The Weekly Rewind – March 29th


Last week brought a big step forward in reducing income taxes in South Carolina!

Members of the House Tax Policy Review Committee have introduced legislation that would substantially change our state income tax by making it flatter and fairer. The bill calls for reducing the state income tax rate 35-percent from 7% to 4.5% over 5 years. As many know, our entire state tax system is an antiquated, hodgepodge of unfair taxing policy that awards some and punishes others. Our Tax Review Committee has been working for a couple of years to develop policies that would make SC’s tax structure fairer and stimulate our state’s economy. Just last week they heard from famed Reagan administration economist Arthur Laffer who encouraged us to lower tax rates resulting in growth in the economy.

Currently, SC has five income tax brackets, topping out rapidly at 7 percent. That’s high and not competitive with our neighboring states. The bill filed last week would eventually slash the tax rate from 7% to 4.5%. Who pays more and who pays less under the proposal would depend on how many tax credits and deductions people currently take and how they make their money. The state’s current tax policy gives preferences to older people and gives breaks on certain kinds of income, such as profits from stock trades. Under the proposal, all income and ages are treated equally. Itemized deductions and income tax credits would go away. This is obviously a major change and one I will continue to monitor and review to make sure the bill “really saves people money” instead of just moving funds around from one group to another.

While I’m talking about tax savings, last month the House passed our budget that provided a taxpayer rebate ($50) for every taxpayer in our state. Basically we had $1 billion in “extra money” this year and, after making all the priorities we wanted in the budget (teacher pay increases, tuition freezes, etc) many of us in the House felt we should return some of YOUR tax dollars back to you. This $50 uses about $100 million of that “extra money” (which is just 10%). When you look at the $1 billion in terms of $500 million recurring and $500 million non-recurring. This means we actually are proposing to return 20% of the non-recurring money to the taxpayers. Do you agree with this or would you rather government spend that money on something else? My fear is that the Senate will spend that money on pork projects and so the taxpayer won’t get it nor would some deserving group – teachers, retirees, military, state employees, etc. Please call or email me and let me know your preference!

Another major item last week was Santee Cooper and how to salvage another blow from the VC Summer fiasco. Momentum is building in both the House and Senate for the sale of state-owned utility Santee Cooper. The House has issued a Joint Resolution authorizing the Public Service Authority Evaluation and Recommendation Committee which paves the way for the selling of Santee Cooper by continuing the committee process and evaluating bids before recommending a final offer to the General Assembly. And, just this week legislation was filed in the House that would increase transparency and accountability at Santee Cooper. I’ll keep you informed as those of you with MCEC as your electricity provider, will be interested in the outcome.

Lastly, we talked a lot about jobs last week. The House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to pass legislation that would give the Carolina Panthers a tax breaks if it moves its headquarters and training facilities to Rock Hill, across the border from where they play in Charlotte. The reason legislation was needed is because current tax breaks in place for other businesses do not include “professional sports teams”. Simply put, if this was Panthers Manufacturing or some other service, the legislation would not be needed because it has already been in place for economic development situations similar to this. The bill does nothing if the Panthers do not move. If the Panthers do move, they would get a break on taxes – it would not be taking any current tax dollars and giving to them. As a reporter put it “i’ts not your dollars going to the Panthers, it’s the Panthers tax dollars going to the Panthers instead of state government.”

As always, let me know your thoughts on these topics or others by calling me at home (732-1861) or the State House Office (734-2969) or by emailing me at

Check your inbox for the APRIL COMMUNITY UPDATE email and be sure to check in regularly to to stay more informed about what’s going on in Columbia and around our community!

More housing developments proposed in our area

Once again we have developers applying for the SC State Housing Finance and Development Authority’s Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program in our area. This time it’s 2 projects in the Irmo area.

As I have done previously, I wanted to bring to your attention (scroll after cliking link) since Representative Huggins and I receive certified letters informing us of the applications. Not sure how letter dated 2/26 and send 2/28 just got to my desk today (3/19)?

NathansNews readers may recall this has been going on for years, and many of the projects never came to fruition. Until recently.

Recently, projects have been approved on Lake Murray Boulevard (across from Wendy’s in Irmo where Silver Fox Tennis used to be) and on Ballentine Park Road (behind Ballentine Food Lion/Dutch Fork Baptist Church). And now, it looks like there are more trying to be built on Lake Murray Boulevard and adjacent to Lake Murray Boulevard as well.

Since this has happened at least 5 or 6 times through the years, I’ve learned a lot and wanted to share:

1) This is a FEDERAL program (money comes from Feds to the states and – something we hear a lot – “they gotta spend it”. Not a fan of that logic)
2) Approvals are based on the scoring of each project and the amount of funding available. Simply put, once scores are calculated, the agency looks at funding available and goes down the list of high to low scores and approves projects until “the money is out”.
3) There are no points awarded or deducted based on community feedback (I highly disagree with this; but cannot change at the state level).
4) These are not SECTION 8 developments. I have been told these designed for “the teachers, firefighters, policeman who work in the community but cannot afford to actually live in the community”. Again, that is what I’ve been told.

