or on a public beach, river, or other body of water maintained by a county or municipality.

The House approved S.297, a bill relating to PERFORMING SECURITY OFFICER DUTIES PENDING THE ISSUANCE OF A REGISTRATION CERTIFICATE, and enrolled the legislation for ratification. The legislation revises provisions relating to private security officer registration certificates issued by the State Law Enforcement Division, to provide that, pending issuance of a registration certificate, a security officer may perform professional duties for up to thirty days, rather than twenty days, after receipt by SLED of his application for registration.

The House returned S.185, a bill providing FUNERAL SERVICE CONSUMER PROTECTIONS that address solicitations from remote, out-of-state companies, to the Senate with amendments. The legislation establishes provisions that target the practice of allowing or permitting an Internet service provider, unlicensed person, establishment, or entity to engage in the practice of funeral service, embalming, cremation, or conducting business as a funeral home, funeral establishment, crematory, or mortuary. Under the legislation, an advertisement must include the physical address of the funeral home, funeral establishment, mortuary, or crematory where the advertised services will be provided. The State Board of Funeral Service is charged with promulgating regulations establishing additional requirements for advertisements relating to providing funeral services, including Internet advertisements.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4655, the “SOUTH CAROLINA INSURANCE DATA SECURITY ACT”. The legislation establishes standards for data security and standards for the investigation of and notification to the Director of the Department of Insurance of a cybersecurity event that impacts insurance licensees.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.4654, a bill REVISING FINGERPRINTING REQUIREMENTS FOR INSURANCE PRODUCER LICENSURE including provisions that allow these criminal background screening requirements to be satisfied without submitting a new set of fingerprints when a set of fingerprints is already on file, such as when a license is being renewed.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.4656, a bill UPDATING AND ENHANCING FINANCIAL SOLVENCY REQUIREMENTS FOR REINSURERS to bring South Carolina into compliance with the most recent standards of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners so that the state can retain NAIC accreditation and continue to enjoy legal reciprocity with other states.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4612, legislation authorizing SURETY BONDS FOR GENERAL AND MECHANICAL LICENSURE APPLICANTS. Rather than providing financial statements showing a minimum net worth, this legislation affords applicants for general and mechanical licensure the option of satisfying financial requirements by providing a surety bond in an amount of two times the required net worth for the applicant’s license group. The surety bond option is offered as a means of accommodating those who operate under an employee option stock program arrangement which makes it difficult to satisfy minimum asset requirements.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.4827, a joint resolution providing an EXTENSION FOR THE SEIZURE SAFETY IN SCHOOLS STUDY COMMITTEE so that the deadline for the committee to submit its report is January 31, 2019.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.4868, a bill that establishes a staggered timeline for performing required AUDITS OF THE SOUTH CAROLINA PUBLIC EMPLOYEE BENEFIT AUTHORITY.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.4869, a bill REMOVING NOTARIZATION REQUIREMENTS FOR CERTAIN SOUTH CAROLINA PUBLIC EMPLOYEE BENEFIT AUTHORITY TRANSACTIONS in order to better accommodate online filing.

Reforming the PURC – what is it and why the need to fix?

Video from October 2017, House Utility Rate Payer Protection Committee hearing.

From the Post and Courier

COLUMBIA — Years before South Carolina was saddled with two failed nuclear reactors, SCANA and other utility companies hosted “appreciation dinners” for the lawmakers who pick the state’s seven utility regulators, The Post and Courier found.

The social affairs were held at top-end restaurants in cities across the country, with the state’s largest utilities lavishing some of the Legislature’s most influential lawmakers. All of these lawmakers were on the Public Utilities Review Committee. That little-known panel selects and oversees the commissioners who decide how much we pay for water, gas and electricity.

These same lawmakers would help choose the make-up of the state’s Public Service Commission, whose members earn more than $100,000 a year while deciding whether to grant utility requests for rate increases. That commission approved rate hike after rate hike tied to the unfinished $9 billion nuclear plant — nine increases over the course of the project.


