After much of the work of the House in the first few weeks focused upon gearing up for work on the state Budget, the House began working on other legislation this past week, working to move new legislation to the Senate for their action while considering bills the Senate passed last year.
In addition to committee meetings, we had a lot of visitors at the State House this week, all of them talking about education:

  • Teachers from around the state visited the Capitol while the Senate was addressing the education bill this week and while the House was debating different education initiatives.
  • Wednesday this week was “Carolina Day”, where students and faculty from all of the USC campuses came to the State House to meet legislators. I had many visitors that day, including students from USC-Lancaster. I am proud to have supported a bill last year that froze tuition rates for in-state students at 7 of the 8 USC campuses throughout the state. 
  • On Thursday afternoon, the House Education Committee, where I serve as Vice Chair, welcomed Mississippi State Education Superintendent Dr. Carey Wright to the State House. She addressed the committee members, discussing education reform and Mississippi’s unprecedented academic success under her leadership. We appreciate her time spent in helping us better focus our efforts.
Here’s some of what else took place at the State House this week:

Teacher Bill of Rights ( H.4753 )
This week, I (along with every one of my House colleagues) voted for the Teacher Bill of Rights that addresses many concerns heard from teachers about limitations that have been placed on them in the classroom. This bill addresses student discipline, reducing frivolous lawsuits, cutting out burdensome paperwork, compensation for extra days, providing ongoing professional training, and adding a daily “duty-free” planning period.

Veterans Nursing Homes
The Joint Bond Review Committee (made up of a group of House members and Senators) approved the building of four new veterans nursing homes across the state. Veteran nursing homes will be installed in four counties; Sumter, Florence, Gaffney and Horry. I am proud to address the huge need for Veteran’s assisted living in the state. South Carolina’s mental health agency currently cares for over 500 veterans in three existing nursing homes in Anderson, Columbia and Walterboro, but there are thousands of more Veterans who need our help. 

Boosting Our Reserves
The House introduced legislation to raise the state’s reserve limits from 5% to 10% incrementally over the next several years ( H.5081  and  H. 5082 ). While the current booming economy is generating budget surpluses, we can’t forget the steep and drastic cuts that crippled state government during the last recession. We need to plan ahead so the next slowdown does not force us to make major cuts in essential parts of state government.
More Nurses  
To help meet the nursing shortage and to support veterans seeking post-service employment, I voted for a bill (  H.4404  ) that enables military medics and corpsmen to get credit for their experience as they seek associate's degrees and bachelor's degrees in nursing. This bill passed the House and was sent to the Senate for their consideration.
High School Financial Literacy Education
I voted to expand high school financial literacy program requirements (H .3199 ) that so that students will learn practical lessons in college and education loans, key loan terms, monthly payment obligations, repayment options, credit, and education loan debt.
Prohibiting Bullying in Schools
I also voted for  H.4403  which provides for a more expansive definition of "harassment, intimidation, or bullying" in schools and establishes procedures for responding to and remediating allegations of bullying.
Next week, the General Assembly will hold a joint session on Wednesday to hold judicial elections. In South Carolina, most court offices are filled by election by legislators. Every judicial post from Family Court from the Supreme Court is elected by a majority vote of legislators for a list of up to three candidates considered qualified by a screening committee consisting of an equal number of members of the House and Senate, along with several non-legislators. That committee meets in the fall before legislators return to Columbia to interview candidates and review other information before making their list of candidates to be presented to the General Assembly.
These other state judicial posts are chosen by means other than election by the General Assembly:
  • Magistrates are appointed by the Governor upon confirmation by the State Senate. They serve either a specific area or an entire county.
  • County Masters in Equity are appointed by the Governor to six year terms upon the confirmation of the whole General Assembly.
  • County Probate Judges are elected by voters.
The State House has an interactive app that helps keep you up to date on everything happening in the General Assembly and allows you to live stream committee hearings and session. Download the app by following this link:  https://www.scstatehouse.gov/mobileappinfo.php

As always, thank you for the privilege of serving you in Columbia. If I can ever be of assistance to you, please don't hesitate to contact me at  RayeFelder@SCHouse.gov .

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