12:01 a.m House gives budget Third Reading

After 13.5 hours of debate Tuesday (and literally hundreds of roll-call votes yesterday and today), the House adjourned at 11pm to return at 12:01 am Wednesday for the required Third Reading of the State Budget. The budget passed almost unanimously (116-2) as did the Capital Reserve Fund (110-1). In the coming weeks the Senate will have their deliberations and then a House/Senate Conference Committee will work out differences so that both bodies pass the same budget for the upcoming 2018-2019 fiscal year.

The General Assembly will return at a later date to take up any vetoes from the Governor.

Around 7:30pm, House members made way to grab a quick bite of pizza in the chamber between the House and Senate. Eating while still having to cast votes. There were no lunch breaks today and no one left the chamber after we gaveled in at 9:30 am. Photo credit: Rep. Derham Cole

2018-2019 Budget Briefing

The floor debate for next year’s budget begins Monday at 1pm.

To see the briefing provided to House members earlier this week, click here .

To see more detail, click here .

Of course, if you’d like to watch the floor debate, you can click here . (Link may not be correct if watching from IPhone. If needed, visit www.scstatehouse.gov and click on House Video). Debate Monday should go til 6pm (estimate). Monday is usually the day when the non-contested areas of the budget receive roll call votes. Sometimes it’s 200 votes cast in one single day. Generally, those votes are almost always unanimous or 90%-10% votes. Tuesday is when you can actually see live debate. We should start in the morning on Tuesday (9am? 10am?) and go longer than we do Monday (most likely into the evening). Depending on progress/amendments Tuesday could go past midnight (it has in the past) and/or we will return Wednesday to hopefully have 3rd reading. The budget (like all legislation) requires 3 readings.

Once the budget passes the House, it must also pass the Senate. After that time, a Budget Conference Committee (3 members of each body) will meet to debate differences and reach resolution. From there, the budget goes to the Governor’s Office where he will certainly have vetoes for us to consider at a later date.

The state’s budget cycle is from July 1st each year thru June 30th.

The Weekly Rewind – March 9th


March 9, 2018

The House of Representatives returned S.954 to the Senate with amendments ELIMINATING ALL CHARGES ON THE ELECTRIC BILLS OF SCE&G CUSTOMERS THAT SUPPORT THE FAILED V.C. SUMMER NUCLEAR POWER PROJECT. As approved by the Senate, this joint resolution affords the Public Service Commission additional time to make a decision on whether the Base Load Review Act has been properly used to finance the failed nuclear power project in Fairfield County by providing for a PSC hearing on the matter no earlier than November 1, 2018, and requiring a PSC ruling by December 21, 2018. The House amended the legislation to provide that, while the PSC is conducting its review and rendering its decision under this timeline and during any appeals of decisions that could follow, the nuclear premium charge is to be removed from the power bills of SCE&G customers. The legislation orders new electricity rates for customers of SCANA Corporation’s South Carolina Electric and Gas to be 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 House amended and gave second reading approval to H.4628, a bill enacting the “SOUTH CAROLINA TELEPHONE PRIVACY PROTECTION ACT” to replace current provisions for regulating unsolicited consumer telephone calls with updated and enhanced consumer protection provisions relating to telemarketers. The legislation establishes provisions governing the conduct of telephone solicitations that include requirements for a telephone solicitor to provide identifying information, contact information, and the option to be added to the telephone solicitor’s in house ‘do not call’ list. The legislation establishes prohibitions on directing telephone solicitations to telephone numbers that have been added to in house ‘do not call’ lists or the National Do Not Call Registry maintained by the federal government. The legislation prohibits the practice of falsifying caller identification system information known as spoofing, by disallowing a telephone solicitor from making a consumer telephone call with a telephone number that displays a South Carolina area code on the recipient’s caller identification system unless the telephone solicitor maintains a physical presence in the state. A telephone solicitor is also prohibited from displaying the receiving party’s telephone number on the contacted party’s caller identification system. A private cause of action is established for those harmed by violations. The Attorney General is authorized to investigate and enforce violations.

