Author: voteraye

Update: 4/27/2019

It’s been a busy year and hard to believe this year’s session is almost over. As we return to session, here’s some of what happened in the State House last week.

The House returned to session this week after taking a week off. With two weeks to go, the House will focus upon the State Budget, as well as legislation passed by the Senate, with the goal of getting as much as possible sent to the Governor’s desk before we adjourn for the rest of the year.

The State Budget

This week, the House will take up the amended budget sent back from the Senate. While it’s possible the House will vote to accept the budget as-is, usually the budget ends up being sent to conference committee composed of House and Senate members who will negotiate a single budget between the two version of the Budget – the House and Senate versions – and the General Assembly will then return later this month or next to adopt a final Budget.

The budget will likely end up close to $9.3 billion when finally passed. Unlike the federal government, the state is required to adopt a balanced budget so we are constrained to spend no more than estimated revenue.

Some of the changes made by the Senate to the House budget include:

  • State Support to Public Schools: The House version of the budget would give $150 million, at no cost to local districts, for teacher pay raises. The Senate added $15 million to the Base Student Cost but requires the local district to match the funds.
  • Taxpayer Rebate: The Senate changed the $50 tax rebate to per return and not per taxpayer with an income tax liability.
  • State Employees Raises: The Senate added a $600 one-time bonus for state employees earning less than $70,000 per year on top of the 2 percent across the board pay increase for state employees the House had in the budget.
  • Farm Aid — Hurricane Devastation: The Senate added $25 million to set-aside for a grant program to assist famers who suffered devastating crop losses as a result of the flooding associated with Hurricanes Michael and Florence in Fall 2018.

House Bills passed by the Senate last week

 “Tucker Hipps Transparency Act” (H.3398): The Senate voted to pass the House bill, sending it to Governor McMaster’s desk for his approval. This legislation will require state colleges and universities to publicly report findings of misconduct by fraternities and sororities. The current law was set to expire after a three-year period but this law will make the provisions of the law permanent.

Karson Whitesell Memorial (H.3572): Many in the Fort Mill area were affected by the tragic murder of Karson Whitesell while working at the Peach Stand. This legislation that would name the intersection of US Highway 21 and SC Highway 160 in Fort Mill after her. While this doesn’t undo this tragedy, it does help honor the memory of this young life lost. I was the primary sponsor of this bill.

Rideshare Safety Update

The Senate has taken recommendations from popular rideshare companies and replaced the House version of the Samantha Josephson Rideshare Safety Act with their own proposal. Instead of light-up signs on Uber and Lyft vehicles, the bill now requires rideshare drivers to display license plate numbers on the front of their cars.

House members will look at the Senate bill and decide if we will accept their version or seek to work on getting the Senate to approve the House version, known as H. 4380, which passed in a bi-partisan 99-1 vote. The need to get on top of ride-sharing safety is urgent so we will work quickly on this issue.

Also Sent To The Senate

In addition to these bills which were sent to the Senate this week, these are some of the more important House bills which are awaiting action in the Senate:

  • H. 3759: The S.C. Education, Career, Opportunity, and Access for All Act
  • H.3728: Expanding the state’s Prescription Monitoring Program to track the usage of opioid antidotes by hospitals and first responders.
  • H.3730: Felony charges for trafficking in fentanyl.
  • H.3807: Teen Skin Cancer Prevention Act (Felder, Davis)
  • H.3936: Expanded lottery college funding
  • H. 3046: Provide for the Offense of Furthering Terrorism

The House will be working hard to wrap up the next two weeks, including some possible late evening sessions, as we work to get as much off our desks and to the Governor for his review and signature. I’ll have further updates coming to keep you posted about what we’re up to.

Questions or Concerns?

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 RayeFelder@SCHouse.gov. You can look up these  – and other – bills, as well as daily journals of the House and Senate and calendars of pending days of session by going online to www.SCStateHouse.gov.

Update: 4/12/2019

Last week was a busy week in Columbia, as the House passed legislation covering a wide range of subjects. With the “crossover” date behind us, each chamber will spend much of our remaining time focusing on legislation passed by the other with the goal of getting bills sent to Governor McMaster for his review and signature before time runs out in this year’s legislative session.

