South Carolina House of Representatives
David H. Wilkins, Speaker of the House
OFFICE OF RESEARCH
Room 309, Blatt Building, P.O. Box 11867, Columbia, S.C. 29211, (803) 734-3230
Return to the LPITS HOME PAGE - Last Updated: July 1, 2009 at 9:29 A.M.
Results of the Membership Survey
Background on the Issues
Block grants topped the list of issues in this year's House membership survey of priority issues for the 1996 legislative session. Among other issues which ranked high on the list were property tax relief, auto insurance, public school facilities, state government accountability and efficiency, agency rule making, post conviction relief, and higher education reform.
How the Survey Was Conducted
This was the tenth (10th) year that the House Research Office has conducted an issues survey of the House membership prior to the beginning of the session. Thanks is given to the staff of the House standing committees for developing the survey issues and preparing the accompanying explanations of those issues. The surveys were mailed to members on Friday, December 8. Sixty-one (61) of the 124 House members (or nearly 50 percent) responded to the survey---down one member from the 62 responses received for the 1994 survey.
As in surveys of previous years, House members this year were asked to rank a wide range of issues, 34 in all. The issues listed in the survey were compiled by the House Research Office from House staff and media reports. A scale of 1 to 5 was used to rank the priority of each issue, with "5" representing the highest priority and "1" representing the lowest priority. Space also was provided for members to list any priority issue not listed on the survey. Additionally, House members were asked to name the top three priority issues for the 1996 session.
It should be noted that the survey results do not necessarily indicate or reflect how members will vote on a particular bill, but rather, the results provide some indication of the issues to which House members believe the General Assembly should give priority attention during the upcoming legislative session.
How the Issues Ranked
Below you will find how House members rated the 34 issues listed in this survey. A brief description of each issue, which was included in the survey, is repeated here for a better understanding of the issues. Following this list, you will find graphs indicating how each issue scored in terms of priority.
1. BLOCK GRANTS
Legislation to ensure that South Carolina is prepared to administer federal block grants at a time when the federal government is expected to dispatch certain programs (such as Medicaid and welfare) back to the States.
2. PROPERTY TAX RELIEF
Funding to maintain homeowner property tax relief as a priority.
3. AUTO INSURANCE
Legislation to reduce the cost of auto insurance (e.g., via enactment of choice "no fault" legislation, reduction of recoupment fees for certain drivers, making insurance non-compulsary, etc.).
4. PUBLIC SCHOOL FACILITY ASSISTANCE
Legislation to set criteria for distribution of proceeds from operation of the Barnwell Low-Level Radioactive Waste Facility to public schools (for construction, renovation, and other school projects).
5. STATE GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY AND EFFICIENCY
Legislation to make state government more accountable and efficient in a time of government downsizing (e.g., require certain programs to be self-sufficient, operating off their own revenue, and base state employee pay on productivity instead of granting "across the board" raises).
6. AGENCY RULE MAKING
Legislation to improve legislative oversight of the regulatory process (e.g., require General Assembly's approval before any regulation becomes effective, establish a Rules Review Commission to review regulations).
7. POST CONVICTION RELIEF/HABEAS CORPUS REFORM
Legislation to reduce frivolous appeals of persons convicted of crimes and to shorten the appeals process.
8. HIGHER EDUCATION
Legislation to address the cost operating and financing higher education (e.g., by re-examining funding priorities, reducing unneccessary duplication of programs in the states's colleges and universities).
9. CASH BUDGETING FOR CAPITAL PROJECTS
Legislation to finance capital projects with cash (i.e., through use of monies in Capital Reserve Fund or Supplemental Appropriations Act) instead of with bonds, saving taxpayers millions of dollars in interest costs.
10. SENTENCING GUIDELINES
Legislation to enact advisory sentencing guidelines, to reduce disparity and increase fairness in sentencing uniformly across the state and to ensure the best use of the resources of the Dept. of Corrections.
11. DIVISION OF MOTOR VEHICLES (TIED)
Legislation to place responsibilities of the Division under one state department instead of two and to make DMV more accessible to customers (e.g., renewal of drivers' licenses by mail, use of ATM machines to pay vehicle property taxes).
EDUCATION (K-12) REFORM (TIED)
Legislation to further reform the delivery of K-12 education (e.g., new accountability standards, deregulation, examination of governing authority of local boards and superintendents vs. State Board of Education).
13. TUITION ASSISTANCE
Legislation to set criteria for awarding college scholarships funded from proceeds derived from operation of the Barnwell Low Level Radioactive Waste Facility.
14. HEALTH CARE/INSURANCE
Legislation to expand access to health care, while maintaining quality and controlling costs at a time when the growth rate of federal Medicaid funds is expected to slow.
