Headlines from the SC State Capitol:
–The Supreme Court’s recent decision to prevent those candidates who filed their financial paperwork improperly from appearing on the ballot claimed another two dozen victims Wednesday. Some local candidates in Anderson, Beaufort, Charleston, and Florence counties were dropped from their respective ballots. Meanwhile, the Oconee County GOP canceled its Tuesday primary altogether, saying none of the 11 challengers were eligible under the court’s ruling.
–The House updated its budget plan Wednesday to account for an additional $292 million in new revenue that economic advisors added to their predictions in April. The House scaled back the Senate version of next year’s budget, offering smaller raises for state employees and larger amounts for tax relief and the Charleston harbor deepening.
–Governor Nikki Haley tapped her new choice to head the state agency responsible for investigating waste, fraud, and abuse in state government. Haley named longtime FBI veteran Patrick Maley as her pick for state Inspector General. Maley replaces James Martin, who plans to retire at month’s end. Maley’s appointment must be approved by the state Senate.
–Several bills are now headed to the governor for approval after passing Wednesday:
One tries to cut down on the number of stolen cars being sold for scrap by requiring metal recyclers to obtain the title before destroying any car younger than 15 years. Lawmakers say thieves often sell stolen cars to junkyards for scrap and that the yard operators destroy the cars before the owners can track them down.
Another hotly-contested bill bars an insurance claims company from only referring customers to a windshield repair businesses it owns. It was specifically designed to target a single company, Safelite, which owns a claims call center and multiple glass repair shops around the state. Opponents say the company uses unfair trade practices.
Lawmakers also passed legislation that requires schools to offer HPV vaccines for middle-school students, but does not make the vaccines mandatory and allows the family to decide if they want to take the vaccine or not. Human papilloma virus has been shown to increase the risk of cervical cancer in women, but the vaccines are controversial as the disease is transmitted sexually. Governor Haley has not yet indicated if she will sign this bill.
The House also sent to the governor separate bills that would allow online voter registration in South Carolina and make it a crime for prison inmates to create social networking sites to intimidate victims.
—The first day of negotiations between the House and Senate on pension reform failed to close the gap between the two chambers’ positions. The key issue seems to be cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) increases for retirees. Senators want an automatic increase in the COLA each year, while House members want any increase to be based on the fund’s performance.
–Forestry officials showed off new wildfire-fighting equipment on the Statehouse grounds. State Forester Gene Kodama said he wanted to thank lawmakers for setting aside money that helped buy new closed-cab bulldozers. Kodama said the new vehicles would be safer to operate while fighting large blazes. The equipment was purchased with $3 million included as part of next year’s budget.