Rolling up our Sleeves

With a cheerful admonition from Speaker Lucas to “Roll up your sleeves and get to work,” the South Carolina General Assembly convened last week for the first time in 2016, marking the beginning of the second half of the biennial legislative session.

Some of the high profile issues facing us in 2016 are:

  • Funding our long-term road and bridge infrastructure needs;
  • DOT Reform;
  • Improving access to quality K-12 education throughout the state;
  • Addressing the financial challenges caused by the historical flooding in 2015; and
  • Addressing Retirement System funding issues highlighted by the recent Legislative Audit Council report.
Last week, the House passed a bill governing the operation of mopeds on our public roadways.  The bill includes the elimination of a loophole in the current law that exempts moped riders from DUI laws, an issue on which I have worked on a standalone basis for several years.

Budget subcommittees met for the first time in 2016 last week.  The budget process will continue in the House through mid-March.  Governor Haley unveiled highlights of her executive budget last week, and I anticipate hearing more details in her State of the State Address this week.

In the coming weeks, I will send regular updates which keep you informed of our progress as we complete the work of the people. I hope you find them informative.

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.

Road Funding, CDV, and Refugee Resettlement

ROAD FUNDING, CDV, AND REFUGEE RESETTLEMENT

It was a busy week in the State House this week following our return from Easter recess.  The House passed major legislation addressing our infrastructure funding needs as well as the issue of domestic violence in our State.  Your delegation has also been working to obtain more information about the possible resettlement of refugees in Spartanburg County.

Infrastructure

The House, by a vote of 80-27, passed a road funding bill.  Read more about the details on my website and in this article from The State.

I voted in favor of several amendments that would have provided greater income tax relief, but those amendments were unsuccessful.  The bottom line is that we must provide more funding to fix our ailing roads and bridges and for that reason, I supported H.3579 to provide that revenue.  In addition to generating more revenue through the gasoline tax, the bill implements reform and accountability measures, including allowing the Governor to have more control over SCDOT.   Moreover, the Legislative Audit Council will undertake an audit of SCDOT, which will begin this month.  In addition, the newly-created Legislative Oversight Committee will have the tools to ensure that SCDOT is appropriately managing the funds allocated to it.

This was a very difficult vote for many of us, myself included.  I appreciate the input I have received from constituents and stakeholders on all sides of the issue.  I realize I will not please everyone with my vote, but we cannot let our infrastructure needs languish any longer.

Below are some statistics about our road system that illustrate the need for solutions:

  • South Carolina has the 4th largest, state-maintained highway system in the country.
  • By comparison, SC is ranked 40th in size by square miles, and 24th in population size.
  • Georgia, North Carolina & Virginia all have larger highway systems, but each state is larger in size, and their populations are roughly double that of SC.
  • The SC State Highway System covers more than 41,000 center line miles (clm) of roadway, over 90,000 lane miles.
    • Note: Center line miles (clm) denote length, but this does not account for the width. Lane miles refers to the total length (clm) multiplied by the number of lanes for each road.
  • The national average for state-maintained highway systems is 16,000 center line miles.
  • 62% of the highway system in SC managed is by the state versus a national average 22%.
  • Of the 41,000+ clm miles of state maintained highways, over 18,000 are functionally classified as “Local Routes,” many of which are interspersed throughout urban areas and neighborhoods, yet fall under the responsibility of the state rather than the local governments.
  • 29% of SC’s traffic is riding on “good” pavement.
  • The longer the pavement goes untreated, the higher the costs.
  • Pavement preservation is an estimated $11,500/mile, rehabilitation $160k/mile, replacement $250k/mile (estimates are for Primary Routes, Local Routes are lower – less restrictive standards)
  • $1 Million can preserve 87 lane miles, rehabilitate 6 lane miles, OR reconstruct 4 lane miles

Interstates and the Primary System:

