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Last updated: July 23. 2014 9:06AM - 239 Views
Margaret Brackett Contributing Columnist



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The Honorable Walton McLeod, S.C. Representative, House District 40, is guest this week. He will present his annual report of issues and accomplishments of the legislative bills enacted during the 2014 Session. It is a privilege to present this information to enlighten Observer patrons of updated legislation:


Thank you for allowing me to represent the people of Newberry County in the State House of Representatives. It is a high honor representing you and serving as your voice in the House.


Although there were two glaring omissions, namely, the failure to enact a stronger Ethics law governing the conduct of all public officials, and also the failure to appropriate more money to reduce potholes in our roads, the facts show that the 2014 legislative session was a productive one in which a series of very important initiatives to build a better South Carolina were enacted into statutory law. In my opinion, this session was one of the most successful sessions in several years.


Veto Day – June 17


The final day of the 2014 legislative session was held on Tuesday, June 17, 2014, a day described as Veto Day. The House met to consider Governor Haley’s veto of several pieces of legislation, among them the veto of the First Steps to School Readiness Reauthorization, and also seventy-six separate line item vetoes contained in the Fiscal Year 2014 – 2015 General Appropriations Act.


The State Constitution requires a two-thirds majority of the House and Senate to override the Governor’s veto. Both the House and later the Senate voted overwhelmingly to override the Governor’s veto of the early childhood education legislation1.


Regarding the Appropriations Act, my information is that the House voted to override fifty-seven vetoes; voted to uphold sixteen vetoes; and voted not to consider three vetoes. Seventy-five percent of the Governor’s vetoes were overridden by the House, and sixteen percent of the Governor’s vetoes were upheld. Several vetoes were ultimately upheld because the Senate disagreed with the House and voted to uphold those vetoes.


No Legislative Pay Raise


Although the House voted to override the Governor’s veto of the pay raise for legislators of $12,000 per year, I voted to uphold this veto. I voted against the pay raise when it initially came before the House, and I was one of the twenty-nine members of the House who voted to support the Governor’s veto.


The Senate voted to uphold the Governor’s veto thereby killing the proposed pay hike for members for the House and Senate. I voted against the legislative pay hike because it is unacceptable at this point in time when many people cannot find suitable jobs, when potholes in our roads are increasingly damaging to our vehicles, and when the needs of our public schools are not being met.


Highlights of the 2014 Legislative Session


Lawmakers abolished the State Budget and Control Board and transferred most of the state’s administration duties to the Governor. Lawmakers also passed a statewide ban on texting while driving; enacted a requirement that a drunk driver install an ignition-interlock device; and significantly bolstered K-12 education.


Restructuring


Although the issuance of bonds, as well as state procurement involving the bid process and the awarding of contracts, will be the responsibility of the newly created State Fiscal Accountability Authority, most of the state’s administrative duties will be exercised by the Department of Administration under the direction and control of the Governor.


This legislation originated in the Senate, and it also contains provisions requiring legislative oversight of executive departments. The standing committees of the House and Senate are granted this authority, including the power to subpoena witnesses.


I strongly supported the restructuring proposal, and was successful in securing the adoption of an amendment which requires witnesses appearing before legislative committees to testify under oath, and creates the fresh crime of Contempt of the General Assembly applicable to persons who give false, misleading, or incomplete testimony, or who refuse to be sworn or fail to appear before a legislative committee.


Ban on Texting While Driving


In January of 2014, there were only four states which had no general law outlawing texting while driving. South Carolina was one of them.


I was primary sponsor of one of the pieces of legislation banning texting while driving, and I am pleased to report that it was incorporated into legislation which passed and was signed into law by the Governor. This statewide ban for all drivers supersedes the hodgepodge of local bans.


The penalty is the same as the penalty for driving without a buckled up seatbelt. Law enforcement must issue only warnings during the first one hundred and eighty days since the law became effective on June 9, 2014.


Emma’s Law: Ignition-Interlock Device for Drunk Drivers


This new law, targeting drunk drivers and named after 6-year-old victim Emma Longstreet of Lexington, requires that an interlock device be attached to a vehicle’s ignition for all first-offensive drunk drivers who plead guilty or are convicted of having a blood-alcohol content of 0.15 percent or higher.


Renewed Emphasis on K-12 Education


For the first time in recent years, legislators and the Governor acknowledged that education is the foundation for upward mobility and for an improved quality of life. As previously mentioned, The First Steps to School Readiness Program was reauthorized. Also passed was The Back to Basics In Education Act requiring students, by end of the fifth grade, to be able to read and write legible cursive handwriting, and be able to learn and memorize multiplication tables.


I was pleased to be primary sponsor of a bill requiring instruction in cursive handwriting which was incorporated into the Back to Basics Act. Other education enactments include new funding to provide 4-year-old kindergarten to more poor children in approximately seventy of the state’s eighty-five school districts, and the Read To Succeed Act mandating an intense focus on reading in the early grades.


Moreover, the legislature and the Government directed that a larger portion of the state’s education dollars be channeled to children in poverty, because it costs more to educate poor students than from the middle class.


It is an honor and a pleasure representing Newberry County and its citizens in the State House of Representatives. Thank you. If you have any questions regarding the 2014 session of the General Assembly, please let me hear from you. My office phone is 803-345-1538 and my home phone is 945-7561. I welcome your inquiries.


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