Frankly, before the VC Summer fiasco, I had rarely (if ever) heard of “the PURC”: The Public Utilities Review Committee. But once we started diving into this issue last summer, I learned a lot. My colleagues did too. I could write pages on how messed up our regulated-monopolistic-energy-system is in the state. I could also write how the utilities single handedly stopped me from becoming Chairman of the House Labor, Commerce and Industry Committee. But for the sake of space, and your time, let’s just say that the utilities usually get what they want and one thing they don’t want is changes to the(ir) system.

During one of the many hearings over the past several months, my House colleagues discussed many issues with the PURC. The glaring issue was how much control these politicians have AND, how it doesn’t make sense for these individuals to receive gifts/contributions from the utilities they have direct control in regulating. Even with 2 of the 7 PURC members sitting beside me (see video), I successfully pushed for changes that level the playing field and have “normal people” (ie, not politicians) have the same number of seats at the table as the politicians do. The end result this past week in the house was passage of H4378 which – among other things – allows citizens equal say in who will decide important rate requests going forward and eliminated any campaign contributions, gifts, etc from utilities to this group that has oversight in the industry.

It’s always good when People, Not Politics win.

The Weekly Rewind – February 2nd


February 2, 2018

The House of Representatives amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4375, legislation ELIMINATING ALL CHARGES ON THE ELECTRIC BILLS OF SCE&G CUSTOMERS THAT SUPPORT THE FAILED V.C. SUMMER NUCLEAR POWER PROJECT and REPEALING THE BASE LOAD REVIEW ACT GOING FORWARD. The bill orders new electricity rates for customers of SCANA Corporation’s South Carolina Electric and Gas that are reduced by eliminating all of the increases that have been imposed in recent years under the Base Load Review Act to finance the failed V.C. Summer nuclear power project in Fairfield County. These lower experimental rates would no longer include the increases, amounting to around 18% to 19.5%, that have been included on the power bills of SCE&G customers to fund construction of the nuclear reactors in Jenkinsville which have now been abandoned. The legislation repeals provisions of the Base Load Review Act prospectively so that utilities would no longer be able to make use of the provisions of this legislation to finance the construction of power generation projects with fees imposed on the electric bills of ratepayers. The repeal does not apply to pending legal matters. Existing disputes about the application of the Base Load Review Act will continue to be settled through administrative decisions of the Public Service Commission and judicial rulings from the courts. The legislation includes new definitions that provide detail on what constitutes imprudent actions of utilities under the Base Load Review Act.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4458, a bill REVISING PENALTIES FOR LITTERING in an effort to make them more effective. The legislation restructures penalties for violations so that their severity increases with the amount of litter waste involved. Under these graduated penalties, violations involving no more than fifteen pounds of litter are subject to comparatively lower fines and hours of community service. Fines and other penalties increase for violations involving the illegal dumping of more than fifteen pounds of litter, and become more severe for the illegal dumping of over five hundred pounds of waste.


As Trump’s tariffs wound solar industry, South Carolina advocates call for state’s help

From The Post and Courier:

COLUMBIA — While new tariffs on solar panels are casting dark clouds on a rapidly growing industry around the country, proponents in South Carolina say sun-based energy development can continue to shine in the Palmetto State if lawmakers can clear hurdles standing in the way.

On Monday, President Donald Trump announced he would impose 30 percent tariffs on solar panel imports, casting the decision as a reaffirmation of his “America First” rhetoric to restrict Chinese manufacturers.

The move drew howls from American installers, who said it would jack up costs and risk thousands of jobs. Critics in South Carolina spanned the political spectrum.

“It’s really frustrating,” said state Rep. Nathan Ballentine, R-Chapin. “We are supposed to be about growing business and growing jobs and keeping the economy moving, and the president goes out and throws out that tariff, which I believe is going to be a tremendous blow not just to South Carolina but to the whole country.”

But the collapse of a multibillion dollar nuclear project in Fairfield County already had solar advocates eyeing an opening in South Carolina. With the latest loss at the federal level, the solar industry has turned even more focus to state governments, especially in South Carolina, which employs an estimated 3,000 installers, sales staff and project planners.

In the wake of the decision, Ed Fenster, the co-founder of home solar panel company Sunrun, said he hopes “states with huge solar workforces, from South Carolina to California, will step up to overcome this federal headwind.”

Some environmentalists are skeptical that any action at the state level will be able to overcome the impact of the tariffs.

