Headlines from the South Carolina State Capitol:
–A Senate committee advanced a private school choice bill Tuesday. The bill would give tax breaks to South Carolina parents who either send their children to private school or homeschool them. But it was a half-hearted approval by the Senate Finance Committee, as even supporters admitted the bill had little chance in the Senate’s final weeks. Any possibility of passage faded after Sen. John Matthews (D-Orangeburg) said he would block it on the Senate floor. Opponents said the proposal would divert millions in tax revenue away from public schools.
–However, the Finance Committee did greenlight a bill that would encourage millionaires to invest in risky start-up companies. The “Bill Wylie Entrepreneurship Act” would allow these “angel investors” to claim up to 35 percent of their investment as a credit on state income taxes. Supporters say it offers an incentive for backers to support those businesses that are seen as too risky for banks and venture capitalists. The House passed it last year.
–In the House, meanwhile, the news still focuses on the Ethics Committee investigation of Gov. Nikki Haley. On Tuesday, Rep. Joan Brady (R-Columbia) sent a letter to committee chairman Roland Smith (R-Aiken) asking for the ethics panel to turn its investigation over to the state Attorney General’s Office. But the committee’s lone Democrat, Rep. Laurie Funderburk (D-Camden) instead called on the committee to subpoena several officials for sworn testimony in a public hearing. The committee meets again Wednesday.
–The Senate passed a bill that would add nine judges to the state’s court system— three in Circuit Court and six for Family Court. Sen. Harvey Peeler (R-Gaffney) removed his objection Tuesday, allowing the chamber to pass the bill by a 36-1 vote. Chief Justice of the South Carolina Supreme Court Jean Toal has asked for the additional judges to handle a massive case backlog– especially in the Family Court system. Peeler said there had been no complaints from his constituents about a shortage of judges and the money could have been better spent elsewhere.
–A Sikh religious group whose leaders include Gov. Haley’s parents are suing a Columbia blogger over an anonymously-sourced report in March that suggested an IRS indictment of Haley was “imminent” due to the group’s “shady finances.” The Governor’s Office disputed the report and produced documents a day later that showed the IRS had, in fact, dropped its inquiry months earlier. The suit accuses Palmetto Public Record blogger Logan Smith of libel. Smith, who is out of town, said he was not aware of the lawsuit until reading about it in media reports.