The House returned H.4612, legislation authorizing SURETY BONDS FOR GENERAL AND MECHANICAL LICENSURE APPLICANTS, to the Senate with amendments. 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 equal to 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 amended and gave second reading approval to H.3064, a bill AUTHORIZING A LICENSED PHYSICIAN TO PRESCRIBE CONTRACEPTIVE DRUGS THAT MAY BE DISPENSED OVER A PERIOD OF UP TO THREE YEARS AFTER THE ORDER IS ISSUED. These contraceptive drugs include all drugs approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration that are used to prevent pregnancy, including hormonal drugs administered orally, transdermally, or transvaginally.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4644, a bill making revisions to SOLID WASTE MANAGEMENT provisions. The legislation makes revisions to the Solid Waste Management Trust Fund that includes recommendations from the House Legislative Oversight Committee’s review of the Department of Health and Environmental Control. The legislation establishes a SOLID WASTE EMERGENCY FUND, administered by DHEC, that is to be used to address a substantial release or threat of substantial release into the environment of any pollutant or other circumstance which may present an imminent and substantial danger to human health and the environment from a regulated solid waste facility. Two and one-half percent of the funds collected each quarter for the Solid Waste Management Trust Fund must be transferred to the Solid Waste Emergency Fund until the emergency fund reaches an unencumbered balance of $1.5 million. The legislation also provides that a permit to construct a new solid waste management facility or to expand an existing solid waste management facility may not be issued until the applicant provides documentation from the applicable local government of compliance with local land use and zoning ordinances along with the permit application. The legislation establishes permitting, registration, and oversight provisions for facilities that recycle construction and demolition debris.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4889, a bill addressing CONSERVATION EASEMENT CONDEMNATIONS. This legislation allows conservation easement holders to contest actions, under specified circumstances, to condemn property restricted by a conservation easement. In addition, when a court determines that a prudent and feasible alternative to condemnation has been presented by a condemnee, or a conservation easement holder, the condemnation proceedings must cease.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4683, the “BEACHFRONT MANAGEMENT REFORM ACT”. The legislation makes revisions to the limitations placed on the development of oceanfront property and other coastal areas. The legislation provides that, between the establishment cycle of January 1, 2016, and December 31, 2019, the Department of Health and Environmental Control must use the established baselines and setback lines that were established by January 31, 2012. After December 31, 2023, the department must initiate baselines and setback lines for all geographic areas where baselines and setback lines were established by January 31, 2012. The legislation includes provisions for how DHEC is to evaluate oceanfront areas that incur extraordinary erosion due to the impact of a storm system or event named by the National Weather Service when making its reviews to establish new lines. The appeals process is revised to allow property owners to have one year to be granted a review of the baseline and setback line.


The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4830, a bill establishing a UNIFORM APPLICATION PROCESS FOR INDIGENT DEFENDANTS TO BE REPRESENTED BY PUBLIC DEFENDERS OR OTHER APPOINTED LEGAL COUNSEL. The legislation requires all affidavits of indigency, and application for counsel forms, to contain certifications that they do not contain any wilfully-provided false information. All forms would have to be notarized. In the event a court, the SC Department of Probation, Parole, and Pardon Services [SCDPPPS], or an appointed attorney discovers that a defendant is financially able to employ counsel or contribute to the costs of employing counsel, a procedure for informing the court and terminating the appointed counsel is set out. Defendants who fraudulently obtain a public defender–or other appointed legal counsel–must pay a reasonable attorney fee to the South Carolina Commission on Indigent Defense. The legislation creates the criminal offense of wilfully providing false, misleading, or incomplete information on an affidavit of indigency and application for counsel form. The South Carolina Court Administration is directed to revise the affidavits of indigency and application for counsel forms. SCDPPPS is required to report annually to the General Assembly, by January 15th, on the number of these affidavits both accepted and rejected. As part of this annual report, an explanation of those rejected affidavits, including the grounds for rejecting them, would be made. In addition, existing General Assembly legislative oversight committees are to review these reports as part of their regularly scheduled review of SCDPPPS. Appointed attorneys are to be held to the requirements of Rule 407 of the Rules of Professional Conduct. This legislation initiates these reforms as a pilot project in six counties: Chester, Colleton, Edgefield, Horry, Lee, and Richland.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4931, a bill authorizing the state’s technical colleges to offer an APPLIED BACCALAUREATE IN MANUFACTURING DEGREE if the degree is approved first by the Board for Technical and Comprehensive Education and then the Commission on Higher Education.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4976, a bill PROVIDING LOCAL GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS WITH AUTHORITY TO REMOVE ABANDONED WATERCRAFT if the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources does not exercise its authority to remove watercraft abandoned in the state’s public lands and waterways.

