I hope you’ve had a great start to your summer!! The legislature completed the 2019 session a few weeks ago and I wanted to give you an update on some of the highlights. This year, I was appointed to the Education & Public Works Committee and the Regulations & Administrative Procedures Committee. I was also selected to chair the Public Safety subcommittee.
South Carolina has a biennial legislative session which means anything not completed this year will continue as active legislation through 2020. After that, all legislation and committee assignments reset and must be re-filed starting in 2021.
Here are a few noteworthy legislative issues and what happened with them this year:
The central topic of discussion in the legislature this year was education reform and as a member of the House Education & Public Works committee I was actively involved in the debate. Throughout Spartanburg county we are fortunate to have some of the best schools and the best teachers, however in other parts of the state challenges remain.
Currently we are facing a statewide teacher shortage, which we have moved to correct, but even our best teachers are often burdened with complying with excessive regulations when they should be focused on teaching. Our state, as a whole, ranks near last in national education results, which causes some policy-makers to advocate for even more spending. However we are already 24th in spending and education consumes well over half of the total state budget.
This tells me that simply spending more money will not solve the problem.
We held many hearings on education reform and I listened to hours of testimony from a variety of experts and concerned citizens. I met with our school district leadership and spoke with several local teachers to get as much information as I could about this important issue. The primary objectives of the reform efforts were to reduce unnecessary state mandated testing, increase teacher compensation, and increase transparency and accountability in our schools and districts. We also focused on ensuring that young children are taught how to read, as that is the foundation for future learning. If young students aren’t taught to read well, they are seriously handicapped as they enter high school.
I was proud to cosponsor this bipartisan reform bill and help it pass the House. Currently, the bill is sitting in the Senate waiting for them to take action.
Our economy is booming and our state is growing rapidly. As a result, each year’s budget is larger than the last. As in previous years, I decided to vote against the final budget because it failed to fund our priorities the way that it should. That being said, I believe this years budget to be better than some previous versions and, unlike the Federal government, our state has a balanced budget. We are also one of only 14 states with a AAA credit rating from Moody’s, which is a testament to our financial stability.
Although it is impossible to summarize the entire 500+ page budget in this letter, here are a few items of note:
- $67,000,000 for a taxpayer rebate
- $159,000,000 for an across-the-board teacher pay increase
- $19,000,000 for safer, more efficient school buses to replace aging models
- $66,000,000 in better pay for law enforcement, firefighter, and other state employees
- $40,000,000 for new voting machines to ensure secure, honest, and fair elections
- $10,000,000 to fund more school resource officers to better protect students
Selling Santee Cooper
One of the first bills that I cosponsored when I was elected just over 2-years ago was a bill to sell the state-owned utility Santee Cooper and use the proceeds to fund road repairs as well as our state pension fund. I am extremely happy to report that we passed legislation this year to proceed with a bidding process for Santee Cooper. This does not guarantee a final sale, but it is the first step in achieving that goal. We will revisit the issue next year to review bids and make a final decision.
Opposing Liberal Billionaire Incentives
You probably heard earlier this year about the proposal to give a multi-million dollar subsidy to the owner of the Charlotte Panthers professional football team to subsidize relocating their training facility to York, South Carolina. In the past the Panthers have leased existing space at Wofford for their training. I was one of the few legislators who stood in opposition to the tax subsidies for this project. The NFL is a multi-billion dollar entity and team owners are billionaires themselves. Not to mention the fact that many in the NFL disrespect our President, our nation, and our history.
The economic impact estimates were highly inflated and amounted to corporate welfare. Needless to say, I don’t believe the modest benefits of this project warrant an incentive package. Despite my objections, the majority saw fit to give the money away anyway.
This year we had a big win for the prolife movement! I worked with several of my colleagues and cosponsored 2 strong pro-life bills: the Personhood bill and the Heartbeat bill. The Heartbeat bill is similar to those passed in other states and simply establishes that when a heartbeat is detected the life is protected. We were successful in getting it passed in the House. Currently, we are waiting on the Senate to take action. If it is signed into law it will be the strongest pro-life law we have enacted! I’m also pleased to inform you that we were successful in defunding Planned Parenthood in our state budget, however we are currently fighting the legal battle in court over it.
Earlier this year I had the pleasure to meet and talk with Art Laffer, the brilliant author of Reagan’s supply-side economics. I learned a lot from our visit and I am inspired to redouble my efforts to simplify our tax code and reduce the tax burden. South Carolina’s tax system is convoluted, confusing, and in desperate need of reform.
I am aware that House leaders are already working on at least one serious proposal for next year but, as the old adage goes, the devil is in the details. I assure you I will review this proposal thoroughly before I decide whether or not to support it.
Second Amendment Rights
I cosponsored several bills to expand gun rights in South Carolina including open carry and constitutional carry. South Carolina is one of only 5 states that doesn’t allow open carry. This puts us on par with liberal states like California and New York. Unfortunately, the debate on gun rights became overshadowed by a personality dispute between other representatives. This was very disappointing to me. Instead of having a debate about the merits of the legislation it became a debate about “decorum”. We were, however, able to stop any anti-gun bills from moving forward this year which is a good thing. Sometimes it’s not about what you’re getting done, it’s about what you’re helping stop. And I am committed to stopping any bill that infringes on your second amendment rights.
Defending Southern Heritage
While the topic of Southern Heritage might not make front page news it is still an issue that warrants attention. Historical revisionists are targeting not only Southern Heritage, but also American Heritage. That’s why I sponsored a preemptive bill (H3749) to ensure the historical and factual accuracy of inscriptions on historical monuments and markers.
There was also an attempt to eliminate the War Between the States Heritage Trust, raid the coffers which are around $180,000 and spend it on other projects. I worked behind the scenes to stall this legislation and stop that from happening.
Some of the other legislation I worked on included a crackdown on DUI offenders, supporting veterans, reform to local government funding, Move Over tow truck operator safety, and much more. Unfortunately, most of the good things accomplished in Columbia go unnoticed by the media. You can always view all legislation and check my voting record on the State House website: www.SCStateHouse.gov
It truly is a tremendous honor to represent you in the State House. If you have any questions or concerns about legislation, or if I can ever be of assistance, please feel free to email me at StevenLong@SCHouse.Gov or text/call me on my personal cell phone at 864-978-3104.
Thank you and God bless,
Steven W Long