— Two legislators on Wednesday announced their intentions to run for Congress this spring. Both Rep. Chip Limehouse (R-Charleston) and Rep. Andy Patrick (R-Hilton Head) said they will throw their proverbial hats into the ring for the open SC-1st District seat. That was previously occupied by Tim Scott before Scott resigned to become a senator earlier this month. Limehouse has served in the House since 1995 and unsuccessfully ran for the SC-1 seat in 2000. Patrick is a relative newcomer to statewide politics, first winning election to the General Assembly in 2010. He is a former Secret Service agent who now runs a security firm.
— State officials, including some legislators, want to better promote South Carolina’s scenic byways. Specifically, they’re looking at the Heritage Corridor in the western part of the state. Tourism officials on Wednesday announced a new $50,000 grant provided by Duke Energy that they hope will jumpstart the effort. A recent report by the University of South Carolina found the corridor faced an identity and branding issue among tourists who are not aware of its existence.
— House budget writers heard testimony Wednesday about South Carolina’s Criminal Justice Academy, which has been hit hard by disappearing court fines. The academy that trains law enforcement officers is funded largely by court fees and fines. However, The State newspaper reports those have fallen by nearly $1 million and no one is quite sure why.
— Meanwhile, Education Superintendent Mick Zais is requesting an additional $53 million next year for mostly buses and textbooks, the Associated Press reports.
— The Governor’s Commission on Ethics Reform continues its work with a little less than three weeks before it has to release its recommendations. The 11-member commission appointed by Gov. Nikki Haley is currently examining the possibility of an independent ethics panel to oversee all government officials (currently, legislators have a separate committee) and how to improve the state’s open records laws.
— Meanwhile the leader of the state’s current Ethics Commission warns that his office will need more funding before it can take on the reforms many lawmakers want. Executive Director Herb Hayden asked House budget writers for an additional $390,000 to full cover salaries needed for two more employees. Some legislators proposed doubling the current lobbyist registration fee.
— Two powerful senators appeared open to the idea of eliminating a small but significant board that secures financing for major highway projects. Senate President pro tempore John Courson (R-Columbia) and Senate Majority Leader Harvey Peeler (R-Gaffney) told the Greenville News they were considering elimination of the Transportation Infrastructure Board. While supporters note the board has secured billions in funding for critical projects, opponents complain most of it has gone to Charleston and the Grand Strand and is not considered high-priority.