It continues to be my honor to serve as your State Senator. Let me take this opportunity to inform you about the Senate weekly schedule. We meet as a body three days a week, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, beginning the second week in January until the first week in June at the State House in Columbia. On those days we also have sub-committee meetings for the committees on which I serve. My Senate office address is the Gressette Senate Office Building, Suite 506, Columbia, SC 29202 and the Charleston Delegation office is located at 2500 City Hall Lane, North Charleston, SC 29406. I sit on the Corrections & Penology, General, Invitations, Judiciary, Rules, and Transportation Committees. Since this is my third year in the Senate, my seniority on these committees increases each year and as new members are elected. If you ever have an opportunity, I would encourage you to visit me while we are in session for the learning experience.
This year has been a busy one. The roads debate filibuster (House Bill 3579) has occupied much of the discussion and there is no compromise in sight. Outside of roads, I have focused my time on the legislative matters discussed below.
- Affordable Housing Legislation: On Tuesday, February 9, 2016, I introduced three bills with the goal of improving affordable housing opportunities throughout the state of South Carolina.The legislation, which was drafted with input and collaboration from Charleston City Council, includes the following measures:
- Authorizing local governments to increase the fees associated with building permits by 10% and requiring those increased fees to be used for affordable housing programs;
- Authorizing a low income housing state credit to be combined with the federal tax credit for low income housing in an effort to maximize housing assistance programs; and
- Increasing the state’s current documentary stamp tax by twenty cents, split equally between the South Carolina State Housing Finance and Development Authority and local and regional housing trust funds, to be used for affordable housing programs.
- We have a problem. The median price of a house in Charleston is $235,000, much higher than it was at the peak in 2007 of $210,000. This trend is not unique to Charleston. People can’t afford to buy the homes offered for sale in our cities because working-class wages have remained stagnant.The time is now to address this issue before more working-class families are displaced by the sharp rise in housing prices.
- Confederate Flag Removal: On Tuesday, February 9, 2016, I filed a bill to remove the Confederate flag from The Citadel’s Summerall Chapel. The bill would amend the controversial South Carolina Heritage Act to allow for the removal of Civil War-era battle flags displayed in religious structures or chapels on the campus of any institution of higher learning. The legislation would allow for the flag to be moved to a museum.The legislation is narrowly tailored to achieve what The Citadel’s board and school leadership all want:to remove the symbol of division from a place of worship on campus so that the school can move forward into the 21st century.Despite this broad consensus, the bill rests in the Senate Finance Committee.House Speaker Jay Lucas, R-Hartsville, stated that he will not take up any debate on changing historic monuments, road names, building names, or other historic changes, like removing the flag in the Citadel’s chapel, as long as he is speaker. I would encourage all of those interested in furthering this discussion to visit http://www.takeitdownnow.org/.
- Refugee Registration Bill: On Wednesday, January 27, 2016, a South Carolina Senate Committee put its stamp of approval on a bill to register and monitor refugees.The bill, S.997, as amended by the Senate Committee, would require all refugees entering the state to register with the Department of Social Services.Further, the State Law Enforcement Division would be asked to monitor those refugees to ensure that they weren’t a security threat.Additionally, no state funds could be used to resettle refugees, and a person harmed by a refugee would be allowed to sue Lutheran Family Services or any other group that helped resettle that refugee – at least if the refugee was from a country listed as a state sponsor of terrorism.I was strongly opposed to advancing this legislation, and voiced my concern.“Do we throw out our American values, the values of welcoming diversity, celebrating people for the contribution that they may make to our society, for fear and paranoia that something might happen one day?” (Kimpson testimony on January 27, 2016, Senate General Committee Hearing).
- Gun Reform: I continue to be a strong proponent for common sense gun legislation, including advocating for the strengthening of background checks for gun ownership. Each week in the General Assembly I take the Senate floor to discuss this public crisis issue. On January 30, 2016, I was featured in the Charleston Post and Courier as one for the ten key players in the debate over gun reform.
- I don’t think there is any dispute that there is a direct correlation between weak gun laws and violence.It is within our power to do something about it.
- Endorsement of Hillary Clinton for President: On Wednesday, February 10, 2016, I announced my endorsement of Hillary Clinton for President.She’s the candidate who has bold plans to build on President Obama’s record of investing in affordable health care and good jobs.Her priorities are the right priorities for South Carolina families – from addressing the public health crisis of gun violence to improving our schools, and she will always ensure our children have the opportunities to succeed.In this regard, on February 25th I hosted a town-hall meeting at Royal Baptist Church Family Life Center for the citizens of the Lowcountry to meet Secretary Clinton and ask questions.This was the third Presidential Town Hall Meeting I hosted in Senate District 42 and was attended by over 1,200 citizens.
I will continue to work hard to make South Carolina a better place for us all. As always, I welcome your feedback on issues that are a priority.
Senator Marlon Kimpson