The House amended, approved and sent the Senate H.3970, a bill making revisions to the ENFORCEMENT OF SELF SERVICE STORAGE FACILITY LIENS, including requirements for conducting commercially reasonable sales.

17 students named National Merit Scholarship Finalists

17 students from District Five named National Merit Scholarship finalists

From the District’s Home Page

IRMO – Seventeen students from Lexington-Richland School District Five have been announced as finalists in the National Merit Scholarship program. All four high schools from the district are represented.

“We are beyond excited to see District Five well represented in the National Merit Scholarship program,” said District Five Superintendent-elect Dr. Christina Melton. “These students epitomize the best of the best, and it is just another example of the great students, engaged parents and dedicated teachers we have in this district!”

Representing Chapin High are: Clayton Bellinger, Noah Swingle, Ryan Trinter and Karsen Ward. Representing Dutch Fork High are: Thomas Buchmann, Andrew Crawford, Matthew Herbst, Sunjay Jayaram, Courtney Lubaczewski, Cameron Muccio, Leila Nguyen, Sanatana Reddy, Sarah Thomas and Connor Willoughby. Representing Irmo High is Davis Cassell. Representing Spring Hill High are: Germaine Washington and Mason Williams.

“We are so proud of Clayton, Noah, Ryan and Karsen for their commitment to excellence in the classroom and beyond,” said Chapin High principal Dr. Akil Ross. “They represent Chapin High School very well, and I am excited to see what the future holds for these talented students.”

Dutch Fork High principal Dr. Gerald Gary added, “Having ten National Merit Finalists is evidence that our students perform very well academically when families and school staff partner. The students of Dutch Fork High continue to accept the mission of ‘Enter to learn, go forth to serve.’ Accomplishments such as this is a testament that our students are focused and accept the Dutch Fork standard of academic excellence.”

Irmo High School is always happy to celebrate the success of students like Davis,” said Irmo High principal David Riegel. “Our students know that through a combination of hard work and a challenging curriculum that they can achieve outstanding preparation for college and career. We are proud of Davis, and look forward to seeing his future success.”

“I am so proud of both Germaine and Mason for being named finalists,” said Spring Hill High principal Dr. Michael Lofton. “Not only are they doing extremely well academically, they also serve as role models for their fellow students on ‘The Spring Hill Way.’ They are kind, considerate, servant leaders that are deserving of this recognition.”

Finalists will compete for National Merit $2500 scholarships between March through mid-June. Corporate-sponsored and college-sponsored merit scholarships also will be awarded.

Great news for Johnson Marina Road area!

In addition to the big news this week that Richland County Council rejected a proposed 200+ new home development off Johnson Marina Road, I’ve got more good news to share

As you know, Johnson Marina Road has been scheduled for improvements and we should start to see those continue in earnest in the next several weeks. During many conversations and meetings with the SCDOT officials, I have asked for 2 additional improvements we need that were not a part of the original plan: a left turn lane from Johnson Marina onto Dutch Fork Road and a traffic signal at this busy intersection.

Tonight, I can share that both of those improvements have been approved and we will see a benefit that will be much needed.

Why the traffic signal you ask?

Earlier this year, officials and residents of the Lowman Home asked me to meet with them to discuss master plans they have been wanting to implement for years; but were unable to make progress. The officials want to provide a safer community for their residents by restricting access to their property to those individuals that work or live at the Heritage of Lowman and The Lowman Home.

As locals know, the property owned by the Heritage of Lowman has been dissected for years by what almost everyone in town uses as a “shortcut” (to Chapin Middle, Spring Hill, CATE Center) and a way to avoid having to wait to turn left at Johnson Marina/Dutch Fork Intersection (which is impossible).

By law, the Heritage at Lowman has the right to pursue “blocking access” of this road since they own property on both sides. Obviously if others did not have access to that road and did not have any traffic signal to assist with the left-turn need at Johnson Marina/Dutch Fork Road, this would be a nightmare for the area. I was straight forward and let those officials know that I could not support their plan unless I was able to get DOT to provide this area the much needed signal.

Fortunately, things have worked out. While the Heritage at Lowman obviously has some required steps to take in order to “close the shortcut”; the approval of a traffic signal on Dutch Fork Road will help our community not be negatively impacted by the “closing of the road”.

Much more to come on this; but it’s good to see continued improvements coming to our area !

What’s going on in our schools?

Obviously recent events have the country concerned over school safety and frankly, an issue many don’t like to talk about – mental illness.

Throughout the year, I visit many of our schools and always appreciate hearing from teachers, parents, School Improvement Councils and School Resource Officers.

