The South Carolina State Legislature has finally adjourned, ending the first of a two-year session. A lot was accomplished over the past eight months, as the Senate Republican Caucus was able to successfully work with Governor Nikki Haley to pass many needed conservative reforms. Together, we passed legislation that helps make South Carolina a more conservative and business friendly place to live, limiting the role of state government in your life while President Obama and his Washington allies continue to grow government at the federal level.
With the conclusion of the 2010 census, state legislatures were tasked to redraw congressional lines to represent shifts in population growth. This year, South Carolina gained a congressional seat meaning a whole new district would have to be created from parts of previous districts. The House and Senate were able to work together to pass a compromise congressional redistricting plan that places the newly formed 7th district in the Pee Dee region of the state. After debating the issue, both chambers were able to agree on a plan that creates a solidly Republican seat and increases the Republican voter percentages in several other key congressional districts. This was a very important step to help ensure the GOP will keep its hold in Congress in future elections. We are working to ensure that South Carolina continues electing Congressmen who will lead the conservative fight to change Washington.
Transparency has been a major issue on both a state and national level and we’ve heard your loud demands. We know that you want to know exactly where your hard-earned money is being spent. To give you the ability to know how we vote, we passed a new law mandating a roll call vote on every piece of legislation, excluding ceremonial resolutions. This was Governor Haley’s signature piece of legislation and something that she campaigned heavily on in the 2010 election. During her State of the State address, Governor Haley asked the South Carolina Senate to quickly approve her cabinet appointments. We did exactly as she asked; we promptly interviewed, researched and approved a full slate of strong agency directors. She promised to reform government and we’re going to help her accomplish her mission.
One of our top priorities this year was tort reform, and I’m happy to announce the passage of the “South Carolina Fairness in Civil Justice Act of 2011”. This was the main priority of South Carolina’s business organizations and it received overwhelming support in both the House and the Senate. With its signing into law, South Carolina has taken another step towards creating a healthier business climate by protecting companies from runaway lawsuit awards. By cutting from twenty-six to twenty weeks of unemployment benefits and using excess state revenue to responsibly pay down our debt to the federal government, we were also able to give South Carolina businesses a much-needed tax cut of 24% on their unemployment tax bills.
In the next election cycle, voters will have to bring a valid form of identification to the polls. After being blocked for years by Democrat, the voter ID bill was finally signed into law this session. The Senate and the House were able to pass a version that requires voters to present a valid form of ID to vote while leaving current absentee voting laws unchanged. With its passage, South Carolina has taken a needed step to secure elections from voter fraud.
With the federal government immobile on the issue of true immigration reform, it has been left to the states to individually address this national issue. The Senate Republican Caucus took the lead by offering a bill similar to the recent Arizona law that authorizes state or local law enforcement officers to determine the citizenship of anyone who has been legally stopped, detained, or arrested. It is a shame that the Obama administration seems to be more concerned with intruding on our individual freedoms with legislation like ObamaCare rather than tackle its constitutionally mandated duties like immigration. Issues like these are truly a distraction to state legislatures who should be able to devote their time to removing roadblocks that hinder the state’s economic growth and success, but often times we have to clean up Washington’s mess.
Helping property sales was also a priority in the Senate. By passing a point-of-sale bill, the legislature discounted the taxable value of a property by 25% of the sale price. A 2006 law placed the taxable value of a property at the price at which it was sold, a practice that many in the real estate community believed was hurting home sales. While the new law applies only to properties such as retail, apartments and second homes, this discount was put into place to ease the burden on those who saw no relief from the changes made in 2006. Additionally, changes like this will help attract out-of-state businesses and second home buyers who help boost the economy of the region.
In the past year, Amazon announced that it was considering building a fulfillment center in South Carolina. By doing so, many believed the online retailer would fit the requirements that would obligate it to collect sales tax from South Carolina residents who purchased an item from the website. To give Amazon an incentive to bring jobs to the area, the South Carolina legislature passed a compromise that exempted Amazon from collecting taxes until January 1, 2016, at which point the exemption would expire. South Carolina residents are still required to pay sales tax on items purchased from Amazon, even if the company does not collect them. In the legislation, Amazon is required to send an email, notifying South Carolina purchasers of this fact.
There is still a lot of work to be done once the South Carolina General Assembly reconvenes next year. Both chambers will need to focus on capping government spending growth and restructuring government to be more efficient. Two areas already being looked at to accomplish this are the phasing out of the Budget & Control Board and combining the Governor and Lieutenant Governor onto one campaign ticket.
As we move forward in to the next year, we cannot forget the success had this past session and how they were achieved. The House, Senate, and Governor were able to work together to pass many conservative reforms that will help jumpstart economic recovery. From tort reform to redistricting, many issues were debated, with solidly conservative and business friendly solutions being reached. Our fight is far from over and I look forward to tackling more conservative reforms in January.