A Long Term Infrastructure Solution

Fixing our roads and bridges is one of my top priorities at the State House. In my countless discussions with constituents over the last couple years, the number one topic of conversation has been roads. So, let’s start by agreeing that something has to be done to fix our badly dilapidated roads and bridges.

The most sobering reality in our state today is that people are dying on our roadways and we can prevent much of it. Our state is once again on the wrong end of a national 50-state listing. We lead the nation in traffic fatalities, a sad fact attributed in part to the dilapidated state of our road systems. South Carolina has seen an increase in traffic fatalities of 27% in just the past 3 years alone.

The effort to develop a long-term sustainable solution to fix our dangerous infrastructure began 3 years ago in 2014. A bi-partisan committee developed a proposal utilizing the information provided from a DOT audit. The bill passed the House, but was ultimately blocked in the Senate.

After much input, a new infrastructure bill was put into motion this week that would take an incremental approach to an increased user fee. Motorists who drive on our roads would see a 2 cents per gallon increase each year over the next 5 years. It is important to note that 100% of the additional funding would go solely toward our vast infrastructure needs.  The last time South Carolina increased the per gallon user fee was in 1987 under the leadership of Governor Carroll Campbell. It remains one of the lowest in the country. Since the last increase the cost to pave roads has multiplied without a new source of funding.

The oldest taxpayer watchdog group in South Carolina, The South Carolina Taxpayers Association (SCTA), announced its support for the House measure. SCTA President Don Weaver said, “Well naturally, our membership doesn’t like any tax increase if that were perfect, but we also realize that the roads do need an increase in funding, and so unfortunately the gas tax really is the best way to get that.”

By utilizing a user fee increase (sustained long-term funding paid by anyone buying fuel to drive on SC roads), instead of General Fund money (one-time monies, most of which is collected only from SC citizens via sales or income tax), the new bill would shift the burden from being solely on the backs of SC taxpayers to anyone who uses our roadways – 1/3 of whom are out of state individuals. It’s called a “user fee,” not to try and hide the fact that it’s an increase of revenues, but to highlight the fact it’s a tax only paid by people who buy fuel to drive on our state’s roads.

Those who drive tens of thousands of miles on our roads will pay more because they use them more, and those who drive much less, would pay much less under this plan. The measure is an effort to create a fair user fee for motorists who cause wear and tear on our roads.

In a creative effort to even further shift the burden from SC citizens to out-of-state funding sources, the new legislation places a transfer fee on any out-of-state individuals seeking to register a vehicle for use on our roadways. The concept being, those who use our roads should pay to do so. Currently Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee all have similar measures.

This proposal comes after much study and input from the public. No votes have been cast yet and there will be many opportunities for discussion and debate. I’m asking for your input on the matter. Please feel free to tell me what you think by reaching out on social media, or contact me at derhamcole@schouse.gov or (803) 212-6790. I will also update you as additional details become available in the coming weeks.

As always, 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. Thank you for the privilege to serve you in the State House.

Sincerely,

Rep. J. Derham Cole, Jr.

A Business Plan for 2017

Last week was the first week of the 2017 session for the General Assembly. We returned to Columbia with a long list of issues to tackle and a shorter period of time in which to accomplish the work of the people. A shorter legislative session means savings for taxpayers and forces more efficiency in government. I am thankful for the trust you have placed in me to represent your interests this year in Columbia.

House Republicans issued a Business Plan for 2017 focusing on broad job retention and growth concerns. Each item contained in our business plan directly affects an existing job or a future job. It’s a smaller agenda than we have had in previous years because these are all serious items that will need in-depth debate.

Since voters gave Republicans control of the House in 1994, the most significant legislative achievements originated in the Caucus Agenda items such as: workers’ compensation reform, property tax reform, illegal immigration reform, campaign finance reform, DOT reform, ethics reform and elimination of the Budget and Control Board, among many others.