Each time I’ve received notice, I’ve asked y’all have reach out to me and let me know your concerns and I agree to share those with the SC Housing Agency. This time it looks like about 35 projects have applied . While I do not get a vote on these matters. I do get to share my response and ask that you share yours as well.

To have your voice heard, you can do one of two things:

1) Email me directly at with the title “Parkside at Columbiana” and I will forward you emails to the SC State Housing Finance and Development Authority. “Parkside at Columbiana” is the development proposed in the area I represent. “Cooper’s Trace” is the development that is proposed in the area Rep. Huggins represents”. Of course, we’re all in the same area – but just wanted to share that detail with you.


2) Email Laura Nicholson directly ( and cc: me at

While I have been told our responses and feedback do not impact the scores, I do believe in our community having a voice and sharing feedback.

As I’ve shared before, it bothers me when developers from out-of-our-area come do this. In the past it has been developers from Florida. “Parkside at Columbiana” looks like a developer from the Upstate. Those developers don’t have a footprint here, live here, shop here, go to schools or churches here, and -in my opinion – don’t consider the impact on the community as much as perhaps a local developer would.

We are more than aware of our overcrowded schools and infrastructure needs with the current population. Packing in 40-50 families in these developments will only add to that burden and problems. Just like what we will soon experience over at Ballentine Park Road behind Food Lion and Dutch Fork Baptist.

As I learn more, I will keep you posted.

The Weekly Rewind – March 15th


The legislative work days are getting longer and we’re nearing the middle of this year’s legislative session which, for the House, means this week was “Budget Week.” After going through the budget line by line and working past midnight Tuesday, we successfully sent this year’s budget to the Senate with only one “nay” vote. (Keep reading for more details on what is included in this year’s budget.)

For years, my colleagues would give me grief during Budget Week because it was my work with then Rep. Nikki Haley that led to these “on the record votes”. More than 300 taken this week to be exact! Prior to the passage of our bill, members didn’t have to be on record for each section of the budget and so you would never know what they stood for or against. You can imagine (or recall if you followed along 8 years ago), how upset my colleagues were that we would actually “make everyone vote on the record”. Lately, they’ve gotten over it and realize it’s the best thing for us to provide transparency to the public.

Another exciting moment for South Carolina happened this week when it was revealed the Carolina Panthers are working on a deal to move their NFL team’s headquarters and training facilities out of Charlotte and into South Carolina! This would be a huge economic win for our state that would drive hundreds of millions of dollars into our economy. We are working on legislation that will help make this possible.

It is proving to be a big year for South Carolina’s economy with the Governor and lawmakers finally working together to create a balanced budget, reforming our antiquated tax system, and focusing on efforts to attract and keep businesses in our state.

Budget Week

After months of working with Gov. McMaster, building consensus, and many hours of debate, we passed our General Appropriation Bill for the 2019-2020 fiscal year. This year’s budget is focused on investing in education and workforce development by increasing teacher pay, providing tuition assistance, and funding for workforce training programs.

Not only does the budget not increase taxes, but also it actually provides tax relief in the form of a rebate for everyone who pays income tax. Many amendments were debated. One of which was to add Gov. McMaster’s language to ensure taxpayers will not have to pay for abortion services at Planned Parenthood. That amendment led to hours long debate before ultimately being passed.

When we began assembling this budget, it was important to me that it be 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. Many agree we have done just that and I hope the Senate doesn’t make too many changes before sending back to us – and ultimately going to a 6 person conference committee (3 House members, 3 Senators). As always, our budget is in balance. We also will get this passed before the deadline.this summer.

Highlights from the budget:

· Nearly $160 million to provide every teacher a pay raise, helping to ensure that we recruit and retain the very best teachers. 30% of the budget surplus from last year will be devoted to raising teacher pay.

· $50 million for high-poverty school districts to use for building renovations and upgrades.

· $20 million for new and improved textbooks and instructional for our schools.

· $10 million to hire 120 more school-resource officers for schools that don’t already have one and cannot afford them.

· $41 million to raise state employee salaries.

· $49.7 million to cover state employee health and dental insurance increases.

· $32 million for retired state employees, who are covered by the state’s retirement system, to return to work without facing a $10,000 salary cap as long as they have been retired for a year.

Also, unless the Senate pulls the funds to spend on some of their pork projects, every taxpayer will receive a $50 rebate later this year!

There are many important issues we need to address in the weeks ahead, be sure I know which ones are most important to you! Please call me at my State House Office 734-2969, email me at or call me at home at 732-1861. Of course, when you see me around town or at the ballfields or church, take time to say hello and let me get to meet you! I love staying in touch and being reminded of the people I represent in Columbia!

Budget week – Day One (that’s a lot of votes!)

176 votes!

That’s how many votes the House cast today during the first day of floor “debate” on the budget. Let me put that in context for you. While opponents love to see any “missed votes” by elected officials; frankly, not all votes are equal.

I remember in my primary last year, my opponents tried to create an issue that I had missed “100+ votes out of 200.” Something to the effect of trying to make it look like I missed half the votes we took for the year and that I was somehow not doing my job. (Sidenote: I had actually missed the first day of the budget back then due to an obligation with my paying job). There’s too much to unwind there, I don’t have the time or bandwith here to unravel again; but the voters saw through that smear (and others) and re-elected me with an overwhelming 70% vote compared to 25% and 5% for the other 2 opponents.

