May 16, 2023 Newsletter

Last call for anyone who wants to attend the bourbon fundraiser this week. There are still tickets available and we will be taking checks from anyone who “walks up” on the night of the event.

Please come out this Friday, May 19th as I hold a fundraiser event. The bourbon tasting will start at 6:30 at the Tega Cay Beach Club. The cost is $250 and it should be a great night for all who attend. We are limited to the first 100 who sign up so please click below to make your reservation.

This will be less politics, and more learning about bourbons and tasting. At the end of the night everyone who attends will have the opportunity to pick and smoke a Cuban cigar of their choosing. I hope you will come out and support my campaign as well as enjoy a fantastic bourbon tasting.

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/bourbon-and-cigar-fundraiser-tickets-617857988877

Session has officially ended with sine die last week. The House and Senate failed to pass a sine die resolution, meaning the Governor can call us back to session at any time, on any subject. Of course, if also means that once we arrive we may take up any issue, which can lead to chaos as any bill can be filibustered for days and weeks. Unlike the House, the Senate will not go back today. Instead we will go back on May 23rd as we had previously planned to take up the budget. We will return on the 30th to take up vetoes. Of course, all bills on the calendar can be considered so this may be a difficult few weeks.

The goal of this Newsletter is to keep you updated on what is happening in Columbia. If you have any questions or would like me to discuss a topic, please let me know.

The Week of May 9 – May 12, 2023:

These are the bills that passed the Senate last week and were “enrolled for ratification” – which simply means that the Governor can sign them in to law, or veto them. As it was the last week of session there was a flurry of activity and numerous bills were passed. This is not a complete list as there were simply too many House bills to list them all.

***There are no active links to the bills this week – there were simply too many***

S.31 – Municipal Financial Statements. This bill allows municipalities with total revenues below a certain dollar threshold to submit a compilation of financial statements in lieu of audited statements. I voted in favor.

S.36 – Ignition Interlock Devices. Individuals under the age of twenty-one who are serving a suspension or are denied a license as a result of driving with a certain amount of alcohol concentration will be allowed to enroll in the ignition interlock program. This device requires the driver to pass a breathalyzer and has facial recognition to stop cheating. South Carolina has more people die from alcohol related accidents than any state. This bill aims to curb that. I voted in favor.

S.252 – Law Enforcement, Judge Personal Information. As you may recall, this is my bill. I proposed this bill last December and am proud to see it become law. Starting next year law enforcement and judges will be able to shield their private information from public databases – specifically their home address. As you can imagine, I voted in favor.

S.284 – Local Sales Taxes. Revenues generated by the local accommodations tax, as well as the local portion of the state accommodations tax, may be used for the development of workforce housing, which must include programs to promote home ownership. I’ve had a few people ask about this bill and it does not allow illegal immigrants to take use of it. Instead it is an attempt to make sure that affordable housing exists for our citizens. I voted in favor.

S.317 – Veterans Trust Fund Board of Trustees. This decreases the membership of the Board of Trustees for the Veterans’ Trust Fund from 19 to 11 members. Additionally, it establishes four-year terms for members appointed by the Governor and approved with the advice and consent of the Senate. I voted in favor.

S.399 – DHEC Restructure. The Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) will now be split in to two cabinet agencies: the Department of Environmental Services (DES) and the Department of Public Health (DPH). DHEC has been too large, for too long. This restructure was desperately needed and should improve the process of both of the new agencies. I voted in favor

S.520 – Pharmacy Benefits. This bill will limit insurance audits of pharmacies to one per year, give pharmacies increased time to respond to an audit notice, and to permit the review of denied appeals of recoupment. The bill also amends provisions regulating Pharmacy Benefits Managers and incorporates Pharmacy Services Administrative Organizations (PSAO). If you know a small pharmacist, please ask them about this bill. This was desperately needed as it is a step towards leveling the playing field for between local pharmacies and big pharma plans. I voted in favor.

H.3340 – Endangered Person Notification System. Currently if a person goes missing there is a system to disseminate information about those people. This bill expands the list of those who can use the system to include missing persons believed to be suffering from Alzheimer’s or a developmental disability such as autism spectrum disorder, in addition to those with dementia or other cognitive impairments. This will allow law enforcement to know that the missing person has Alzheimer’s or autism and may react differently to being found. I voted in favor.

