Legislators return to Columbia Tuesday with the state’s political attention now focused on them for the first time this year (rather than on the Republican presidential candidates who have dominated South Carolina’s headlines over the past two weeks).
–In the Senate, not much headway has been made on a bill to create the Department of Administration. The issue is an eleventh-hour amendment that would eliminate the state Budget & Control Board passed late in the 2011 session. Now Senate leaders are slowing the process down, saying they are worried the amendment was too hastily drawn. Senate President pro tempore Glenn McConnell (R-Charleston) told members to fully read the 200-page amendment over the weekend to make sure there were no problems.
— Little is on the House agenda Tuesday– most of the higher-profile bills are still in committee there. The House could soon approve two minor bills that have already cleared the Senate. Those include a bill by Rep. Nels0n Hardwick (R-Surfside Beach) that tightens and cleans up many of the state’s fishing rules, as well as legislation by Rep. Mike Pitts (R-Laurens) that creates dozens of new specialty license plates.
–The mayor of Batesburg-Leesville says he will run for the House, according to The State newspaper. James Wiszowaty, a Republican, said he will run for the seat being vacated by Rep. Marion Frye (R-Leesville), who will retire after this year. Wiszowaty said he would only serve a maximum of eight years, if elected. Lexington County Councilman Frank Townsend previously announced he would run for the seat.
Governor Nikki Haley holds a press conference with Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation director Catherine Templeton and House Labor, Commerce, and Industry Chairman Rep. Bill Sandifer (Oconee) Tuesday. The Governor’s Office did not say what they would discuss.
— A Senate Finance subcommittee will continue discussion of a bill by Rep. Dwight Loftis (R-Greenville) that would allow a biotechnology company to claim a job development tax credit. It would also extend the privilege to firms that do research into physical, engineering, and life sciences. According to estimates from the state Department of Employment and Workforce, there 218 such companies in South Carolina. The bill has already cleared the House.
— Shortly afterwards, the full Finance Committee will take up a bill by Sen. McConnell that would clarify the amount of time a homeowner could rent out their house before it qualifies as a rental property and requires a higher property tax. Under the bill, a person could rent out the home for up to three months. Currently, most counties use a two-week limit.
— Meanwhile, the Senate Judiciary Committee will take up several bills, including another by McConnell that would create a Commission on Streamlining Government and the Reduction of Government Waste. The Commission would be an eight-member group tasked with finding ways to do what its title implies.
— Budget writing continues to take up many representatives’ time. Legislators will continue to hear funding requests this week. On Tuesday, some agencies appearing before the House Ways & Means committee include the Budget & Control Board, the Department of Revenue, and the State Retirement System
— The Labor, Commerce, and Industry Committee will meet to discuss a bill by Rep. Sandifer that would impose a steep fine on those who fraudulently obtain unemployment benefits. The proposed bill calls for a fine of up to $5,000 for a first offense, $10,000 for a second offense, and $15,000 for the third. Current law has a maximum $100 fine.
— The Judiciary Committee will consider a host of bills, including one by Rep. Joan Brady (R-Columbia) that would make “sexting” a crime for minors. The bill would set a fine of $100 andcould require a possible class if a teen aged 12-18 texts an image of themselves nude or doing a sexually explicit activity.
— A Business and Commerce subcommittee will debate a bill by Sen. Harvey Peeler (R-Gaffney) that stiffens the regulations for miniature trains. Peeler drafted the legislation after a Spartanburg “kiddie train” crashed last March, killing a six-year-old boy. The bill would require such trains to have a working speedometer and a regulator that limits its speed to the manufacturer’s recommendations. The bill passed the Senate in May.