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Legislators Expect A Busy 2014 Session Leading Into Elections
1/8/2014 4:25:55 PM

House Dist. 116 Rep. Robert Brown

Staff Reports

It’s back to the old grind this week for state legislators as the 2014 legislative session began Tuesday. State lawmakers left a lot undone last year so their slate will be full this session. Some local legislators shared a snippet of what they will make priorities in the upcoming session.

House Dist. 116 Rep. Robert Brown said the pace of this session likely will be set by legislators’ focus on re-election. He doesn’t expect the legislature to argue many controversial issues since sitting legislators don’t want to alienate voters. But some of those issues are unavoidable.

Ethics reform is among them. The House passed a bill last session that now will go to the Senate. Several legislators, including Charleston Sen. Robert Ford and Gov. Nikki Haley, faced ethics investigations last year.

And as legislators face a shootout over ethics, a controversial bill that would allow persons with concealed weapons permits to carry them into establishments that serve alcohol also should be a target for debate this session, Brown said.

Guns and alcohol are an awful mix, said the Hollywood representative, but this is South Carolina. He suspects it could pass the conservative general assembly that also passed a controversial Stand Your Ground law a few years ago.

Education is a perennial battle ground in the legislature. Opposition to the federally proposed Common Core curriculum adopted by the state which must be implemented in public schools next school year will be on the legislative table, Brown said. Opponents want the legislature to reverse its decision to adopt the standards.

Reversal in Gov. Haley’s position in Medicare expansion also may become a legislative issue, Brown suspects. Haley has rejected the federally proposed expansion which the feds will finance 90 percent through 2020. The expansion would make thousands more residents eligible for Medicaid.

Charleston’s House Dist. 111 Rep. Wendell Gilliard said he’s going to focus on state employee salaries in the upcoming session. An emphasis will be increasing the number of S.C. State Highway Department Troopers. He said only about 750 state troopers are working the state’s highways and roads assisting local county and municipal law enforcement.

Newly elected Charleston Senate Dist. 42 Sen. Marlon Kimpson has pre-filed three bills in the Senate for the upcoming 2014 legislative session. They are bills S.870, S.906 and S.907.

Bill S.870 would make retailers responsible for collecting sales tax when doing business either online or with out of state customers. He explained that the state is not receiving a lot of revenue because those taxes often aren’t paid.

Bill S.906 is a bill that would make employers provide paid sick leave to employees working 40 or more hours weekly. Superficially, the bill may seem a liability to employers, but Kimpson rationalizes that sick employees are less productive employees. Also, sick employees jeopardizes healthy workers and customers, especially in the service industry, he said.

Bill S.907 would offer a tax credit to employers who hire a formerly incarcerated individual. Among the greatest challenges to reintegrating formerly incarcerated individuals into their communities as well as reducing the rate of recidivism is finding work, Kimpson said. His bill offers employers an incentive to reduce that challenge.

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