Eddy Moore, the energy and climate program director for the Charleston-based Coastal Conservation League, said the tariffs would hurt not only a booming solar industry in the state and country but also a booming import business at the state ports, too.

“It’s particularly anti-South Carolina,” he said. “There’s no way the state can realistically counteract a major federal tax on solar jobs.”

But several key legislators are determined to try. A new energy caucus in the Legislature, led by Ballentine and Rep. Russell Ott, D-St. Matthews, met for the first time this month with a major focus on encouraging solar development.

The timing of the nuclear project’s demise has sparked particular urgency for energy companies looking to fill the void.

“I think right now we need to take advantage of the opportunity that is presented to us,” Ballentine said. “Were it not for this fiasco I don’t believe the guys from solar or any other energy alternative would have a seat at the table.”

Continue reading from The Post and Courier

Getting direct feedback and staying in touch

When I first ran for office, I remember the wonderful experience knocking on over 3,000 doors in our community! (Door #2 wasn’t fun…two drunk adult males answered…but other than that, it was all good)

Since that time, I’ve stayed in touch in many ways – but none better than being out in the neighborhoods going door-to-door or visiting with neighborhood HOAs at their meetings.

Today, I was in a handful of neighborhoods and was reminded of the diverse community we have (many wouldn’t think we have cows/chickens out here in Chapin; but we do). These regular visits help me serve our community better and it’s always good hearing “I saw that on your Twitter feed” or “I read that on your website”. Some that I meet though, have never visited my website (or tell me they really don’t keep up with politics. I don’t blame them for that and appreciate their honesty.)

While there are many people out here that visit Nathan’s News; some visitors are not on the distribution list of more than 2,500 members of our community that regularly receive COMMUNITY UPDATES from me. If you’re not on that distribution list, simply click CONTACT above and ask me to add you to the list. For more than 10 years, those updates were simply word emails. Last year I finally “got high tech” and have heard the emails are better received and easier to follow.

Don’t be left out. Sign up and stay informed! Oh – and definitely let me know your concerns and suggestions for state government!

Lane closures this weekend: Carolina Crossroads

Long way to go on the proposed fix for “Malfunction Junction” but this weekend you will begin to SEE work that will ultimately result in less headaches and congestion that we face each and every day on the commute downtown!

The Jan 28-Feb 1 schedule for nighttime lane closures scheduled on portions on I-126 and I-26 for drilling operations and soil testing associated with the Carolina Crossroads project:

Please note: This is standard procedure on many projects as part of the preliminary engineering process. Construction is not expected to begin until 2019. For more information, please visit http://www.scdotcarolinacrossroads.com/

The Weekly Rewind – Jan 26th


January 26, 2018

The House of Representatives took up two of the bills that draw upon the work of the special House Utility Ratepayer Protection Committee which was appointed by the Speaker of the House this summer following the announcement from Santee Cooper and SCANA that construction on the V.C. Summer nuclear reactors in Fairfield County was being abandoned. Serving on this important committee for the past several months provided me the opportunity to learn more about what happened and, most importantly, how to avoid this in the future. (I did not accept pay during these hearings and, since I was serving in an oversight capacity in this situation, I returned SCANA’s campaign contribution this summer.)

When this news broke this summer (during family vacation), I called our Speaker and told him I wanted to serve and I wanted to be sure the work of the committee would be considered when we returned this session. I’m glad my House colleagues have now debated and approved the first two pieces of legislation we filed. There is much more to come.

