April 18, 2014

Legislative Update: January 23

— The state Department of Revenue has selected a new company to encrypt the sensitive information in its servers, interim Director Bill Blume told a state Senate subcommittee Tuesday. Blume said the agency has signed a $5 million contract with the Massachusetts-based firm EMC. Blume revealed the new contract during a meeting of a Senate committee investigating the DOR breach that compromised the personal information of more than 3.8 million taxpayers. Blume says he’s trying to change the culture of an agency that did not view cyber-security as a priority until it was too late.

Anto-abortion protestors rally inside the Statehouse Tuesday in support of the "Personhood Act," which would legally recognize a fetus as having the same rights as an adult

Anto-abortion protestors rally inside the Statehouse Tuesday in support of the “Personhood Act,” which would legally recognize a fetus as having the same rights as an adult

— Senators remain stuck on a proposed election ballot fix, according to WLTX-TV. Lawmakers are trying to pass a bill that would clear up conflicting language in state law that caused over 250 candidates to be kicked off the ballot last May. However, the body is currently in a stalemate as some senators want to reform the system entirely, while others just want to close the loophole that caused the problem in the first place.

— Senators gave initial approval to a bill that would effectively allow deer to be hunted via baiting in the Upstate. The proposal is needed because of a loophole in state law that does not allow baiting, but lets hunters kill deer attracted to bait. However, the vote was not along party lines and was a relatively close 22-17. Some senators said they opposed the bill because wildlife officials believe baiting increases the spread of deer diseases. (Background of bill when it passed through subcommittee two weeks ago)

— Lawmakers will have to somehow find an additional $84 million to cover the rising costs of state workers’ health insurance, The State newspaper reports. That’s nearly double the increase that was set aside for this current budget year. The additional cost also means employees are facing a 4.5 percent increase in their insurance premiums. The paper writes that the biggest contributor is rising prescription medication costs.

— The president of a prominent conservative think-tank is once again accusing House Speaker Bobby Harrell of ethical misconduct. South Carolina Policy Council President Ashley Landess revealed 2006 emails from a state Board of Pharmacy member who questioned if Harrell was using undue influence to get a permit for a pharmaceutical company he owns. Harrell calls the accusation ridiculous, saying that he specifically asked to be treated no differently than any other business.

— Two Republicans advanced to a runoff for an open seat in the South Carolina House. Travelers Rest businessman Mike Burns nearly won the race outright, but fell just short of a majority with 49.6 percent of the vote. Second-place finisher Chris Sullivan, a political consultant, finished with 39 percent of the vote. Burns and Sullivan will match up again on February 5. They are seeking to replace former Rep. Tom Corbin, who was elected to the state Senate in November. No Democrat is running for the seat.

— A state-run plan that allows parents to set aside money for their children’s college tuition tax-free had significant growth last month, according to State Treasurer Curtis Loftis. Loftis said 5,000 families signed up for the program in December, a 46 percent increase over December 2011. Loftis credited a lower minimum needed to invest and lower fees.

— The House unanimously approved a resolution that would request the South Carolina Budget & Control Board to turn over a former National Guard armory to the town of Clover. The Guard closed the armory last year and no longer has any plans for the site. Clover officials hope to revamp the building into a community center. Background in the Rock Hill Herald.