After sending a number of bills over to the Senate for their consideration, the House will take the week off after spending much of the last few weeks working on the state budget and education reform. Here are some of the bills which were passed by the House and sent over to the Senate prior to the cross-over deadline:

PUBLIC SAFETY AND OPIOID ABUSE:

  • H.4380, the “SAMANTHA L. JOSEPHSON RIDESHARING SAFETY ACT” was passed in a bi-partisan 99-1 vote to revise the state’s Transportation Network Company Act for greater rider safety.  Under the new requirements, a Transportation Network Company vehicle must make use of an illuminated sign displaying the company’s proprietary trademark or logo that allows the vehicle to be recognized in darkness.  The legislation establishes requirements for this sign and other identifying emblems to be returned when a driver ceases to be employed by the company.   
  • H.3728 expands the state’s PRESCRIPTION MONITORING PROGRAM. This requires the Department of Health and Environmental Control to include and maintain information in the prescription monitoring program on the administering of opioid antidotes in a hospital emergency department or by a first responder.
  • H.3730 establishes makes it a felony to TRAFFICK IN FENTANYL in amounts at least four grams of fentanyl, fentanyl‑related substances, or mixtures. Penalties include a term of imprisonment of not more than ten years and a fine of up to fifty thousand dollars for a first offense, and a term of imprisonment of not more than twenty years and a fine of up to one hundred thousand dollars, for a second or subsequent offense.
  • H.3307 makes provisions for a searchable online DATABASE ON PROPERTY SEIZED BY LAW ENFORCEMENT AND FORFEITED
  • H.3174: ELECTRIC-POWERED BICYCLES. This legislation, which I sponsored, would require bicycles with helper motors to be considered the same as regular bicycles under state laws when operated on public roads. These are relatively new on our roadways and this legislation will help close that loophole.

EDUCATION

  • H.3403: COMPENTENCY-BASED SCHOOLS. I am one of the sponsors of this bi-partisan legislation, which creates guidelines and requirements for competency-based schools. Competency-based schools place a stronger emphasis upon teaching mastery of concrete skills and provide an alternative approach to educating students.

HEALTH

  • H.3967: RESTRAINING INMATES WHO ARE PREGNANT OR IN POSTPARTUM RECUPERATION.  This legislation details the safety methods and restrictions that are to be followed in correctional facilities and other settings for using wrist restraints or other types of restraints on inmates who are pregnant or have been determined to be in postpartum recuperation.
  • H.3036 “DYLAN’S LAW” would require the Department of Environmental Control to add tests for certain neonatal genetic disorders and diseases to the existing newborn screening program.  The legislation establishes the Newborn Screening Advisory Committee to review the feasibility and advisability of including additional metabolic, genetic, and congenital disorders in the neonatal testing.

TAX REFORM

  • H.3205 makes revisions to the Catawba Indian Claims Settlement Act to eliminate an obsolete tax provision affecting the York County-based Catawba Indian Tribe.
  • H.3210: HIGH GROWTH SMALL BUSINESS JOB CREATION ACT REAUTHORIZATION.  The legislationreauthorizes the High Growth Small Business Job Creation Act for an additional six years.

VETERANS

  • H.4439 designates the sixteenth day of July of each year as ‘ATOMIC VETERANS DAY’ in South Carolina to recognize those who participated in aboveground nuclear tests between 1945 and 1962, served with the United States military occupation forces in or around Hiroshima and Nagasaki before 1946, or were held as prisoners of war in or near Hiroshima or Nagasaki.

In addition to these bills which were sent to the Senate this week, these are some of the more important House bills awaiting action in the Senate:

  • H. 3759 – The S.C. Education, Career, Opportunity, and Access for All Act
  • H. 4000 and H. 4001 – The General Appropriations Bill and Capital Reserve Fund (the budget)
  • H.3951 – Tighter qualifications for holding the Office of Sheriff
  • H.3936 – Expanded lottery college funding
  • H. 4243 – Professional Sports Team Investment Act
  • H. 3046 – Provide for the Offense of Furthering Terrorism

When we return next week, we hope to see progress in the Senate with these and other bills.

