PRESS RELEASE: House Passes Retirement Reform Conference Report

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(Columbia, SC) – House Speaker Jay Lucas (District 65-Darlington) issued the following statement after the House passed a conference report agreed upon by the House and Senate to address retirement reform.

“The passage of today’s conference report is a significant and vital first step towards protecting the integrity of the South Carolina retirement system. Once this bill is signed into law, the state’s unfunded liabilities will no longer continue to spiral out of control and the retirement system will be placed back on a path to solvency.  With the additional $150 million the House added into the state budget several weeks ago, I am confident that our state retirement system will be preserved for future and current participants. It must be noted that the House and Senate put forth equal effort to ensure an efficient and timely resolution to this pressing issue.”

Provisions included in the Retirement Conference Committee Report

  • Increase to the employer contribution rate
  • Place a cap on the employee contribution rate
  • Reduce the assumed rate of return on investments and put protections in place to oversee changes in future rate adjustments
  • Modify the amortization rate period to reduce unfunded liabilities
  • Implement governance recommendations from the Funston Advisory Services and Legislative Audit Council
  • Require a four year rotation schedule for fiduciary audits of PEBA and the RSIC (Retirement System Investment Commission)

*Last fall, Speaker Jay Lucas and Senate President Pro Tempore Hugh Leatherman created a joint study committee, which met in the off-session to develop recommendations to be used in legislation to ensure quick resolution of the issue. Mirrored legislation was introduced and passed by both bodies and then sent to conference to work out the differences.

*In 2013, legitimate concerns were shared over the RSIC’s investment management. To ensure that South Carolinians’ investments were being managed in the most efficient and cost effective way, then-Speaker Pro Tempore Lucas, Representatives Gary Simrill, Greg Delleney, Dennis Moss, and former Representative Phil Owens, sent a letter to LAC requesting an audit of the RSIC. The audit’s findings were revealed in December 2015 and served as the catalyst to address this issue as quickly as possible.

 

PRESS RELEASE: Speaker Lucas Responds to Governor McMaster’s Road Bonding Letter

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(Columbia, SC) – House Speaker Jay Lucas (District 65-Darlington) issued the following statement in response to a letter received from Governor Henry McMaster earlier this morning. In the letter, Governor McMaster threatened to veto the House’s roads bill which passed the Chamber with an overwhelming, bipartisan majority of 97-18 in March. The Governor also requested redirecting the funds allocated in a bond bill, which was placed on the House calendar last week and has yet to be debated, towards road repair.

“Governor McMaster’s proposal continues the pattern of placing the costs of road repair solely on the South Carolina taxpayer and not on out-of-state motorists who use and deteriorate our crumbling roads. Borrowing more money to fix South Carolina’s roads and bridges will not serve as a permanent solution to our infrastructure crisis. The House passed our roads bill with an overwhelming bipartisan and veto proof majority, which protects the South Carolina taxpayer by providing a sustainable funding stream that requires every motorist to pay their fair share.”

PRESS RELEASE: Speaker Lucas Appoints House Tax Policy Review Committee

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Speaker Lucas Appoints House Tax Policy Review Committee

Member panel charged with offering suggestions to reform outdated tax code

 (Columbia, SC) – House Speaker Jay Lucas (District 65-Darlington) today appointed fourteen members of the SC House to serve on the House Tax Policy Review Committee.  This ad hoc committee will be responsible for reviewing South Carolina’s current tax code and submitting suggestions for reform to the Speaker before the beginning of next legislative session. The group will hold its first meeting next Tuesday, August 30th, 2016, at 2 P.M. in room 516 of the Blatt Building.

“Our outdated tax code needs a dramatic transformation in order to promote economic competitiveness and increase the size of our citizens’ paychecks. Achieving this difficult task is long overdue, but necessary to ensure our tax code is fair for our taxpayers. A broader and flatter tax code will help continue to spur job growth and provide greater opportunities for South Carolina families,” Speaker Jay Lucas stated.

Speaker Lucas selected Speaker Pro-Tempore Tommy Pope (District 47-York) to serve as Chairman of the House Tax Policy Review Committee. Additional members include: Rep. Todd Atwater (District 87-Lexington), Rep. Bill Bowers (District 122-Hampton), Rep. Mike Burns (District 17-Greenville), Rep. Joe Daning (District 92-Berkeley), Rep. Chandra Dillard (District 23-Greenville), Rep. MaryGail Douglas (District 41-Fairfield), Rep. Shannon Erickson (District 124-Beaufort), Rep. Joe Jefferson (District 102-Berkeley), Rep. Jay Jordan (District 63-Florence), Rep. Roger Kirby (District 61-Florence), Rep. Mandy Powers Norrell (District 44-Lancaster), Rep. Bill Taylor (District 86-Aiken), and Rep. Anne Thayer (District 9-Anderson).

