It is already March. The legislative session (and the year) is flying by. I appreciate you taking the time to read this Newsletter and, if you ever have any questions on a topic not covered here, reach out. One of my main goals is that you find this Senate update informative, and I appreciate any feedback. As always, if I can help you with an issue please let me know. Thank you for reading and for allowing me to serve District 16!

Constituent Breakfast:

I will hold a Constituent Breakfast on Friday, March 18th at Pleasant Hill Methodist Church from 8:00 am to 9:00 am. Pleasant Hill Methodist is located at 238 Fort Mill Hwy, in Indian Land. I want to thank Pleasant Hill for opening their doors to me. I will bring some donuts so bring your own coffee (I promise to be on time for this one with donuts). I look forward to talking about District 16 and what is going on at the Statehouse.

Week in Review: February 21-25, 2022:

These are some of the bills that passed third reading in the Senate over the last week (click on the link to see the text of the bill):

S.248 - South Carolina Hands-Free Act. This legislation was sponsored by Senator Tom Young (R-Aiken) and I was a co-sponsor. Statistics show that distracted driving - read cell phones - cause needless accidents and deaths in South Carolina. This bill makes it unlawful to hold or support a mobile electronic device while operating a motor vehicle on any public highway in South Carolina. The law will not apply to anyone who is parked or stopped, initiating voice-based communication, reporting an accident or emergency or during unlocking the device. We can all probably tell a story about driving down the road and watching someone swerve in their lane due to distracted driving. If passed by the House, this will hopefully have more people looking at the road and not their phones. I voted in favor of this bill.

S.908 - Vehicle Height Modifications. If you have driven down the road and have seen a vehicle with the front end jacked up a foot or more above the back end, then you know exactly what this bill is targeting. People in the know call it the "Carolina Squat" - a thing I didn't need to learn. Studies have shown that drivers with those vehicles have limited sight lines and are dangerous. This bill will require that a front fender be no more than 4 inches higher than the back fender. This bill heads to the House for their approval. If approved by the House, it will become effective 180 days after being signed into law by the Governor. I voted in favor of this bill.

S. 934 - South Carolina Building Codes Council. The SC Building Codes Council is required by State law to have one licensed architect as a member. This bill will require that the architect must be from a list of qualified candidates submitted to the Governor by the SC Chapter of American Institute of Architects. Additionally, each member of the Council must be a resident of this State. I voted in favor of this bill.

S.980 - Catch Limits for Estuarine and Saltwater Finfish. This bill makes it unlawful for a person to take or have in their possession more than two red snapper in any one day. The red snapper must also be less than twenty inches in total length. I voted in favor of this bill, and it now heads to the House for consideration.

S.1059 - Immediate Care Facilities. This bill will allow an unlicensed person, with documented medication training and skill competency, to disburse medications at intermediate care facilities for those with intellectual disabilities at community residential care facilities. A licensed nurse (think RN) must train and supervise the person dispensing medications. I was contacted by a local constituent who is a nurse and was asked to take a longer look at this bill. I stopped it from passing on the first day but after talking with the sponsor and the Chairman of the Medical Affairs Committee, felt that it should proceed. I voted in favor of this legislation, and it now heads to the House.

Legislation on the Horizon:

These bills are either currently in Committee or will soon be on the floor to be debated and voted on.

S.637 - Mortgage Lending Exempt Persons. If you click on the link to this bill it will make absolutely no sense (unless you are a banker). This bill basically conforms existing South Carolina law to the federal Dodd-Frank Act as it relates to "exempt person" on mobile home and manufactured housing finance. We routinely clean up our statutes, especially as they relate to interstate lending, to conform with federal law. This bill will do that.

H.4832 - Department of Insurance Procedures. This bill will require a process for calculating the minimum value of an annuity if premium payments are interrupted before the annuity payments begin to the holder (please don't ask me to repeat that). It also will require an insurer to notify holders of long-term care policies of premium increases no later than 30 days after the insurer files with the Department of Insurance for a rate increase.

S.1090 - Insured Worker's Weekly Benefit Amount. This will require the Department of Employment and Workforce (DEW) to annually adjust the maximum weekly benefit amount to an amount at least equal to the rate of inflation measured by the national consumer price index for the most recently completed calendar year. Additionally, this bill will retroactively ratify existing DEW interpretation of existing State law.