We have a history of accomplishing our agenda effectively. We plan to do that again this year. This year’s agenda comes in the form of a business plan and includes:

  • Education Reform: Legislation is being written to address issues in our state’s education system that hampers children’s ability to receive the education they should receive. We will fix the law so every child in South Carolina receives a 21st Century education no matter the zip code in which he or she lives. By doing so, we ensure each child is prepared for life in the workforce.
  • Retirement Solvency: It’s no secret our state’s retirement system needs a major course correction, and quickly, as it must continue to meet the needs of our public employees and retirees. South Carolina’s greatest assets are the people who serve the public each and every day, from law enforcement to our teachers. We owe them an adequate retirement, and the promises made to public employees will be kept.
  • Fixing our Roads & Bridges: Last year the House was the only legislative body to pass a comprehensive DOT restructuring/sustainable funding bill. While the Senate came up a few votes shy of passing comprehensive legislation, we have heard the demands from constituents and will re-double our efforts this year to once again pass a meaningful DOT reform/funding bill to address our crumbling infrastructure.
  • Workforce Development: For a period of months, employers have been telling us there is a shortage of skilled workers to fill job openings. We will engage our k-12 education system to give parents the option for students to receive the specialized training necessary for a career in technology, manufacturing, or another field requiring analytical thinking skills.
  • Real Tax Reform: House Speaker Jay Lucas appointed a special committee tasked with updating our existing tax code. The committee is currently designing a proposal that will move us further from an income-based tax code while simultaneously moving toward a consumption-based tax code. The result is a flatter and fairer tax code for all taxpayers.

In the coming weeks, Caucus members will reach out to their constituents and to Republican activists statewide to prioritize the agenda.

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 derhamcole@schouse.gov or at (803) 212-6790.

Roads Bill Passage, Shorter Session, & Sine Die

Sine Die (Latin meaning “without a fixed day”) Adjournment fell on Thursday June 2, 2016 at 5:00pm 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.

The House and Senate will now work over the next week and a half in “Conference Committee” to reach final agreements on bills that passed both chambers but still need the differences between them consolidated into a final version that is acceptable to each body. At that point both chambers will come back to vote on the conference reports. The Governor will have 5 days to issue any vetoes and my colleagues will meet one last time to sustain or override her vetoes.  I will report further after we address the vetoes on June 15.

While my House colleagues and I passed many significant pieces of legislation this week, the most anticipated was a bill to begin funding the needed repairs to our dangerous roads and bridges.

On Tuesday afternoon, Speaker Jay Lucas took the floor to call out the Senate for their lack of action and the Governor for her lack of leadership.  On Tuesday evening the Senate passed a roads bill, and Wednesdayafternoon my House colleagues and I took swift action to give it final passage. After two years and hundreds of hours, the bill now goes to Governor Haley for her signature.

Three key components of Road Funding Bill:

  1. Significantly reformed the Department of Transportation. Before allocating any additional dollars to the broken agency, I joined my conservative colleagues in demanding these reforms.
  2. Allocates up to $4 billion in state dollars which must be used to repair our dangerous roadways, including 399 dilapidated bridges.
  3. Does not raise taxes.

This  year marks the last year that the South Carolina legislature will end in June. Beginning in 2017, the legislative session will be a month shorter than it has historically been ultimately saving the state $350,000 and forcing more efficiency in lawmaking. The measure was strongly approved by both chambers.  The House has passed numerous session-shortening bills over the years, but this is the first time the Senate has agreed.

After several sessions of trying, Rep. Eddie Tallon and I were finally able to get the approval of the General Assembly to close the loophole preventing moped riders from being charged with Driving Under the Influence and similar driving offenses.  The reform was included in a more comprehensive bill related to mopeds.

It is an honor to serve you and your family in the General Assembly.  If you ever find yourself in need of assistance navigating state government, or if you have ideas on issues you want me to share with my colleagues in the House, don’t hesitate to contact me at derhamcole@schouse.gov.

House Passes Final Amendment to Roads Bill

Moves to the Senate for an up or down vote

(Columbia, SC) – House Speaker Jay Lucas (District 65-Darlington) issued the following statement after the House amended the Senate version of the roads bill (H.3579) by an overwhelming vote of 113-6.