15. WORKERS' COMPENSATION (TIED)
Legislation to lower rising costs of the workers' compensation system (e.g., through administrative changes, providing employers option of paying for small claims in return for lower premiums, requiring use of managed care programs).
HIGHWAY FUNDING (TIED)
Legislation to authorize alternate sources for funding highway construction and maintenance needs (such as by using supplemental appropriations and re-examining allocation of C funds).
PROPERTY RIGHTS (TIED)
Legislation to mandate compensation for landowners whose property values are diminished by a certain amount because of state/local laws or regulations.
18. ENVIRONMENTAL INFRASTRUCTURE FUNDING
Legislation to capitalize the State's Infrastructure Facilities Revolving Loan Fund (so that cost-effective drinking and waste water and solid waste management facilities can be built, helping to attract economic development).
19. TRANSPORT OF SPENT NUCLEAR FUEL AND HIGH-LEVEL RADIOACTIVE WASTE
Legislation which would allow spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste to be transported in S.C. only if (1) an environmental impact statement has been prepared, and (2) DHEC has certified that the transport and storage of those elements in S.C. pose no significant health or safety risks to the people of our state.
20. DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION (TIED)
Legislation to eliminate the current Transportation Commission and instead require DOT to be a cabinet agency under the governor (i.e., DOT run by a person appointed by the governor, either with or without the consent of the Senate).
EDUCATION (K-12) BLOCK GRANTS (TIED)
Legislation to award funding to school districts via block grants, instead of current system of budgetary "line items," thereby giving schools more flexibility in reaching educational achievement and performance standards.
22. TEEN PREGNANCY (TIED)
Legislation to establish a program within the Health and Human Services Coordinating Council to fund local adolescent pregnancy prevention programs.
FAMILY PRESERVATION AND SUPPORT (TIED)
Legislation to enact family preservation services (i.e., development of comprehensive programs to address family-related social problems before they worsen, instead of reacting only when such problems reach crisis stage).
24. MANUFACTURING PERSONAL PROPERTY TAX DEPRECIATION
Legislation to reduce from 20% to 10% the manufacturer's depreciation residual on personal property capitalized. (Under state depreciation laws, a manufacturer's personal property depreciates in value by 80% over a period of time, so that even at 80% depreciation, the local government is taxing the property at 20% of its original value. Yet, commercial businesses can depreciate the same property to 10% of its original value. Changing the manufacturer's residual to 10% would treat both types of businesses equitably.)
25. STRATEGIC PLANNING
Legislation to develop a strategic planning process for South Carolina (i.e., prioritization of the state's resources, enacting legislation in anticipation of the future instead of only in response to problems).
26. AFFIRMATIVE ACTION
Legislation to prohibit the use of race, sex, and other factors as criteria for discriminating against or granting preferential treatment to any group or race in South Carolina's system of public education, public employment, and public contracting.
Legislation to change method of regulating the telecommunications industry (i.e., instead of regulating industry as a monopoly based on its "earnings," change regulatory method to one based on "prices," to increase competitiveness and efficiencey on the state level.
28. SCHOOL CHOICE
Legislation to allow public school choice (i.e., allow parents to send their children to special "charter schools" within their school district or to public schools inside/outside their district) and/or to allow parents to send their children to private schools via a voucher system.
29. REAL ESTATE TRANSFER FEES
Legislation to allow either a county or municipality, but not both, to impose a fee on transfer of real property (eliminating an example of "dual fee systems" used by municipal and county governments).
30. CONSUMER FINANCE
Legislation to address problems associated with deregulation of this industry (e.g., increased regulation of check cashing businesses and credit repair agencies).
31. FISH, GAME AND WATERCRAFT LAWS
Legislation to simplify and modernize the State's fish, game, and watercraft laws (i.e., make them more concise and uniform, reducing confusion among outdoor enthusiasts).
32. ADULT EDUCATION (TIED)
Leigislation to reduce fragmentation and improve coordination in providing adult education (by assigning all adult education services to the State Board for Technical and Comprehensive Education and the 16 technical colleges).
HERITAGE TRUST PROPERTY ACQUISITION LIMITS (TIED)
Legislation to limit the number of acres of land which may be purchased under this program in any one county to 20, 000 acres (this program permits the State to purchase up to 100,000 acres statewide of land deemed to have "outstanding and unique natural and cultural character").
34. STATE LOTTERY
Legislation to implement a state lottery, with net proceeds used to assist the elderly in purchasing prescription medication and to provide property tax relief.
