— The House gave its early approval to the 2013-2014 budget Tuesday. The $6.3 billion budget (part of a $22.7 billion overall spending plan) was passed in a 110-8 vote. Six Democrats and two Republicans opposed the final product. The chamber also approved a separate measure distributing $113 million from this year’s capital reserve fund. Both measures must be approved again Wednesday before heading to the Senate.
— As part of the budget debate, the House voted down an expansion of Medicaid coverage for the state’s uninsured low-income residents. The chamber voted along party lines 73-41 Tuesday to not opt-in to the health care reform law, after Democratic legislators spent five hours holding the podium during the debate. Republican leaders oppose expanding the program, saying Medicaid is already growing rapidly each year without the expansion.
— Gov. Nikki Haley has canceled any public appearances for the second day in a row as her mother remains hospitalized. But the reason why 76-year-old Raj Randhawa was admitted to Palmetto Health Richland in Columbia on Monday has still not been released. The Governor’s Office confirmed Haley would not visit A.C. Flora High School in Forest Acres as scheduled Wednesday.
— As they continued their debate on whether the state’s schools chief should be elected or not, senators spent several hours arguing whether or not an appointed education superintendent would have to meet certain qualifications. Some Democrats expressed fear that the position could become a political appointee otherwise. If senators do approve the constitutional amendment, the question would head to the House, then voters in 2014.
— After nearly two months of weekly hearings that senators say slowly improved the bill, a Senate panel gave its OK to legislation that tries to revamp the state’s cyber-security system. But counties are not happy that it would require them to make potentially expensive upgrades to their networks without providing any extra funding to do it. The bill would also allow South Carolina families to claim up to $1,000 in tax deductions for identity theft protection services.
— Another new Senate bill would prohibit discrimination of religious organizations on college campuses, WPSA-TV reports. A hearing on the proposed legislation was canceled Tuesday after Senate debate ran long. Sen. Chip Campsen (R-Isle of Palms) says his bill is a direct response to a California law school that would not recognize the Christian Legal Society as a registered student organization. Campsen did not give any similar incidents in South Carolina schools, however.
— WIS-TV exposed a $6.2 million security upgrade at the Statehouse parking garage that is still not finished— five years after it was first ordered by lawmakers. Some legislators are especially annoyed because they had told the agency that oversees the garage to finish the project 14 months ago. There are security checkpoints at the garage’s primary entrance, but they remain unmanned.
— The prospect of cutting red tape at the South Carolina’s environmental agency drew more than 100 people to forums across the state this week, according to The State newspaper. The state Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) is holding the hearings as it follows an executive order by Gov. Haley telling agencies to review their regulations to find any that can be cut or tweaked. One speaker at a hearing in Columbia called DHEC a “multi-headed hydra” whose regulations often contradict each other. Another forum is scheduled in Charleston Wednesday.