Headlines from the State Capitol (click here for a summary of Wednesday’s schedule):
–The House Ways & Means Committee began drafting next year’s budget Tuesday. Before doing so, Republicans on the committee voted to suspend a law requiring 4.5 percent of the state’s General Fund to go to local governments. House leaders say it does not appear the state will have enough money.
–The committee also voted to set up a special fund that will help fund the Charleston harbor dredging. The state is responsible for paying 60 percent of the project, with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers responsible for the rest. The Corps is currently in the first year of a feasibility study.
–The Senate passed a bill by Sen. Mike Rose (R-Summerville) that would require the Department of Transportation to maintain an online register all of its transactions. DOT caught flak over the summer when it was revealed the agency was struggling to pay its contractors on time. Transportation officials admitted starting too many projects without settling cash-flow issues. The bill now heads to the House.
–The House Judiciary Committee passed out several bills, including one that would require legislators to follow the state’s open records law and end their current exemption… Another would bar a person convicted of a child sex offense from serving as a foster parent. Both bills now head to the House floor.
–Senators had a moment of silence for Tom Sponseller, the chief lobbyist from the South Carolina Hospitality Association, who went missing over the weekend. Family and friends also plan to hold a candlelight vigil Wednesday night on the Statehouse grounds.
–The Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved a full term for the state’s top law enforcement officer. Mark Keel has served as chief of the State Law Enforcement Division for the last six months of previous chief Reggie Lloyd’s term. The committee also voted to take the interim tag off Department of Public Safety director Leroy Smith. Both nominations still have to be approved by the full Senate.
–Sumter lawyer Thomas McElveen (the son of Sumter’s current mayor) announced Tuesday he plans to run for the state Senate seat that will open when current Sen. Phil Leventis (D-Sumter) retires. Two Republicans are also running for the seat.