Tuesday marks the start of the 2012 edition of the South Carolina General Assembly. Lawmakers will continue the session that began last year– taking up legislation that was halted before they adjourned in June.
One of the first bills likely to be taken up in the full body this week is a restructuring bill that stalled in June. If the bill passes with its current language, it would phase out the Budget & Control Board– moving most of its responsibilities to a new Cabinet-level Department of Administration.
Keeping with the theme of restructuring: one bill atop the House agenda would create the state Office of Inspector General. The new, independent office would be led by a state Inspector General appointed by the Governor (with the advice and consent of the Senate). The IG would have a four-year term and could only be removed by the governor for wrongdoing or other similar charges.
The House could also take up the governor’s veto of the I-95 Corridor Authority this week. Legislators overwhelmingly voted to create the authority last June, saying it would unite local governments in one of the state’s poorest areas. However, Governor Nikki Haley vetoed it, saying it would create an unnecessary agency whose functions copy the existing state Commerce Department. The Senate overrode the veto, but the House did not take it up. However, conservative groups have spent the past six months attacking the bill, so some legislators could switch their vote.
–A Senate Labor, Commerce, and Industry subcommittee will take up three Republican bills that would significantly impact jobless benefits if passed. One bill by Sen. Paul Campbell (R-Goose Creek) would require workers on unemployment rolls for more than six months to perform 16 hours of community service work per week in order to keep their benefits.
Another bill by Sen. Kevin Bryant (R-Anderson) would stop offering benefits for those only seeking part-time work. Bryant is also sponsoring another bill that would require drug testing for those receiving jobless benefits. Opponents warn the legislation could violate federal rules.
— A House Ways & Means subcommittee will start the long budget process by hearing funding requests from the Elections Commission, Division of Aeronautics, and Ethics Commission. The Elections Commission could be an issue this year, as the agency will likely request permission to run a $500,000 deficit after a plan to fund the January 21 Republican presidential primary fell through.