SC Legislative Report with Rep. Mike Burns: The crossover deadline

  • PDF

By S.C. District 17 Representative Mike Burns:

South Carolina State HouseThe SC House of Representatives approved dozens of pieces of legislation this week in advance of the "crossover" deadline – that's when our bills have to be to the Senate if they are to be acted upon this year.

Here are the highlights:

ObamaCare Nullification

Legislation to nullify the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in SC through noncompliance passed the House last evening by a 65-34 vote along partisan lines. No such bill has been passed by any state in modern American history AFTER the Supreme Court gave its opinion on the constitutionality of a federal act. H.3101 would require the state to refuse the creation of an ObamaCare exchange, Medicaid expansion, and much more. This covers a big portion of the steps needed to fully nullify Obamacare. Urge your state senator to support this!

Early Voting Approved

It took nearly five hours of highly energized debate, but in the end House Republicans won approval for a bill that will provide 9 days of 'no excuse' early voting in all elections. In light of the 'no excuse' early voting period, the legislation allows absentee voting for nine specific categories for an extended period. The key groups included in absentee voting are those 65 and over, students, military members and people who are hospitalized. Next stop for the bill is the state senate.

Creating a Stronger Ethics Law

The most important piece of legislation on our calendar for next week is a major reform package to our two-decades old ethics laws. Various study committees have spent months holding meetings and have taken public testimony to find the best answers for updating our ethics laws. Republicans and Democrats have worked together and separately and were joined by the Governor's Office. The result is the legislation that we will consider next week. Here's what it accomplishes:

  • Abolishes the House and Senate ethics committees and replaces them with a new, bi-partisan commission that includes public officials and members of the general public to oversee ethics violations in the House and Senate.
  • Creates a "Public Integrity Unit" to receive and investigate criminal complaints.

  • Strengthens criminal penalties for violations of the Ethics Act.

  • Abolishes "Leadership PAC" contributions to elected officials.

  • Requires all lawmakers to disclose all sources of income - public and private - to disclose potential conflicts of interest.

  • Requires lobbyists to register if they lobby local governments or school districts, but keeps all of the same exemptions for members of the public and "local" organizations such as PTAs, homeowners' associations, or churches.

  • Eliminates the "blackout period" right before an election when candidates do not have to disclose donors.

  • Expands when public officials must recuse themselves from a vote to include all levels of the legislative process down to the subcommittee level.

There has been a lot of misinformation spread about this bill as it was being developed. Ultimately, this proposed legislation is a significant change in how the public will hold their public officials accountable. As an example, one major complaint from the public was that the House and Senate judge themselves on ethics. Even though most states and Congress operate in the same manner, it was time for our state to lead on ethics reform. More to come next week.

Power to Grandparents

The House unanimously approved legislation giving grandparents standing in court when judges are deciding where to place a child at a probable cause hearing. Currently, grandparents or other relatives don't have special standing in court. This is the right thing to do and, and as a grandparent, I'm proud to be a co-sponsor of this legislation and have pushed for it for a couple of years.

'Restaurant Carry' Bill Wins Approval

The Senate passed a bill which would allow concealed weapons permit holders to carry guns into restaurants that serve alcohol, as long as they don't consume alcohol. No firearms would be permitted in bars and restaurants serving alcohol between midnight and five in the morning. The bill has been sent to the House.

Thank you for the privilege of serving you in Columbia. If I can ever be of assistance, 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 here.