2011: Blocking and Tackling Legislation

As we approach the House Reorganizational Session next week (Wednesday and Thursday) it’s time to focus on pre-filing our legislation for the 2011-2012 session of the General Assembly. Pre-filing dates in the House are Decembber 7th and December 14th.

Below are a few bills I will pre-file, with a brief description/rationale.

As with football, it’s more difficult for state government to score big without the essentials of blocking and tackling. In my opinion (and my constituents), these bills are the basics that can lay the foundation for improving our state by starting with improving “the process”.

2011 Spending Accountability Act : Governor-elect Haley’s two year battle now has a promising end in sight this session. I will pre-file the bill EXACTLY as it passed the House last year (unanimously) with only the year changing from 2010 to 2011. Presently there are several co-sponsors and I’m sure even more will join before we return in January. I plan to ask for immediate consideration from the House Floor the first day in session and, once passed again by the House, the Senate can quickly consider the bill and/or use as a vehicle to help expedite the change the voters demand.

Term Limits: I originally filed this bill January 2009 but it was never debated. I will request a hearing this year. Note: if we’re to ever pass term limits, this language gives us our best chance since the “clock” would not start on anyone’s service until the bill becomes law. In other words, decade-long incumbents and freshman alike would start at “Year One” under this bill and serve as outlined. It should be noted, I am well aware of the pros/cons to term limits (institutional knowledge) and that some sort of “staggering” would need to be in place; but this bill should again serve as a starting point for discussions.

Automatic hearing (and vote) of a bill (with 65 sponsors): Rep. Bill Wylie originally filed this bill originally last session. As a co-sponsor and friend of Rep. Wylie last session, I feel someone needs to pre-file the bill again and get it across the finish line. Rep. Wylie will certainly be missed and had an excellent idea with this bill. Yes, we currently have a House Rule that allows a bill to be put on a committee/subcommittee calendar; however, the intent we have with this is to not only have it on the calendar but to have a vote (that language needs to be added to the draft attached to the link above). This way when a member works hard enough to acquire 64 other members’ names as sponsor, the bill should be voted up or down and not have debate adjourned (which is a “standard polite way” to kill a bill without an up/down vote).

Public Referendum and Ballot Initiative: you might be surprised that an “Obama Democrat” (as he was labeled by critics) Anton Gunn and a conservative Republican like me, sponsored this legislation. Rep. Gunn actually voted more conservative than a few Republican colleagues last year and I agreed with this concept. The intent would reduce the pre-requisite from 15 percent of registered voters in the state to 12 percent of the “top vote getter in the last election” in order to place an issue on the ballot. Thus giving the general public a chance to have their issue voted on should elected leaders not do so themselves (ourselves).

Contributions for votes? I have always said that money does not buy votes; but everyone knows money is the mother’s milk of politics. While we can have a serious debate on several free-speech/contribution issues in our current ethics laws, I really do not see how candidates for Boards and Commissions, that come before the House and Senate (and are voted upon by the House and Senate) should be able to give contributions to members that will soon vote on their appointment. The intent of this bill is to create a “cooling off period” one year before someone decides to run.

Tax credit for tutoring: For the six years that I’ve been in office, there has been a divide (mislabeled in my opinion) of officials either being “Pro Public Education” or “Private School Advocates”. While I am a product of both private/public schools, my family has many public school teachers among us, and I continue to return my legislative salary in the forms of scholarships to public/private institutions, I feel we need to stop with the labels and simply figure out how “best” to improve EDUCATION in our state. I don’t know if the divide in camps can ever be bridged; but, depending on the cost, this bill could help. My thought process was that the “pro-public education” crowd fears a mass exodus should school choice ever pass. Perhaps we can alleviate that fear (as well as transportation costs for families) if perhaps a child could receive at least one hour of one-on-one time with a tutor. Aren’t most tutors, public school teachers, too? Could this create a win-win? Unlike the school-choice proposal which creates a financial benefit for the districts and our state, this bill would actually cost money though. There-in lies one of the flaws during this tight budgetary time in state government.

Obviously with every piece of legislation there are unintended consequences and pros/cons to passage. I’d be interested to hear your advice on these few items above. Feel free to share here in the comments section or (as most readers do), contact me through the website.