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.

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.

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