You don’t have to drive far in our Senate district to see that our roads are in need of a major overhaul, and I have introduced a bill to get us on the right track.
My bill is aimed at fixing a number of problems with the way roads are funded, and aimed at dedicating more of the money you send to Columbia each year toward roads, instead of toward other government spending.
A few things my proposal includes:
• We have two agencies making road funding decisions now, which doesn’t make sense. My bill consolidates them into one.
• It makes sure that the vehicle sales tax is only used toward road projects in the state’s long-range plan, instead of politically driven projects like those that often come from the tourism lobby on the coast.
• It makes sure at least 20 percent of General Fund growth from the previous year is used for bridge maintenance.
• It adds more statewide oversight to make sure decisions are made based on merit and the DOT is a good steward of your money.
We’ve got some real challenges in the upstate with road maintenance and infrastructure needs, and the problem is that the state is spending money in a political process instead of a merit based process.
Our state has built fancy new projects along the coast based on political pressure, while bridges in other parts of the state, including here, look like swiss cheese. We need sound solutions to make sure we have dedicated streams of money to fix our roads, and to make sure decisions on how to spend that money are made wisely.
Also, I’m pleased to report we succeeded in getting the Senate to agree to finally set aside a fund to take care of medical expenses for the people involved in the Cleveland Park train accident from 2011.
It’s been a long time coming, and it’s unbelievable to me that last year the budget Conference Committee stripped this fund from the budget at the last minute. This year, I believe we can get the House to do the right thing and take care of these victims, many of whom still have unpaid medical bills.
Last time I wrote to you all, it was after I introduced the South Carolina Read to Succeed Act, which seeks to make sure all our kids are reading like they should be before moving past third grade. I’m pleased to report it’s under consideration by the Senate Education Committee this week.
The bill would require third-graders who do not read on grade level to be held back for a year of reading-intensive instruction. The same thing worked for Governor Jeb Bush in Florida, and I think it can work here, too.
We also moved closer to its cyber security bill, aimed at making sure data theft of the scale we experienced at the Department of Revenue never happens again. This bill only received 2nd reading, and though it may go through a few more changes before heading to the House, so far it creates a state Department of Information Security that reports to the governor and an identity-theft unit at the S.C. Department of Consumer Affairs, and it provides a tax credit for any South Carolinian who chooses to purchase advanced fraud protection services
Also, we continued debate on S.308 that will allow CWP holders to carry their firearm into a bar or restaurant so long as they are not consuming alcohol. The bill also gives restaurant and bar owners the right to post a sign prohibiting the carrying of guns in their establishment.
Finally, budget subcommittees continued to meet hearing from state agencies as to what their needs are for the coming year, as they prepare the budget. We pledge to put forward a responsible budget that takes care of taxpayers and pays for core government needs.
S.C. Senate Majority Leader Harvey Peeler represents District 14, which includes parts of Lake Wylie.