  • The Interstate system and Primary system, which includes all U.S. and S.C. routes, carry a combined 75% of the average daily traffic in the state.
  • 851 clm and 3,796 lane miles of Interstate in SC.
  • Interstate system is over 50 years old.
  • Nearly 29% of all roadway travel in SC occurs on the Interstates.
  • 61% of the Interstates are considered to be in “good” condition.
  • Key component to Freight Network – heavy truck volumes.
  • 13% of interstates are high usage, carrying over 70,000 vehicles a day.
  • Primary system consists of 9,472 clm and 23,896 lane miles.
  • 47% of all travel in SC occurs on the primary system.
  • Only 16% of the Primary system is considered to be in “good” condition.

Bridges:

  • 65% of the bridges in SC are considered to be in satisfactory condition
  • 8,419 throughout the state
  • 1,610 are Substandard (19%)
  • 839 are “Structurally Deficient” (10%) – with looming safety concerns
  • 771 are “Functionally Obsolete” (9%)- not up to current standards, but no immediate safety issues
  • 398 are load restricted (5%), and 12 are closed.
  • “Increased funding since 2007 dedicated to bridges has reduced the number of structurally deficient and load restricted bridges, but the SCDOT built a significant number of precast concrete bridges on timber pile foundations over the years. As a result, additional restrictions and closers will likely be required.”

The Secondary System:

  • Only 1/3 of the Secondary system is eligible for Federal Aid – 10,271 clm and 21,108 lane miles
  • The Non-Federal Aid (NFA) Eligible portion covers 20,821 clm and 41,758 lane miles
  • 30% of the NFA system is in urban areas, comprising over 12,000 individual road segments
  • Only 7% of travel occurs on the NFA Secondary System
  • Most of the identified “Local Routes” fall within the NFA Secondary System

Criminal Domestic Violence

Earlier in the week, the House passed legislation to address the issue of domestic violence in South Carolina.  The Speaker’s Office released this statement following its passage.

Refugee Resettlement in Spartanburg

Many of you have read or heard news reports about a possible settlement of refugees in Spartanburg.  Your Spartanburg delegation is working to gather further information about this issue.  While this is primarily a federal program, there is at least some state involvement. Congressman Gowdy has contacted Secretary Kerry at the State Department, and I have sent a letter to DSS Director Susan Alford requesting more information about this program. Earlier this week, several members of the Delegation met with Governor Haley’s office to pose questions about the resettlement program. I will keep you informed as we learn more.

Garner in Columbia

It’s not often we get Hollywood visitors in Columbia, but it happened this week when Jennifer Garner came to town in support of Save the Children Action Network and the Institute for Child Success.  Save the Children emphasizes early childhood development and education.

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Miss South Carolina Contestants

This week, we had our annual visit from the Miss South Carolina contestants.  Here I am with Miss Upstate, Lauren Cabaniss, who was also my partner in the 2015 Dancing with the Spartanburg Stars event to raise money for the Cancer Association of Spartanburg and Cherokee Counties.  I am pleased to report that this year’s event was a record-breaking success.

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Healing through Art

On April 25, 2015, the Children’s Advocacy Center invites you to an evening of Art, Dining and Dancing.  Proceeds will help the CAC continue its mission of healing children who have been victims of abuse and bringing their abusers to justice.  Call Suzy Cole for tickets at (864) 515-9922.

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Roads Update

Friend,

Before the Easter recess, the House Ways & Means Committee approved a road funding and income tax relief bill that will be considered by the full House of Representatives when we return to session next week.  Some of you have already provided me with input about the issue of road funding, and I appreciate your feedback.  Some of you have heard from third-party groups about my vote on the roads/income tax bill (H.3579) in committee.  This bill was the product of several months of fall meetings of the House Infrastructure & Management Ad-Hoc Committee, during which that committee heard hours upon hours of testimony from citizens and interested parties.  The product of the committee’s work was a balance of funding and structural reform to which income tax relief has been added.

