Off Season Report Card

June 21, 2017 in Legislative Updates by Tommy Pope

Even though session is in it’s off season Tommy Pope will be giving updates.

State House Report #18

May 15, 2017 in Legislative Updates by Tommy Pope

Roads Bill Passes, Opioid Task Force, & Sine Die

Sine Die (Latin meaning “without a fixed day”) Adjournment occurred this past Thursday, May 11, 2017, at 5:00 pm and marked the end of this year’s general legislative session. For a bill to have become law this year, it would have needed to pass both legislative chambers by Sine Die. This always adds increased pressure in the final week of legislative session.

While my House colleagues and I passed many significant pieces of legislation this week, the most anticipated action was passage of the bill to fix our roads and bridges. The House and Senate hammered out an agreement that had enough support to pass both legislative bodies. In its final form, the roads bill:

Reforms the Department of Transportation

  • Provides real accountability and transparency at the department of Transportation (public records, mandated meetings, ethical requirements for commissioners)
  • Gives Governor complete control of the Commission with a clear line of authority and at-will removal

Provides Sustainable Long-Term Funding

  • Creates a long-term and sustainable funding stream by increasing the motor fuel user fee by 2 cents/gallon over the next 6 years, not exceeding 12 cents/gallon
  • Safeguards taxpayers from future automatic tax increases by not indexing for inflation
  • Protects SC taxpayers from continuing to solely foot the bill for infrastructure repair by not using General Fund dollars and captures 30% of the motor fuel user fee revenue from out-of-state motorists
  • Creates an Infrastructure Maintenance Trust Fund to ensure all new revenue collected from the motor fuel user fee is used only for existing infrastructure needs
  • Does not increase or change fees for South Carolina driver’s license applications or renewals

Delivers Responsible Offsetting Tax Relief

  • Includes responsible tax relief to offset the user fee increase for South Carolina motorists
  • Offers a refundable income tax credit equal to the motor fuel user fee increase that must be reauthorized prior to 2023
  • Enhances already existing College Tuition Tax Credit for every South Carolina tuition-payer to enhance workforce development

On Tuesday, the House Opioid Abuse Prevention Study Committee held its first meeting since being created by House Speaker Jay Lucas (R-Darlington). This issue affects every community and does not discriminate against race, age, gender, socioeconomic class or profession. “Because opioid abuse is different from other drug addictions, it is most important to consider and study every available option to prevent further damage and loss of life,” said Lucas. The 16-member bipartisan committee was created by Lucas after reports indicated the opioid epidemic was rapidly growing in our state.

The House will come back in a few weeks for a specialized session to vote on the remaining conference reports, including a final budget once the House and Senate have reached a final agreement.

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.

State House Report #16

May 1, 2017 in Legislative Updates by Tommy Pope

Roads Bill Movement, Retirement System Reform Signed By Governor

It’s hard to believe the first year of our two-year legislative session is nearing a final close. It is during these final 6 days of the regular legislative session where consensus is built, and bills make their way to the desk of the governor. For the second week in a row, the clock ticked while the Senate engaged in a contentious debate of the House roads bill. In a break of good news, the Governor also signed 5 new pieces of legislation, chief among them a bill to bring solvency to the public employee retirement system.

The Roads Bill

Addressing the condition of our state’s roads and bridges is the top priority of nearly every legislator in the House and Senate. After two weeks of public debate on the matter, I was pleased to see the Senate give the House roads bill a final vote. At approximately 10:30 p.m. Wednesday night, and after nearly 75 proposed amendments, one final amendment was added to the roads bill by senators and a successful vote for passage was taken.

To be sure, the Senate version is not ideal or perfect – far from it. Many in the Senate would even agree with this conclusion. Among other things, the Senate version of the roads bill doubles driver’s license fees, includes a wealth redistribution element more commonly known as the “Earned Income Tax Credit,” provides tax credits for college students, and almost completely removes the DOT governance model contained in the House version. In keeping with the legislative process, the bill now heads back to the House where we will begin debate on the merits of these Senate changes and work out the policy differences between the two plans.

Public Employee Retirement System

As I have stated before, both the House and Senate reached a legislative agreement on the first phase of the long-term approach to securing the public employee retirement system. This monumental undertaking was a problem created over a number of years, and will take just as many if not more to be fully resolved.
The first step, one that stops unfunded liabilities from increasing, was signed by Governor McMaster this week. The House and Senate will continue work through the summer and winter months to craft the next phase of legislation ensuring the retirement system remains fiscally sound and secure.

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.

State House Report #15

April 24, 2017 in Legislative Updates by Tommy Pope

9 Days

While my colleagues and I have done our part in the House to address education, workforce development, infrastructure, and the public employee retirement system among many other things, the Senate remains stuck in a rut of inaction.  Ours is a part-time legislature meeting Tuesday through Thursday for about 18 weeks out of the year. We’re in our 15th week and only nine regular days of session remain under normal circumstances.

Normally my updates focus entirely on House action, but this week all eyes were trained on the Senate where the upper chamber will decide the fate of the House-passed infrastructure package (a.k.a. the “roads bill”). We began the week with approximately 75 House members gathering to publicly request the Senate take action to fix our dangerous roads and dilapidated bridges. In response, just hours later, the Senate finally began debate on the House roads bill—an encouraging sign.

Unfortunately, senators have so far not reached consensus on a pathway forward. As it stands now, the Senate is again set to take up the roads bill debate next week and I remain hopeful a compromise will be reached.

In the House, my colleagues and I spent time in committees reviewing Senate bills and vetting additional legislation. Next week, we will take up Senate amendments to the budget which passed a number of weeks ago, evaluating each through a lens of fiscal responsibility. The state budget will likely go to a conference committee where additional differences will be ironed out prior to a final vote being taken.

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.

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