(Published in the Daily Journal)

Spring is in full bloom and, with it, comes a season of heightened activity for our state legislature. We work hard during the month of April to get legislation moved through the House before the May 1st “crossover deadline,” the date that bills have to be sent to the Senate to have a chance of passing this year. Not every bill must be passed, but we, at the least, want to consider as much of the most important legislation as possible.

Some highlights from the past few weeks:

Emma’s Law – A priority item for this year, this bill passed the House and Senate, and then was signed by the Governor. Emma’s Law is a critical step toward stopping repeat DUI offenders by expanding the use of ignition interlock devices which require offenders to breathe into them before starting the car. It’s an important victory for all who travel our roads.

Election Reform –The House approved, and sent to the Senate, a piece of legislation that allows the state to oversee county election commissions that don’t follow the law. If passed, this legislation would allow the state to step in and fix election problems to ensure that all citizens have the opportunity to cast votes.

LLR Reform –I’ve been fighting for significant reforms to the state’s Labor, Licensing and Regulation Board (LLR) and recently, there has been some important progress. I believe that each professional board in our state, whether realtors or barbers, should be self-sustaining and that they should collect fees only to cover expenses without creating a surplus. The other money, I believe, should be given back to licensees in the form of lower fees. I am pleased to report that, with the help of LLR Director Holly Gillespie Pisarik, all but 8 of the boards have agreed voluntarily to adjust their fee structures. We are continuing to fight for regulation 4437, which has passed the House and awaits action in the Senate. This regulation, if passed, would establish a consistent method and regular timeline for setting license fees in South Carolina. Adopting the regulation would save S.C. licensees a total of over a million dollars in the two-year cycle of their licenses.

Texting – The House approved a statewide ban on texting while driving and sent it to the Senate. Because some areas (Greenville, Charleston, Mount Pleasant and, most recently, Oconee County) have already approved texting bans, this legislation is necessary for us to have a consistent statewide regulation that works for everyone.

“Fetal Pain” Bill – The House, by a bipartisan majority, approved a bill that bans abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The “Fetal Pain” Bill updates the 24-week threshold established decades ago by the courts because new research shows babies can feel pain after 20 weeks. The specifics of the bill have not been litigated in a federal court.

Data Security –Our antiquated privacy laws don’t protect information you have stored electronically in locations such as individual smart phones and tablets. The House is working on legislation addresses a part of data security that has not been previously addressed.

Good jobs news –We recently got great news on the employment front. In April, it was reported that our state’s unemployment rate fell to 5.7 percent – well below the national average and more than 6 points below the 2010 peak. Couple that with the big announcement that BMW is bringing 800 additional jobs to the Upstate, and we really have cause to be optimistic.

It’s been a productive Spring in our state government. I believe the work we are doing will reap positive benefits for our entire state. As always, I am extremely grateful for the privilege of serving you in the House. If I can do anything to help, my door is always open!

Bill Sandifer represents Oconee County’s District 2 in the South Carolina House. Sandifer can be reached at 864.885.2240 or bill@sandifer.us. You also can connect with him on Facebook or visit his website www.BillSandifer.com to sign up to receive updates via email. He would welcome the opportunity to be a speaker for your group or organization. Please contact him to schedule.