“Today, the South Carolina House amended a partial bill and filled in the gaps so that it better provides for the needs of our citizens,” House Speaker Jay Lucas stated.  “The legislative process exists so that the General Assembly can work together to move South Carolina forward, not provide opportunities for political grandstanding. The House’s amendment preserves qualifications and requirements for Highway Commissioners, solidifies the transparency of the State Infrastructure Bank, and removes irresponsible budgeting practices that threaten the stability of our economy.

“The Legislative Audit Council’s report serves as a critical tool for the General Assembly and exposes insufficiencies within SCDOT. Although a majority of the Senate requested this study, they passed their amendment days before it was available and could not rely on its findings as a basis for their reform measures. The House could not in good faith pass the Senate amendment because it falls short of true reform,” Speaker Lucas continued.

Legislative procedure dictates that H. 3579 cannot be amended again.  Upon arrival, the Senate has the option of taking a vote or not taking a vote. The vote decides whether or not to concur or nonconcur.  A vote for concurrence would result in the bill’s passage and then on to the Governor’s desk for signature. Nonoccurrence would result in the formation of a conference committee.

“The Senate now has the responsibility of taking a single up or down vote on this bill. We obviously prefer a vote for concurrence, but welcome the idea of blending our two versions together. Regardless, the most important action here is for the Senate to take a vote and bring us one step closer to fixing our roads. At the end of the day, South Carolinians want progress on this issue and repairing our crumbling infrastructure starts with SCDOT reform.”

Provisions in the House Amendment to H. 3579:

·         Highway Commissioners are appointed by the Governor with the advice and consent of the General Assembly

·         Commission appoints a Secretary of Transportation with advice and consent of the General Assembly, who then serves at the pleasure of the Commission to create a single line of authority from the Governor, to the Commission, to the Secretary.

·         Eliminates the Joint Transportation Review Committee, but retains the required qualifications for Commissioners to ensure appointees have appropriate education and experience. These qualifications and requirements were removed in the Senate amendment.

·         Adopts the State Infrastructure Bank language in the Senate version and requires the entity to follow SCDOT prioritization criteria for projects

·         Removes the irresponsible $400M general fund mandate because it is unreliable. This year’s House passed budget appropriated $415M additional funds to SCDOT, an amount larger than specified in the Senate amendment, and we will continue to give available funds to SCDOT in the future.

·         Addresses the Legislative Audit Council’s concerns expressed in report by placing the SCDOT Chief Internal Auditor under the independent State Auditor

Budget Week Recap

Last week, the House of Representatives amended, approved, and sent the Senate the proposed FISCAL YEAR 2016-2017 STATE GOVERNMENT BUDGET.  The budget includes $7.5 billion in state general funds with $767 million in recurring revenue newly available for appropriation and $597 million in nonrecurring revenue.

$415 million is devoted to the state’s roads.  Of that total, $316 million is appropriated to the State Highway Fund for paving, rehabilitation, resurfacing, and reconstruction of the primary road system, $49 million is allocated to the Department of Transportation to address road repair costs from the October 2015 flood damage, and $50 million in nonrecurring funds is distributed among the County Transportation Committees to use for resurfacing, reconstructing, and repairing roads and bridges in the state‑owned secondary road system.

The Department of Transportation is charged with developing and implementing a needs-based weighting methodology to allocate funding within the state funded road resurfacing program, which must include consideration on a county-by-county basis, to ensure that each county in the state is guaranteed funding.

For K-12 public education, $218 million is used to increase the base student cost by $130 to arrive at an estimated $2,350 per pupil.

The budget legislation makes provisions for a 2% teacher salary increase and a one year step increase for teacher salaries which must be applied uniformly for all eligible certified teachers.

$750 thousand in Education Improvement Act funds is included for teacher supplies.

$19.2 million in recurring funds is allocated for bus driver salary enhancements to address driver shortages.

$7.2 million is provided from the Capital Reserve Fund for purchasing or leasing new school buses along with $6.5 million in Education Lottery funds and $3.5 million in unclaimed lottery prize money.

The K-12 technology initiative is afforded $29.3 million in Education Lottery proceeds.

The State Department of Education is provided $18 million in Education Lottery proceeds for instructional materials.

Education and Economic Development Act initiatives are afforded $10 million in recurring funds.

The State Department of Education is provided $3 million in Education Lottery proceeds for college and career readiness.