The House amended, approved, and sent to the Senate, H.4379 a bill creating a UTILITIES CONSUMER ADVOCATE within the Attorney General’s Office to safeguard the interests of consumers in dealings with public utilities that offer such essential services as electrical power, gas pipelines for heating and cooking needs, water, sewerage, and telecommunications. The new Utilities Consumer Advocate must be an attorney qualified to practice in all the state’s courts who is to be appointed by the Attorney General to serve at the pleasure of the A.G. The legislation includes provisions to prevent conflicts interests, including prohibitions on gifts and campaign contributions from public utilities. The Utilities Consumer Advocate is charged with representing the public utility interests of consumers which includes providing legal representation of the consumer interests before state and federal regulatory agencies. Along with the Public Service Commission’s Office of Regulatory Staff, the consumer advocate is charged with monitoring existing regulations, rate structures, and policies of those agencies of special interest to utility consumers and report to the public through the news media proposed changes under consideration and the effect of those changes on the lives of the citizens of the state. The consumer advocate is authorized to initiate, continue, or intervene in legal proceedings on behalf of the public at large. The consumer advocate must make an annual report to the General Assembly on the year’s activities on behalf of the interests of utility consumers. The legislation includes provisions to afford the consumer advocate access to records of the Office of Regulatory Staff and other state agencies. The Public Service Commission’s Office of Regulatory Staff is directed to make use of its subpoena powers at the consumer advocate’s request. A misdemeanor criminal penalty is established for failure to provide information requested. The financial integrity of public utilities is eliminated as a concern for the Office of Regulatory Staff.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate, H.4378, a bill that replaces the Public Utilities Review Committee with a new twelve-member UTILITY OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE composed of six legislators and now six members of the general public. I specifically presented this reform during our hearings in order to levell the playing field and have equal representation from the general public instead of having it weighted in favor of politicians. The legislation establishes qualifications and duties for committee members. The oversight committee is charged with screening Public Service Commission candidates and making nominations for the election of commissioners by the General Assembly, nominating a qualified candidate for the Governor to consider appointing as the Executive Director of the Office of Regulatory Staff, and reviewing candidates for appointment to the South Carolina Public Service Authority Board of Directors as submitted by the Governor to determine whether they meet the qualifications. The annual budget proposals of the Office of Regulatory Staff and the Public Service Commission must be reviewed and approved by the oversight committee and the salary of the Executive Director of the Office of Regulatory Staff is set by the oversight committee. The oversight committee is required to make annual performance reviews of the Public Service Commission, the individual commissioners, the commission’s Office of Regulatory Staff, and the ORS Executive Director. The oversight committee must develop and distribute to those appearing before the PSC an anonymous and confidential survey to evaluate the commissioners on such matters as their temperament, knowledge, and whether they appear to be influenced by political considerations or the parties who appear before them. The oversight committee is authorized to evaluate the actions of the Public Service Commission so that the members of the General Assembly may better judge whether these actions serve the best interests of the citizens of South Carolina, both individual and corporate. The oversight committee must conduct an annual review of the State Energy Office’s action plan. The oversight committee is authorized to conduct other studies and make other pertinent reports and recommendations to the General Assembly. The legislation includes provisions to prevent conflicts interests for those serving as committee members.

While those two bills above received the most attention, other legislation was debated, voted upon, and sent to the Senate.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3920, a bill establishing REQUIREMENTS FOR PUBLIC SCHOOLS TO POST THE TOLL-FREE HOTLINE FOR REPORTING CHILD ABUSE, NEGLECT, AND EXPLOITATION to the Department of Social Services. The legislation provides that, beginning in the 2018‑2019 School Year, each public school and charter school shall post at least five signs that provide the statewide toll‑free telephone number that may be used to report incidents of child abuse, neglect, and exploitation to the Department of Social Services along with related information about reporting allegations. A school must display the sign conspicuously in at least one high‑traffic common area that is readily accessible to and widely used by students. Virtual schools must post the required information electronically in appropriate places in the school’s learning management system.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3699, legislation that authorizes the SHARING CHILDREN’S HEALTH INFORMATION WITH CAREGIVERS in abuse and neglect cases, placements, or adoptions. The legislation removes prohibitions from sharing with foster parents, or other caregivers, the medical, mental health, and other known, or reasonably obtainable, information about children necessary to provide them with adequate care. This disclosure requirement applies to abuse and neglect cases, placements, or adoptions. The legislation provides additional immunity protections for those who report suspected child abuse or neglect.

