–On Thursday, Governor Nikki Haley signed into law legislation that formally creates the Office of the State Inspector General. While senators were debating the new office last year, Haley created the position by an executive order. However, director James Martin was only able to look for waste, fraud, and abuse in Cabinet agencies. The new law expands that oversight to all of state government.
–Legislators in both houses took up the issue of reforming the Department of Transportation (DOT). A House panel advanced legislation that would dissolve the commission which approves road construction projects and instead put DOT under control of the Transportation Secretary… Meanwhile, Transportation Secretary Robert St. Onge told senators he would okay with keeping with the commission, so long as they stopped “micromanaging” the agency.
–The Senate unanimously passed a bill that allows SLED to use “Blue Alerts” to warn the public about an at-large suspect who shot a police officer. It would be similar to the “Amber Alerts” that SLED uses for abducted children. The Senate altered the bill slightly, so it requires another vote by the House before heading to the governor’s desk.
–By a vote of 34-3, the Senate also passed a bill by Rep. Dwight Loftis (R-Greenville) that would extend job tax credits to biotechnology research firms, as well as companies that do “infrastructure improvements.” The Senate made the qualifications to receive the credits slightly tougher than the original House version. The bill now heads back to the House for their approval.
–The House Labor, Commerce, and Industry Committee sent several bills to the House floor Thursday, including one by Sen. Harvey Peeler (R-Gaffney) that would add some new regulations for “kiddie trains” in South Carolina. The legislation is known as “Benji’s Law” after a six-year-old boy who was killed when a Spartanburg amusement train crashed last year.
–Senate Medical Affairs committee members got heated during debate over a bill by Rep. Greg Delleney (R-Chester) that would not allow those on the state health plan to get an elective abortion, even in the case of rape and incest. Supporters say their tax dollars should not pay for a practice they abhor. Opponents call the bill insensitive to rape victims. No action was taken on the bill Thursday.
The Medical Affairs committee did pass a bill by Sen. Shane Massey (R-Edgefield) that loosens some regulations against home bakeries. It now heads to the Senate floor… Meanwhile, a Senate Judiciary panel advanced legislation by Sen. Glenn McConnell (R-Charleston) that would add two additional seats to the state Judicial Council. It now heads to the full Judiciary Committee.
–At least one candidate has announced for the House seat currently held by Rep. Boyd Brown (D-Winnsboro), who is not seeking re-election. Republican William Gray said Wednesday he would try to win the Democratic stronghold. Gray is a retired state employee who also taught a criminal justice course at the University of South Carolina. He has the distinction of being the first African-American page to work at the Statehouse– doing so in 1969.