$13 million in Education Improvement Act funds is included to address S.C. Public Charter School District growth.

Virtual SC is afforded $1.1 million in recurring funds.

The Governor’s School for Science and Mathematics is provided $1.2 million in recurring funds for its statewide Accelerate Engineering program.

$2.5 million in Education Improvement Act funds is allocated for AdvancED technical assistance.

$1 million in recurring funds is provided for full-day four-year-old kindergarten instructional costs.

$1.5 million from the Capital Reserve Fund is provided to the State Department of Education for a statewide facilities assessment.

$9 million in nonrecurring funds is allocated for school districts that have a poverty index of at least eighty percent to use for teacher recruitment and retention purposes, such as providing signing bonuses or merit bonuses.

$8.25 million in Education Improvement Act funds is included for the rural teacher initiative that allows one year of a teacher’s student loan debt to be forgiven for every two years of teaching in an underserved area.

$16.8 million in nonrecurring funds is included for technical assistance to the Abbeville education lawsuit plaintiff districts and other rural school districts to facilitate online test taking and increase access.

$3 million in Education Lottery funds is provided for mobile device access and management.

$3.1 million in Education Lottery funds is included for efficiency studies in all plaintiff school districts.

Provisions are included for a system of tiers of technical assistance that the State Department of Education provides for low-performing schools which are failing to meet state standards or which have the lowest high school graduation rates.

New provisions are included that authorize the State Superintendent of Education to declare a state of emergency in a school district if the accreditation status is probation or denied, if a majority of the schools fail to show improvement on the state accountability system, if the district is classified as being in “high risk” status financially, or for financial mismanagement resulting in a deficit.  A state of emergency may be declared by the State Superintendent for an individual school if the accreditation status is probation or denied or if the school fails to show improvement on the state accountability system.  Upon declaration of a state of emergency, the State Superintendent of Education may take over management of the school or district, which may include direct management, consolidation with another district, charter management, public/private management, or contracting with an educational management organization or another school district.

In response to multiple reports that have highlighted the cost inefficiencies at the John de la Howe School for at risk youth and the lack of data regarding the impact of the program on student outcomes, the budget legislation includes a provision that temporarily suspends the school’s board of trustees and forms an advisory group, combining representation from the legislature, the Department of Social Services, the Department of Juvenile Justice, the Department of Education, and the Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services, that is charged with recommending an educational, vocational, and life skills training program at the John de la Howe School for older youth who are at risk and who are aging out of foster care or juvenile justice supervisory programs.  In consultation with the advisory group, the Department of Juvenile Justice is directed to procure a contract with a non-profit child-service provider to operate the program.

Full funding is provided for the LIFE, HOPE, and Palmetto Fellows higher education scholarship programs.

Tuition grants are increased by $100 per student for a new maximum grant of $3,100 which provides need-based assistance to students attending eligible independent non-profit in-state colleges.

$5 million in Workforce Scholarships is included to provide grants for tuition, fees, transportation, or textbook expenses to state residents enrolled in a career education program at a technical school or professional certification program.

In higher education, the budget emphasizes an increase in the recurring funding that is directed to the state’s colleges, universities, and technical schools.

Provisions are included for the forgiveness of the $12 million in state loans disbursed to South Carolina State University if the university meets specified benchmarks such as maintaining academic accreditation, maintaining a balanced budget, and meeting enrollment growth goals.  The budget includes a provisions that it is the intent of the General Assembly that the SC State Interim Board of Trustees conduct a national search to hire a permanent President for the university by December 31, 2016.

Provisions are included for the transfer of the Felton Lab from S.C. State University to the S.C. Public Charter School District.

$13.5 million in nonrecurring funds is devoted to worker training through the Ready SC Program at the state’s technical colleges.  $8 million in recurring funds is provided for manufacturing, healthcare, and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) training.  $20 million in nonrecurring funds is provided to the Board of Technical and Comprehensive Education for critical training equipment.

