Headlines from the SC State Capitol:
–Voters will decide in November whether the state constitution should be changed to allow the governor and lieutenant governor to run on the same ticket. A 97-16 vote by the House sent a resolution to voters asking whether the joint ticket should be required. The vote comes three weeks after the same resolution was approved by the Senate. The two offices are currently elected separately.
–Senators gave preliminary approval to a bill that seeks to make sure a recent election snafu cannot happen again. Confusion about how and when candidates were supposed to turn in a required statement of economic interest caused 183 to be declared ineligible two weeks ago. The new proposal would remove political parties from the filing process and instead require the state Election Commission to run it. It would also require a candidate to turn in either an electronic or paper statement before filing to run (currently an electronic version is required to be submitted simultaneously). The changes would not affect those 183 ineligible candidates, however.
— Speaking of the election snafu, things suddenly got interesting again for Lexington County residents after the South Carolina GOP’s executive committee voted unanimously to put one candidate back on the ballot. That candidate is Katrina Shealy, who is running against Sen. Jake Knotts (R-Lexington). The committee made its decision after Gov. Nikki Haley testified on Shealy’s behalf at a party hearing Wednesday night. Two other candidates’ appeals were rejected.
–A bill which is only one vote away from the governor’s desk would require clinics to treat a fetus that survives an abortion attempt. The House passed the “Born Alive Infant Protection Act” by a 107-0 vote Wednesday, only a month after the Senate approved it 27-3. Supporters say the measure would make sure those fetuses that survive are given treatment and are not classified as medical waste. Such incidents are extremely rare, however.
–Senators, meanwhile, gave key approval to next year’s budget with a 27-12 vote. Lawmakers granted an early “okay” to much of the budget by giving it second reading Wednesday, but the actual debate is far from over. Most of the proposed changes were carried over into Thursday. Senators did vote to keep funding that would hire nine new judges, deflecting a challenge which would have instead directed the money towards unemployment tax relief.
–Senators also approved a pension reform bill by a 39-1 vote, albeit one very different from what cleared the House earlier this year. The Senate version would put much of the state’s retirement changes on new state employees, rather than current ones. Supporters said it tries to stave off lawsuits. Among other changes, the Senate version would increase the amount that employees pay into the system by 1.5 percentage points, rather than the 1 percentage point of the House version. The Senate version would also end the TERI program in 2018, rather than simply close it to new employees.