2016 at a Glance
Legislators returned to Columbia last week to resume the 121st session in South Carolina. The three major issues this year are going to be infrastructure, education and ethics. The roads issue cannot be avoided any longer. The damage from the flood event last year made the crumbling roads exponentially worse. The House’s road bill is in the Senate. Speaker Lucas admitted that it’s not a perfect solution but he is proud of his members for coming to an agreement.
State of the State: “Bent not Broken”
Last night, the South Carolina General Assembly gathered to hear the Governor deliver the State of the State address. According to Governor Haley, the state of our state is bent but not broken. After a difficult 2015, Haley challenged the General Assembly to do more in 2016. She wants Ethics reform, to require officials to disclose all payments received and allow outside, independent investigations be conducted when necessary. She expressed her disappointment with the Senate for not having taken up this bill yet, so she asked all Senators to stand if they were for income disclosures, and then to stay standing if they supported true independent investigations. Singling out the Senate was an interesting approach, but doing so publicly made the Senate accountable for taking up the Ethics issue.
She discussed education reform. Currently in South Carolina, a child’s education is decided on where he or she is born, so the focus will be to make education equal across the state. Haley talked about putting loan-payback-incentives in place for teachers in rural areas. She also said we need to allocate money from our state’s bond capacity toward failing school facilities in poor districts.
Lastly, the Governor reiterated her expectations for a road repair bill. She promised to veto any bill that raised taxes, did not reform the DOT and does not offer some kind of income tax relief to citizens. The Governor clearly expressed her expectations for 2016, so we will see how the General Assembly delivers.
We now have five bills impacting SNAP introduced in the House. All bills have been sent to the Ways and Means Committee. We are working with our allies in the convenience and retail businesses to express our concerns with these bills. As we all know, these bills are good for a 30 second sound bite, but if enacted they would reek havoc on our industry’s products as well as many others. It seems the best argument we have is, it is unfair and illogical to penalize products made here in South Carolina. It is early in the session, and we hope to know more in the next 30 days.