H.3538 – Electronic Harvest Reporting. Deer now join the list of animals that must be electronically reported using the Go Outdoors SC app of by calling or texting a dedicated number. Currently turkey and bear must be reported. This bill originally had restraints on deer processers but that was removed by a Senate amendment. I voted in favor.

H.3689 – Airboats in Richland, Edgefield Counties. Airboats will no longer be permitted on the waters of the Broad River in Richland County and Stevens Creek in Edgefield County from one hour before sunset to one hour after sunrise. While I did not realize this was an issue, apparently it was. I voted in favor.

H.3691 – Coroners, Opioid Antidotes. I was the sub-committee Chairman for this bill when it came over from the House. It will allow a coroner, deputy coroner, or a coroner’s designee to possess and administer opioid antidotes, such as Narcan. I voted in favor.

H.3726 – Workforce Development. One of the major focuses of the House this year was workforce development. This bill transfers the powers and duties of the Department of Commerce relating to the Coordinating Council for Workforce Development (CCWD) to the Department of Employment and Workforce. In addition, the bill establishes the Office of Statewide Workforce Development (OSWD) within the Department of Employment and Workforce and provides for duties of the Office. Why do this you ask? The goal is to streamline the process and make it easier for state government to react – think one entity making a decision and doing it rather than two having to agree. I voted in favor.

H.3797 – Military Temporary Remote School Enrollment Act. Once enacted this will require school districts to accept applications for enrollment and course registration for students whose parent or legal guardian has been transferred or is pending transfer for military duty within South Carolina. I voted in favor.

H.3868 – Women in Hunting & Fishing. Under the heading everyone needs a day, this will designate the third Saturday in November of each year as “Women in Hunting and Fishing Awareness Day” in South Carolina. While not a fan of these types of bills, I voted in favor.

H.3908 – Paid Teacher Leave. This is a good bill. While it does not go far enough (see below), it is a fantastic first step towards making sure teachers get paid parental leave. This bill will allow the primary caregiver of a child (assuming that caregiver is a teacher) up to 6 weeks paid leave. It gives the non-primary caregiver up to two weeks paid leave. What this bill does not do is carry over from one school year to another. Teachers who give birth in the summer will not automatically get this benefit as they already get paid during the summer. The bill does allow school districts to carry that benefit over to the next school year (think August) but it is not required. I voted in favor.

H.4122 – Lifesaving Medications. This bill allows life saving medications, epinephrine is already on the list, to be administered in schools. DHEC and the Department of Education shall publish a list of lifesaving medications that may be administered by designated school personnel along with training guidelines for the administration of such medications. This bill made sense, and I voted in favor.

H.4291 – Clog Dancing Day. No, that is not a typo. August 8th is now “Clog Dancing Day” in South Carolina. Again, while not a fan of this type of legislation, I voted in favor.

These bills are in Conference Committee. A bill goes to Conference Committee when the House and the Senate cannot agree to the amendments made by each chamber. A group of six members (3 House, 3 Senate) then meet to iron out the differences before sending the bill back to each chamber. Compromises are often reached in these bills and they can become law.

S.108 – Death Benefit for First Responders. This will allow first responders killed in the line of duty to receive a one-time, lump sum death benefit payment to their designated beneficiary. This is a federal program and no state tax funds are used. The payment also gives additional funding for educational scholarships.

H.4300 – Annual Appropriations Act. This is the budget. Negotiators will meet this week to iron out differences before sending a final bill to the House and Senate.

same purposes.

These bills were passed by the Senate, or if a House bill, were amended by the Senate, and now heads to the House for final approval. Normally these bills would be dead until next January, however the lack of a sine die resolution allows both chambers to take up this type of legislation.

S.96 – Boater Education. Anyone born after July 1, 2007, must complete a boater safety education course prior to operating a watercraft greater than ten horsepower, or a personal watercraft or specialty propcraft, with exceptions. I voted in favor.

S.330 – Utility Systems. This bill makes it unlawful for any person to willfully and maliciously destroy or damage a utility system, and to provide escalating penalties proportionate to inflicted damage. The use of a firearm or destructive device to damage or destroy constitutes a felony punishable by up to twenty-five years in prison. I voted in favor.