“Representative Tommy Pope and the bipartisan members of this ad hoc committee were individually selected because of their leadership abilities and knowledge of the tax system. I am confident that this diverse group will successfully begin laying the groundwork for significant tax reform,” Speaker Lucas concluded.

PRESS RELEASE: House Passes Partial Road Funding Bill

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House Passes Partial Road Funding Bill

Amends legislation to include DOT reform

(Columbia, SC) – House Speaker Jay Lucas (District 65-Darlington) issued the following statement after the House amended S. 1258, a bill that allocates through bonding and other means over $4 billion dollars for interstate needs, road resurfacing, and bridge repair over the next ten years. Today’s House passage of S. 1258 provides another opportunity for a road funding bill (although partial) to be signed into law by Governor Haley before the end of the legislative session.

“Members of the House understand that the people of South Carolina expect their Legislature to pass a roads bill this year. Although more effort must be made next session to find a long-term funding stream, this bill is a starting point that allows for adequate repair of deficient roads and bridges without raiding our state’s General Fund,” Speaker Lucas stated.

The Senate version of S. 1258 only provided for bonding and did not address DOT reform. The Ways and Means Committee successfully amended the bill prior to debate on the House floor to include DOT reform, which gives (1) the Governor the ability to appoint all Highway Commissioners, and (2) the Highway Commission the authority to appoint a Department of Transportation Secretary with the advice and consent of the General Assembly.

“DOT reform is a crucial piece to the road funding puzzle. The General Assembly should not give another penny to the Department of Transportation without certain accountability requirements in place to ensure taxpayer dollars are spent wisely. I am very pleased the House successfully amended the Senate version to include governance restructuring as an effort to promote efficiency within DOT,” Speaker Lucas concluded.

PRESS RELEASE: Speaker Lucas: House Passes Final Amendment to Roads Bill

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House Passes Final Amendment to Roads Bill

Moves to the Senate for an up or down vote

(Columbia, SC) – House Speaker Jay Lucas (District 65-Darlington) issued the following statement after the House amended the Senate version of the roads bill (H.3579) by an overwhelming vote of 113-6.

“Today, the South Carolina House amended a partial bill and filled in the gaps so that it better provides for the needs of our citizens,” House Speaker Jay Lucas stated.  “The legislative process exists so that the General Assembly can work together to move South Carolina forward, not provide opportunities for political grandstanding. The House’s amendment preserves qualifications and requirements for Highway Commissioners, solidifies the transparency of the State Infrastructure Bank, and removes irresponsible budgeting practices that threaten the stability of our economy.

“The Legislative Audit Council’s report serves as a critical tool for the General Assembly and exposes insufficiencies within SCDOT. Although a majority of the Senate requested this study, they passed their amendment days before it was available and could not rely on its findings as a basis for their reform measures. The House could not in good faith pass the Senate amendment because it falls short of true reform,” Speaker Lucas continued.

Legislative procedure dictates that H. 3579 cannot be amended again.  Upon arrival, the Senate has the option of taking a vote or not taking a vote. The vote decides whether or not to concur or nonconcur.  A vote for concurrence would result in the bill’s passage and then on to the Governor’s desk for signature. Nonoccurrence would result in the formation of a conference committee.

“The Senate now has the responsibility of taking a single up or down vote on this bill. We obviously prefer a vote for concurrence, but welcome the idea of blending our two versions together. Regardless, the most important action here is for the Senate to take a vote and bring us one step closer to fixing our roads. At the end of the day, South Carolinians want progress on this issue and repairing our crumbling infrastructure starts with SCDOT reform.”

 

Provisions in the House Amendment to H. 3579:

  • Highway Commissioners are appointed by the Governor with the advice and consent of the General Assembly
  • Commission appoints a Secretary of Transportation with advice and consent of the General Assembly, who then serves at the pleasure of the Commission to create a single line of authority from the Governor, to the Commission, to the Secretary.
  • Eliminates the Joint Transportation Review Committee, but retains the required qualifications for Commissioners to ensure appointees have appropriate education and experience. These qualifications and requirements were removed in the Senate amendment.
  • Adopts the State Infrastructure Bank language in the Senate version and requires the entity to follow SCDOT prioritization criteria for projects
  • Removes the irresponsible $400M general fund mandate because it is unreliable. This year’s House passed budget appropriated $415M additional funds to SCDOT, an amount larger than specified in the Senate amendment, and we will continue to give available funds to SCDOT in the future.
  • Addresses the Legislative Audit Council’s concerns expressed in report by placing the SCDOT Chief Internal Auditor under the independent State Auditor

 

PRESS RELEASE: Speaker Lucas: House Introduces First Phase of Education Reform Package

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House Introduces First Phase of Education Reform Package

8 bills aimed to transform SC’s education delivery system

(Columbia, SC) – House Speaker Jay Lucas (District 65-Darlington) released the following statement after eight bills were introduced in the House as part of the first phase of the House Education Reform package.  These bills were crafted in direct correlation with the House Education Policy and Review Task Force’s findings and recommendations.