Today was a visit to Ballentine Elementary where I got to meet SRO Myers before reading to Mrs. LaRosa’s 3rd grade class. Last month I visited Chapin Elementary and also had conversations with our School Board and District Officials.

With respect to safety, one topic that continues to come up is – mental health. Law enforcement needs the ability to act swifter in some instances. I believe we will ultimately see a common-sense approach provide the results we are looking for with our school and children. Like almost every issue in society, the debate may not please everyone; but the outcome will help provide additional support to our schools.

The Weekly Rewind – March 2nd


March 2, 2018

The House of Representatives approved S.105 and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation makes revisions to AUTOMATIC STAYS IN ADMINISTRATIVE LAW COURT cases contesting permits, certificates, and other approvals issued by state agencies, boards, and commissions. Under the legislation, any party affected by an Administrative Law Court [ALC] automatic stay could petition for relief from it 90 days after the ALC contested action has been commenced. The hearing on any petition for relief from a stay would have to be held within 30 days after it is requested. These ALC cases must be resolved within twelve (12) months after their commencement unless all parties to the contested case consent to an extension or the court finds substantial cause for an extension. Nothing in this legislation applies to lifting stays on permits or licenses involving hazardous waste operations. Frivolous filings could be sanctioned under the South Carolina Frivolous Civil Proceedings Sanctions Act.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3565, a bill addressing ADMINISTRATIVE LAW COURT CONTESTED CASES INVOLVING THE CERTIFICATE OF NEED PROGRAM which requires providers of health care services, such as hospitals and nursing homes, to obtain approval from the Department of Health and Environmental Control for additions to, or significant expansions of, their facilities and services. To allow for consistency in contested matters before the Administrative Law Court, the legislation applies the same twelve-month time period approved in S.105 for resolving a contested case arising from DHEC’s decision to grant or deny a Certificate of Need application.

The House concurred in Senate amendments to H.3929, a bill revising permitting provisions for POULTRY FARMS to allow for a more expedited approval process for these facilities and expansions to them, and enrolled the legislation for ratification. The legislation makes revisions regarding setbacks, buffers and other specific requirements for the review and appeal of decisions by the Department of Environmental Control regarding the permitting of a poultry facility or another animal facility, except a swine facility. The legislation changes the distance from two miles to one mile in which an affected person must live in order to appeal the facility’s operating permit. The legislation further provides that challenges must be made by an individual affected person and may not be lodged on their behalf. A final decision to issue a permit, license, certification, or other approval of a poultry facility or another animal facility, except a swine facility, may not be contested if the proposed building footprint is located eight hundred feet or more from the facility owner’s property line or located one thousand feet or more from an adjacent property owner’s residence.