The House amended approved, and sent the Senate H.3701, a bill addressing KINSHIP FOSTER PARENTS, which requires the South Carolina Department of Social Services [SCDSS] to inform relatives of children, who are placed with them, about opportunities to become licensed foster parents. Potential kinship foster parents would be required to undergo background checks that include checking the Central Registry of Child Abuse and Neglect cases. The legislation sets forth the responsibilities of kinship foster parents and makes provisions for kinship care to be monitored by SCDSS. The legislation requires the agency to maintain specified kinship foster care data. The legislation also incorporates provisions addressing children victimized by human trafficking, including sex trafficking, within definitions of ‘child abuse or neglect’ and ‘harm’.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate to H.3068, a bill to provide for the “UNIFORM ATHLETE AGENTS ACT OF 2017”. The legislation updates protection of student athletes and makes extensive changes to the elements of the athlete – agent relationship. The substantial changes include the definitions of athlete agent and student agent, definitions of licensure and representation, clarifications regarding signing, requires more information regarding registering with the Department of Consumer Affairs (including social media accounts – noting the expanded impact of social media on the solicitation and recruitment of student athletes by athlete agents) and also includes information regarding previous convictions and bankruptcies. The provisions of the Administrative Procedures Act apply. More direct powers are given to the Department for the suspension or revocations of registrations. The bill also requires clear notices associated with the signing of athletes to athletic directors. Educational institutions or student athletes may bring actions if the athlete is adversely impacted by actions or omissions of the agent. The legislation also includes provisions regarding reciprocal registration between states and adds new requirements to signing agent contracts.

The House approved S.882 and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation authorizes UPDATED VERSIONS OF SOUTH CAROLINA CODE VOLUMES 15A AND 18.

Governor McMaster sends letter to General Assembly (re: VC Summer)

Today during the debate on the first of several bills addressing VC Summer, Governor sent House members and Senators this letter.

Your turn – feedback on state agencies

A few years ago, I was honored to serve on the very first House Legislative Oversight Committee. My time on the committee was valuable to not only learning more about the inner-workings of each agency; but also allowing me to hear from the public as to their view of each agency. While serving as subcommittee chair, we uncovered many areas to improve and ultimately better serve our state. Although I’m no longer serving on that committee, I want you to still know your feedback is important. Please take time to share if you have interacted with any of the following agencies. (Throughout the year, other agencies will be going through similar process).

For Immediate Release
January 23, 2018
Contact: Chairman, Wm. Weston J. Newton at (803) 212-6810 WestonNewton@schouse.gov

HOW STATE AGENCIES FUNCTION AND INFORMATION THEY MAKE AVAILABLE: Your input is wanted on the six agencies recently announced for study by the SC House Legislative Oversight Committee:

SCETV Commission; Commission on Indigent Defense; Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation; Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism; Commission on Prosecution Coordination;
and Department of Revenue

Columbia, SC – Speaker Jay Lucas and the South Carolina House of Representatives’ Legislative Oversight Committee are pleased to announce an online survey seeking public input on the next six agencies under study by the House Legislative Oversight Committee. These agencies are the SCETV Commission; Commission on Indigent Defense; Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation; Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism; Commission on Prosecution Coordination; and Department of Revenue.

The public is encouraged to use the survey to share with the Committee any comments, concerns, or suggestions about these six agencies, including their thoughts on the ease of obtaining agency information online. It can be found at this link: https://www.research.net/r/January2018PublicSurvey . While this survey will only be open until March 1, 2018, members of the public may contact the Committee anytime to share comments, concerns, or suggestions about state agencies.

What: Survey, which may be completed in a few minutes, seeking public input
When: Until March 1, 2018
Where: Online; from home, school or public library. The link to take the survey is https://www.research.net/r/January2018PublicSurvey
Who: Entire public and agency personnel are encouraged to take the survey

Input and observations from people who interact with these agencies are important because they may help direct the Committee to potential areas for improvement with these agencies. The Committee’s vision is for South Carolina agencies to become, and continuously remain, the most effective state agencies in the country through processes which eliminate waste and efficiently deploy resources thereby creating greater confidence in state government.

The House’s legislative oversight process, in particular through its emphasis on public input, is proving to be an instrument of change in state agencies.
Review of responses to a similar public survey about the Department of Agriculture helped inform an agency decision to align laboratory employee work hours with the time the agency is open to the public.

Public survey responses and legislator questioning of the Department of Archives and History about the public input helped inform management about the existence of a substantial number of records (about 4,000 boxes) at various Department of Health and Environmental Control offices waiting to be moved to temporary storage at the Department of Archives and History. During the study process, a plan to address the backlog was developed and implemented.