The Weekly (and yearly) Rewind – May 24th


Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to serve as your State Representative in Columbia! This week we finished the first session of the 123rd General Assembly and I want to briefly touch on legislation that many of you have followed and asked me to focus on for our state.

To simplify things, I share that we had a focus on Education, Energy, and Economic Developement (while adding that I continued my push for more Ethics reforms).

During his State of the State address in January, Governor McMaster proclaimed this year to be the ‘Year of Education,’ and the House took that charge seriously by passing a transformative education bill aimed at fundamentally reforming the way we educate our children. The legislation we passed was the culmination of several years of work and meetings throughout our state with many stakeholders: our neediest school districts, district personnel, teachers and parents. While the bill sits in the Senate, I can share more below about other ways we focused on education in our state budget.

While not all of the bills that passed the House were passed by the Senate or signed by the Governor, here are a few of the major accomplishments from the House this session. As a reminder, this is the first year of a two-year session, so legislation that did not pass the Senate can be continued when we return next January.

The Education Budget

The 2019-2020 budget is built on the foundation of protecting taxpayers, a renewed commitment to being resourceful and efficient, funding core functions of state government, and providing value for every dollar we spend.

We devoted over $300 million for education in this year’s budget. Some highlights include:
$159 million to provide every teacher a pay raise
$15 million to increase base student cost
$68 million for workforce partnerships in technical schools
$10 million for school resource officers
$20 million for new textbooks
$19 million for new school buses
$2.2 million for mental health counselors
$44 million to colleges in exchange for an agreement to freeze the cost of tuition for in-state undergrad students
We funded pay raises for state employees, law enforcement, firefighters, and judges.
We funded education and treatment programs to combat the opioid crisis.
We devoted $25 million for disaster relief for farmers from crop loss and damage related to Hurricanes Michael and Florence.
We committed $40 million for new voting machines to ensure fair and secure elections.
We provided taxpayers a one-time $50 rebate from last year’s budget surplus.

More on Education

The House passed a comprehensive education reform bill that includes raising teacher pay, decreasing statewide testing, consolidating small school districts, and creating a committee that will monitor the education achievements from pre-K to post-graduation. The bill, crafted with input from Governor McMaster as well as teachers and educators from across the state, was sent to the Senate where parts of our bill (offered in smaller separate bills) have been moving forward. We are hopeful that when the Senate comes back in January, they move forward with passing the House bill.

Highlights from The S.C. Education, Career, Opportunity, and Access for All Act:

· The act raises the minimum salary for starting teachers by almost 10%. All other teachers will receive an average raise of 4.8%.

· It eliminates 4 of the 6 state assessment tests to allow more time for classroom discussion.

· It adds a 30-minute duty free break for all teachers during the school day.

· It requires school districts with fewer than 1,000 students to consolidate with neighboring districts to share resources and save money.

· It increases funding for school mental health services, school resource officers, new school buses, and updated instructional materials.

Energy Solutions – Solar

The Energy Freedom Act passed the legislature unanimously and was signed by the Governor. The bill expands rooftop solar energy options by removing the existing 2% net-metering cap, allows solar customers to be compensated for the energy they produce and send back to the grid, and establishes a regulatory structure for future solar energy to compete with larger utility companies. Solar energy in our state is booming. In 2016 there were 1,160 cumulative installations; today the state is home to more than 18,000 solar systems and is expected to add 22,000 systems over the next five years. You may recall last session’s battles that I and others fought against the utility companies in our states. This bill would not have passed without support from the SC Energy Caucus which I co-founded and served as the first co-chairman with Rusell Ott (D-Calhoun). That bipartisan effort, along with a push from many conservative Republicans who stood with me, enabled this year’s bill to pass with ease in just a few months. As I shared on Facebook last week, nothing worthwhile comes easy – this bill and movement is a testament to that!

Energy Solutions – Santee Cooper Update

The legislature is moving forward with the process of deciding ultimately what to do with Santee Cooper in wake of the $9 billion debt accumulated from the failed VC Summer nuclear plant by the state-owned utility. Locally, our damage was mainly done by SEC&G. For the coops and others around the state, the next shoe will soon drop. Like we did during the SCE&G hearings, we must determine the best way to alleviate further damage to our ratepayers. The Department of Administration will seek binding offers from companies interested in purchasing Santee Cooper as well as offers from companies interested in managing Santee Cooper. In addition, Santee Cooper will be asked to submit its own plan on how they would improve if allowed to maintain ownership. The Department of Administration is charged with evaluating offers from these companies and bringing the best proposals to the General Assembly to consider by January 15, 2020.