H.3579 is certainly not the only proposal to fix roads that has been discussed.  On an issue as complex as this one, it will be impossible to get unanimous support for any given proposal.  There is broad consensus across the State, however, that something needs to be done about our infrastructure.  H.3579 still has a long way to go, and is subject to change as it moves through the House and Senate on its way to the Governor’s desk.  Please let me hear your thoughts on the H.3579 as described below, or how you would like to see the infrastructure issue addressed as we move forward.
Below is a detailed summary of the bill’s components:

1.   RestructuringThere are two key components to restructuring in H. 3579. The first restructures the Department of Transportation and the second component restructures the State Infrastructure Bank.

      A.     Department of Transportation (DOT)

  • The Governor appoints Highway Commissioners (7 districts and 1 statewide) with a Joint Transportation Review Committee screening process approval. These commissioners serve at the pleasure of the Governor. The Highway Commission will then appoint a secretary with the advice and consent of the Senate. Commissioners hold no “terms” and may only serve a combined 12 years on the commission (retroactive).
      B.      State Transportation Infrastructure Bank (SIB)
  • The SIB Board expands from 7 to 13 members. It would consist of 7 district highway commissioners, 3 appointments from the Speaker of the House, and 3 appointments from the Senate President Pro Tempore. Of those appointments from legislative bodies, 1 of each must be an ex officio Representative and Senator. SIB members would have no terms and may only serve a combined 12 years (retroactive).
  • The SIB would lower its current $100 million project minimum to a $25 million project minimum and must follow project prioritization set forth by the South Carolina Department of Transportation in accordance with ACT 114. Only a Joint Resolution can override prioritization criteria requirements. However, only one project may be re-prioritized in a single Joint Resolution.
2.     Transfer of Local RoadsLocal governments that wish to take ownership of local roads (as identified by SCDOT) in their political subdivision may do so. In doing so, these local governments would be eligible for additional C-Funds. Should local governments opt in to take ownership of additional roads, they would receive transferred roads in three phases:
  • Phase 1: Local governments select 1/3 of identified roads in 2016.
  • Phase 2: Local governments select 1/3 of identified roads in 2018.
  • Phase 3: Local government select final 1/3 of identified roads in 2020.
  • As part of the phase-in process, the monies allocated to participating local governments would see an increased C-fund allocation of $1 million in year one followed by additional revenue increases in phase 2 and phase 3. Participants who opt in during phase 2 in 2018 would see a $500,000 annual increase in C-funds. Finally, participants who opt-in during the final phase would see a $250,000 annual increase in C-funds. C-funds would no longer come with a mandate requiring a percentage of funds be spent on state roads; this decision would rest with local decision makers.
3.   Funding Components There are two funding components.     A.    Gas Tax
        1. Per Gallon Tax – Currently it is 16.75 cents per gallon of motor fuel (gasoline and diesel). This proposal would drop it to 10.75 cents per gallon of motor fuel.
         2. Excise Tax – A wholesale indexed excise tax of 6% would be applied to a 6-month average of the wholesale price of motor fuel.
     B.  Auto Sales Tax – Currently the auto sales tax is 5% of total vehicle costs capped at $300. This proposal would raise that cap to $500. Currently the auto sales tax is broken down with 20% going to education, 40% to the DOT, and 40% to the General fund. Under this proposal, the 20% capped at $300 for education remains, the 40% of the $300 designated to the General Fund moves to DOT and all funds over the $300 also go to DOT.4.   Control ComponentThis proposal includes two controls designed to prevent dramatic changes to gas prices from affecting the revenues dedicated to infrastructure.      A.  Penny Control

