Legislative Report with Rep. Burns: Wrapping up the session

By S.C. Dist. 17 Rep. Mike Burns:

With two weeks remaining in the 2014 S.C. legislative session, the following is provided as an update:

House of Representatives:

Texting/Driving Ban: The legislative tug-of-war over creating a worthwhile ban on texting while driving continued. The House Education Committee tossed out language in a Senate bill that would have banned only new teenage drivers from using a cellphone while driving. Representatives, including myself, voted to insert language from the TWD bill originally passed by the House that calls for a statewide ban on all drivers. The House will consider the amended legislation next week. It's my hope a compromise can be struck which institutes the House's statewide ban with increased fines found in the Senate version.

Trespassing Responsibility Act: The House amended and approved (S.986) protecting landowners rights from trespassers by codifying common law.

Hunting License Revocation: The House approved (S.1178) allowing for the revocation of a hunter's privilege to participate in a lottery hunt for the remainder of the hunt if a DNR officer witnesses or has probable cause to believe that a hunting violation has occurred.

Julian's Law: The House approved a bill authorizing expanded access clinical trials to investigate the value of cannabidiol (a substance derived from marijuana) as a treatment for patients suffering from severe forms of epilepsy. The amended bill (S.1035) goes back to the Senate.

Industrial Hemp: The House approved legislation (S.839) authorizing the growing of industrial hemp. SC would join several other states in legalizing the crop which has a wide variety of uses, including twine, rope, paper, construction materials, carpeting, and clothing, has applications in manufacturing industrial oils, cosmetics, medicines, and food. The legislation distinguishes hemp grown for scientific, economic, and environmental uses from the narcotic marijuana.

Providing Protection: The House approved legislation (S.764) creating a program within the Lieutenant Governor's Office to serve as a statewide system to recruit, train, and supervise volunteers to serve as court appointed guardians ad litem for vulnerable adults in abuse, neglect, and exploitation proceedings within family court.

Solar Bill: According to advocates, S.C. could quickly catch up with many other states in solar energy production if a solar bill that's headed for House debate next week gets passed this session. Georgia and North Carolina each ranked in the top 10 states for amount of solar installed in 2013. The comprehensive solar energy bill allows South Carolinians to harness the sun as an energy source for electricity in a compromise with electric utilities.

State BBQ: The House joined the Senate in designating barbecue as the official State Picnic Cuisine of South Carolina.

In the Senate...

There are nine days left in the legislative session for 2014. As I write this, there are 242 pieces of House legislation still awaiting action in the Senate. We're certainly not calling for the Senate to pass all of them, however, we are once again witnessing progress stall in the Senate.

Budget Debate: After a couple of weeks of debate, senators approved their version of the $7 billion General Fund budget. The state's total budget totals $24 billion when combined with fees and federal dollars. On a vote of 38-6 they sent their budget proposal back to the House of Representatives. The Senate version expands full-day 4-year-old kindergarten for at-risk students to 14 additional school districts around the state. A push by Democrats to vastly expand Medicaid under 'Obamacare' was rejected. The Senate vote sends the budget back to the House then onto a conference committee to hammer out their differences in conference committee next month.

Book Ban Compromise: After days of debating the issue surrounding two S.C. colleges that required students to read gay/lesbian books, the State Senate voted to restore the money, but there's a catch. The Charleston College and USC-Upstate will be required to use the $70,000 the House cut from their budgets to teach provisions and principles of the Constitution, Declaration of Independence and Federalist Papers as well as "the study of and devotion to American institutions and ideals." The budget amendment allows students "based on a sincerely held religious, moral, or cultural belief" to receive an alternative required-reading assignment or skip a mandatory lecture or seminar, that is not part of a class.

SC's Official Fossil: State senators voted to designate the Columbian Mammoth the state official fossil. The House approved the measure last week and the bill now goes to Gov. Haley for approval. SC is one of only seven states without an official fossil.

Jaidon's Law: A Senate panel has given its approval to Jaidon's Law that would make it more difficult to return children to their drug-abusing parents by requiring the state's child-welfare agency and judges to consider whether those parents still are using drugs. The House has already passed the bill.

Good News for South Carolina:

Unemployment Decreases: South Carolina's official unemployment rate decreased to 5.3 percent in April from 5.5 percent in March. This is the lowest level the rate has reached in 13 years.

This is a GOOD Top 10: S.C. is listed in the top 10 states for business - 2014!

Remember to vote!

Please remember to vote in the Republican primary on Tuesday, June 10. Our campaign was given a boost, receiving two new endorsements this week: National Rifle Association and the S.C Citizens for Life. As always, I am faithful to support the 2nd Amendment and the right to life for the unborn.

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.

– Rep. Mike Burns