The following bills were received from the Senate and were passed. They will be sent to Governor McMaster for his consideration:

  • S.205 requires the Department of Aging’s ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE AND RELATED DISORDERS RESOURCE COORDINATION CENTER to facilitate the coordination and integration of educational initiatives for health care providers on the importance and value of early detection and timely diagnosis of cognitive impairment, validated cognitive assessment tools, and increasing understanding and awareness of early warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia and how to reduce the risk of cognitive decline.
  • H.3420: PREVENTING YOUTH ACCESS TO VAPING, CIGARETTES, AND OTHER TOBACCO AND NICOTINE PRODUCTS.  The House adopted legislation which was amended by the Senate which updates the “Youth Access to Tobacco Prevention Act of 2006” to include vaping. The legislation would do a number of things, including prohibit minors under the age of eighteen from entering retail establishments that primarily sell tobacco products, alternative nicotine products, or both, unless the minor is actively supervised and accompanied by an adult.  The legislation also revises the restrictions governing Internet commerce and other remote sales that requires the signature of a person at least eighteen years of age before a tobacco product or alternative nicotine product will be released to the purchaser, unless the remote seller employs certain alternative protections to ensure age verification. 
  • H.3929: TEMPORARY ENHANCED AUTHORITY TO FORGIVE MISSED SCHOOLS DAYS. After the flooding experienced by areas of the state in recent months, this legislation provides that a local school district may waive the requirements of making up days missed during the 2018‑2019 School Year because of snow, extreme weather conditions, or other disruptions requiring schools to close.

Questions or Concerns?

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 RayeFelder@SCHouse.gov.

Update: 3/29/2019

This week, the State House focused on a wide range of bills, both its own legislation and bills which were passed by the Senate. With the “crossover” deadline coming up – the last date in which House bills can be sent to the Senate in enough time for them to consider those bills before this year’s adjournment – work is speeding up on passing House bills that got held up while work took place on the state budget.

Here’s some of the legislation which was passed by the House this week:

  • House Bill 4243, which creates a tax credit to help encourage the Panthers’ move to South Carolina, was passed by the House and sent to the Senate. As the Panthers’ are looking at moving their offices and training facilities to either Lancaster or York County, this bill could have a noticeable impact and I am glad to be one of the sponsors of the bill.
  • House Bill 3046, which is intended to give the state tools to help address terrorist acts and plots which take place in South Carolina, was passed and sent to the Senate. This legislation also makes it a crime for anyone in our state to provide financial or material support for terrorist groups and will allow law enforcement to seize assets related to support for terrorist groups and acts.
  • House Bill 3145 will implement several reforms with how the state’s Electric Co-Operatives conduct business and elect their board members, as well as give the state’s Office of Regulatory Staff power to conduct audits of electric co-operatives. This comes after a major scandal with one co-op in the lower part of the state when part-time board members were giving themselves full-time pay with benefits. This bill was passed and sent to the Senate.
  • House Bill 3602 will amend state laws regarding who can make decisions for health care of those unable to give consent. In addition to relatives and paid staff, this legislation would create an additional category of non-relatives who can prove they have established and trusting relationships with those individuals. This bill was passed nearly unanimously and sent to the Senate.
  • Senate Bill 540 was intended to improve the process of selecting the Director of the state’s Department of Employment and Workforce, by requiring a screening committee to submit up to three qualified Director candidates to the Governor for consideration for appointment. This bill was amended by the House and sent back to the Senate for their consideration.

Here is some of the legislation which came before the House for the first time this week:

  • House Bill 4297 is a response to many complaints from law enforcement and victims advocates about additional crimes committed by those out on bond while awaiting trial. It would allow for tougher sentences for crimes committed while out on bond and allow courts to deny bond in some cases.
  • Senate Bill 579, which was just passed by the Senate and sent to the House, would require auto insurance companies to wait at least six months after a rate increase approval before asking for another increase, helping to limit insurance rate increases.