The votes today were never in doubt and were basically “non contested” in the sense that on the first day of the budget, the House goes through each section ( with a ROLL CALL VOTE – by the way, my bill with former Rep and Governor Nikki Haley ) that does not have any amendments on the desk OR has that does not have a request from a member to “carry over” until later in the week (where we would actually debate the sections). As you can see by the photo, most votes are unanimous or close to unanimous. If you want to click on the link above (176 votes) you will see the “closest” vote on a section today was 72-32 and 66-19. The OVERWHELMING number of votes were unanimous or had no more than 1-4 members voting against.

Every first day of the budget is like this. It’s the rest of the week where the votes “matter” and will actually be contested.

Simply put, before you fall for an opponent’s attack against an elected official (or a special interest group’s attack), just call your Representative or Senator and ask what happened. Today there were several members who were away from the chamber. Many of us have paying jobs and sometimes those jobs (or families) take priority over what are considered, basically, uncontested votes.

Just wanted to share this today for my colleagues who may have been absent or abstained from votes (many attorneys have conflicts of interest). I’d hate for them to be smeared like me and others have been in the past. I get it, that’s SC politics. It’s no fun; but the public deserves to know the story behind the votes. It’s exactly what my colleagues told me when they fought against roll-call voting. They knew that it would simply be “gotcha” for slick consultants and opponents to use against them in mail pieces or on the campaign trail.

Even though I was a part of “gotcha” politics by others manipulating the voting numbers, I would still lead the push again for roll call voting because there ARE many votes that matter and our constituents need to know where we stand on those issues.

As always, if you have an issue important to you, let your elected official know! Tomorrow we begin the “real debate” on the budget – we’ll be in chamber again all day; so make your voice heard.

Upstate BMW – nation’s top vehicle exporter, again

By David Wren

South Carolina’s BMW plant remained the nation’s top vehicle exporter by dollar value in 2018 with more than $8.4 billion worth of cars shipped to foreign countries, the German automaker said Friday.

It’s the fifth consecutive year that BMW’s Upstate campus led all other U.S. vehicle exporters, and it happened during a year when tariffs and production changes led to fewer cars being shipped to overseas markets from the Port of Charleston.

“Despite last year’s model changeovers and the ongoing uncertainty regarding trade and tariffs, Plant Spartanburg is still positively contributing to the U.S. balance of trade,” Knudt Flor, president and CEO of BMW Manufacturing, said in a statement.

With trade talks between the U.S. and China making progress and several new vehicles either in production or on the way, Flor said he expects an increase this year in both in the number of cars built and exported from the plant.

BMW exported 234,689 South Carolina-made vehicles in 2018 — 13.8 percent fewer than in the previous year. While most of those cars are sent from the Port of Charleston, BMW increasingly used other Southeast ports in 2018. Charleston accounted for 80.6 percent of BMW exports last year — down from 87 percent in 2017.

“BMW is a significant port user whose operations are a tremendous asset to the port and the state of South Carolina,” said Jim Newsome, president and CEO of the State Ports Authority. “As customers of both Inland Port Greer and the Port of Charleston, BMW’s continued expansion has been a driver of our strong import and export volumes.”

While the dollar value of BMW exports fell 4.1 percent last year, the S.C. -made SUVs — with list prices ranging between $42,000 and $75,000 — held onto the top spot the automaker has kept since 2014, when it exported $9.2 billion worth of cars.

BMW accounted for nearly one-fourth of South Carolina’s record $34.6 billion in exports last year. Finished vehicles were state’s the top export commodity in 2018, followed by airplanes including those built at Boeing Co.’s North Charleston campus
To read more, click here.

The Weekly Rewind – March 8th


The House of Representatives amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3759, the “SOUTH CAROLINA EDUCATION, CAREER OPPORTUNITY, AND ACCESS FOR ALL ACT”. The legislation makes comprehensive revisions that are offered as a means of ensuring that the state’s public school students receive the training needed to meet 21st century demands. New emphasis is placed on mathematics and technology that includes a requirement for each public high school in the state to offer at least one rigorous, standards based computer science course. Enhancements are made to the SC Read to Succeed Initiative that focuses on crucial literacy skills. Provisions are made to afford public school students a smoother transition into higher education and workforce opportunities. These include expanded dual enrollment programs and improved access to state scholarship funding to cover training costs. The legislation raises the minimum teacher salary statewide and offers an array of incentives geared towards attracting individuals to teaching and retaining those professionals in the classroom. Some of the incentives focus on encouraging teachers to pursue their careers in schools that are failing to meet goals for academic performance and in areas of the state that are experiencing the greatest economic distress. Enhanced accountability provisions are included to direct assistance to schools that are struggling academically and to transform or close chronically underperforming schools. A school district consolidation protocol is established for merging less populous districts that are failing to meet standards for student performance. Local school board members are subjected to ethics provisions. A Special Council on Revitalizing Education is created to advise policy makers on ways to improve collaboration among state agencies and institutions and what steps should be taken to ensure that the state’s public education system is emphasizing skills demanded in the workplace.

