A bill currently before a Senate committee would eliminate much of the red tape currently hamstringing college construction projects.
Right now, whenever a public college in South Carolina wants to undertake a development project, it has to get the approval of the Commission on Higher Education, then the Joint Bond Review Committee, and finally the Budget and Control Board. Once a preliminary design is put into place and the costs are estimated, the school has to then navigate back through the three boards a second time.
Even after the project receives the go-ahead, any subsequent changes that occur during construction require additional approval that starts the process over again.
Under a bill (H. 3410) that passed the House last month, the requests would instead be sent to the Joint Bond Review Committee and Budget and Control Board at the same time. The Bond Review Committee would have final say, unless the governor and two other members of the B&CB objected. The Commission on Higher Education would still have access to the proposal, but any of their recommendations would be non-binding.
The bill would also limit the number of projects that require state approval. Right now, all land purchases must go through the process. Legislators hope to make an exception for deals worth less than $250,000. The bill would also give college the ability to spend up to $1 million for remodeling costs and $500,000 in new construction projects before needing the committee’s permission. Currently, there is no minimum.
H. 3410 now sits in the Senate Finance Committee. A similar bill failed in the Senate last year. However, most lawmakers expect this version to pass.