The House of Representatives got back to work this week after last week’s winter storm. It was a busy week with many groups visiting the Statehouse and our House Ways and Means subcommittees playing catch-up on a week of lost work.
The biggest news of the week was that Governor Haley signed the Department of Administration bill into law to a packed crowd in the Statehouse lobby. This was a major success for the House Republicans a few weeks ago, and marks another major step in making our state government more efficient. This journey was started by the late Republican Governor Carroll Campbell, and his family was on hand for the bill signing.
The other major item was the election for Supreme Court Chief Justice between current Chief Justice Jean Toal and Associate Justice Costa Pleicones. You may have seen stories or received emails about this race over the past few weeks as it became contentious on both sides. Toal won the election by 95-74. Both Toal and Pleicones were extremely professional after the election, hugged in the House gallery after the vote, and pledged that this will not affect their relationship on the court. Toal will have to retire in 2015, and Pleicones announced in the press Wednesday afternoon that he will run again when Toal retires.
One other item of note this week: A House Judiciary subcommittee debated legislation that will ban abortion after the 20th week of pregnancy. Current law sets that limit at the 24th week. The committee will continue to hear testimony on the bill, H.4223, after we return from next week’s furlough.
The House will be on our regularly scheduled furlough week next week, which will save the taxpayers $50,000. The House Republicans have passed bills shortening our calendar during every legislative session since you gave Republican control of the House in 1994. This will be our second furlough week this year (after last week’s weather closure), but we’re progressing quickly in crafting the state budget, finally got the Department of Administration restructuring bill signed into law, and passed the restaurant carry bill approved. That’s a strong record of achievement in only a few weeks.
One last item relating to last week’s storm (as we see the Northeast getting socked with snow and ice again). I wrote last week that criticizing local officials for shutting down offices during snow and ice events was a kind of sport here in the Palmetto State. This week, a number of disaster experts gave our state an “A+” for disaster response. As University of South Carolina professor Christopher Emrich told ABC Columbia: “An ounce of preparedness is worth a pound of response.”
While closures may be a major inconvenience – especially to working parents of children in school – the alternative could be the disasters we saw in Atlanta and Birmingham. Sometimes it is better to be safe than sorry.
It is an honor and a privilege to serve you in Columbia again this year. 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.