Goals and Governance

The State of South Carolina establishes an overall statewide workforce readiness goal of at least sixty percent of all working age South Carolinians having a post secondary degree or recognized industry credentials before the year 2030. This goal is consistent with all students graduating and having the knowledge, skills, and characteristics contained in the Profile of the South Carolina Graduate.

A “Student Bill of Rights” is established to enumerate basic expectations including: students should expect that the General Assembly, Governor, State Superintendent of Education, State Board of Education, local school boards, local superintendents, principals, teachers, and parents to focus on improving education, and creating a system that puts them first; students should feel safe and secure in school; students should have educational choice; and the ability to challenge unfair treatment. These provisions do not create or imply a private cause of action for a violation.

A “Teacher Bill of Rights” is established to enumerate those things that all certified public school teachers in South Carolina should be able to expect. These include: working in an environment conducive to learning; the inclusion of their discretion with regard to disciplinary and instructional decisions; freedom from frivolous lawsuits, planning time; a competitive salary; no unnecessary paperwork; support from school administration. These provisions do not create or imply a private cause of action for a violation.

Provisions are made for the South Carolina Teacher of the Year and a public school student appointed by the Governor to serve as non-voting advisory members of the State Board of Education.

Special Council on Revitalizing Education

The legislation establishes within the Office of the Governor the Special Council on Revitalizing Education (SCORE) which is created to: (1) monitor the state education and workforce pipeline to continually determine the education and training levels required by the state’s employers; (2) identify and recommend improvements regarding efficiency and cooperation of agencies and programs throughout the education and workforce pipeline; and (3) report findings and recommendations to the Governor and General Assembly on a continuous basis.

The Governor serves as the chairman of the ten-member council. The Governor may, however, delegate the position of chairman and SCORE duties to the Lieutenant Governor. The other council members are appointed to five-year terms, with SCORE being composed of: (a) three members appointed by the Governor; (b) one member appointed by the Speaker of the House; (c) one member appointed by the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee; (d) one member appointed by the Chairman of the House Education and Public Works Committee; (e) one member appointed by the President of the Senate; (f) one member appointed by the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee; and (g) one member appointed by the Chairman of the Senate Education Committee. Council members may not concurrently serve as a member of the General Assembly. Appointed members must have a background in early childhood education, K 12 education, higher education, business, workforce development, or economic development. Two council members, one from the appointees allotted the House of Representatives and the other from the appointees allotted the Senate, must be current or retired highly effective teachers. A member of the council may serve no more than two consecutive terms.

The Governor shall hire an executive director who must possess a background in at least one of the following: early childhood education, K 12 education, higher education, business, workforce development, or economic development.

Before October 1, 2021, the council shall establish a series of benchmarks that must include, but are not limited to the following:
(1) access to quality early learning, as determined by the council, including the number of three and four year old children in quality early learning settings;
(2) third grade reading proficiency, including the percentage of third grade students who score ‘Meets’ or ‘Exceeds Expectations’ on the SC Ready assessment, or its successor;
(3) eighth grade mathematics, including the percentage of eighth grade students who score ‘Meets’ or ‘Exceeds Expectations’ on the SC Ready assessment, or its successor;
(4) high school graduation rates, including the percentages of students who graduated in four and five years;
(5) youth nonparticipation, including the percentage of South Carolina residents between sixteen and eighteen years of age who are not going to school on the secondary level or in adult education, not in the military, or not otherwise working;
(6) post high school enrollment, including the percentage of South Carolina high school graduates who are in postsecondary education the semester after graduation from high school or are gainfully employed; and
(7) post high school education attainment, including the percentage of South Carolina residents ages twenty two through sixty five who have completed a two or four year degree, or have received a nationally recognized certification as determined by the Department of Commerce.

With assistance and consultation from the Department of Administration, the council is charged with creating and maintaining a publicly accessible website that reports the benchmark information, explains the benchmarks, and provides an annual update to show the state’s progress toward meeting each goal.

Beginning in 2021, the council is required to make an annual comprehensive report to the Governor and General Assembly that specifically identifies areas within the education and workforce pipeline where state agencies and other publically funded entities are failing to meet the benchmarks. The council shall provide recommendations regarding ways that state and local efforts can be improved, ways that collaboration and cooperation among state and local agencies and resources can be increased, and efforts underway or being considered in other states that address the noted areas of concern. The council also shall recommend legislation it considers necessary.

Enhancements to Academic Rigor to Improve Student Preparation

Computer Science and Mathematics Coursework and Incentives

The State Board of Education is charged with conducting, at least every five years, a cyclical review of grade appropriate standards for computer science, computational thinking, and computer coding for grades kindergarten through grade twelve.

No later than the beginning of the 2020 2021 School Year, each public high school and public charter high school must offer at least one rigorous, standards based computer science course. The course is to be made available in a traditional classroom setting, in a dual enrollment course, blended learning environment, online based, or other technology based format tailored to meet the needs of each participating student.