$7 million in recurring funds and $10 million in nonrecurring funds is provided for the Deal Closing Fund that the Department of Commerce uses to recruit new business to the state.  The Department of Commerce is afforded appropriations of $5.4 million in nonrecurring funds for the Locate SC Site Inventory for potential business relocation prospects, $3 million in nonrecurring funds for research initiatives, $500,000 in nonrecurring funds for the Office of Innovation, $500,000  in recurring funds for the SC Manufacturing Extension Partnership, $400,000 in nonrecurring funds for IT-ology Coursepower, $350,000 in recurring funds for the SC Council on Economic Competitiveness, and $300,000 in nonrecurring funds for the US Department of Defense Business Diversification grant match.

$1.5 million in recurring funds is allocated to the Rural Infrastructure Fund that is used to provide grants for water and sewer projects that facilitate economic development in rural areas.  $4.3 million is included for a new Statewide Water and Sewer Fund that allows areas that do not meet the criteria for being considered rural to obtain grants for sewer and water projects that are needed to support economic development.

The Department of Employment and Workforce is allocated $1.8 million in recurring funds for the Certified Work Ready Communities initiative.

A 2% state employee pay increase is provided with $33.4 million in recurring funds.

$25.4 million is included to cover the increased costs of operating the state’s health insurance plan and $1.5 million is included to cover increased dental plan costs with no increases in the premiums paid by employees and no reductions in coverage.

$18.4 million is allocated for retirement contributions increases in the South Carolina Retirement System and the Police Officers Retirement System.

The budget legislation defunds the Retirement System Investment Commissioners by eliminating the commissioners’ salaries.

$28 million is used to fully fund the reserve accounts that the state uses to cope with revenue shortfalls.

The Department of Administration is afforded $9.6 million to implement an information technology disaster recovery plan for all state agencies.

The Local Government Fund is maintained at its $212 million level and a $12.5 million component of the fund which has been comprised of nonrecurring dollars is replaced with recurring dollars so that the fund is entirely made up of recurring revenue.

The Department of Health and Human Services is afforded $129 million in recurring funds to accommodate part of the growth in the state’s Medicaid Program with recurring funding rather than funding from reserve accounts.

$8.5 million in nonrecurring funds is provided for an updated Medicaid Management and Information System.

The budget provides for the continuation of Medicaid Program accountability and quality improvement programs such as: the Healthy Outcomes Initiative for meeting the needs of chronically ill uninsured patients through home visits and care in other settings outside the emergency room; a Primary Care Safety Net utilizing such resources as Federally Qualified Health Centers and free clinics; and efforts to enhance provider capacity in rural and underserved areas.

Telemedicine is afforded $10 million through the Healthy Outcomes provisions and $2 million in recurring funds.

$6 million is provided for a Rural Health Initiative partnership between DHHS and the USC School of Medicine to enhance the recruitment of physicians to practice in underserved areas and to improve access to life-saving emergency room care in the wake of rural hospital closures. Provisions include an exemption from Certificate of Need requirements for the construction of a facility in a medically underserved area that can provide emergency care and stabilization beds twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, and is designed to utilize the Statewide Telemedicine Network.

The budget legislation includes a provision that sets priorities in the awarding of state and federal family planning funds to contractors with top priority given to state, county and other public entities that provide family planning services and local community health clinics and federally qualified health centers; middle priority assigned to nonpublic entities that provide comprehensive primary and preventive health services in addition to family planning services; and lowest priority given to nonpublic entities that provide family planning services but do not provide comprehensive primary and preventive health services.  Those who award family planning funds must submit an annual report to the General Assembly that details funds awarded to the lowest priority contractors and includes an explanation of how it was determined that there was an insufficient number of preferred service providers available to be awarded family planning funds and meet the need for services.

The Department of Health and Environmental Control receives $661,500 in recurring funds to enhance its dam safety inspection and permitting program, $8 million in recurring funds along with $2 million in nonrecurring funds for its data center infrastructure, $2 million in recurring funds for electronic medical records, $1.75 million in recurring funds to enhance its infectious disease tuberculosis program, $2.75 million in nonrecurring funds for water quality infrastructure, $945,00 in recurring funds for ambient water quality monitoring, and $100,000 in nonrecurring funds for Donate Life’s Organ Donor Registry.

