South Carolina’s government may look — and operate — differently in the next few years.
After five years of work, a bill to restructure state government is a couple of roll call votes away from passage. After a sign-off from a House-Senate conference committee late Thursday, both chambers can take it up as early as Tuesday for a final vote. If it passes, parts of the law would take effect as early as July of 2014. Its biggest changes include doing away with the state Budget and Control Board and moving many of its functions to a newly created Department of Administration, under the governor. It also gives the Legislature more oversight of agency spending, including the governor’s Cabinet agencies.
Sen. Vincent Sheheen, D-Kershaw, has shepherded the bipartisan bill through its development– and its stalls. In the previous session, the bill failed to get to a Senate vote because of disagreements over how state procurement is handled.
Sheheen says, with the new agreement, state bonding and contracts will be more transparent, but with a commission like the current one that makes decisions for the Budget and Control Board. That committee would remain the governor, the state treasurer, House and Senate budget leaders and the state comptroller general.
In the 2013-14 session, the compromise committee reached an agreement on that and two other sticking points: oversight of Cabinet agency deficit spending and keeping a centralized budget office, apart from the governor and Legislature. The agreement also gives the governor’s office more staff to handle budget matters.
Gov. Nikki Haley has pushed for this restructuring bill since she took office, calling the Budget and Control Board agency “the big green monster” because it continued to grow as it was assigned departments and duties that did not conveniently fit under other agencies.
In response to the conference committee’s move, Haley spokesman Doug Mayer said, “The push to create a Department of Administration has been a three year fight and getting it over the finish line will be a tremendous win for the people of this state. This is another example of South Carolina moving in the right direction.”
Haley and Sheheen, likely opponents in this year’s governor’s election, want to see this bill handled early in the session.
“I think we have the votes, I think we have built the bridges, I think we have brought people together so that we can pass this bill in both bodies, but we will see next week,” Sheheen said.