Last week we ended the first year of the two-year session.
Several major issues were debated and some will be carried over to January 2014. The Senate did not debate government restructuring, creating the Department of Administration or Obamacare.
The budget came back to the House from the Senate with several amendments.
One amendment directs $10 million of the $25 million the House originally passed for Consumer Protection/Cyber Security to be used to begin necessary information security structural improvements within state government.
The remaining $15 million will be used to provide an additional year(s) of consumer protection services free of charge to affected citizens.
Also, included in an amendment is the data breach notification.
Affected persons must be notified within 72 hours, with only the Attorney General approving any delay requested by law enforcement.
Under education the budget increased funding for instructional materials for K-12 education by over $21 million.
The House Budget allocated $36 million to the IDEA Program (special needs students) to "backfill" a loss in federal funding that was being withheld.
The Federal Court has since ruled that the Federal Government cannot continue to withhold those funds, and as such the state will no longer have to backfill the program with state appropriations after this budget.
A Senate amendment added an additional $5 million for school bus purchases bringing the total to $15.5million.
We expect the House and Senate conference committee to work out a compromise by June 18when the Legislature will return.
Election Reform (S. 2) came back to the House with amendments from the Senate.
I agreed with most of the Senate amendments including:
• The eight county boards of elections and registration that are not currently combined are not forced to combine.
• The political parties will still "certify" candidates to the state elections commission prior to them being placed on the ballot. The parties may only refuse to certify a candidate if the candidate does do not meet the Constitutional or statutory requirements for the office they are seeking.
• Errors and omissions related to filing that do not involve a Constitutional or statutory qualification for the office is to be construed in a manner that favors placing the candidate's name on the ballot.
Unfortunately the Election Reform bill as amended now removes the language that requires the filing of the Statement of Economic Interest (SEI) “When registering as a candidate for public office” and inserts language that requires the candidate to file prior to assuming their official duties. This does not provide full disclosure to the voters prior to the election.
The SEI is a very important document for candidates on local, state, and federal levels. It provides for full disclosure. Because the filing prior to the election was removed, I was unable to support this bill. Filing after an election does not provide full disclosure about the candidate.
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 (803) 734-2951 or email me at email@example.com.