The budget allocates nonrecurring funds derived from the sale of DHEC’s home health services by providing $3.6 million for data center infrastructure, $5.2 million for Pinewood Custodial Site capital improvements and repairs, $5.8 million for electronic medical records, and $2.5 million for flood recovery operations.

The Department of Mental Health is allocated $4.2 million in recurring funds for the Sexually Violent Predator Program, $2.5 million in recurring funds for inpatient clinical and medical services, $2.5 million in recurring funds for forensics, $500,000 in recurring funds for school based services, and $1 million in recurring funds for a crisis stabilization unit.

The Department of Disabilities and Special Needs receives $6.6 million in recurring funds to reduce its waiting lists, $1.2 million in recurring funds for the transition to community-based services, $1 million in recurring funds for crisis intervention and stabilization, $500,000 in recurring funds for expansion of non-emergency respite care beds, $500,000 in recurring funds for post-acute rehab for traumatic brain or spinal cord injuries, and $500,000 in recurring funds for enhanced research through the Greenwood Genetic Center, including blood testing for autism.

The Department of Vocational Rehabilitation is provided $635,287 in recurring funds for School-to-Work Transition Services.

The Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services receives $1.75 million in recurring funds for prescription drug abuse medication assisted treatment and $3 million from the Capital Reserve Fund for infrastructure improvements in the substance abuse provider system.

At the Department of Social Services, $5.6 million in recurring funds is devoted to child and adult protective services recruitment and retention.  $6.2 million in recurring funds and $1 million in nonrecurring funds is allocated for the development of the child support system.  Utilizing $3.4 million in recurring funds, the budget provides for an increase in monthly family foster care and kinship care payment rates.  $800,000 in nonrecurring funds is provided for criminal domestic violence initiatives with the South Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault.

The State Law Enforcement Division is provided $364,000 in recurring funds for law enforcement officer rank change, $3.2 million in recurring funds to complete vehicle rotation, and $10 million in nonrecurring funds for the forensics lab expansion.

The budget legislation provides for a transfer of the Illegal Immigration Unit from the Department of Public Safety to SLED.

The Attorney General’s Office receives $1 million in recurring dollars for retention funding, $200,000 in recurring funds for prosecutors and $81,200 in recurring funds for a forensic examiner in the Internet Crimes Against Children division, and $600,600 in recurring funds for violent crimes and sex crimes prosecutors.

The Commission on Minority Affairs receives $200,000 in recurring funds for a human trafficking hotline.

The budget makes provisions for three additional Circuit Court Judges and support staff in anticipation of increased caseloads due to the provisions of the 2015 Domestic Violence Reform Act that transfer domestic violence matters into circuit court.

The Prosecution Coordination Commission is afforded $2.98 million in recurring funds to allow for additional prosecutors to handle increased domestic violence caseloads, $7.8 million in recurring dollars for caseload equalization funding, and $800,000 in recurring funds for the SC Center for Fathers and Families.

The Commission on Indigent Defense is afforded $6.2 million in recurring dollars for additional public defenders.

The budget legislation provides for the reauthorization of the Sentencing Reform Oversight Committee to examine the need for criminal justice reform initiatives.

The Department of Corrections receives $8 million in recurring dollars for its correctional officer hiring rate adjustment and retention plan to reduce turnover rate at the agency, $2.75 million in recurring funds for the middle phase its mental health remediation plan, and $722,328 in recurring funds for the middle phase its medical remediation plan.

The Department of Probation, Parole, and Pardon Services is provided $1.98 million in recurring funds for officer retention and $6.4 million in recurring funds to offset revenue loss due to sentencing reform.

The Department of Juvenile Justice receives $1 million in recurring funds for its correctional officer hiring rate adjustment and retention plan to reduce turnover rate at the agency and $100,000 in nonrecurring funds for AMI Kids.

The Department of Natural Resources is allocated $326,930 in recurring funds for law enforcement officer step increases and $261,312 in recurring funds for vehicle rotation.

$72 million in nonrecurring funds is allocated to the Adjutant General’s Emergency Management Division as the full state and local match for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funds for the 2015 catastrophic flood response.  The Adjutant General’s Office receives $5 million from the Capital Reserve Fund for armory revitalization.