The House took up legislation that draws upon the work of the special House Opioid Abuse Prevention Study Committee that was appointed by the Speaker of the House to examine the growing misuse of prescription painkillers and recommend legislative actions to counter the epidemic of ruinous addiction and fatal overdoses. The House approved and sent the Senate H.4488, a bill ALLOWING OFFICIALS WHO ARE DETERMINING CAUSES OF DEATH TO HAVE ACCESS TO PRESCRIPTION DRUG MONITORING INFORMATION. The legislation expands the list of persons to which the Department of Health and Environmental Control’s Bureau of Drug Control may provide prescription monitoring program data so that it also includes a coroner, deputy coroner, medical examiner, or deputy medical examiner who is involved in an official inquiry into the cause and manner of a person’s death.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4479, a bill revising the process for addressing LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER MISCONDUCT allegations to implement recommendations arising from the House Legislative Oversight Committee’s study of the Law Enforcement Training Council and Criminal Justice Academy. The legislation authorizes the Law Enforcement Training Council to appoint attorneys employed by the Criminal Justice Academy to sit as hearing officers for contested case hearings. Under the legislation, no person who has a pending allegation of misconduct may be employed as a law enforcement officer or as a telecommunications operator or perform any law enforcement duties until a decision has been made that authorizes the employment. The legislation also makes revisions to the report that must be made to the Criminal Justice Academy whenever an officer separates from a law enforcement office. Under the changes, the supervising officer making the report would be subject to disciplinary action for submitting intentionally misleading or incomplete information, such as characterizing a situation where an officer is leaving a department due to alleged misconduct as a simple resignation. The changes are offered as a means of reducing the likelihood that a law enforcement officer leaving one police department because of alleged misconduct could be hired by another department without the allegations being addressed.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.4596, a bill authorizing public school districts to create COMPETENCY BASED SCHOOLS that are designed to improve progress towards attaining state education goals through a curriculum that allows students to pursue their own inquiries, take ownership of learning, and master competencies along a personalized and flexible pathway. The legislation allows a school district to establish a competency-based school by obtaining a waiver from the State Department of Education that allows the program to be exempt from certain requirements for the purposes of accountability and accreditation. If a school is selected to become a competency-based education school, the students enrolled in the school are considered full-time equivalent students for the purpose of calculating state financial support, average daily membership, and attendance while participating in the competency-based education program. The Department of Education is charged with developing separate evaluation criteria and guidelines for schools implementing competency-based education and conducting a biennial review of such schools. If the biennial review shows that the goals or objectives of the competency-based school are not being met, the exemptions granted for that school may be revoked. The department is also directed to develop a process to ensure that schools and districts are not penalized for the purposes of accreditation and to ensure that students are not penalized when transferring between schools with and without competency-based systems. The Commission on Higher Education and State Board for Technical and Comprehensive Education must establish policies to provide fair and equitable access to institutions of higher education and technical colleges for students with competency based credits or diplomas, scholarships, and financial aid for graduates of schools implementing innovative school models and using nontraditional diplomas and transcripts.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4672, a bill REINSTATING VISION SCREENING REQUIREMENTS FOR DRIVER’S LICENSE RENEWALS. The legislation provides that individuals will once again be required to satisfy vision screening requirements in order to renew a driver’s license by either passing a vision test administered at the Department of Motor Vehicles or providing a certificate of vision examination form executed by an ophthalmologist or optometrist.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.3195, a bill to provide that the nineteenth day of June of each year, which is already designated as “Juneteenth Celebration of Freedom Day” to commemorate and reflect on the freedom of African Americans and their contributions to this state and nation, is also to be recognized as “SICKLE CELL DAY IN SOUTH CAROLINA” in order to join international efforts to raise awareness of the genetic disease and support and encourage research, treatment, and management of sickle cell disease.

The House returned S.955 to the Senate with amendments. The Senate subsequently concurred in the amendments and enrolled the legislation for ratification. The joint resolution extends the screening process for candidates for PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION SEATS 2, 4, AND 6 by directing the Public Utilities Review Committee to resume advertising for these positions and accept additional applications through noon on Monday, March 26, 2018. These applications are to be considered by the Public Utilities Review Committee in addition to those previously submitted.

People, Not Politics : Yes, I’ll file for re-election March 16th!

Earlier today, my phone was blowing up with calls, texts and emails.

Not having been called by a reporter before he wrote his story , I was unaware that the media was reporting a challenger for our House seat.

Like we all know, this seat belongs to the people of our community and as the article shared (after another reporter called me later in the day):

Ballentine said he welcomes a competitive race.

“It’s not about individuals. It’s about getting results done for the community and the state, and we’ve got several critical issues that we continue to address: energy reform, ethics reform, holding corrupt politicians accountable,” Ballentine said. “I look forward to earning the community’s support again and continuing to move on these issues and making more progress.”

Soon, I’ll release a list of early supporters much like we did in 2016. I had a fantastic time campaigning back then (not sure Karen and kids enjoyed it) and I look forward to another campaign in the weeks and months ahead.

As always, contact me here or call me at home (732-1861) anytime I can be of service!

New DOT Commissioner – right here from Chapin!

Whether you were for or against the roads bill (gas tax), one of the many reforms we put in place was the way our DOT Commissioners are selected.

Many people have had concerns how one powerful state Senator had a family member appointed to this very influential position. With the passage of the roads bill, the Governor’s appointment has to be confirmed by members of the delegation. Many feel that sort of check-and-balance lead to the change we saw today.

I’d like to congratulate someone many of us lifers in the area know very well – John Burriss. He has been nominated by Governor McMaster to represent our 2nd Congressional District and it is my belief he will be unanimously appointed by the delegation when we meet next week.

John will once again serve our state well. When you see him around town, tell him “congratulations!”

Sound Barriers approved for I-26

Several months ago, I was contacted my residents in Wescott Ridge that complained about the highway noise from I-26. After much discussion with SCDOT, studies, and persuasion, sound barriers have been approved to be installed as part of the many other improvements coming our way.

To learn more, please make plans to attend the upcoming meeting. Information in photos above and below!