H.3728 – Transparency and Integrity in Education Act. This bill was introduced by Fort Mill Representative Raye Felder (R-York) earlier this year. The bill was amended heavily in the House, but passed overwhelmingly. That bill was further amended by the Senate Education Committee and now heads to the Senate floor. The bill is the codification of a budget proviso banning the teaching of CRT in public schools. For those of you who do not know, CRT is Critical Race Theory. In my opinion, CRT is difficult to define. To some it means one thing, to others it means completely different things. Rather than debate the “meaning” of CRT, this bill unequivocally states what things may not be taught in our schools. In a very short summary they are:

  • that one race, sex, ethnicity, color, or national origin is inherently superior to another race, sex, ethnicity, color, or national origin;
  • an individual, by virtue of the race, sex, ethnicity, religion, color, or national origin of the individual, inherently is privileged, racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or subconsciously;
  • an individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment because of the race, sex, ethnicity, religion, color, or national origin of the individual;
  • the moral character of an individual is determined by the race, sex, ethnicity, religion, color, or national origin of the individual;
  • an individual, by virtue of the race or sex of the individual, bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race, sex, ethnicity, religion, color, or national origin;
  • meritocracy or traits such as a hard work ethic are racist, sexist, belong to the principles of one religion; or were created by members of a particular race, sex, or religion to oppress members of another race, sex, ethnicity, color, national origin or religion; and
  • fault, blame, or bias should be assigned to race, sex, ethnicity, religion, color, or national origin, or to members of a race, sex, ethnicity, religion, color, or national origin because of their race, sex, ethnicity, religion, color, or national origin.

Critics of the bill will state that this bill will outlaw history and that teachers will not be able to talk about discrimination or other topics that have plagued our past. To the contrary, the bill specifically states that “Nothing in this section prohibits concepts as part of a course of instruction, in a curriculum or instructional program, or through the use of supplemental instructional materials if these concepts involve:

  1. the history of an ethnic group, as described in the South Carolina State Standards and instructional materials adopted pursuant to the South Carolina Code of Regulations 43-70 (Textbook Adoption);
  2. the fact-based discussion of controversial aspects of history or current events; or
  3. the fact-based instruction on the historical oppression of a particular group of people based on race, sex, ethnicity, class, nationality, religion, or geographic region; and
  4. the fact-based and historically accurate discussion of the history of slavery.

The amended bill in the House stated that any person could file a lawsuit to enforce the law. That was removed in the Senate version and now states that only a parent or guardian has the right to bring such an action (as opposed to someone in another state who just wants to file a lawsuit). I voted in favor.

H.4049 – Remote Annual Meetings. This will allow corporations to allow remote participation and voting at annual and special meetings of shareholders, subject to authorization by the board of directors of a corporation. The bill further permits remote participation of members of a nonprofit corporation for annual, regular, and special meetings. I voted in favor.

These bills were given second reading last week. Again, normally these bills would be on hold until next January. However, with no sine die resolution they can be considered by the legislature as we return to session in a few weeks.

H.3360 – Center for School Safety and Targeted Violence. Perhaps one of the worst bills that I had to vote on. This bill establishes the Center for School Safety and Targeted Violence within the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division for the purpose of providing extensive training, education, and expertise in the fields of school safety and targeted violence. SLED has purchased an old school and will use it to train law enforcement on how to handle an active shooter situation. This was one of the worst because I don’t like to think about that type of senseless violence coming to South Carolina. If this bill makes our children safer and law enforcement more prepared, than it was worth it. I voted in favor.

H.3503 – Trafficking in Fentanyl. This bill took too long to pass but I am thrilled that it happened. The sale, manufacture, cultivation, delivery, purchase – or aiding and abetting thereof – of four or more grams of fentanyl constitutes “trafficking in fentanyl.” Violators shall receive a minimum sentence of seven years in prison for a first offense and twenty-five years in prison for second and subsequent offenses. The bill also provides that the possession of more than two grains of fentanyl is a felony punishable by imprisonment and shall constitute possession with intent to distribute. It is time to end fentanyl in our state and put those responsible for manufacturing and selling it in jail. I voted in favor.

H.3553 – Adoption Hearings. This removes the mandatory 90-day waiting period between the filing of the adoption petition and the final adoption hearing. The goal is to unite potential parents with their adopted children faster – that is a win/win for everyone. I voted in favor.