The budget legislation accommodates the $40 million appropriation from the 2014‑2015 Contingency Reserve Fund for the “South Carolina Farm Aid Fund” that is created to assist farmers who suffered extensive damage in the October 2015 floods through H.4717 which has been passed by the House of Representatives during the current General Assembly and sent to the Senate.

The Department of Agriculture is afforded $1 million from the Capital Reserve Fund for consumer protection equipment and $500,000 in recurring funds to expand “Certified SC” marketing of the state’s produce.

Clemson PSA receives $1 million in recurring funds for its agriculture and natural resources program and $1 million in nonrecurring funds for program facilities, and $750,000 in recurring funds for the animal industry infectious disease program to address such issues as the avian flu.

The Forestry Commission receives $320,000 in recurring funds for additional firefighters, $1 million from the Capital Reserve Fund for firefighting equipment, and $200,000 in recurring funds for implementing a forest inventory system.

Operations at the Department of Motor Vehicles are funded with recurring dollar appropriations since funds derived from fines and fees that the DMV has retained to fund department operations are transferred to the State Highway Fund.

The budget legislation authorizes the withholding of funds in Local Government Fund distributions to counties and municipalities equal in amount to any fines that a political subdivision has collected to enforce local ordinances that conflict with state traffic laws.

The Division of Aeronautics receives $1 million in nonrecurring funds for aviation grants matching funds and $100,000 in nonrecurring funds for airport facilities security system replacement.

$1.5 million in nonrecurring funds is appropriated to the State Ports Authority for Jasper Ocean Terminal permitting.

$40 million in nonrecurring funds is provided to the Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism for coastal beach renourishment, which completely covers the state’s cost share for all public beaches.

The Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism receives $1.2 million in nonrecurring funds for the Sports Development Marketing Program, $3 million in nonrecurring funds for the Medal of Honor Museum, and $4.3 million from the Capital Reserve Fund for facilities revitalization.

A proviso directs the Department of Administration to conduct an analysis of moving the Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum from Columbia to the Charleston area.

The Department of Archives and History receives $2.1 million in nonrecurring funds for its architectural heritage preservation initiative.

The State Library is afforded $222,000 in recurring funds for electronic resources and $1 million in recurring funds for aid to county libraries.

The Arts Commission receives $500,000 in nonrecurring funds for the SC Artisans Center.

The Department of Revenue is afforded $1 million in nonrecurring funds for an extension of identity and credit protection services and receives $1 million in nonrecurring funds and $1.9 million from the Capital Reserve Fund for implementing an updated tax processing system.

The State Auditor’s Office is appropriated $325,000 for additional audit capabilities.

The State Ethics Commission receives $150,000 in recurring funds and $10,000 in nonrecurring funds for auditors.

The State Election Commission receives $254,000 in recurring funds for county compliance auditors and supervisors.

The Lieutenant Governor’s Office on Aging receives $1 million in recurring funds for family caregiver services that allow seniors to remain at home rather than the more expensive alternative of institutional care, and $1.5 million in recurring funds for home and community based services to be used for purchasing home delivered meals, group dining meals, transportation, and home care.

Pass Ethics Reform

Last year, common sense ethics reform died in the State Senate. I fought in the State House to hold politicians mor accountable and make politics more transparent, but special interests got in the way of good reform.

We must end the practice of allowing legislators to investigate themselves for ethics violations and instead create an independent body that can hold politicians accountable without outside influence.

Sign the petition and demand ethics reform the State House.

Budget Week Update

Last week, my colleagues and I worked diligently to clear the House calendar as we enter into the annual budget debate this week. Unlike Washington, we balance our budget each year. I take a conservative approach to allocating state funds, and I value your input. The budget proposal for fiscal years 2016-2017 may be found here.  I will provide further updates on the budget after the House finishes its deliberations this week.

As you may have seen in various news reports, the Senate finally sent back their amendments to our roads and infrastructure funding bill. My House colleagues and I continue to look closely at the Senate changes. The issue of fixing our roads while creating a long-term solution to our immediate problem remains complex.

