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 28-March 4, 2022:

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

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. This bill passed unanimously.

S.233 - Qualifying Surviving Spouse. Some widows/widowers have had difficulty receiving a property exemption after the death of their spouse. This bill closed a loophole that certain County Treasurers were using and requires that the property receive the tax break. I voted in favor of this legislation and it now heads to the House for approval.

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. I voted in favor of this legislation and it now heads to the House for approval.

S.637 - Mortgage Lending Exempt Persons. As I said last week in the Upcoming Legislation section of this Newsletter, 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 did that and I, along with every one of my colleagues, voted in favor. This bill also heads to the House for approval.

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. This bill also passed unanimously and heads to the House.

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 sites. I voted in favor of this legislation.

S.961 - Beekeepers and Honey. This bill was hung up on the Senate floor for about two weeks but was finally given a green light this week. This allows any beekeeper who produces less than 400 gallons of honey per year to be exempt from regulations promulgated by the Department of Agriculture. I voted in favor of this bill as well.

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. Ironically, this bill became a point of contention in the Senate. It passed strictly on party lines, with all Republicans voting in favor and all Democrats voting against. This also heads to the House for approval.

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

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. I voted in favor of this legislation.

H.3590 - Noncertified Teachers. This would allow any school district in the State to hire a non-certified teacher (up to 25% of the teachers in a school may be non-certified) if a certified teacher cannot be found. The non-certified teacher must possess a baccalaureate degree or a graduate degree from a regionally accredited college or university in the subject they are hired to teach - i.e. a chemistry degree = you can teach chemistry. Additionally, the person must have at least 5 years of relevant workplace experience as determined by the local school board. The non-certified teacher must pass all background checks and cannot have been suspended or had their teaching certificate suspended. The non-certified teacher may only teach for two years (they can become certified and continue). We are being constantly told that there is a shortage of teachers in South Carolina. This bill attempts to help solve that shortage. I voted for second reading.

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.812 - Practice of Certified Public Accountants. This will update the practices for CPAs in this State. It amended who can be on the CPA Board, and attempts to make it easier for a CPA to gain reciprocity to practice in South Carolina.

S.2 - Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) Restructuring. The pandemic showed us that DHEC cannot serve dual roles. The agency is currently attempting to manage health issues while also dealing with all environmental issues. This creates an issue with the Director typically having to split time between competing factions. Under this bill DHEC will be split in to two agencies: the Department of Environmental Services and the Department of Behavioral and Public Health. The Department of Environmental Services will primarily be responsible for the state hydrology program, the aquatic nuisance species program, and environmental functions previously served by DHEC. The Department of Behavioral and Public Health will primarily house duties of the Division of Mental Health, the Division of Public Health, and the Division of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services. Additionally the Division of Food Safety (except shellfish) will fall under the Department of Agriculture and the veterans’ homes program will be under the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

S.838 - COVID-19 Vaccine for Minors. If passed this will require a parent or legal guardian to consent to an unemancipated minor receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. 

S.992 - Neonatal Testing. This places additional safeguards to make sure that the information obtained from neonatal testing is kept confidential. It also will require that at the time the information is provided to a child's physician, that the Department of Health and Environmental Control shall refer the child for the necessary specialist for follow-up services including treatment, counseling and education.

S.1011 - Parkinson's Disease Research Collection. This will authorize the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) to collect data on Parkinson’s disease. The bill provides that information collected and disseminated be done under the direction of the CEO of MUSC. All patients shall be notified about the database and be permitted to participate if they chose. MUSC shall establish a Parkinson’s Disease Database Advisory Committee, provide notification of mandatory reporting, and ensure that all information collected remain confidential, coded to maintain privacy and not discoverable. The hope is that this database can be used to track those suffering with Parkinson's Disease to receive the most up to date information regarding disease testing, diagnosis, and treatment.

S.1025 - Certified Copies of Birth Certificates. This enlarges the definition of "legal representative" for purposes of obtaining a birth certificate. It will also allow the Department of Social Services (DSS) to obtain a birth certificate by requesting the certificate in writing pursuant to the terms of a written agreement that shall be entered into between DHEC and the DSS, and no copies of court order or other third-party records shall be required when DSS requests a birth certificate by written agreement. Basically the State wants to make it easier for DSS to get birth certificates for children in their custody or protection.

S.133 - Convention of States:

I have written about this subject numerous times. This past Thursday, the Senate voted to set this bill for special order using the Rules Committee slot. This bill, along with the 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. The House has already passed H.3205 and we will most likely amend it to conform with the other bills so that we send one clean version back to the House for their approval.

I am a supporter of a Convention of States. Many worry that if a Convention is held that liberal or conservative attendees will alter the Constitution to the detriment of our Country. In my opinion that is not possible. Any Article V amendments would require that 38 states ratify the amendments before they became part of the Constitution. In my opinion, that means that any Constitutional Convention will require compromise.

It is my hope that South Carolina becomes the 19th state to call for a Convention of States next week. It will take an additional 15 states (for a total of 34) to do the same before a Convention can be held.

New Indy Update:

The past few weeks I haven't had anything new to report as it relates to New Indy. This week I have a few things that I would like to update everyone on. First, the time period to make comments regarding the Consent Decree between the EPA and New Indy has been extended until March 11, 2022. That doesn't give you a ton of time but please let the EPA know that you want a stricter Consent Decree. See HERE for more information.

Additionally, I have spoken with DHEC officials and they are in the final stages of preparing their Consent Order on wastewater permit violations with New Indy. I am meeting with DHEC officials next week to discuss this and will keep you updated.

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