S.5 - Juneteenth. This bill, as amended by the Family & Veterans' Services Committee will allow a State employee to either choose Juneteenth, Confederate Memorial Day, or any day of their choosing, and take it as a State holiday.

S.968 - Veterans Service Organization Burial Honor Guard Support Fund. This creates a fund to help offset the cost of Honor Guards at funerals of qualifying South Carolina veterans. It gives the Secretary of the Department of Veterans' Affairs the right to set the proper compensation to the Honor Guard members.

S.901 - Solar Energy Property. This bill will provide for an income tax credit to an individual or business that constructs, purchases, or leases certain solar energy property and places. This will allow for an income tax credit equal to 25% of the cost, including installation, of nonresidential solar energy property within a set list of prescribed sites in South Carolina. I would encourage you to click on the link above to see those sights.

S.133 - Convention of States. If you have read previous Newsletters then you have read about Convention of States. This bill was finally before the full Judicial Committee last Tuesday. This bill, along with companion bills S.141, S.887, and H.3205, would call for a Constitutional Convention under Article V of the United States Constitution and calls for term limits for federal officials (members of Congress), fiscal restraints on the federal government (balanced budget), and limits on the power and jurisdiction of the federal government. I have long been a supporter of this legislation. I voted in favor of S.133 and all of the companion bills. If passed on the Senate floor, South Carolina would become the 18th state to call for a Convention of States (it requires 34). Additionally, under the US Constitution, any amendments to the Constitution approved by the Convention would have to be ratified by 38 states before becoming a part of the Constitution.

S.429 - Drug-Induced Homicide. This bill makes it a felony if you are convicted of a drug-induced homicide." Any person who unlawfully delivers fentanyl to another person causing their death, can be charged with homicide. If convicted, the person may be sentenced up to 30 years.

S.458 - Trafficking Fentanyl. Currently there is no law regarding the trafficking of fentanyl in South Carolina. Over 98,000 people in the United States died last year from overdosing on fentanyl. As stated at the Judiciary Committee meeting, fentanyl is poison. This bill states that anyone found in possession of more than four grams of fentanyl can be charged with trafficking and imprisoned up to twenty years for a first offense and up to thirty years for a second offense.

H.3821 - Uniform Transfers to Minors. Currently South Carolina law states that anyone who receives a testamentary gift who is under the age of 18 must receive it under the Uniform Gifts to Minors Act (UGMA). This bill will update the Act to conform with most states by repealing the UGMA and replacing it with new law.

Contact Tracing:

Last week in my Newsletter, I discussed my letter to Governor McMaster and my speech on the Senate floor calling for an end to contact tracing. In response to my letter and meetings with the Governor's office and DHEC officials, it was announced that effective today, March 1, DHEC would no longer require contact tracing in schools. This is a victory for common sense. While I would love to take the credit, thousands of parents have called and asked for the same thing. This was done by working together with a common goal - keeping our children in the classroom.

Construction at I-77 and Gold Hill Road:

SCDOT has notified my office that the Gold Hill bridge over I-77 will be closed beginning at midnight on Friday, March 4th and will reopen to traffic at 5:00 am on Monday, March 7th for paving. As I stated in my last Newsletter, weather has prevented this from happening on two other occasions. Please hope for good weather and that this project can finally be brought to a conclusion.

Construction on Hwy 521 Bridge:

I've had several emails about the construction on Hwy 521. I reached out to SCDOT officials and was told that the contractor has all of the beams set on this bridge, and the next step is to pour the deck. Currently the contractor is waiting on a shipment of reinforcing steel (rebar) that is necessary to incorporate in the deck. Once the steel arrives, the contractor will be back onsite to tie the steel and pour. The contractor hopes to receive the steel in a couple of weeks. It is true that the contractor has not been on site in quite a while. Unfortunately, those delays are due to a lack of rebar.

Thank you for believing in me and allowing me to represent District 16 in Columbia. Again, if you have any questions, or you hear something and have a question, give me a call. My personal cell number is 803-984-0126.

Thank you again for everything,

Michael Johnson