Beginning in the 2020 2021 School Year, the Department of Education shall:

(1) employ one experienced full time employee whose sole responsibility is to coordinate and lead the South Carolina Computer Science Education Initiative;
(2) support K 12 academic and computer science teachers in designing interdisciplinary, project based instruction and assignments that engage students in applying literacy, math, and computational thinking skills to solve problems;
(3) design career pathways that connect students to postsecondary programs, degrees, or postsecondary credentials in such high demand career fields as cybersecurity, information systems, informatics, graphic design, computer engineering, and software development;
(4) offer professional development and teacher endorsements to new teachers who will teach computer science;
(5) provide information and materials which identify emerging career opportunities in computer science and related fields to parents, students, teachers, and guidance counselors; and
(6) assist districts in developing partnerships with business, industry, higher education, and communities to provide afterschool and extracurricular activities that engage students in computer science.

By August 1, 2021, the State Department of Education shall develop a technology plan that addresses wireless Internet access for all public schools and must provide a report to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the Senate.

Statewide Assessment Program Revisions

The legislation removes summative assessments not required by federal accountability law. This includes eliminating the eighth grade science assessment, all grades 3-8 social studies assessments, and the United States History end-of-course assessment.

Early Childhood

The Office of First Steps and the State Department of Education (SDE) must provide a report to the General Assembly regarding how to increase the number of children attending state-funded four-year-old kindergarten programs.

Read to Succeed Initiative Enhancements

The State Board of Education is charged with approving no more than five reliable and valid early literacy and numeracy screening assessment instruments for selection and use by school districts in kindergarten through third grade.

Assessments must be given at the beginning of the school year. For students who need additional assistance, the screening will also occur during the middle and end of the school year. Assessment results must be reported to the State Department of Education which is responsible for monitoring student progress.

Read to Succeed are revised to require that districts provide appropriate in-class intervention until all students are at grade level.

Students are to be retained if their SC Ready scores are at the “Does Not Meet” level. This is more rigorous than the current “Not Met 1” level.

The reading portfolio exemption for retention is strengthened.
When exemptions from retention are granted because of appeals by students’ parents or guardians, school districts are required to report on the number of appeals made, the number granted, and the outcome of the students whose appeals are successful.

More specific job duties and position requirements are established for reading coaches.

The State Department of Education must screen and approve reading coaches for districts where more than one-third of the students score at the lowest achievement level.

Early childhood, elementary, and special education teachers must pass a test regarding reading instruction before they can be certified.

Professional development required for compliance with Read to Succeed must be offered at no cost by the school districts.

The Commission on Higher Education and the Learning Disorders Taskforce are charged with examining the effectiveness of teacher education programs in regard to diagnosing and assisting students with reading difficulties.

Transition into Higher Education and Workforce Opportunities

The legislation provides for an expansion of dual enrollment opportunities so that students who want to go to college already have at least one year of college credit by creating a uniform, statewide credit articulation agreement between K-12 and higher education. The Advisory Committee on Academic Programs is required to develop a statewide dual enrollment articulation agreement that will replace all locally created agreements between K-12 and higher education.

Students desiring an Education Lottery scholarship must, in addition to existing requirements, take a math and English course during their senior year of high school to maintain these skills prior to entering college.

The legislation emphasizes an accountability system that should let parents know if schools are successful in preparing students for eventual success in college or on the job. To further this effort, the State Department of Education must continuously monitor student progress in grades K-12, and provide parents and students with lexile and quantile scores derived from assessments. In addition to using Lexile and Quantile scores, high school equivalency assessment thresholds may also serve as common admission scores to technical colleges. A test in an English/language arts and mathematics course may be used to satisfy the requirement. A test for every course is not required.

The legislation revises and updates the Education and Economic Development Act (EEDA). The State Department of Education, the Technical College System, the Commission on Higher Education, the Department of Commerce, and the Department of Employment and Workforce must collaborate to ensure that workforce needs are aligned with career pathways and K-12 curriculum.

High schools or career centers must have a minimum of three career pathways, with at least one pathway in a high-skill, high-demand area. Pathways must be reviewed every three years and updated as needed. School districts must coordinate with each other to ensure student access to multiple pathways. Upon Department approval of bus routes, districts may provide transportation for students.

The State Board for Technical and Comprehensive Education (SBTCE) must establish, and technical colleges must recognize, common admission scores. (Scores may be differentiated for certain programs of study.) Students who do not meet the minimum admission score should be encouraged to enter a noncredit program that awards a national recognized business or industry credential. Education Lottery Tuition Assistance is available for individuals who enroll in a noncredit, credential awarding program provided they enroll within seven years of the first time they entered the ninth grade.

Incentives for Teachers and Educator Development and Satisfaction

The state’s minimum teacher salary is increased to thirty five thousand dollars.

The legislation provides that no tuition may be charged for a period of four school years by any state supported college or university or any state supported vocational or technical school for children of full time certified classroom teachers with at least five years of teaching service who are employed in schools that have an absolute rating of unsatisfactory for at least three of the previous four years. The teacher must serve as a full time classroom teacher during the time the child is receiving the tuition free higher education. The benefit is retained even if the school’s academic performance improves.

An income tax credit is established that covers all of the property taxes paid for five years on a residence for a K-12 public school teacher who lives and teaches is a county designated as a Tier IV economically distressed county.

