The latest headlines from the State Capitol (see a schedule for Wednesday here)
–The House decisively overrode Governor Nikki Haley’s veto of a joint resolution that would have blocked the dredging of the Savannah River. Legislators accused Haley of acting in Georgia’s interests ahead of her own state. The governor insists the resolution is overreach into an executive agency.
–Senators ended a filibuster and voted to confirm Catherine Templeton as the new director of the Department of Health & Environmental Control by a 38-3 vote. Sen. Phil Leventis (D-Sumter) had spent the past three legislative days preventing a vote, arguing Templeton’s labor law background did not qualify her to lead the agency.
–A prominent lobbyist was found dead Tuesday after a nine-day search. Columbia Police say they believe South Carolina Hospitality Association President Tom Sponseller committed suicide. His organization was being investigated by federal agents amid accusations that it’s missing hundreds of thousands of dollars.
–The Senate passed a bill by Sen. Joel Lourie (D-Columbia) that would require scrap metal recyclers to wait longer before demolishing cars they buy. Lourie and others are trying to stop an increase in the number stolen cars that are often sold and crushed before the owner can track them down. (See story from when bill was first proposed in January). The bill now goes to the House.
–The Senate also sent to the House a bill by Sen. Mike Rose (R-Summerville) that would put tougher restrictions in place on “residential treatment facilities” for children and teens. Among other rules, the centers could not be located within 1,000 feet of certain public places, such as parks or schools. Rose drafted the bill after a series of high-profile escapes from the Palmetto Behavioral Health facility– a center for troubled teens in Summerville.
–The State Law Enforcement Division has begun creating a special alert system to warn the public about at-large suspects who have shot at officers. Gov. Nikki Haley signed the Blue Alert system into law this week after both the House and Senate unanimously passed it.
–A Senate panel advanced a bill that would ban camping on the Statehouse grounds. The legislation was specifically targeting the Occupy protests that flared up last fall. The Budget & Control board temporarily banned overnight stays in December, but legislative action is required before such a law could be permanent. Opponents say it hurts their First Amendment rights.
–Various military leaders from around the state met to discuss ways to fight anticipated base closings that could come down from the Pentagon this year. The Military Base Task Force met for the first time Tuesday since Gov. Haley took office last year. Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom, who chairs the task force, says South Carolinians will likely have to present a unified voice to protect posts in Columbia, Sumter, Charleston, and Beaufort.
–The House will start debating next year’s budget on the floor next week, but Democrats are already outlining where they’ll choose their battles. House Minority Leader Harry Ott (D-St. Matthews) told The State newspaper that his caucus would fight for an additional one percent raise for state employees— on top of a two percent raise already proposed. Ott said higher pension and healthcare costs necessitate an increase. Republicans questioned where the extra money would come from.