The House also continued debate over House Bill 3951. This legislation will bring needed changes to who can be elected Sheriff in South Carolina. Most notably, this would bar those who have been convicted of felony or other serious charges from running for Sheriff. There have been several instances where former Sheriffs who lost office due to committing crimes in office have tried to run again, which this legislation would prevent. It would also require that anyone elected Sheriff be able to be a certified South Carolina Class One law enforcement officer. Former York County Bruce Bryant, now a State House member, is one of the largest advocates for this bill.

This week, I signed on as a co-sponsor to two bills aimed at protecting children and families:

  • House Bill 3729 would require reporting of where an infant or unborn child has been exposed to alcohol or controlled substances. This bill was referred to the House Judiciary Committee for review.
  • House Bill 3915 will clarify that SC DSS representatives ensure that the welfare and safety of children are the sole basis of their recommendations in any abuse and neglect proceedings. This legislation received a favorable vote in the House Judiciary Committee this week and may come before the full House for debate next week.

Your feedback is important! You can reach me with your questions any time at 803-547-6715 or via email at raye26@comporium.com. You can follow me online via my website: VoteRaye.com, Facebook at facebook.com/VoteRaye or on Twitter at twitter.com/FortMillRaye.

Update: 1/31/2019

It’s been another busy week at the State House. Legislation has begun moving to committees and House members are busy holding hearings to consider some of the over 500 bills which have been submitted by legislators. Here’s what we’ve been up to this week:

Visiting Groups

This week several different groups made trips to the State House. It was great to be able to meet with each of them and discuss many of the important issues that we’re dealing with this session. On Tuesday, teachers from across the state came to talk about education reform, with many of them talking about teacher pay, fewer mandatory tests and finding ways to allow them more time to teach. UofSC impact day was on Wednesday when students visited the Higher Education Subcommittee to discuss issues important to colleges and technical schools. We also welcomed EMT’s, the National Guard and high school students this week as well.

Working On Education Reform

The House K-12 Education Subcommittee, which I Chair, held its first public hearing for the comprehensive education reform bill on Wednesday. Speaker of the House Jay Lucas was the first to testify before my subcommittee, explaining that the bill is a starting point and asked for the public’s input to fine-tune this important legislation.

Members of K-12 education subcommittee listened to compelling testimony from county officials, teachers and parents across the state to find ways to incorporate their ideas into the bill. We will hold more hearings on this bill over the next couple of weeks to get more input from the public about this vital legislation. I will also be providing regular updates on this legislation as we continue working on it.

To read this legislation: https://www.scstatehouse.gov/billsearch.php?billnumbers=3759

The Senate made strides towards education reform this week as well. Their bills, which will soon head to the House, will reduce the amount of paperwork for teachers and students in an effort to improve quality time in the classroom.

Public Input Needed!

House Speaker Jay Lucas is requesting public input for the education reform bill with a hearing scheduled at the State House for February 12 at 5 pm. Holding this hearing after work hours is intended to give teachers and the general public a better chance to attend, watch and make their voices heard. If you’d like to attend, let me know!

If you cannot attend, please fill out this survey: https://goo.gl/forms/AoM1yVpyr7hR43a02

More information: https://www.postandcourier.com/politics/house-speaker-seeks-input-on-massive-sc-schools-bill-to/article_1b6bafac-24b3-11e9-b640-2be7459b9fcc.html

https://www.thestate.com/news/politics-government/article225272440.html

Distracted Driving Legislation

The DUI-E (Driving Under the Influence of Electronics) bill, currently in the committee process, will prohibit drivers from handling their phone or other electronic devices while they are on the road. Distracted driving contributes to a significant number of accidents on S.C. roads and has raised insurance premiums over ten percent in recent years.

More information: https://www.thestate.com/news/politics-government/article225205685.html

Protecting teens from vaping

A bill to protect teens from vaping passed out of the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday and will go to the House floor for a vote. This bill bans vaping on public school property and makes it illegal for children under 18 to enter a vape shop without an adult.

