— A House panel advanced early voting legislation Thursday— one day after their Senate counterparts did the same. However, whereas the Senate version would allow people to vote up to 10 days early, the House edition only creates a seven-day window. The bill would also end the current “de facto” early voting system that exists in South Carolina through the in-person absentee process. The proposal now heads to the full House Judiciary Committee.
— The State newspaper reports that one of South Carolina’s more powerful lawmakers says he has a solution that provides more funding for the state’s roads without raising the gas tax: the current sales tax on cars. House Speaker Bobby Harrell (R-Charleston) introduced a bill Thursday that would redirect roughly $100 million of the auto and truck sales tax revenue from the General Fund to the highway system. However, some Democrats are not happy that the money would be taken away from education.
— Local governments made it clear they do not like a proposed open records law that is being debated in a House subcommittee, according to the Associated Press. The bill sponsored by Rep. Bill Taylor (R-Aiken) tries to stop excessive fees from being charged to people who file a Freedom of Information request. Among other things, the legislation would limit how much public agencies can charge for the documents. But some of those agencies say they get massive requests that are expensive and time-consuming. The panel held off advancing the bill for another week.
— Meanwhile, a House committee is considering possible changes to the way local governments are funded in South Carolina. A 1991 law requires lawmakers to set aside 4.5 percent of the previous year’s budget to help county governments cover the cost of carrying out state mandates— such as law enforcement, courts, animal shelters, etc. However, the economic slowdown has caused legislators to underfund the law each year since 2009. A House study committee is trying to come up with a new formula that can factor in economic conditions.
— A Charleston legislator has requested a legal opinion from the Attorney General’s Office about whether the state’s highway financing board’s effort to fund Interstate 526 was legal. The State newspaper reports that Rep. Robert Brown (D-Charleston) requested an opinion on the Transportation Infrastructure Board, which is seeking to finance I-526′s completion by committing the state’s future borrowing capacity. Freeway boosters said the decision means a badly needed road will be built, but the move drew criticism from others who said the additional expressway is too expensive, unneeded, and environmentally damaging.
— Former State Rep. Thad Viers is in trouble with the law again. The Republican who once represented Horry County in the SC House was indicted by a grand jury on burglary charges, according to the Fourth Circuit Solicitor’s Office. The indictment stems from a March 20, 2012 incident reported by Viers’s ex-girlfriend. The same woman accused Viers of harassing and stalking her after the two broke up in late 2011. An arrest on those counts ended Viers political career last spring.
—The University of South Carolina has created a new tax impact calculator. The tool is able to estimate exactly what sort of impact a proposed policy such as raising or lowering taxes could have. It was designed by the Moore School of Business and unveiled on Thursday.