How the 34 Issues Were Ranked
Each issue was rated by computing the number of votes received in each of the 1 to 5 priority rankings. With 61 House members responding this year, the highest possible score for any issue was 305. As an example of these calculations, block grants, the highest rated issue in this survey, received a score of 271. This score was computed by multiplying by 5 the 36 "five" priority votes, by 4 the 18 "four" priority votes, by 3 the 6 "three" priority vote, and by 1 the 1 "one" priority vote. Answers listed in the "no opinion" category were not used. By computing a score for each issue via this procedure, each issue could be fairly compared and ranked.
The chart on this page and the following page lists each issue in order of priority ranking and the number of votes it received in each category. The "no opinion" votes are not shown, as they count nothing toward the final score. In comprehending this chart, it is important to look not only at the total priority score for each issue but also at the number of "high priority" scores (i.e., the number of "5"s and "4"s) an issue received. For example, block grants, which ranked highest on this chart, received a "5" (highest number priority on scale from 1 to 5) from 36 of the 61 legislators who responded to the survey.
Priority Potential Issue High Low Total 5 4 3 2 1 Block Grants 36 18 6 0 1 271 Property Tax Reform 38 13 5 5 0 267 Auto Insurance 38 8 9 2 4 257 Public School Facility Assistance 29 18 9 2 2 250 State Government Accountability and Efficiency 29 16 10 4 1 248 Agency Rule Making 25 21 10 3 2 247 Post Conviction Relief 26 15 17 1 1 244 Higher Education 22 21 13 4 0 241 Cash budgeting for Capital Projects 18 25 13 5 0 239 Sentencing Guidelines 21 21 14 2 1 233 Department of Motor Vehicles 19 21 16 3 0 233 Education (K-12) Reform 19 25 10 3 2 233 Tuition Assistance 18 23 14 1 3 229 Health Care/Insurance 16 18 20 7 0 226 Workers' Compensation 15 23 18 1 2 225 Highway Funding 15 23 16 3 4 225 Property Rights 19 16 18 5 2 225 Environmental Infrastructure Funding 14 25 14 5 1 223 Transportation of Spent Nuclear Fuel and High-Level Radioactive Waste 17 16 21 3 2 220 Department of Transportation 18 18 11 5 8 213 Education (K-12) Block Grants 16 16 20 4 1 213 Teen Pregnancy 12 16 21 8 4 207 Family Preservation 14 16 17 9 4 207 Manufacturing Depreciation 10 21 18 5 5 203 Strategic Planning 8 23 17 8 2 201 Affirmative Action 17 13 15 5 8 200 Telecommunications 9 14 27 7 0 196 School Choice 21 10 6 7 16 193 Real Estate Transfer Fees 7 21 17 5 8 188 Consumer Finance 3 15 30 8 3 184 Fish and Game 6 11 24 15 4 180 Adult Education 9 10 15 10 11 161 Heritage Trust Property Acquisition Limits 8 7 21 9 12 161 State Lottery 11 8 4 7 30 143
For purposes of historical comparison, the 5 issues scoring the highest in rank in the survey for last year's session were (1) welfare reform; (2) property tax reform; (3) truth in sentencing; (4) alternatives to incarceration; and (5) state government accountability and efficiency.
In addition to the 34 issues listed in this survey, House members were given an opportunity at the end of the survey to add any of their own issues which were not listed in this survey questionnaire. The following list indicates issues which were added by responding House members. Of the issues listed below, the issue of judicial reform received the most responses (3), while other issues received one or two responses. The issues are listed in no particular order of importance:
Naming the Top Three Issues
As the final part of the survey, House members were asked to name the top three issues of the upcoming legislative session. Forty-six (46) of the 61 House members who responded to this survey also answered this final part of the survey. The results of this section were as follows:
(2) Auto Insurance
(3) Education Issues (K-Higher Education)
The results of this section generally correspond with the priority rankings, with an interesting exception--block grants. In the priority rankings (1-5), block grants received the most "high priority" votes. Yet only five House members listed block grants as one of their three top priorities for the upcoming session.
The fact that property tax reform came out ahead of block grants in the "top three priorities" category might be explained by the fact that property tax relief is a continuing issue which has received much more publicity and public support than block grants. Also, property tax relief can be implemented quicker than block grants (because the latter involves federal funding which may be affected by current congressional action on this subject).
As a matter of historical comparison, property tax reform was listed as a top priority issue in the surveys completed for last two years' sessions. It was listed second in priority last year, outranked by only welfare reform. Judicial issues (truth in sentencing and alternatives to incarceration) followed close after.
Additionally, other issues frequently mentioned for the top three issues were auto insurance, education reform, and crime (without reference to any specific category such as juvenile crime, parole, etc. )