When the South Carolina General Assembly returns to session after a six-month hiatus Tuesday, the issue atop the Senate calendar will be a bill that significantly restructures much of the state’s bureaucracy.
It would eliminate the state Budget & Control Board– a part-legislative, part-executive agency run by a five-member board– and shift its duties to other branches of state government.
The bill nearly passed in June before it was held up by Democrats angry over what they viewed as a broken promise by Republicans to take up separate early voting legislation.
Most of the board’s functions would go to a newly-created Department of Administration. Those would include offices that maintain government buildings and vehicles, information technology, and human resources, The new agency would be a Cabinet-level position whose leader would be appointed by the governor.
Other B&CB functions, such as the state Budget Office and Board of Economic Advisors, would move to the legislature’s control. Under the bill’s current language, the Board would only be responsible for overseeing state employees’ insurance and retirement for a two year transition before it is abolished in 2013. Those two remaining functions would then shift to a trustee system.
“We think we figured out a way to deal with the health plan, deal with the retirement system, deal with these other issues,” Sen. Larry Martin (R-Pickens) told reporters at a media workshop last week, “Yes, it’s going to pass.”
Sen. Vincent Sheheen (D-Kershaw) said the restructuring was important, but he was more excited about an amendment he’s proposing that will create an Inspector General’s Office to investigate fraud and waste.
“It would have the subpoena authority of the state. It would have jurisdiction over all of state government to go look for waste, fraud, and abuse,” he said, “(It’s) something many other states have.”
Sheheen has been pushing for the office for several years and has gotten bipartisan support.
Gov. Nikki Haley created the office by executive order last March. However its first director resigned a few weeks into the job, saying he was frustrated by the lack of clarity and authority his office was actually given by the order. Right now, the position can only investigate the governor’s cabinet-level agencies.