The first half of the 122nd Session of the South Carolina General Assembly is now adjourned until January, when we will reconvene for the second half of this Session.
Several of the controversial issues we dealt with this year got some coverage but I wanted to share my personal perspective on what has been going on in Columbia.
First, let me say that serving in the legislature has been a great honor for me. In addition to being a member of the House, the Speaker has asked me to serve on the Medical, Military, and Municipal Affairs committee. Every day when I enter the House chamber I am struck by the awesome responsibility the voters have placed on me.
Without a doubt, the issue that has gotten the most attention has been the terrible condition of our state roads. For decades, our roads have deteriorated and have been largely neglected by the legislature. One of my main goals in running for office was to change the way the legislature ignores important issues until the problem has gotten completely out of control.
Unfortunately, after years of neglect, our roads have become not only an obstacle to business but also a serious safety hazard. The leadership’s solution was to take more money from ordinary citizens with higher taxes while still allowing other aspects of the government burden to expand.
The problem with this approach is that it simply throws more money around but fails to adopt significant reforms of the Department of Transportation. Without these reforms, you can be sure that we will back in a decade (or less), still struggling with the same institutional flaws and our roads will still be in need of repair.
Despite all the lobbying and debating about the roads, however, there was another issue that got less attention but was even more controversial, more complex, and a far bigger threat to the state budget. To be frank, our state pension system is a rolling train wreck which has the potential to wreak havoc on state finances.
Like the roads, the state pension system has been neglected and ignored for decades. Now the bill is coming due, and taxpayers are facing a multi-billion dollar shortfall most didn’t even know existed.
What makes this issue so difficult is that we have to craft a plan to rescue South Carolina taxpayers from the shortfall without jeopardizing the retirements of teachers and other state employees. While this is a work in progress, the plan I supported increases the investment made by both employer and employee. This will help shore up our pension system and set us down the path of fiscal solvency. Currently, we have a special committee reviewing the issue and I am certain we will continue working on this issue for years to come.
On the pro-Life front, I was proud to be the lead sponsor of the Personhood Act which legally establishes that life begins at conception and ends abortion. I also supported the dismemberment bill to stop children still in the womb from being torn limb-from-limb, and I sponsored a budget proviso to help defund the abortion industry by prohibiting the use of tax money from being spent to purchase body parts of aborted babies.
The House also passed the NRA-backed Constitutional Carry bill, similar to that adopted in other states, to expand protection for our 2nd Amendment rights. I was proud to be a co-sponsor of this bill and am encouraging my colleagues in the Senate to pass it.
We all watched in horror as the tragic details of the Kohlhepp murders have played out. As a licensed real estate agent, I consider it vital that we have protections for our citizens. That’s why I supported legislation to require regular, in-depth criminal background checks of all real estate agents.
It is a great honor for me to represent our district in the General Assembly. I believe our state prospers when the burden of government on our families and businesses is limited and our rights are protected.
I hope you have found this brief update helpful. If you have any questions or concerns please let me know.