–The House passed a bill that tightens up the state’s “right to work” laws by an 86-25 vote. Among other things, the bill would require unions to submit detailed financial data to the state’s labor agency. Republicans say the bill helps businesses by fining unions that violate state “right to work” laws. Some Democrats say it is unnecessary as South Carolina’s laws are already stacked against unions. 12 Democrats voted in favor of the bill, however.
Here are Wednesday’s headlines from the Capitol, as well as a look at what’s on the schedule Thursday:
–The long Budget & Control Board restructuring debate took another turn Wednesday. After senators voted to dissolve the agency Tuesday, there remains debate about which of its functions belong under the governor’s control and which belong to the legislature. By a 23-19 vote Wednesday, the Senate created a Procurement Oversight Board which would also oversee the state’s purchasing services and data centers. Opponents were upset because the board would be a scaled-down version the Budget & Control Board. Sen. Hugh Leatherman (R-Florence) argued a single person should not control all of the state’s procurements.
–Senators also unanimously voted to pass a bill by Rep. Thad Viers (R-Myrtle Beach) that would not allow an autopsy to be performed at a hospital if the patient had died there within 24 hours of a surgery. Viers says the intention is to avoid a potential conflict of interest on the part of hospital staff if a medical error caused the death. If the House approves the Senate amendments, the bill will head to the governor.
–House Republicans formally released their agenda for the rest of the year. House Speaker Bobby Harrell (R-Charleston) said his caucus would focus much of its attention on tax reform and shoring up the pension system. One of the five agenda items was the “right to work” legislation that passed later in the day.
–Chief Justice of the South Carolina Supreme Court Jean Toal told legislators the state needs nine new judges in order to reduce a massive backlog that has become one of the worst in the nation. She called for three more circuit court judges and six more family court judges– at a cost of roughly $3.1 million.
–The House could soon take up a bill that would start regulating voter registration drives in South Carolina. The bill would require groups that conduct the drives to turn in their results within 48 hours or face a fine. Sponsor Alan Clemmons (R-Myrtle Beach) says he wants to protect new voters from having their names misused for fraudulent purposes. However, civil rights groups say the bill would effectively end community-based voting drives altogether.
–A House education subcommittee unanimously voted down a bill by Rep. Nathan Ballentine (R-Chapin) that would have required the Clemson and South Carolina college football teams to play each other every year. Lawmakers said scheduling should be left up to the athletic directors of the respective schools. SportsTalk hosted Rep. Mike Anthony (D-Union) and Speaker Bobby Harrell to discuss the bill Wednesday.
–A House Natural Resources panel advanced a bill that tries to stop certain types of lawsuits against a company for pollution violations. Legislators are attempting to reverse a recent state Supreme Court decision that allowed the general public to sue for a violation of the state Pollution Control Act. Previously, only the state Department of Health & Environmental Control could take legal action against a violator.
–Gov. Nikki Haley will hold a press conference with Department of Employment and Workforce director Abraham Turner and several others to discuss proposed a new restructuring of the state’s workforce training program.
–A Judiciary subcommittee will discuss several bills, including one by Sen. Chip Campsen (R-Charleston) that would give both parents who have custody of a child access to that child’s counseling and therapy records.
–The Medical Affairs Committee will hear testimony from Catherine Templeton, the current nominee to take over the state Department of Health & Environmental Control (DHEC). Templeton was elected last week by a DHEC board appointed by Gov. Haley.
–A Fish, Game, and Forestry panel will take up a bill by Sen. Ronnie Cromer (R-Prosperity) that alters the state Department of Natural Resources board. The bill would add an eighth member to represent South Carolina’s new congressional district created this year and would also require the at-large member to serve as chair. Legislators are not happy with current chair Caroline Rhodes (who represents the First Congressional District) over her handling of the board. Cary Chastain is the current at-large member.
–A K-12 subcommittee will hear public testimony on a bill by Rep. Tom Young (R-Aiken) that would not allow high school dropouts to have a driver’s license until they reach age 18. The House passed the bill last year.
–A Senate Finance subcommittee will hear budget requests from the state Attorney General’s Office and the State Election Commission.
–The Education and Public Works Committee will consider several bills, including the “Jason Flatt Act” by Rep. Phil Owens (R-Easley) which requires middle and high school employees to complete two hours of youth suicide prevention training when they renew their certification… Another bill by Rep. Don Bowen (R-Anderson) seeks to ban texting while driving.
–An Agriculture subcommittee will look at several new proposed regulations, including one from DHEC that would change how the state measures bacteria in rivers and lakes.
–A Judiciary subcommittee will hear testimony on a bill by Rep. Chip Limehouse (R-Charleston) that would prohibit a family court from granting legal custody to a parent or guardian who is registered as a sex offender.
–An Occupational Regulation subcommittee will consider new regulations that tweak the requirements for receiving a cosmetology license.
–A Public Utilities subcommittee will examine a bill by Rep. Laurie Funderburk (D-Camden) that allows a nonprofit corporation to step into an area underserved by water or sewer service and act as a quasi-governmental utility.