A House-Senate conference committee has begun its work on the massive bill to restructure state government. Three members of each the House and Senate met Thursday and will return Monday afternoon to try to reach a compromise on H. 3066. It is often referred to by lawmakers as the Department of Administration bill, because it dismantles the South Carolina Budget and Control Board agency and divides its responsibilities among smaller agencies and the Governor’s Office.
The House and Senate have amended the bill a few times over, leaving some vast differences between the two versions, but Senate Judiciary Chairman Larry Martin, a conferee, says the language is “surprisingly similar” in some areas.
Martin says it will be “tough” to manage the conflicting portions of the bill — including different versions of an oversight board made up of lawmakers and cabinet members, which critics say is a recreation of the Budget and Control Board. The Senate, says Martin, felt strongly about how procurement decisions are handled. Finance Chair Hugh Leatherman warned fellow senators that weak oversight for state agency purchases can lead to corruption.
Gov. Nikki Haley, at the end of last year, unsuccessfully tried to get the Senate to take up this measure. Senators debated the bill for six weeks this year before sending it to the House.
Martin acknowledges that this is a “complicated conference.”
“There’s been some back-channel discussions among the membership, both houses, I’ll hear the people mention that there’s no effort to get a Department of Administration bill passed this year, or there’s going to be an effort to stall it. I really don’t think that’s the case,” says Martin. “I think the House conferees, from what I can gather, have come to the Senate with a good faith effort to pass a bill. We’re going to make that effort a reality, I believe, next week.”