Economic Development

The legislature passed a bill that will allow professional sports teams the same tax incentives as other large corporate companies who choose to bring their business and create jobs in the Palmetto State. The Panthers are moving their practice facilities and corporate offices to the Rock Hill area, which will officially bring the North Carolina NFL team into South Carolina’s economy. This move is expected to bring at least 5,700 jobs and more than $3 billion in economic development to South Carolina. As a realist, I’m not sure $3 billion will be the figure; but also as a realist, I know the state will receive far more benefit than the investment we are making. I’d like to remind everyone that opponents saying “we’re giving $115 million to a liberal billionaire” are being disingenuous. We are not giving your money or money we currently have to anyone. We are letting a business keep a portion of their tax dollars only after they commit to investing and contributing to the bottom line of our state revenues.

Ethics – no more Golden Parachutes

After years of having my bill sit in committee without a hearing from a former Chariman, I was able to finally have a hearing on a bill that would save taxpayers from paying for “Golden Parachutes” for officials convicted of public corruption. The new Chairman of the House Judiciary committee gave me a hearing and the subcommittee unanimously passed the bill that, simply stated, lets all public officials (not just House/Senate…we’re talking mayors, councilman, schoolboards, etc) know that if they are guilty of public corruption, they lose their state retirement and state health benefits. The bill didn’t make it to the Senate (yet) but will when we return in January.

One other important piece (that doesn’t begin with the letter E) is close to my heart. As the son of a combat veteran (Vietnam) as well as grandson of veterans, i’m pleased to share that the legislature passed (and the Governor signed into law) a bill to elevate the South Carolina Department of Veterans Affairs to a cabinet level agency. The Governor also signed into law a bill that will give in-state tuition for military personnel and their dependents regardless of the amount of time they have spent in that state. The House passed the Workforce Enhancement and Military Recognition Act, which removes the present limit in relation to the income deduction of military retirees. It also allows military retirees at the age of 65 to deduct any military retirement income that is included in their taxable income. The Senate has yet to take up this bill. These bipartisan bills reflect South Carolina’s strong military tradition and show appreciation to our veterans.

I wish everyone to have a safe and enjoyayble summer. While Rep Huggins and I are out of session in Columbia until January, please know we will be visiting with you again and working on any state matters you need help with over the next several months.

Be sure to SAVE THE DATE (Wednesday, August 14th) for my “once every two years” COMMUNITY COOKOUT which will be held again in Chapin! As always, we will have state, local, and most likely federal officials present for you to interact with in an casual setting on the shores of Lake Murray! I’ll share more on my website at The event is FREE to the public thanks to the generosity of our Sponsors, Hosts, and Supporters! Hope to see you and your family there!

As your State Representative, I am honored to serve you in Columbia. Please feel free to contact me with any comments, issues, or concerns that you may have or tell me in person on August 14th!

Updated on Education Reform Bill passed by the House 113-4

Golden parachutes for public corruption?

Next Tuesday, April 30th, two of my bills that I think are critically important to curbing any “shenanigans” from elected officials will finally receive a hearing. I originally filed these bills backn in December 2014 and January 2015 but those bills (and others similar to those) never had a hearing in Judiciary Committee.

H.3107 and H.3018

The origins of both bills stem from when our former House Speaker was indicted and later pled guilty to certain activities while in office. When this happened, I heard from my constituents about how they did not think “the punishment fit the crime”. I was also asked “are taxpayers still on the hook for his retirement?”

Not knowing that answer, I asked House staff. Yes, he would still receive his benefits. Retirement AND health/dental care.

My family is not on the state health plan, but I’ve heard it’s “pretty good” and I’ve learned over the years that the General Assembly state retirement is also considered “pretty good” as well. So….this begged the question, regardless of what the courts may impose as penalties for “acts of public corruption”, shouldn’t the taxpayer’s get relief instead of continuing to fund retirement for those that were found or pled guilty?