In order to better understand the demands of the 21st century workplace, public school teachers who work in grades 6-12 are encouraged to become interns for up to 80 hours per year. Employers who hire teachers for these summer internships are eligible for a $2,000 tax credit for each teacher they employee.

The board of trustees of a local school district may authorize the daily mileage reimbursement of a teacher who must travel more than twenty five miles each way between home and school. This reimbursement may not exceed the existing federal rate.

Local school boards of trustees may establish policies allowing teachers to enroll their children in the schools where they teach regardless of the student’s zoned area of attendance, and if space is available at the receiving school.

Each classroom teacher and full time librarian is entitled to at least a thirty minute daily planning period free from the instruction and supervision of students. Each school district may set flexible or rotating schedules for the implementation of this duty free planning period. Implementation may not, however, result in a lengthened school day.

The legislation includes provisions for colleges and universities to create alternative teacher preparation programs that are not nationally accredited. Such programs must, however, provide specifically mandated evidence of effectiveness.

The State Board of Education must review educator preparation programs at least once every five years.
The SDE must provide each teacher preparation program with information regarding the performance of its graduates. The programs are required to protect the confidentiality of the data, and the information is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

To provide for accountability in teacher preparation programs, both traditional and alternative, the legislation creates the South Carolina Teacher Preparation Report Card to examine the number of students completing the program, the performance of teacher candidates on basic skills examinations, and the effectiveness of the programs’ graduates in the classroom setting.

The existing teacher satisfaction survey currently administered is now statutorily required. Results must be complied, analyzed, and reported for each school and district. This data should be shared with policy makers on a yearly basis, and the Department will publish those results on its website.

Enhanced Accountability

Assistance for students in underperforming schools

The legislation reinforces accountability act provisions regarding assistance for struggling schools or districts.
Local school boards with below average or unsatisfactory performance records are required to establish renewal plans that must be approved by the State Board of Education. These plans must include professional growth plans for teachers and principals. A report on the assistance provided to the schools must be provided to the General Assembly on a yearly basis. Stakeholder groups that include mental health, social services, and law enforcement must be asked for input into renewal plans.

When a school receives an overall rating of unsatisfactory for three out of four years, the school is considered to be ‘chronically underperforming’ and one of the following must occur:
(1) the school will be reconstituted immediately after the end of the school year in which the annual report is published; and:
(a) the State Superintendent shall make all personnel decisions for the reconstituted school and shall have the authority to determine whether to terminate the principal, faculty, and staff;
(b) the State Superintendent of Education shall hire the new principal and staff for the reconstituted school if necessary; and
(c) the department shall contract with a public or nonprofit entity that has a proven record of success in working with underperforming schools and districts. The entity shall use research based strategies to assist schools with their operations and oversee the administration of the school until the overall rating of the school improves; provided, if the overall rating does not improve within three years then the school either must be restarted under the management of a high performing charter management organization selected by the State Superintendent of Education or must be governed by the South Carolina Transformation School District, and all state, local and federal funds generated by the students must follow the students to the charter management organization or to the South Carolina Transformation School District;
(2) the school must be closed and restarted under the management of an existing charter school authorizer or a nonprofit educational management organization selected by the State Superintendent; provided, if the school is a Title I school, the Department of Education will award competitive grants as authorized under federal law to support these new schools and all state, local and federal funds generated by the students follow the students to the charter school authorizer or to the educational management organization. The authorizer or management organization has the authority to terminate any and all employees of the school and hire employees at its discretion; or
(3) the school must be closed and its students must be transferred to higher performing schools in the district.

The South Carolina Transformation School District is established as part of State Department of Education to operate and manage unsatisfactory schools.

The Superintendent of Education is directed to utilize lower child to teacher ratios as a strategy to assist chronically unsatisfactory schools.

The legislation establishes a school district consolidation protocol which provides that, before August 1, 2023, local school districts whose kindergarten through grade twelve student population is less than one thousand, and where greater than fifty percent of the students attend schools whose report card ratings are below average or unsatisfactory, shall be merged with a district in the same county in which it is located.

School Board Ethics Provisions

The State Board of Education must adopt a model code of ethics that shall be adopted by local districts by July 1, 2020.

A person may not serve on a local school board if a family member is employed by the district as a superintendent, principal, assistant principal, or member of the district administrative staff. This requirement may be waived for districts with a student population under 3,000.

School board members may not their position for personal or family advantage. Expectations for board members are codified.

The State Ethics Act, including the requirement to file a statement of economic interest, is applied to local board members.

Local school boards must adopt an annual training programs for members that includes instruction on school law, ethics, school finance, nepotism, board relations, and conflicts of interest. Completion of the training must be reported to, and retained by the State Department of Education.

In addition to other statutory authority relating to the removal of officers, the Governor may remove a member of a school district board of trustees in a case involving fraud, misappropriation of funds, nepotism, violation of election or procurement laws, or a combination of these.

A protocol is established that allows board members to be removed by the Governor if the district loses accreditation for school governance reasons.

Cost-Benefit Analysis of Federal Programs and Grants

The Legislative Audit Council is directed to study publish a report by August 1, 2020, identifying and detailing federal funding streams for programs and grants in elementary and secondary education in this state in total and breaking out the cost of overhead, compliance, and reporting incurred by the State Department of Education, school districts, and local schools.

