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Legislative Update: State Rep. Bill Taylor

Posted: February 15, 2017 - 2:01am

EDITOR'S NOTE: Several members of the Aiken County legislative delegation send regular updates to constituents through email. North Augusta Today will run their updates in rotation while the state legislature is in session.

This week's update is by state Rep. Bill Taylor:

 

Dear Friends: Finding a permanent funding stream to repair and upgrade South Carolina's road system is the top priority of the legislature (as it has been for the last several years). This week's developments:

 

Gas Tax Hike a "Last Resort"

Gov. Henry McMaster met privately with House Republican legislators. He told us he views any hike in the gas tax as a "last resort." McMaster's opinion is important because if he were to veto legislation raising the gas tax, it would take a two-thirds vote of the House and Senate to override the veto. Some viewed his remarks as not ruling out a gas tax hike, but merely labeling it a "last resort."

 

Governor Asks Feds for Road Bucks

In a letter to President Trump, Gov. McMaster requested that the president include two South Carolina projects in his national infrastructure plan. Emphasizing SC's unique position as an economic driver in the region, the governor requested an appropriation of $5 billion from the plan to address state-specific infrastructure needs. Additionally, he asked for a $180 million allotment to fulfill the federal share for the deepening of the Charleston port to 52 feet.

 

Gas Tax Bill Heads for House Vote

A bill raising SC's gas tax and some other fees to put an additional $600 million a year in the state's roads is on its way to the House floor. The proposal (H.3516) was unanimously approved by the House Ways and Means Committee. The bill would boost the state's 16.75-cents-per-gallon gas tax 10-cents over five years and increase the sales tax cap on vehicle purchases from $300 to $500. Other fees are also included. It also would create a $250 one-time fee registration fee for people moving into the state. The bill creates the Infrastructure Maintenance Trust Fund to ensure 100 percent of revenues go directly (and only) toward fixing our roads and bridges and will not be used for new roads. If this legislation makes it through the House, it will face uncertain fate in the Senate.

 

Statehouse News in Brief

While road funding news dominates, here's a wrapup of other significant news:

 

Painful Pension Solutions

State government, as well as counties, cities and school districts around the state will likely have to pay more into the state retirement system over the next six years, under a bipartisan proposal recommended by a joint House-Senate study committee.

The Joint Committee on Pension Systems Review unanimously recommended the state and its employees should contribute more to the beleaguered pension system, which faces a $20+ billion gap between what it has on hand and what is promised to future retirees. The recommendations will now be introduced in the House and Senate as separate bills.

 

CWP Expansion

A House sub-committee advanced legislation (H.3240) that would allow concealed weapons permit (CWP) holders in all other states to also carry in SC. Our state currently recognizes concealed weapons permits from 23 other states that have similar requirements to get a permit.

 

Real ID Legislation Starts Moving

A House committee unanimously approved legislation (H.3358) that would bring SC in compliance with the federal REAL ID Act of 2005. If our state doesn't comply with the federal requirements, SC's driver's licenses and ID cards won't be accepted to board airplanes or enter federal installations and military bases. SC has had a waiver for more than a decade, but that will likely run out unless legislation is approved. Stay tuned.

 

Enhanced Government Transparency

Legislation that would significantly enhance the cost and ease to use the SC Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) cleared a final committee vote and heads to the House floor for a vote. This bill (H.3352) enhances those laws and makes compliance easier and cheaper for both government entities and those seeking government documents alike. I have championed these improvements since I was first elected. The pro-transparency measure would streamline the current process used by citizens and the news media seeking access to government documents. After all, government at all levels belongs to you and the FOIA process is intended to ensure the business of the public remains public.

 

Business License Reform

Current state law allows counties and cities to levy business licensing fees if they operate within those jurisdictions. They collect more than $300 million annually. For years the business community has sought reforms to this structure to reduce the burdens placed on them. This pro-business reform legislation (H.3650) that would allow for a central online registry for business licenses across the state cleared a key House committee and heads to the House floor for a full vote.

 

Vet's Tuition Bill ... Please!

For the past three legislative sessions the House has passed bills that waive the one-year waiting period for a veteran to attend a SC public college or university so they can pay in-state tuition rates and avoid the costly out-of-state tuition. Each time, the bill has died in the Senate.

The House is persistent. This week, for a fourth time, we passed the bill (H.3035) on a vote of 109-4 and sent it to the Senate.

 

Clean Energy

A bill aimed at attracting investment to SC's clean energy industry passed the Senate. The Senate voted 38-4 to green light the Renewable Energy Economic Development Bill (S.44) and send it to the House. The bill would allow land that's currently unused or being used for agriculture to be used as a solar farm, creating tax revenue to counties. If that bill eventually becomes a law, SC would be on similar footing with neighboring North Carolina and 28 other states that have enacted similar legislation.

 

Moped Legislation

A House committee unanimously passed a comprehensive bill to improve moped safety and sent it the House floor for debate and a vote. We have tried to pass similar legislation in past sessions. The Senate recently passed its own version of moped regulation. A recent Aiken Standard editorial addressed it.

 

Regulating Dog Kennels

A bill to regulate dog daycare facilities in SC died in a House subcommittee. The bill, drafted in response to a dog's death from overheating at a Mount Pleasant center, was scuttled after legislators (including me) heard from kennel owners about the over-burdensome proposal and its unintended consequences. In my view, lawmakers must always use restraint in punishing the masses for the crimes of a few (or one).

 

Nixing Exotic Animals

A proposal that would eventually phase out individual ownership of lions, apes or other "exotic" animals has been sent to the Senate by the House. The House overwhelmingly approved a bill 99-5 which would bar those who do not already own big cats, great apes or non-native bears from buying them after 2018.

 

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