If you agree that you/we shouldn’t help foot these individuals lifestyles after their conviction or plead, please let your House member know.

NOTE: Unfortunately, the bill cannot impact any officials prior to ultimate passage and signature by the Governor.

Republican Craig Plank appointed to Richland County Election Commission

For years, there have been issues with our local Richland County Election Commission . Rather than rehash those, click that link and you’ll remember the nightmares.

In any event, I was very pleased this week to learn that Craig Plank had been approved by the Governor’s Office to serve on the commission. It’s my hope, Craig, along with independed Duncan Buell, and the 3 other Democrats will finally “fix” one of the most vital parts of our democracy.

NEVER should we experience what we did in 2012 , and never should votes go “missing”. I need to stop before I get fired up again.

Why is this news? There are 15 Democrat members on the Richland County Delegation. There are only 2 Republicans – me and Rep. Kirkman Finlay. Law requires there to be at least one member of the “majority party” and “minority party”.

After reviewing more than 100 applications and hearing from more than 50 applicants over a period of 4 hours, the delegation voted. Unforutnately, the Delegation did not appoint a Republican in the Top 5 – although we were told one of the 5 “voted Republican”. Equally shocking, 3 of the top 5 vote getters didn’t even bother to attend the public meeting to present themselves before the delegation.

In any event, I feel better that we were able to have the former Chairman of the Richland School District Two Board of Trustees appointed and serve our county in this capacity.

Better things ahead for our county once the commission hires a new director and works to ensure smoother elections for all.

May Community Meetings – Irmo, Chapin, Ballentine

Mark your calendars for these monthly meetings next month

May 6
Ballentine Civic Association
6:30 pm
Monthly Membership Meeting
Ballentine Park
The Ballentine Civic Association was formed to help build and support the Ballentine Community. We work hard to keep our community members informed and aware of all events, changes and updates that are happening in our area. We partner with local businesses to help grow and build their services. Our partners are what make our community great and strive to keep those connections strong.

May 8
Irmo Chamber of Commerce
Monthly Member Luncheon
11:30 am – 1pm
St Andrews Presbyterian Church
Please join us for our May Chamber Luncheon on Wednesday, May 8, 2019 from 11:30am-1pm at St. Andrews Presbyterian Church. This month, we will learn about the Palmetto Health/Prisma Health merger and they role they will continue to play in the Irmo community. FATZ Southern Kitchen will be catering.

May 16
Greater Chapin Chamber of Commerce
Monthly Member Luncheon
12 until 1:30 pm
Make plans to join us at the Ole Oak Barn Wedding and Event Venue, our Sponsor for our May Chamber luncheon. 1155 Holy Trinity Church Road. Kelly Jeffcoat, Cancer Survivor, Nurse Navigator helps diagnosed women navigate the healthcare system, providing much needed emotion support. She will be speaking to us about Breast Cancer and our very own LeeAnn Bergren may share a few encouraging words as well.
Lunch will be provided by Doc’s BBQ

Be back soon!

House members are on furlough until March 23rd.

Time for some R&R.

This photo is for all the Dads out there who know what beach vacation really means 🙂

The Weekly Rewind – April 12th


This past week was ‘crossover” week at the State House. Simply put, that means if legislation did not pass one chamber, it would require a 2/3 vote of the other chamber to take the legislation up for debate. Basically, if legislation you were interested in didn’t “crossover” from one chamber last week, you’ll need to wait til next January before it has a chance of being debated. The good news is that this is just the first year of a two year session; so those bills aren’t dead.

What are some pieces of legislation that didn’t crossover this week? Medical Marijuana, Fetal Heartbeat, Offshore drilling, Gun Regulations and Constitutional Carry Legislation are just a few you have brought to my attention.

What are some pieces of legislation that are still in line to pass this year once the Senate or House get to their debate? Solar Energy and the Carolina Panthers bill are two that have made a lot of news. As well as the Education Reform legislation the House passed earlier this year.

