— Senators gave early approval to a proposed constitutional amendment that would make the state Superintendent of Education an appointed position, rather than one chosen by voters. Senators gave the bill second reading on Thursday, but delayed more debate for its final third reading next week. Some Democrats are pushing to end the election of other state constitutional officers before they support this particular change.
— A bill that barely cleared a House subcommittee would revoke a person’s jobless benefits if they fail a drug test by their employer. It’s the second-straight year Republicans have tried to pass the legislation, which cleared the House but died without a vote in the Senate in 2012. On Thursday, it failed to get a passing vote in a committee of two Republicans and two Democrats, but was still able to advance without a favorable report to the GOP-controlled House Judiciary Committee next week.
— The state’s military support panel says it will offer $200,000 in grants to four different communities near military bases to help them maintain the sites against possible base closures. In a release, state Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom (who leads the task force that’s behind the effort) said $50,000 each would go towards Beaufort, Charleston, Columbia, and Sumter. He said the money is a response to the sequestration budget reductions.
— Gov. Nikki Haley spent Thursday touting the state to 4,000 Wal-Mart suppliers at the company’s annual event in Orlando, The State newspaper reports. Haley, who has focused most of her public attention on job creation and business recruiting, tried to convince the suppliers to buy more domestic goods. The Governor’s Office said Haley had been invited to speak by Wal-Mart representatives two weeks ago.
— The man widely seen as the biggest potential challenger to Gov. Haley’s re-election bid is now publicly coming out in support of Medicaid expansion. State Sen. Vincent Sheheen (D-Camden) has frequently criticized Haley over her first three years as governor, but had previously stayed quiet about his position on growing Medicaid coverage under the federal health care law… Meanwhile, Haley’s Medicaid director reiterated the administration’s position to senators Thursday, saying the state would be better off reducing Medicaid costs before it even considers expansion.