After the body spent nearly two hours debating one amendment on the bill, Sen. Jake Knotts (R-Lexington) had had enough. “We’re looking silly out there in the public,” he told fellow senators from the podium, “I just called out in the lobby by a constituent of mine. And they said, ‘what in the world are you doing?'”
Legislators on all sides are clearly becoming flustered about H.3066– which originally shifted most of the state’s bureaucratic functions from the largely-independent Budget & Control Board and placed them into a new Department of Administration. The bill passed the House in March last year and reached the full Senate a month later.
Since that time, it was heavily altered in June with an amendment offered by Sens. Tom Davis (R-Beaufort), Vincent Sheheen (D-Kershaw), and Shane Massey (R-Edgefield). The amendment dissolved the Board (referred to as the “big, green bureaucratic monster” by Haley for its extensive reach in state government) completely.
The “Sheheen-Massey” amendment, as it was called, passed unanimously when senators felt pressure from constituents to eliminate the unpopular Board. The body then voted to give the bill second reading— meaning one more vote would pass it on to the House.
However, Senate leaders say the “Sheheen-Massey amendment” was crafted hastily at the last minute. As a result, they say, the current bill does not adequately determine which former B&CB responsibilities would go where. The entire bill soon bogged down late last year with 70 amendments still on the table.
Haley angrily ordered senators back into session, demanding that they finish the job in June. However, the state Supreme Court ruled the governor’s actions an unconstitutional violation of the separation of powers. So, the unfinished bill sat on the Senate calendar for six months until the session began once again last week.
Davis offered a new, 200-page amendment this week that tries to clean up the bill’s language. Senate leaders want members to spend the weekend reading it.
“We’ve got to be careful what we’re doing so that we don’t create a mess in the zeal to rush,” Senate President pro tempore Glenn McConnell told South Carolina Radio Network Thursday. “We’ve only got one chance to do this right.”
However, Knotts said he does not think his colleagues are taking the bill seriously, “Let’s not waste two or three hours just to make the people think we’re talking about the Department of Administration when we’re really not. We’re just here putting on a show.”
Knotts wants senators to move on to other legislation, specifically a vehicular homicide bill he supports.
McConnell says he has serious misgivings about the bill, which he says creates duplication and waste and will not save the state any money the way it is currently drafted.