  • The wholesale excise tax would not fluctuate more than one penny in a 6-month period.
      B.   Lifetime Control
  • The combined gas tax (comprised of the per gallon AND excise) cannot exceed 26.75 cents/gallon.
5.    Revenue Generated:      A.  Estimated New Revenue: Under this proposal revenues generated would be $428 million annually.
  1. Approximately $100 million from the auto sales tax cap increase, and shift of remaining General Funds to DOT.
  2. The remaining $328 million from the gas tax increase.
      B.  Gas Tax Revenue Sources
  1. Out-of-State motorists currently comprise 1/3 of the revenues from the gas tax. Under this proposal that would equal $109 million.
  2. The Average driver (driving 11,000 miles/year in a car receiving 22 miles per gallon) would pay an additional $50 annually.
  3. The remainder is paid by “high usage vehicles” to include citizen commuters and transportation related industry.
6.  Income Tax Reduction: Under this proposal an income tax reduction would be phased in over a two-year span beginning with fiscal year 15-16. The relief is realized by increasing the amount of exempt income in each existing tax bracket by $140 in the first phase, and another $140 the second, for a combined total of $280.      A.   Cost to the General Fund
  • 2015-2016: $1,337,967
  • 2016-2017: $25,510,778
  • 2017-2018: $21,910,558
      B.   Average Savings
  • The average South Carolina taxpayer would save $48 annually.
Thank you for taking the time to read this update.  If you have input on this or any other issue facing the General Assembly, please let me know.  Thank you for the privilege of representing you in Columbia.Sincerely,Derham

Derham Cole takes 75 percent of vote in House 32 race

Spartanburg Herald-Journal

Incumbent Republican Derham Cole of Spartanburg won re-election Tuesday, defeating challenger Democratic Matt Iyer.

Cole garnered 7,094 votes, or about 75 percent of those cast, to Iyer’s 2,392 votes. Cole Victory

SC House incumbents win re-election by large margins

Spartanburg Herald-Journal

State House incumbents stood strong in Tuesday’s election, handily beating challengers.

Spartanburg County returned its delegation to Columbia by solid margins, according to unofficial results. Republicans swept contested races with Rep. Derham Cole defeating Matt Iyer in the District 32 race, 75 percent of the vote to 25 percent, Rep. Eddie Tallon defeating Shelia Counts in the District 33 race, 79 percent to 21 percent, and Rep. Mike Forrester defeating Michael Thompson in the District 34 race, 65 percent to 35 percent. Reps. Rita Allison, Bill Chumley and Harold Mitchell ran unopposed for re-election, and Rep. Donna Wood defeated a challenger in the primary to secure her re-election.

Rep. Mike Anthony, D-Union, also was re-elected, defeating challenger David Tribble with 61 percent of the vote to Tribble’s 38 percent to secure his seventh term in office.

“I really think nationally, statewide, and locally, people want to see people who will communicate with one another and get things done,” Anthony said.

Cole, 37, will begin his fourth term in office in January after defeating 33-year-old Iyer, a video producer and photographer. Cole garnered 7,094 votes to Iyer’s 2,392 votes. Cole said serving his community as a legislator has been “the honor of a lifetime,” and he is grateful to have “earned the trust of my constituents.”

“It tells me we’re on the right track,” Cole said of support for incumbents. “Of course, we need to make sure we are continuing to do (the constituents’) work.”

Read the full story here.

House District 32 candidate touts his record in office

Spartanburg Herald-Journal

Accurately representing the will of the people is a chief priority to Rep. Derham Cole, and he said his success will be measured at the polls on Tuesday.

“I hope people will look at my record. I think it reflects what my constituency wants me to do,” Cole said. “It’s been one of the biggest honors of my life to serve District 32 for the last six years.”

During the legislative break, Cole has served on a legislative study committee examining the state’s expungement procedures, and is leading a House committee tasked with drafting ethics reform legislation. “I’m really encouraged and optimistic this means we can hit the ground running in January,” Cole said. “I think we have a chance to make some changes people want to see.”

Ethics reform has failed in the past because of the inability of both chambers to agree on a broad bill, so Cole said he expects it will be broken up into several pieces of legislation with limited scope, so specific objections don’t delay the entire package and cause it to “collapse under its weight out of the shoot.”

