Headlines from the South Carolina Statehouse:
–As the budget debate continues in the state Senate, Republicans blocked a Democrat attempt to defund the state’s voter ID lawsuit. Senators voted 24-17 to block an amendment that would have stripped the Attorney General’s Office of $1 million to fight the U.S. Justice Department in federal court. Democrats, who oppose the voter ID law, wanted the money to instead go towards a pending court case over the Savannah River dredging.
–The State newspaper reports ETV funding could become a budget issue yet again. Gov. Nikki Haley opposes taxpayer money paying for the state broadcasting network, but most lawmakers support it– especially the educational services ETV offers for schools. The House used indirect funding for the network by financing it through the various agencies that buy its services. But the Senate voted to isntead put a direct line in the budget. A similar drama played out last year.
–The House, meanwhile, sent to Haley’s desk a bill that would prevent new statewide health insurance exchanges from offering abortion coverage. The exchanges are a part of the Affordable Care Act (known derisively as “Obamacare” by Republicans) and would offer subsidized health plans for uninsured South Carolinians. Under the legislation, a plan could only cover abortions in the case of rape, incest, or the mother’s health. Democrats accused Republicans of playing politics by bringing up the issue two years before the exchanges even come into existence. The bill passed 78-33.
–The Senate Education Committee scaled down a plan that would have replaced the entire board of trustees at South Carolina State University. Large numbers of alumni have called on the legislature to change the board after several well-documented problems at the college. The House passed a plan last month that would have tossed out the entire board and appointed an interim panel in its place. However, senators said they were concerned the unprecedented move would hurt the school’s accreditation in the future.
–The House Ethics Committee has asked for more documents on Gov. Haley than previously revealed. Last Friday, committee members voted to subpoena documents from Haley’s office and the Lexington Medical Center that dealt with Haley’s work there while she was still a legislator. But the Columbia Free-Times reported Wednesday that staff attorneys later requested additional documents from an engineering firm that paid Haley as a consultant.
–The state Supreme Court has agreed to hear a lawsuit between the Florence County Democratic and Republican parties– the latest chapter in the legal issues surrounding next month’s primaries. The Democrats accuse their rivals of ignoring the Court’s ruling from earlier this month that declared ineligible those candidates who did not properly turn in financial paperwork. GOP officials say each of their 15 candidates either followed the law or were already exempt.