The basics – roads and reading – dominated the conversation Friday at the York County Regional Chamber of Commerce’s annual legislative breakfast.
Business leaders wanted to know the state’s plan to fund more than $40 billion in state transportation needs.
State legislators joked about a “Pennies for Potholes” program – similar to the “Pennies for Progress” program that has allowed York County to meet some of its transportation needs.
On a more serious note, the legislators said programs such as “Pennies for Progress” should have more flexibility in how the funds raised by the additional penny sales tax are spent. Some of the funds could be used for road repairs, they said.
The legislators said they’ve made some changes to increase what the state spends on its roads, but major changes – such as increasing the state’s gasoline tax – won’t be discussed until next year’s session, said state Rep. Ralph Norman, R-Rock Hill.
Educators wanted to know the status of bills removing South Carolina from the Common Core standards and efforts to increase reading skills by the third grade.
State Sen. Wes Hayes, R-Rock Hill, said the legislation to remove the state from Common Core standards and replace them with new state standards for reading and math by the 2015-2016 school year, is back in the House for revision. The legislation will likely head to a conference committee to resolve some slight differences between the House and Senate bills.
Hayes called the “Read to Succeed” bill the one piece of legislation that could have the biggest impact throughout South Carolina. The bill would require students to read on the third-grade level before they can be promoted. Reading programs to help young children are included in the bill.
The bill’s sponsor is state Sen. Harvey Peeler, R-Gaffney, who represents Cherokee, Spartanburg, Union and a portion of York counties. Peeler has said that too many South Carolina children go beyond the third grade without the critical reading skills in place.
State Rep. Raye Felder, R-Fort Mill, said the initial “Read to Succeed” bill was an example of common sense leaving the room in Columbia. “No where in it was accountability . . . no reporting of results, no keeping score.”
Accountability was included in the revised bill. The bill also establishes permanent funding for the program which allows 4-year-olds living in poverty to attend kindergarten. Previously, funding for the program was done on a year-to-year basis by the Legislature, Hayes said.
U.S. Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., said minor changes to the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act and immigration policies are in the works that should benefit small businesses.
The Indian Land congressman said the minor changes to Dodd-Frank “should return some normalcy to the lending market.”
Minor changes to immigration policy may be prompted by the possibility President Barack Obama will give illegal immigrants amnesty through executive order in August.
The immigration changes are about jobs, Mulvaney said, jobs that, “Americans won’t do.” Mulvaney’s focus was on agriculture where, he said, many farmers can’t get the immigrant labor they need.