Cole is not on the transportation and infrastructure study committee working during the break, but said he is eager to hear their recommendations for fixing roads. While he is reserving an opinion on how deteriorating roads and bridges should be addressed until he hears the committee’s findings, Cole said he wants to see funds appropriated in a programmatic, efficient way using dedicated revenue streams. “I have an open mind to anything at this point,” he said. “… I haven’t ruled anything out.”

While South Carolina has had recent economic success, Cole said he will continue to look for ways to make the state more business friendly. He pointed to a piece of legislation widely dubbed the Stone Law, which he co-sponsored, that lessened restrictions on breweries to allow large production of beer on the same site as eateries.

“There is no end point where you can sit back and say ‘now we’re business friendly,’” Cole said. “(Stone Law) really opened that industry to grow and open up. It really didn’t cost anything, and it benefits everyone who touches that industry.”

Cole said he has enjoyed helping Spartanburg grow and prosper in recent years, and he hopes to continue to aid that growth in the legislature.

Matt Iyer, Cole’s opponent in Tuesday’s election, did not respond to the Herald-Journal’s request for interview for this article.

Fighting for Accountability and Transparency

Listen to the new ad!

Realtors Association Endorses Derham Cole

Derham Realtors

Get out and Vote!

 

1. Voting absentee? Make sure to return your ballot to the local election office today! Click here.

2. Find your polling location and see a sample ballot: Click here.

3. How to vote: find what kind of ID you’ll need, where to vote, and all other information you need. Click here.

Precinct Location Address
Cannons Elementary Cannons Elementary School 1351 Old Converse Rd
Spartanburg SC 29307
Cherokee Sprgs Fire Sta Cherokee Springs Fire Station 201 Flatwood Dr
Chesnee SC 29323
Chesnee Senior Center Chesnee Senior Center 302 E Manning Street
Chesnee SC 29323
Converse Fire Station Converse Fire Station 107 Tram St
Converse SC 29329
Cowpens Fire Station Timken Community Center 180 Foster St
Cowpens SC 29330
Drayton Fire Station Drayton Fire Station 50 Carney St
Spartanburg SC 29307
Mayo Elementary Mayo Elementary School 1330 Springdale Dr
Mayo SC 29368
Pine Street Elementary St John’s Lutheran Church Parish Life Cn 415 S Pine St
Spartanburg SC 29302
Trinity Methodist Trinity Methodist Church 626 Norwood St
Sptbg SC 29302
Spartanburg High School Spartanburg High School 500 Dupre Dr
Sptbg SC 29307
Cornerstone Baptist Cornerstone Baptist Church 700 S Converse St
Sptbg SC 29306
Beaumont Methodist Beaumont Methodist Church 687 N Liberty St
Sptbg SC 29302
Whitlock Junior High Whitlock Junior High 364 Successful Way
Spartanburg SC SC 29303
Eastside Baptist Eastside Baptist Church 1850 Fernwood Glendale Rd
Spartanburg Sc SC 29307
Cudd Memorial Cudd Memorial Church 1301 Boiling Spgs Rd
Sptbg SC 29303
Carlisle Fosters Grove Carlisle Fosters Grove Elementary 625 Fosters Grove Rd
Chesnee SC SC 29323
Jesse Boyd Elementary Jesse Boyd Elementary Sch 1505 Fernwood Glendale Rd
Spartanburg SC SC 29307
Daniel Morgan Tech Center Daniel Morgan Technology Center 201 Zion Hill Rd
Spartanburg SC SC 29307
Chapman Elementary Chapman Elementary School 230 Bryant Rd
Spartanburg SC SC 29303
Mountain View Baptist Mountain View Baptist 5555 Parris Bridge Rd
Spartanburg SC SC 29316
Ben Avon Methodist Ben Avon Methodist Church 2362 Avondale Dr
Spartanburg SC SC 29302