By Stan Welch
POWDERSVILLE – Speaking to a handful of people who attended a town hall meeting Monday night in Powdersville, House District 10 Rep. Joshua Putnam listed and explained several pieces of proposed legislation which he either sponsored, or signed onto as a co-sponsor.
Rep. Putnam began by telling those in attendance that the General Assembly could easily shorten the sessions, saying that the General Assembly was just now really beginning to conduct any meaningful business.
“We spend a lot of time just trying to get bills out of committee,” said Putnam, who is serving the remainder of former House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dan Cooper.
One bill that has made it through the House is a bill designed to strengthen South Carolina’s status as a right to work state. “The Democrats debated it for four hours, just to make their point. They knew they didn’t have the votes to stop it,” said Putnam.
He added that budget week is coming up and that once the budget is resolved, there will be a very brief opportunity to get any other legislation to the House floor to be approved and sent to the Senate. “It’s really a scramble to get things on the floor at that point.”
Putnam, who sits on the Education and Public Works committees, said that he voted to kill the proposed bill that would have required USC and Clemson University to play football against each other each year. The proposal came amid concerns that conference scheduling requirements for the two schools might spell an end to the long lived rivalry.
Putnam said he voted against the legislation because he doesn’t think the General Assembly should be involved in such matters. “I spoke with people from both schools and they just didn’t see the problem. They didn’t want us getting involved in that.”
Putnam is working on a bill that would allow school principals some leeway in dealing with student absences. Currently, the state has a ten day seat rule, meaning that if a student misses more than ten days of school, he or she cannot advance. Putnam would allow teachers to recommend giving a knowledge based test to determine if the student did in fact know the material, if the principal approved. Otherwise, the law as currently written would apply.
But if the principal allowed the test and the student passed it, he or she would be allowed to advance despite the excessive absences. “This is just one way to put the power back into the local schools instead of in Columbia,” said Putnam.
Putnam is also working on a bill to exempt fire departments from paying the tax on the diesel fuel used by the fire engines. “That is still being hashed out, but we need to do something to help our fire departments,” said Putnam, whose meeting took place at the Powdersville Fire Department.
Other bills Putnam supports include one that would begin legal protection of one’s rights at the point of conception, something Putnam calls a personhood law. He also supports pending legislation to allow the use of the state’s amber alert system to inform the public of criminals who have assaulted law enforcement and are fleeing; a law that would require a review and renewal of state regulations every five years; and a law to prevent the naming of public facilities after living politicians.