—The state Senate decided to send a much-debated government restructuring bill to a new committee Tuesday, an unusual procedural move that supporters insist will fast-track the legislation. The move is widely seen as an effort to stall the bill at the behest of Sen. Hugh Leatherman (R-Florence), who has previously opposed efforts to combine many different offices into a Department of Administration. However, the bill’s two champions, Sens. Shane Massey (R-Edgefield) and Vincent Sheheen (D-Camden) would not agree to the move without a guarantee that it would be back out of committee by February 20.
— South Carolina will soon begin a three-year study of its computer security systems, according to Budget & Control Board officials. B&CB Executive Director Marcia Adams updated the board about the state’s efforts on Tuesday. The agency plans to select a contractor through bidding by early February and hopes to begin work in March. The hired company will look at three agencies first, as a cross-sample, and give a report to the board and state lawmakers by May 1. It will then study 15 other government agencies over the next three years.
— The Budget and Control Board also approved a plan that would allow a private developer to sublease land on Lake Hartwell in Oconee County. Board members voted 4-1 to allow the sublease to Sanctuary Pointe, which plans to build a hotel, conference center, and golf course on the 325-acre site. The state itself is currently leasing the land from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the next 45 years. Opponents worry a golf course is not appropriate for the area’s terrain and could cause polluted runoff to flow into the lake.
— The House, meanwhile, approved anti-Iran legislation that would not allow the state to enter into a contract with a person or business that invests heavily in Iran’s energy sector. The House unanimously approved the “Iran Divestment Act,” leaving it one procedural vote away from heading to the Senate. Supporters are hoping South Carolina will become the 25th state to pass such legislation. The bill makes a person, business or bank with more than $20 million invested in Iran’s energy sector ineligible for any government contract.
— A proposed resolution that would ask voters if they wish to see a shorter legislative session is now headed to the House floor. The proposed constitutional amendment would shorten the regular statewide session to just three months (compared to the current five). The idea cleared the House Judiciary Committee Tuesday by voice vote. Lawmakers would still be able to hold committee meetings in January. The regular session would then end on the first Tuesday in May instead of June, although legislators could meet in special session after that to take up budget vetoes.
— The state Supreme Court will hear an appeal of the ethics case against Gov. Nikki Haley. It’s been seven months since the House Ethics Committee dismissed a complaint filed by Republican fundraiser John Rainey, who accuses Haley of several conflict-of-interest violations and failing to disclose income she earned while working for two groups with business before the state. The court plans to hear the case on March 20. Haley’s office has previously accused Rainey of a political vendetta.
— Doctors from across South Carolina gathered at the Statehouse Tuesday as they lobbied the legislature to expand Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act. The annual “White Coat Day” is organized by the South Carolina Hospital Association. About 75 doctors made the trip, saying that the Affordable Care Act would help cover patients who are currently uninsured and straining hospitals’ budgets. However, Republicans say the additional state funds needed to expand Medicaid are too costly for South Carolina. Hospital administrators are also pushing for a “provider tax” to help cover the costs of the expansion, The State newspaper reports.