Republicans in the South Carolina House say their agenda for the new year will focus on job creation. House Speaker Bobby Harrell says it’s time to turn the page from the difficult past six months in the state’s history. He says South Carolina’s economy is the biggest issue facing the state for the next few decades. “We’ve had folks from the business community over the last several months looking at all the economic development statues that are on the books, introducing legislation and making proposed changes, and going through everything, making us more competitive with other states, to recruit businesses from out of state and businesses already in South Carolina to expand,” says Harrell.
Assistant Majority Leader Bruce Bannister of Greenville says education is a leading item on the Republican agenda because it’s critical to improving the economy. “Over the years we have built in certain requirements, that they spend money in certain ratios and in certain ways, that from a policy standpoint in Columbia seems like a good idea,” says Bannister. “But with the tight budget pressures and the issues we’re dealing with now with less money, it’s best to let each school district handle their budget in the best way they can.”
Bannister says there are already examples of ways that state lawmakers have helped local school districts to have more flexibility in controlling their own budgets, which he says is essential during a tough economy. “They have a deadline by which they have to sign renewal contracts with their teachers,” he says. “Now they may not know if they’ve got the money. We allowed them to decide when is the appropriate time to sign contracts with teachers and extended the time they’re allowed to do that. We’ve also provided that they can provide furloughs for teachers and administration which previously they had been prohibited from doing by state law.”
Bannister says the Republican caucus will put an emphasis on maintaining the level of state-supported scholarships offered to South Carolina college students, and continue to try to make the state’s charter school district the best it can be.
Also listed on the Republican caucus’ agenda: limiting government and protecting state’s rights.