–The Senate voted on a resolution Wednesday that reverses a decision by the Department of Health and Environmental Control board to grant a Georgia permit to deepen the Savannah River. The House passed a similar resolution last week. If the House approves this version, it will then head to the Governor’s desk. Gov. Nikki Haley has already indicated she will veto it.
–The Senate refused to agree with the original House version of a bill that creates dozens of new license plates. There is little difference between the two bills, although the Senate version includes “Coon Hunter” and “2011 Baseball National Championships” plates. While both include a “Gadsden Flag” plate, the Senate version also requires a $6800 deposit on the plate before it can be issued.
— In a special joint session, the House and Senate made several judicial appointments, including electing state Supreme Court justice Kaye Hearn to another term.
–The Senate Labor, Commerce, and Industry advanced a pair of bills that tighten the requirements for unemployment benefits. One bill by Sen. Kevin Bryant (R-Anderson) would not allow part-time workers to collect jobless benefits if they lose their jobs. Another bill by Sen. Larry Martin (R-Pickens) would prevent seasonal workers from receiving benefits in the off-season.
–A House panel advanced a bill Wednesday that would ban texting while driving. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Don Bowen (R-Anderson), would create a $100 fine for anyone caught sending or receiving electronic messages while driving. It now heads to the full House Education and Public Works committee.
–Meanwhile, Republicans on a Senate subcommittee moved forward legislation by Rep. Greg Delleney (R-Chester) that would not allow the state health plan to cover elective abortions. That would include pregnancies due to rape or incest, which upset Democrats on the panel. The House has already passed the bill. It now heads to the full Senate Medical Affairs Committee.
–Members of the Senate Judiciary committee heard testimony on a bill by Sen. Joel Lourie (D-Columbia) that would require a person who has failed a DUI test to use a “mini-breathalyzer” installed on their car in order to start it. Current law only requires the devices for repeat offenders. However, members agreed more work was needed before the bill could be advanced.
–South Carolina’s Medicaid director told a House budget subcommittee that outdated technology– including using a paper-based system– is largely responsible for more than $406 million in improper Medicaid payments in 2010. A federal audit last month revealed the state’s rate of payment to ineligible patients was 17.2 percent– up from 5.3 percent in 2007.
–The House and Senate both approved a formal invitation for President Barack Obama to address the General Assembly. Previous Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush have spoken to the body in prior years. There is no word on whether or not the White House will accept the invite.
–Also Wednesday: A Wildlife subcommittee advanced a bill by Rep. Bill Sandifer (R-Seneca) that would make it illegal to hunt waterfowl within 200 yards of a home on Lake Keowee… And a K-12 Education panel reported out a bill by Rep. Phil Owens (R-Easley) that would require middle and high school employees to complete two hours of youth suicide prevention training when they renew their certification.
–Governor Haley will sign into law a act officially creating the Office of Inspector General. She is also expected to nominate James Martin to the position. Martin has been acting as interim Inspector General since last summer.
–A Senate Judiciary subcommittee will hear testimony on a proposed state constitutional amendment by Sen. Gerald Malloy (D-Darlington) that would set funding for the state’s judicial system at 2 percent of the general fund.
–A Senate subcommittee will hold a hearing on several bills to reform the state Department of Transportation (DOT). These range from requiring the agency to post its expenditures online to eliminating the seven-member Transportation Commission and turning it over to the Secretary of Transportation. A third bill would require the agency to change its formula for how construction projects are prioritized.
–The Medical Affairs Committee will discuss proposed regulations that would license chiropractic facilities.
–Another Senate Judiciary subcommittee will hold a hearing on a proposal to move the independent Prosecution Coordination Council under the Attorney General’s Office. The Council acts on behalf of the state’s solicitors and oversees funding and grants for each local office. It was at the center of a low-profile budget battle last year.
–A joint committee will meet Thursday to screen the candidates for the boards of trustees of the state’s public colleges and universities.
–The Labor, Commerce, and Industry committee will discuss several bills– including the adoption of new energy codes and a Senate bill by Sen. Harvey Peeler (R-Gaffney) that stiffens the regulations for miniature trains.
–“Transportation” will be the buzzword in both House and Senate Thursday, as a House judiciary subcommittee will also hold a hearing on a bill by Rep. Jay Lucas (R-Lucas) that would eliminate the Transportation Commission and instead appoint the Secretary of Transportation as head of the DOT.