This week was the first week back in session for the General Assembly. We returned to Columbia with a long list of issues to tackle and 20 weeks to do so.
The House Republicans issued our agenda for 2013 and focused on broad government reform. This year, many of the items on our agenda were hoisted upon us by outside forces (such as foreign computer hackers or President Obama). It’s a smaller agenda than we have had in previous years because these are all serious items that will need serious debate.
Since voters gave Republicans control of the House in 1994, the most significant legislative achievements originated in the Caucus Agenda items such as: workers’ compensation reform, property tax reform, illegal immigration reform, campaign finance reform, and elimination of the Budget and Control Board, among many others.
We have a history of accomplishing our agenda quickly and thoroughly. We plan to do that again this year. This year’s agenda includes:
Election Reform: Legislation is being written to correct the 2012 election fiasco created by the S.C. Supreme Court. It was absolutely unconscionable that so many people were kept off the ballot by a technicality enforced so strongly by our courts. We will fix the law so anybody who qualifies for the ballot can run for office.
Data Security: The hacking of the Department of Revenue’s computers was one of the most shocking news events in our state in years. The House currently has a committee, chaired by House Majority Leader Bruce Bannister, examining both the data collected by the state and to ensure that data is protected in the future.
Update Ethics Laws: Ethics reform must be done to re-instill trust in our political system. Our current ethics laws were written more than two decades ago – before the wide proliferation of credit cards, electronic funds transfer, websites like PayPal, and the Internet in general. It is clear that our two-decades-old ethics laws are insufficient for our 21st Century world.
Oppose Obamacare: We will fight the implementation of this law, and the massive tax increases that follow it. The U.S. Supreme Court has allowed states to opt-out of the most costly expansion of government healthcare, and we will do so.
Real Tax Reform: We knew tax reform would be a multi-year effort. Last year, only one of seven tax reform bills we approved made it through the South Carolina Senate. This year, we will again send the Senate bills to lower manufacturers’ property tax rates to make us competitive with Georgia and North Carolina, flatten the personal income tax to lower income taxes and make them more equitable, and reduce special interest sales tax exemptions.
Grow Our Economy: Every Caucus agenda has featured new ideas to make our state a strong, pro-business place. This year, we will fight to reign in the government regulations created by unelected officials, we will work to help small businesses get more access to the capital they need to grow their businesses, and work on providing enhanced skills training so business can find workers and workers can find jobs.
Government Restructuring: Last spring, we came within a Senate filibuster of the biggest government overhaul in two decades. The last-second effort to kill a bill that eliminated the Budget and Control Board was awful. We believe the time is still right to get this needed restructuring through and we will work to do so again this year.
In the coming weeks, Caucus members will reach out to their constituents and to Republican activists statewide to prioritize the agenda.
As always, thank you for the privilege of serving you in Columbia. If I can ever be of assistance to you, or if you have ideas on issues you want me to share with the rest of the General Assembly, please don’t hesitate to contact me at 803.984.6616.