More information: https://www.thestate.com/news/politics-government/article225231520.html

Tax Cuts for South Carolina Military Retirees

In an effort to attract more military retirees to South Carolina the House Ways and Means Committee has proposed a bill that exempts retirement income for more than 38,000 retired veterans from being taxed. By giving veterans a tax cut, the state revenue could potentially increase as the economy grows with more retirees and their families moving to the state.

More information: https://www.thestate.com/news/politics-government/article225007580.html

Exceptional Needs Children Tax Credit

On Thursday, a bill to increase the tax credit for exceptional needs programs was scheduled for a third reading. This bill aims to increase funding for programs that help families with children that have special needs to seek out the educational opportunities that best fit their kids.  

Let Me Hear From You!

As with any job, feedback is important, so please keep in touch with me. You can reach me with your questions any time at 803-547-6715. You can follow me online by visiting my website: VoteRaye.com, via Facebook at facebook.com/VoteRaye or on Twitter at twitter.com/FortMillRaye.

Update: 12/10/2018

Dear Friends and Neighbors:

I’d like to thank you for your support in my re-election bid last month. I was honored to receive your renewed vote of confidence in my work as your Representative and look forward to working for you for two more years. The issues that were discussed during the campaign and the views and concerns many of you shared with me will be part of my agenda for my upcoming legislative session.

Although the General Assembly adjourned back in the spring and many legislators take the fall and winter months off from legislative work, I’ve continued working all year long. While this extra work is not required, some issues are too important to put them on “hold” for the six months the General Assembly is not in session. This out-of-session work is vital to helping ensure prompt action on important issues as well as making sure that I’m prepared when the next session begins next year.

Here’s some of what I’ve been up to recently:

  • South Carolina Association of School Business Officials: I was honored to receive their “Champion of Education” award at their annual conference.
  • DMV Rock Hill office naming: I was one of the legislators who sponsored a resolution to name the Rock Hill DMV branch after Medal of Honor recipient Kyle White. White, a former U.S. Army Sergeant, won the award for heroism under fire in Afghanistan.
  • WhatWorksSC Conference: This annual event brings together educators and elected officials to discuss and showcase innovative education programs and strategies. This helps me better understand the needs and learn about new approaches we can take in advancing education reform.
  • Ad Hoc Committee on School Climate and Safety: This joint special committee of members of the House’s Education and Ways and Means Committees was created to find ways to address school safety and security, as well as healthier environments for students.  This fall, we’ve held meetings where we heard testimony from safety and security professionals to make our schools safer and our children protected and will be holding another later this month.
  • SC Charter School Ad Hoc Committee: This Committee is responsible for looking at the 1996 legislation that created the SC Charter School Act, to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the legislation. I serve as the Co-Chair of the Committee.  In recent weeks, we have been taking testimony and reports from Charter Schools and charter school authorizers across the state, with the intent of implementing changes that will allow our charter school students to reach their potential. We will meet again later this month.
  • House Re-Organization Meetings: The House met last week for a short session, where House members, including myself, were sworn in for our next terms, elected leaders and received our Committee assignments for the 2019-2020 term. I was re-appointed to the House Education and Public Works Committee and was re-elected by committee members to serve as the First Vice-Chair of the Committee and will continue to serve as the Chair of the K-12 sub-committee. This important State House committee oversees legislation and oversight of public education from K-12 to higher education, Department of Motor Vehicles, highway safety and the Department of Transportation.

During our re-organization meetings, House Speaker Jay Lucas challenged House members to put K-12 education reform on the front burner in next year’s session. As Chair of the K-12 Education sub-committee, I will be very involved in this effort. The process of reforming education will explore many issues, including teacher pay, school safety, improving oversight and accountability. At the same time, we need to find ways to do the most we can without increasing tax burdens, especially residential property taxes. Much of my time at the State House since we adjourned in the spring has been to gear up for this effort and I’m eager to get to work.

We’ll be returning to Columbia late next month when the 2019-2020 session begins and I’ll have another update then. If you have any questions in the meantime, please feel free to reach out to me.