The story grabbing the most attention Wednesday was in a House subcommittee where the state elections director questioned claims that 953 people had voted after they were listed as dead. Marci Andino told Republican legislators that many of those on the list were actually still alive, the victim of clerical errors.
–The House tried to stop Georgia ports officials from moving forward on the dredging of the Savannah River, voting unanimously on a resolution Wednesday to suspend any decision made about the river by the state Department of Health and Environmental Control board after 2007.
–A Senate subcommittee advanced a bill by Sen. Lee Bright (R-Spartanburg) that would deny unemployment benefits for any worker fired for cause. Bright said the state paid out more than $50 million in benefits to workers fired for misconduct last year. Opponents are concerned companies would exploit the rule to avoid paying extra for benefits. The bill now heads to the full Labor, Commerce, and Industry Committee.
–The House Agriculture Committee sent several bills to the House floor, including one by Rep. Tom Young (R-Aiken) that protects landowners from being sued if a horseback rider is injured while riding across private property.
–Governor Nikki Haley on Wednesday called for legislators to increase funding for the Department of Mental Health. In a press conference at the agency’s headquarters in Columbia, Haley requested an additional $17 million for the department. $7 million of that would be additional money for the Sexually Violent Predator Program.
–The University of South Carolina is requesting an additional $5 million next year to start Palmetto College– an online program that would allow those with two-year degrees to get their bachelor’s degree. University president Harris Pastides said it would offer an opportunity to those who are unable to attend a four-year school for economic or family reasons. The school is requesting an additional $40 million overall.
— Members of the Senate wildlife committee voted Wednesday to call each member of the Department of Natural Resources board to testify under oath about the departure of DNR chief John Frampton. Senators questioned whether the board forced Frampton out of office.
— One of the youngest members of the House (and one of Gov. Haley’s most vocal critics) says he will not seek re-election. Rep. Boyd Brown (D-Winnsboro) said Wednesday he will focus on finishing law school after the 2012 session ends.
–A judiciary subcommittee will hear testimony on several bills Thursday, including one by Sen. Chip Campsen (R-Charleston) that would require a person show proof of citizenship when they register to vote.
–A Medical Affairs panel will continue their work on a bill by Rep. Greg Delleney (R-Chester) that would allow a health care worker to refuse to perform procedures involving embryonic stem cells and euthanasia, among other things. Opponents worry the bill is too broad and gives employees too much leeway to claim discrimination. The House passed the bill last year.
— A higher education subcommittee will hear testimony on a bill by Sen. Darrell Jackson (D-Columbia) that would allow active duty military personnel to be charged a reduced rate for distance learning classes.
— A judiciary subcommittee will consider updating South Carolina’s statewide energy standards.
–The Ways and Means Committee wraps another week of budget hearings by taking requests from the Department of Transportation and the Judicial Department.
–A House judiciary panel will consider a bill by Rep. Mike Sotille (R-Isle of Palms) that would expand the state’s ethics laws so that any public official could be prosecuted for a violation while still in office. Current law says any prosecution must occur within four years of the alleged violation. The bill would change that to within four years of leaving office.