One bill that gained a lot of attention this week was the Samantha Josephson Ridesharing Safety Act. Named for the young lady who was tragically murdered recently in Five Points, the House voted overwhelmingly (99-1) to send the bill to the Senate. The bill requires Uber and other ride-sharing companies to put an illuminated sign in their window in hopes that could help connect riders to the correct drivers. The bill seeks to increase the distance the rider can start the verification process, but still encourages riders to check to make sure the license plate and car match with the app. North Carolina legislators filed an identical Uber Safety Bill in their State House this week. We know this bill isn’t the cure to all the problems, but it certainly can help. I’ve spoke to law enforcement officers in our community who feel one solution to reduce crime in Five Points is to “block off the streets to car traffic” during certain hours (perhaps 10pm – 3pm). Most of the tragedies that have occurred through the years involved cars in this area: Strom Thurmond’s daughter hit and killed by a car, stray bullet from a drive-by that paralyzed a USC student, and now Samantha’s abduction and murder. I passed that suggestion on to Mayor Benjamin and hope the city will consider many changes to make the area safe for the students, visitors, and surrounding neighborhoods.

When you read this column, the House will be finishing up our Furlough Week and the Senate will hopefully have passed their version of the state’s budget.

The House returns next Tuesday, April 23rd and has 10 legislative days left before we adjourn sine-die on Thursday, May 9th.

If there’s legislation important to you and you’d like to know the status, please call my office or you can go to and search under the “Bill” section. Call or email if you need further explanation than what you see on-line.

Thank you for the honor and privilege to serve your family and our community in Columbia! Stop by the State House anytime and take a free tour and swing by my office if you’d like. Anytime you need help with state government (or have advice/opinions on how to improve our quality of life), please give me a call at home 732-1861 or at my State House office 734-2969.

Fritz Hollings to lie in State at the State House

Former SC Governor, US Senator Ernest F. “Fritz” Hollings Dies at 97

From the Office of the Governor

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Former South Carolina Governor and United States Senator Fritz Hollings will lie in state at the South Carolina State House on Monday, April 15, from 10:00 AM until 5:00 PM. The viewing will be open to the public throughout the day and all who are able are encouraged to visit the State House to pay their respects to Senator Hollings and his family.

Logistical information:

• Beginning at 10:00 AM, an honor guard consisting of members of the S.C. Highway Patrol and the S.C. National Guard will escort Senator Hollings’ casket to the second floor lobby of the State House via the outdoor steps on the south side of the State House. (Note: designated press areas will be clearly identified on the ground floor outside of the State House)

• Beginning at 10:30 AM, those wishing to pay their respects may enter the State House through the public entrance on the north side and proceed to the second floor where Senator Hollings’ casket will be placed. (Note: members of the media will be permitted to access the third floor of the State House. SCETV will provide pool coverage from 9:45 AM – 11:00 AM, which can be accessed through a mult box on site or via satellite.)

• The event will also be streamed live at

• The State House will close to the public at 5:00 PM, at which time the honor guard will escort the casket down the south steps to the hearse.

Unclaimed Veteran Funeral – April 12th

I’m going to do my best to take time next Friday to attend this funeral for someone who served our country. I don’t know him, but apparently he doesn’t have any family. Sad. Makes me think back to my favorite series (The West Wing) and this episode (4 min clip): In Excelsis Deo

Here is an email I received this week. Can’t recall ever receiving one of these.

Unclaimed Veteran Funeral Announcement
Lynch, William

Good Afternoon Everyone,

It is with great sadness that again I am reaching out to inform the community of the death of an unclaimed veteran. Mr. George Shaw honorably and faithfully served our country in the United States Coast Guard.

Mr. Shaw passed away on March 6th, 2019 and has no identifiable family. The Dignity Memorial Homeless Veterans Burial Program will hold a funeral service with military honors at 11 AM on Friday, April 12th 2019 at Fort Jackson National Cemetery.

The Homeless Veterans Burial Program is inviting the community to attend the funeral services for Mr. George Thomas Shaw to serve as his family and to help provide a honorable farewell.

A funeral procession will start at 10:15 am, leaving from Dunbar Funeral Home Dutch Fork Chapel. Funeral Escorts will be provided by the Patriot Guard Riders and the Richland County Sheriff’s Office.

I would ask if you please forward this email to any person who should know about or may be able to attend the funeral services for Mr. Shaw. If you have any questions or concerns please feel free to reach out to me.

Ballentine Spring Festival – April 6th – see you there!