I again attended several subcommittee meetings last week.
The Higher Education Subcommittee met to debate and take testimony on my Veterans Tuition bill. One presenter provided some good ideas, and we adjourned debate until I could draft an amendment to include several of his ideas.
We hope to have the amendment soon and meet again in a few weeks.
House Speaker Bobby Harrell said this week that the first weeks of the legislative session were like a duck on the water. Above water, everything looked nice and smooth, but below the water, everything was moving fast.
In the span of the three legislative days, there were 24 House legislative committee meetings to advance legislation.
This week, we approved a bill that puts our state’s opposition to the "Obamacare" state health exchanges in state law. In last November’s elections, voters told us unequivocally to oppose the implementation of "Obamacare."
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled the states have the option to reject the Medicaid expansion and reject the healthcare exchanges. My colleagues and I have made a commitment to support and uphold both of those Supreme Court rulings.
The House Caucus Ethics Study Committee gave preliminary approval to recommendations on restructuring our ethics enforcement system. I’ll write more about this when all of the details are finalized, but in a nutshell, investigations into ethics complaints will be done by the Public Integrity Unit in the Attorney General’s office and findings of fact will be given back to the appropriate ethics body.
In the case of the House and Senate, the constitution currently requires each body’s ethics committee to be the final adjudicator, so the Public Integrity Unit will forward its findings to the committees.
If any findings of a criminal nature are found, the PIU would report them to the AG.
The committee also recommended that a constitutional amendment be approved abolishing the House and Senate ethics committees. That will take a two-thirds vote of the House and Senate, and then be put before the voters in 2014.
The final details of the ethics reform legislation have not been finished and more recommendations are coming. This week’s restructuring of the investigation procedures, coupled with last month’s overhaul of the membership and structure of the House Ethics Committee, is a major move toward reforming the ethics watchdog functions. Our ethics laws are some of the strictest in the country, but they have not been updated since they were first approved in the early 1990s.
The House Republican Caucus has approved measures shortening the legislative session in every session since voters gave Republicans control of the House in 1994. Some of those proposals were ambitious. All of them, such as the bill last year that shortened the legislative session by a single week, have died in the S.C. Senate.
This year’s bill cuts the first month and last month off of one of the longest legislative sessions in the country. If approved by the General Assembly, the session will begin on the second Tuesday of February instead of the second Tuesday in January.
The session will end on the first Thursday in May instead of the first Thursday in June.
As always, thank you for the privilege of serving you in Columbia. If I can ever be of assistance to you, or if you have ideas on issues you want me to share with the rest of the General Assembly, please don’t hesitate to contact me at 553-9288 or at the State House at (803) 734-2951, or email me at email@example.com.