Budget Week, Foster Care, Automatic Stay Reform
The focus of the House this week was almost exclusively on the budget. Democrats were seeking to raise taxes on the people of South Carolina in two ways. The first was an increase in taxes for firearms, which would have unfairly penalized lawful gun owners. Republicans soundly defeated the Democrats’ firearm tax increase. The second tax hike push by Democrats was their effort to repeal the Homestead Exemption for one year, also known as Act 388. The Homestead Exemption exempts taxes on the first $50,000 in fair market value for homeowners over age 65, the totally and permanently disabled, or legally blind. House Republicans successfully defeated this tax hike measure put forward by the Democrats.
House Republicans were also successful in pushing through virtually all of our budget priorities. First and foremost, the full budget was passed without a tax hike. Major House Republican wins include nearly $600 million in tax relief for citizens of our state, nearly $20 million to our technical schools to train students for high-skill and well-paying jobs businesses are looking to fill, $60 million for teacher salary increases, new public school buses, salary increases for prison workers, funding to help our agriculture industry, opioid abuse prevention funding, and much more.
Majority Leader Gary Simrill also submitted an amendment to the budget relating to foster care placement. The amendment, which was passed by the House, requires the department of social services to perform an “attachment assessment” on any child who has lived in the same foster care for at least 9 months, where the foster parents are willing to provide a permanent home, before the agency can place children in a different setting. The amendment also requires ongoing assessments and visitations if the permanent placement plan for a child includes reunification with a parent or caregiver. Foster children are some of our state’s most vulnerable people, and new consideration will now be given to their ability to develop relationships and attachment within the foster home.
On Thursday, Governor McMaster signed Automatic Stay reform into law, which will result in a shortened amount of time radical environmental groups are able to hold up construction of important state infrastructure projects and business development projects in court. Under the previous law, environmental groups had the ability to petition the Administrative Law Court for a “stay” on new construction of roads and highways and private businesses. That law had been exploited by radical groups who would threaten to delay vital projects in court unless state government and private businesses effectively paid them off. Projects that have been threatened by environmental groups include the Boeing facility in North Charleston and the deepening of the Port of Charleston.
It is an honor and a privilege to serve you in Columbia. If you need help navigating state government, or have any thoughts or concerns about what we are doing, please do not hesitate to contact me.