Headlines from the SC State Capitol:
–House Democrats pressured Gov. Nikki Haley on Tuesday to make public any ethics complaints filed against her in the House Ethics Committee. Haley, as a former legislator, is allowed to have a hearing with the committee behind closed doors. Democrats said the governor should live up to her rhetoric of transparency. Haley’s spokesman answered that the ethics accusations were a “waste of time.”
–The Department of Mental Health said it will move violent sex offenders from a suburban Columbia facility to a state prison. Several nearby residents have complained the facility is too close to a child development center, church, and county park. The agency said it needs the extra rooms until it can finish building more space at a Columbia prison in December.
–The House passed a bill Tuesday that would not allow temporary substitute teachers to receive unemployment benefits. The measure only affects the few districts that hire substitutes from a temp agency. Sponsor Bill Sandifer (R-Seneca) said some teachers were claiming jobless benefits during the summer and winter breaks. The legislation now heads to the Senate.
–Several tax-cutting bills being pushed by GOP House leaders headed to the floor Tuesday. One would collapse the state’s sax personal income tax brackets into just three. Ways and Means committee members tweaked the bill to make sure lower-income South Carolinians would not see a tax increase. The committee also voted to advance legislation cutting business income taxes from 5 to 3 percent.
–The House Judiciary Committee advanced a bill that would allow businesses to accept gold and silver as legal tender. The measure by Rep. Mike Pitts (R-Laurens) would allow people to use gold or silver coins as currency so long as the business chooses to accept it. An earlier draft of the bill would have required businesses to accept the coins. The legislation now heads to the House floor.
The Judiciary Committee also approved online voter registration in South Carolina. A bill by Rep. Laurie Funderburk (D-Camden) would create a secure, online database to be run by the State Election Commission. The database is being pushed by the nonprofit Pew Center on the States as a way to save the state money and make it easier for voters to register at the same time. The proposal now goes to the House floor.
–An Orangeburg legislator is trying to make a wholesale leadership change at embattled South Carolina State University. A House higher education panel advanced legislation by Rep. Jerry Govan (D-Orangeburg) that would shrink the school’s board and require all remaining members to seek re-appointment by the legislature– even if their term is not up. Govan said quick action is needed to restore public trust in the school after the turmoil of recent months, which saw eight employees fired by school president George Cooper shortly before Cooper’s own resignation effective this week.
–House Republican leaders filed a bill that would seek establish South Carolina’s status as the “First-in-the-South” presidential primary. The bill would give each party chair the authority to set a primary date before any other Southern state. House Speaker Bobby Harrell (R-Charleston) says it is based off a similar New Hampshire law that requires the Granite State to be the first primary overall.