We have worked for years in the House to reform the governance model of SCDOT. While the Senate roads plan does call for additional road and infrastructure funding, that money can actually only be spent as part of the budget process. We will be proactive in making sure these extra funds are part of this week’s budget debate. Also, the Senate version may not reform the SCDOT enough, likely requiring us to amend their changes for more significant reform to the SCDOT. We are expecting the results of a Legislative Audit Council audit of SCDOT in the next few weeks, which will further assist us in crafting a comprehensive infrastructure and reform plan.

Last week, I filed for reelection to House District 32.  It has been an honor to serve my community and state in the State House, and, with your support, I hope to continue doing so.  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 derhamcole@schouse.gov, (803) 212-6790, or on Facebook and Twitter.

Sincerely,

Derham Cole

District 32 Representative Derham Cole Files for Reelection

Spartanburg, SC – Republican Derham Cole today filed for reelection to State House District 32.

Cole said, “Serving the people of House District 32 has been one of the greatest honors of my life, and I look forward to the opportunity to continue working toward meaningful reform that helps working families succeed and businesses thrive.”

This month, Cole was named Legislator of the Year by the SC Human Service Providers Association for his support of South Carolinians living with disabilities and special needs. He is a four-time recipient of the Business Advocate Award from the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce and has led efforts in the State House for ethics reform.

Cole continued, “Our community has seen significant economic development over the last several years; I will continue to work with businesses, families and my colleagues in the General Assembly to create a favorable climate for smart growth right here in Spartanburg.”

Cole is an attorney with Wilkes Law Firm in Spartanburg, where his practice emphasizes business litigation and business transactions.

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Derham Cole Receives Legislator of the Year Award

Hundreds of pairs of shoes, large and small, covered the State House steps on March 2, 2016, as part of Disability Advocacy Day. The shoes represent South Carolina citizens with disabilities and special needs. During the celebration, District 32 Representative Derham Cole received the Legislator of the Year Award from the South Carolina Human Service Providers Association.

In accepting the award, Cole said, “There are countless success stories of people living independently due to advances in technology, people who are able to get into the workforce because of training programs, and people able to reach new educational and developmental milestones like never before.”

The award recognizes Cole’s work in the State House to advocate and care for those with special needs and disabilities.

Jerry Bernard, Executive Director of the Charles Lea Center in Spartanburg and Chairman of the Human Service Providers Association, presented the award to Cole. Bernard cited Cole’s work on the House Ways and Means Committee to fund services for the disabled.

Cole has received the Business Advocate Award from the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce four times and is a leading voice in the State House for ethics reform. Derham is an attorney with Wilkes Law Firm in Spartanburg, where his practice emphasizes business litigation and business transactions.

State of the State and Progress in Committees

Last week marked the second full week of legislative session. We continued the early stages of the legislative cycle and heard from the Governor in her annual State of the State address Wednesday evening.

My Republican colleagues and I were happy to hear the governor’s support for many of our priorities like education reform, infrastructure improvements, and ethics reform.

Echoing Governor Haley was the Republican leader of the House, Bruce Bannister (R-Greenville): “This week we heard from Governor Haley’s heart. Our caucus appreciates her positive message and optimistic tone. Governor Haley mentioned education reform, fixing our roads and bridges, and ethics reform. House Republicans have led on all three issues in the House, while the Senate has refused to act. With Governor Haley’s help, perhaps we will see movement in the Senate chamber on these important issues facing our state.”

Governor Haley also highlighted the tragedies impacting our state, including the Walter Scott shooting and the depraved murders at Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston. The flood of 2015 was the worst natural disaster since hurricane Hugo. My colleagues and I have heard from flood victims across the state over the past months, particularly farmers who in some instances saw their entire crops disintegrate and fields ruined under standing flood waters.

Agriculture represents one of the largest industries in South Carolina and if you know a farmer, you may know that one year with no yield can be the difference between having the resources to plant again next year and closing the doors. We continue to look for conservative solutions for these farmers and others affected by the flood, and I will update you as we move forward.

Finally, as is typical in January, much was done in our House committees. Once a bill is introduced, it must go through legislative committees before it comes to the House floor for a vote.

Thank you for taking the time to read this update.  If you have input on this update or any other issue facing the General Assembly, please let me know.  Thank you for the privilege of representing you in Columbia.