Overview of the week:
We have been hard at work in Columbia this week in committees focusing on the 500 bills that crossed the desk the first day of session. There are over 70 bills in education and well over 100 bills in judiciary alone. In the chamber this week, I joined my fellow House members in unanimously supporting legislation to exempt federal workers in SC from being penalized for not paying their property taxes on time while the federal government is shut down.
The House approved and sent the Senate H.3630, a joint resolution that provides a three-month EXTENSION IN REAL PROPERTY TAX PENALTIES FOR WORKERS LEFT UNPAID DURING THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN. For property taxes due on January 15, 2019, this legislation provides a three-month delay in the penalty schedule for unpaid property taxes and assessments that applies to real property owners who are federal government employees who have not been paid their salaries since the shutdown began on December 21, 2018. The extension also applies to federal government contractors who have lost a substantial portion of their income because of the shutdown.
The House Energy Caucus, led by Chairman Nathan Ballentine, heard testimony from solar power advocates Thursday morning. Net metering is an incentive for solar panel users to send any energy they don’t use back to the grid. That energy can be used by other people. A credit is sent back to those solar panel users. Solar power advocates said thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in economic investments could be lost if the Energy Freedom Act isn’t passed in a timely manner. They said, once the net metering cap is met and the bill isn’t passed, it could put a cloud over the future of solar energy in South Carolina.
Lawmakers said the cap will be met in the Upstate sometime in March. “We were completely caught off guard with the whole SCE&G and VC Summer and Santee Cooper situation,” Representative Nathan Ballentine (R-Richland) said. “All of a sudden, we read the paper and 5,000 jobs, 5,000 families were impacted. With this, we’ve been warned since last year that this cap will be reached.”
Spotlight on: What to do with a billion dollars.
Gov. McMaster released his executive budget this week which includes an extra $1 billion of one-time money and tax revenues the state can expect to collect this year. This gives the Legislature $9 billion to address a string of important issues. The House and the Senate will ultimately decide what should be included in the budget.
- Tax Relief: Just because we have extra money does not mean we have to spend it all. Having a surplus of funds gives legislators the opportunity to give money back to South Carolinians in the form of a tax rebate.
- Education: A 5% across-the-board salary increase for South Carolina teachers that brings up the average teacher salary above the southeastern average.
- Economic and Workforce Development: Funding scholarships and grants for students interested in attending technical schools and funding programs that focus on recruiting prospective businesses to SC.
- Ethics: New voting machines with hacker-resistant technology and a paper trail. We are only two years away from the next election and need to make sure we have adequate technology to handle a presidential election.
The House of Representatives approved S.2, relating to the PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE in the South Carolina General Assembly, and enrolled the bill for ratification. The legislation brings state statutes into conformity with the amendments to the South Carolina Constitution approved by voters and ratified in Act 214 of 2014 to allow for the joint election of the Governor and Lieutenant Governor. These changes, which allow a gubernatorial candidate to select a running mate, have also eliminated the legislative duties of the Lieutenant Governor. With the Lieutenant Governor no longer serving as the presiding officer of the Senate, the Senate elects a President from its membership. This legislation amends numerous statutes to reflect the revised roles of these officers.
Make sure you remember to watch the State of the State next week on Wednesday, January 23rd at 7 pm. Governor McMaster will be laying out his legislative plans for the next year live from the House chamber.
Thank you for allowing me to serve you in the South Carolina House of Representatives and please feel free to contact me via email at [email protected] or my 24-hour phone line at 331-8468.