A bill to reform the Employment Security Commission (ESC) passed the South Carolina House Wednesday on second reading. The vote was 108-1.
Majority Leader Kenny Bingham and others combined 10 amendments into one comprehensive amendment. It would establish the ESC as a cabinet agency under the governor.
Under the bill appeals from those trying to get unemployment checks would go to an existing appeals court, the Administrative Law Court, which would receive extra staff. The ESC commissioners, who now handle appeals, would be phased out, resulting in a net savings to the state.
Bingham says the legislation also creates an oversight committee, the Workforce Review Committee, to oversee the agency. The Workforce Review Committee would be similar to the oversight committees which oversee the Office of Regulatory Staff and the Public Service Commission.
(Bingham on House floor MP3 4:53)
Bingham on House floor MP3 4:53
Richland County Democrat Chris Hart asked Bingham how the six extra staff members needed at the Administrative Law Court to handle the agency’s appeals would be paid for. The current commissioners are paid through a federal trust fund, funded through payroll deductions of employees. Bingham said the $375,000 for extra court staff would be taken from the approximately $900,000 collected into the fees and fines fund each year, which now contains more than $4 million. The legislation will create no new judicial seats for the Administrative Law Court.
Governor Mark Sanford issued a statement following the House’s passage of the legislation.
What can sometimes be lost in the political process is the fact that the ESC has a vital mission and is filled with many hard-working employees. It’s not the staff on the front lines that this legislation is aimed at, but instead a recognition that the ESC must get back to basics and start connecting people looking for a job with open positions across the state. This task is all the more important given that just last month, the Conference Board report found about 55,000 online job postings for South Carolina.