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Christian Business Expo – March 14th

At least year’s Irmo Community Prayer Breakfast , I met two ladies who shared something I had never heard before. Our community would be host to an upcoming expo of local Christian Businesses.

With the event just one week away, I wanted to be sure the community knew the details!

The Christian Business Expo coming up Thursday, March 14 from 10-4pm at Saluda Shoals River Center. The event has partnered with HIS Radio, and organizers tell me they are looking forward to a good response in bringing the community of christian business owners together from across the state of SC.

Thank you Jenn Williams for keeping me informed!

The Weekly Rewind – March 1st


This week started with the General Assembly honoring the Clemson Tigers winning the 2018 national football championship. As we’ve done previously for Clemson football (and for Carolina in baseball and women’s’ basketball), we invited head coach Dabo Swinney to address the body. His comments were on the importance (and effectiveness) of unity in order to get things done. It was a good reminder this week as my colleagues and I continue to debate the transformational education reform bill that’s moving through the House, and as we will soon begin discussions regarding this year’s budget .

Everyone knows I’m a Gamecock (alum and fan); but I can appreciate what “that University in the Upstate” has done. I guess I also appreciate it more since my grandfather (J.D.Winburn) was at Clemson when it was an all-male school. He passed away years ago; but my grandmother turned 96 last month and I know she enjoys watching her Tigers!

Education Reform Bill is on the Move

Momentum continues to build in support of the S.C. Career Opportunity and Access for All Act (H.3759) . While I still have not lent my name as a cosponsor (there are currently 96 out of 124 House Members who have), the bill has been amended to better address concerns from our teachers, administrators, and parents.. This week the bill was reported out of the full education committee and is expected to be debated on the House floor next week (by the way, that’s the time you read this article in The New Irmo News since they run a week behind). We have received input from teachers, parents, students, and the business community and listened. Because of this expansive participation, many feel we have a stronger, better bill with the foundations of bold reform. I believe this collaboration goes to show we can all agree that education needs fundamental reforms like raising teacher pay, teaching our children to read, testing less and teaching more, consolidating small school districts so they run more efficiently, and creating accountability for school boards. (Long run-on sentence there, huh?) These important reforms form the foundation for the bill. Presently South Carolina ranks 24th in per pupil spending, yet we are last in student achievement. This will change in the years ahead.

Tax Reform Update

The Tax Committee, a bipartisan committee appointed by the Speaker last year, met again this week to continue discussions on a reform bill. The committee is preparing to report a bold plan that will reduce income taxes and broaden the base of sales taxes resulting in much fairer tax rates across the board for all South Carolinians. I do not believe there will enough time for this bill to pass both chambers before June; but I believe next year we could finally see changes. I have previously served on this committee years ago; but became frustrated when special interests would continue to try to carve a place for their exemptions instead of paying their share like you and me.

Other Legislative News

    Opioid Education

I again supported legislation that will aid in the ability fight against the opioid epidemic in S.C. We are hopeful that the Senate will pass, and Gov. McMaster will soon sign into law the requirement that coroners and medical examiners be given expanded career education so that they can better identify deaths that are caused by opioid overdoses.

    Serving SC Veterans

I was proud to support legislation that will improve the chain of command in the Division of Veteran Affairs. Just last week, Gov. Henry McMaster was joined by veterans, members of the General Assembly, and S.C. Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Van McCarty in supporting our effort to make the South Carolina Division of Veterans Affairs a standalone cabinet agency. (Currently, the Division of Veterans Affairs is housed under the Department of Administration.)

    Deer Hunting

Many know that I took up hunting four years ago. I post about it during deer season and have been fortunate to harvest nice bucks the past few seasons (mounted on the wall of my office at home). The more I’m in the outdoors and around hunters, the more I learn and the better able I am to help when these bills come up for debate. This week, I supported efforts to simplify our hunting laws in S.C., specifically the rules governing the S.C. Hunting License and a Big Game permit. Currently, permits allow three unrestricted individual antlered deer tags and eight date-specific individual antlerless deer tags which are valid only on specified days. This bill provides, instead, that a resident receives, in addition to the three antlered deer tags, two antlerless deer tags that are not date-specific with the purchase of a hunting license and permit. As a result, the bill eliminates any reference to the minimum number of days for the taking of antlerless deer in Game Zones 1, 2, 3, and 4.

    Good News for SC Tourism

For the sixth consecutive year tourism in SC has shown record growth. 2017 generated a record economic impact of $22.6 billion, an increase of $1.4 billion from 2016. Tourism growth in the state has increased 50% increase since 2010, according to the SC Parks & Recreation Division. We are fortunate to have Miram Atria, right here in our community, who – along with with her team at – have contributed significantly to this growht!

    Stat of the Week

South Carolina is currently one of only fourteen states with a AAA credit rating according to Moody’s. Our debt level is 0.39% of state revenues which is considerably lower than our constitutionally set limit of 5%. Don’t worry though, I’m not in favor of any bond bills again this year.

Thanks again for taking the time to read these columns each week from my deskmate (Representative Chip Huggins) and myself. We rotate each week and want to be sure everyone in House District 85 and 71 hear from their elected official! As always, you can stay more informed each week by visitng my website and by also emailing me to be added to the monthly COMMUNITY UPDATE email distribution. Look in your emails next week for March’s update!