Legislation on the Horizon:

I had some people ask about why I don’t say whether I voted for these bills or not. Typically, these bills have just passed out of Committee and the full Senate has not voted on them. If they where voted on in a Subcommittee or Committee that I sit on I will let you know how I voted.

S.109 and H.3594 – Constitutional Carry. Both of these bills are practically identical at this stage. If passed it would allow an individual, not prohibited from possessing a firearm, to carry that firearm on or about his person, whether openly or concealed, without first acquiring a concealed weapons permit. The bill prohibits those convicted of a crime from possessing a firearm, with exceptions for ‘white-collar’ crime, misdemeanors punishable by a term of imprisonment of five years or less, and crimes expunged or pardoned. The bill also contains a provision stating that anyone convicted of certain crimes may not possess a gun – a provision that law enforcement has requested for years.

H.4120 – Illegal Immigration Enforcement Unit. This establishes the “Illegal Immigration Enforcement Unit” within the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division to enforce immigration laws. The bill provides for the makeup, funding, and responsibilities of the unit.

H.3872 – Education Lottery: This bill clarifies that if you win the lottery, your information is not subject to a freedom of information request.

H.3583 – Gavin’s Law:

If you don’t know this story, grab a Kleenex and hold on. In a nutshell, this bill states that anyone commits the felony offense of sexual extortion if he threatens to release a private image of another in order to compel the victim to act against his will. If the victim is a minor or suffers great bodily injury or death and the proximate cause is sexual extortion, the perpetrator is guilty of aggravated felony sexual extortion, punishable by up to twenty years in prison. On its face this is a good bill. Once you know the full story, it is an incredible bill.

Last fall, Representative Brandon Guffey (R-Rock Hill) lost his son to suicide. While trying to understand why he discovered that his teenage son was a victim of sextortion. This led to Brandon, in his first year in the House, to file this bill. Moreover, going against Senate rules, the bill was amended on the Senate floor and named “Gavin’s Law”. I stood on the Senate floor after this bill passed and watched every member of the Senate go to the rail and congratulate Brandon on making this happen. I am not ashamed of saying there were tears in my eyes as I hugged Brandon that day. It should not take a senseless tragedy to make us enact good law. It is my hope that this bill will punish those who do this and help spread the word to the victims, especially minors, that it is okay to seek help. If you are interested in reading about Gavin and how this all happened, click HERE.

Visit the Statehouse:

If you are interested in visiting the Statehouse please contact my office in Columbia. We will assist you in setting up a tour (for groups of all sizes). Whenever possible, I join the tour and try to give a more in-depth view of the Senate Chambers. If you haven’t been to Columbia and seen the Capital, you should. It is a beautiful building, and is well worth the time. All tours are free. If you are interested, just call my office – 803-212-6008 and we will assist you in scheduling a tour.

Unclaimed Property – Money for You?:

The State Treasurer’s Office maintains a link for residents to search for unclaimed property. Examples of unclaimed property include dormant bank accounts, uncashed checks (including paychecks), unclaimed insurance proceeds, forgotten utility deposits, uncashed dividend checks and unexchanged shares of stock. To learn more, go HERE.

Palmetto Heroes Program – Home Buying Assistance:

The Palmetto Heroes home buyers program from the state housing finance authority offers home buying assistance to workers in these professions — educators, first responders and community service personnel in the fields of law enforcement, corrections, firefighting, emergency medical services and health care, as well as active duty military, members of the SC Army National Guard, SC Air National Guard and Veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces. To learn more, go HERE and HERE.

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

Speaking With Groups
Around The District:
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Small Business Help –
SC Dept. Of Commerce: 
The South Carolina Department of Commerce has helpful information for small business owners and employees.
 
Road Issues:
If you see a road problem, call the SCDOT at 803-327-6186 or York County at 803-628-3200 or Lancaster County at 803-283-2101 to report the problem. If you do not get a prompt response, please email me at michael@michaeljohnsonforsenate.com or call me. Generally, most paved roads in the County are maintained by SCDOT. County roads are typically identified by a green sign, with small white numbers on the right hand side near the bottom.
 
This Newsletter is paid for by the Michael Johnson for Senate campaign. No taxpayer funds were used.
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