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State House Report 3 – A New Governor & School Choice Week

This week it came as no surprise to my Republican colleagues and me to see the U.S. Senate confirm former Governor Nikki Haley to serve as Ambassador to the United Nations in New York, NY. Upon her resignation, Governor McMaster was sworn in at approximately 6:30 PM on Tuesday evening, making him the 117th Governor of South Carolina.

Echoing the remarks of many others was the Republican leader of the House, Gary Simrill (R-Rock Hill): “Congratulations to Governor Haley on her confirmation to serve as our next Ambassador to the United Nations. Governor Haley left South Carolina better than she found it, and for that our state will always be grateful. I send my deepest congratulations to Governor McMaster upon his swearing in this evening. I know Governor and Mrs. McMaster will continue their pristine record of public service as they embark on this new chapter. Today marks a period of new beginnings for the executive branch, and Republicans in the House pledge to work with the McMaster administration for the advancement of the great state of South Carolina.”

In his very first proclamation as Governor, McMaster proclaimed January 22nd – January 28th of 2017 as South Carolina School Choice Week. House Republicans have led the charge over many years to do away with antiquated one-size-fits-all approaches in education, pushing instead for increased school choice options. One such program that has seen wide success is Exceptional SC, our state’s tax credit scholarship program for children with exceptional needs.

To date, Exceptional SC has:

  • Raised just over $9.2 million in donated tax liability for scholarships. This exceeds the $8 million raised for the prior school year and represents a significant milestone for the new program.
  • Awarded scholarships to all eligible children who received first semester scholarships. This entails 1,342 students, at 114 schools, with individual scholarships averaging around $3,472.
  • Stated that new scholarship applicants (approximately 600) on the waiting list may receive scholarships as additional money is raised. There is just under $800,000 remaining to hit the available $10 million cap for the 2016-17 school year.
  • Awarded the entire available $2 million in refundable parental tax credits.

Finally, as is typical in January, much was done in our House committees. Once a bill is introduced, it must go through legislative committees before arriving on the House floor for an up or down vote. We tried to spend as little time as possible on the floor this week so they could have time to get their work done.

It is an honor and a privilege to serve you in Columbia again this year. If you need help navigating state government, or have any thoughts or concerns about what we are doing, please do not hesitate to contact me at