2019-2020 Budget proposed by House Ways and Means Committee

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

Since Republicans became the majority party in the S.C. House of Representatives in 1995, more than $42 billion has been returned to taxpayers. These tax cuts and rebates have taken the form of:

• $220 million that residential homeowners deduct annually from taxes they would have paid for school operating expenses.
• $217 million that seniors in our state save every year in homestead exemption taxes.
• $650 saved on average per family per year since we completely eliminated the tax on groceries.
• $108 million that married couples save annually because we eliminated the marriage penalty that married couples had to pay when filing their taxes jointly.
• $5 million students save every year since we reduced college tuition for instate students.
• $52 million last year alone that small businessmen and women save each year in lower unemployment insurance costs – the largest rate cut ever.

Because of our fiscally conservative budgeting, South Carolina is currently one of only fourteen states with a AAA credit rating according to Moody’s. Our debt level is 0.39% of state revenues which is significantly lower than our constitutionally set limit of 5%.

In addition to efficiently funding the normal core functions of government, this year we are making substantive investments in education and workforce development. We have prioritized public and higher education not only because we owe it to our students, but also to ensure our students are better prepared for the workforce and to fill the 72,000 technical jobs currently vacant in our state. We believe that a good education provides the foundation every man, woman, and child needs to have their own chance to succeed in our state’s new prosperity.

Serving on the House Ways and Means Committee (a/k/a “the budget committee”) these past 3 years has provided me valuable insight into the awesome responsibility of investing and prioritizing your tax dollars to achieve the best results for our state.

The following are a few of the highlights of the 2019-2020 fiscal year budget:

• Nearly $160 million to provide every teacher a pay raise, helping to ensure that we recruit and retain the very best teachers. 30% of the budget surplus from last year will be devoted to raising teacher pay.
• $44 million to colleges in exchange for an agreement to freeze the cost of tuition for in-state undergrad students.
• Nearly $68 million for improvements to workforce partnership programs in technical colleges, including funding for training new workers and purchasing new workforce equipment.
• $10 million to start the effort to put a school resource officer in every school.
• $2.2 million to begin giving schools access to the services of a mental health counselor.
• State Aid to Classrooms that will increase average per pupil spending to $3,840.
• $20 million for new textbooks and updated student instruction materials.
• $19 million for new school buses to replace South Carolina’s aging school bus fleet with newer, more fuel-efficient models.
• $85 million for the Rural Infrastructure Plan that will bring jobs and investment to the state’s poorest rural school districts.
• $100 million for maintenance, renovation, and capital needs for our state’s four-year colleges and two-year campuses.

• $50 million for health insurance rate increases for state employees.
• $5.5 million for the Children’s Health Insurance Program. These funds will bring S.C. up to the southeastern average and enable more children to have health insurance coverage.
• $6 million to combat the opioid crisis through education and treatment programs.
• More than $10 million to provide key DSS support workers a pay raise, an increase from $12/hour to $13/hour.

• $4.4 million to provide law enforcement and firefighters a pay raise.
• $42 million to provide state employees an across the board 2% pay raise.

• With the surplus money in the budget this year every taxpayer will receive a one-time refund.

• $40 million for new voting machines to ensure our election process is secure and fair.

Clarification on teacher raises / Update on H.3759

As H.3759 continues to move its way through committee and be amended based on feedback from many, I thought it important to share this from the State Department of Education.

“Districts will receive funding for all teachers in the applicable PCS position codes regardless of whether they are within the 23 years listed in the state minimum salary schedule. If a district has a teacher with 30 years of experience, the district will still receive funding for them from the funding appropriated for the salary increase. The funding received for that 30 year teacher will be the same as the funding they receive for the teacher with 23 years of experience

All teachers regardless of years of service will receive the 4%. Confusion apparently stems from the fact that teacher with 23+ years do not also get the annual 2% step increase.”

Other pertinent information regarding amendments to original bill:

The bill was amended Thursday morning & unanimously passed out of the K-12 subcommittee. It now heads to the full House Education Committee where it can be further amended before heading to the House Floor for full debate. I expect this debate to be BEFORE We begin the budget on March 11th.

Many of the most controversial provisions have been amended, including:

• Teacher of the Year has been added to State Board of Education.
• Clarifying K-3 screening to occur only 1x per year if student passes initial screening.
• Added Read to Succeed professional development must be offered free-of-charge to teachers by districts.
• Deleting a provision that would allow high-performing schools to hire noncertified teachers to teach subjects they have real-world experience in.
• Deleted the study of pay bands.
• Instead of automatic termination of staff at “unsatisfactory” schools for 3 years, the superintendent will terminate with discretion.
• Added a teacher bill of rights.
• Clarified 8th grade science end of course test also to be eliminated.
• Reinstated parents’ rights to appeal a school’s decision to retain 3rd grader for not being on reading grade level.
• Deleted part of the bill that could have led to jail time for school board members who fail to attend mandatory training. The bill would still allow those school board members to be fined.
• Changed “tsar” to “executive director” for 0-20 Committee.