“The Abbeville decision brought necessary attention to the critical state of South Carolina’s education delivery system.  At the end of the day, our job is to provide school districts and teachers with the tools they need to give every child the opportunity to succeed. The House Education Task Force did a tremendous job studying this complicated issue for nearly a year. This diverse and experienced group found that the best way to achieve this goal is not to reactively give our schools more money and hope for a quick fix, but to open doors so that our students receive a 21st century education,” Speaker Jay Lucas said.

“South Carolina has become a powerhouse for economic and job growth and we have a responsibility to match our education system with the needs of our emerging workforce. Focusing solely on improving conditions for rural, struggling school districts does not help our students acquire the skills they need to become college or career ready,” Speaker Lucas continued. “The eight bills filed today will allow our State Department of Education to successfully work with the business and technical college communities to offer assistance to our entire school system. They also address teacher retention, promote realistic expectations for graduates and put in place proactive measures to keep our education system competitive nationally. These common sense measures are a critical first step in the right direction for the comprehensive education reform South Carolina students deserve.”

All of the bills have been referred to committee, with a majority assigned to the Education and Public Works Committee.  Chairwoman Rita Allison, who also chaired the House Education Policy and Review Task Force, has been a champion for education reform thus far and will continue to advocate for reform as these bills continue throughout the legislative process.

“The House Education Task Force’s unique and diligent study laid the groundwork for education reform in South Carolina. Giving our teachers the ability to provide every child in South Carolina with a 21st century education starts with reducing unnecessary regulations and outdated practices. Representative Tommy Stringer, Chair of the K-12 Subcommittee, the entire Education and Public Works Committee and I will ensure that these bills advance as quickly as possible with thorough, meaningful debate,” added Chairwoman Rita Allison.

Ways and Means Subcommittee on Public Education and Special Schools Chairman Kenny Bingham, who also served on the House Education Task Force, is committed to ensuring that this year’s budget will continue to offer increased support for school districts in need.

“Over the past few years, South Carolina’s state budgets have provided resources designed to effectively assist our rural and poor school districts. This year we will continue this trend and support programs and policies Governor Haley and the Department of Education have recommended as we draft a responsible budget that works to meet South Carolina’s education needs,” Representative Kenny Bingham said.

 

Bills included in House Education Reform package

1)   H. 4783 – Redefine the expectations of a South Carolina high school graduate

2)   H. 4781- Recreate the Education and Economic Development Coordinating Council to allow the business community to work with K-12 and higher education to ensure our students are college and career ready

3)   H. 4780 – Eliminate outdated statutes to promote efficiency and cut unnecessary expenses.  State Department would be required to offer technical assistance to struggling districts

4)   H. 4779 – Create an Office of Transformation under the Department of Education with the purpose of reviewing lower performing school districts’ plans and report back to the General Assembly with best practice suggestions

5)   H. 4776 – Establish a process with recurring revenue where struggling and poor school districts can petition the state for facility infrastructure needs

6)   H. 4778 – Call for uniformity in school accreditation

7)   H. 4782 – Conduct a survey to determine what incentives could entice new teachers to live and work in rural, lower income districts

8)   H. 4777 – Allow the state to take control if a school district is failing financially

PRESS RELEASE: Speaker Lucas Responds to Governor Haley’s Education Proposal

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Speaker Lucas Responds to Governor Haley’s Education Proposal

Looks forward to working together to advance reform

(Columbia, SC) – House Speaker Jay Lucas (District 65-Darlington) issued the following statement in response to Governor Nikki Haley and Superintendent Molly Spearman’s education press conference in Gaston, SC.

“Education reform is a long overdue, critical conversation that must take place to protect our state’s economic and societal prosperity,” Speaker Jay Lucas stated. “Governor Haley has embraced this issue and we are encouraged by her advocacy for reforms intended to give our children access to the education they deserve.

“Superintendent Molly Spearman, Chairwoman Rita Allison and the members of our House Education Taskforce worked tirelessly for ten months on a proposal that seeks to fundamentally transform our public education system. Our plan offers assistance to struggling school districts and prioritizes 21st century learning so that every child in every part of our state is given the opportunity to succeed.  I look forward to joining Governor Haley in her efforts so that together we can make education reform a reality in South Carolina.”

The House Education Policy and Review Task force is a seventeen-member panel chaired by Representative Rita Allison (District 36-Spartanburg) and included delegates from the rural school districts in the Abbeville Supreme Court decision. The group was appointed by House Speaker Jay Lucas last January and successfully drafted a comprehensive report after studying the issue for ten months. The panel addressed family engagement, curriculum advancement, teacher and administrative retention, and infrastructure needs. To view the report, click here.