The top stories involving SC state government
Governor Nikki Haley focused on education during her final State of the State address before she runs for reelection this fall. Haley also touched on ethics reform, jobs, and infrastructure during the 37-minute speech. She spent the most time speaking about her effort to increase education funding for the state’s poorest schools. Haley unveiled her plan earlier this month that would devote more funds towards technology and reading coaches.
Haley also targeted ethics reform in her speech. The governor made it clear she wants the bill to require income disclosure and eliminate the House and Senate ethics committees in favor of a single commission.
Meanwhile, Democrats brought out State Rep. James Smith, D-Columbia, to offer their response to the governor’s speech. Smith called for more action on the expansion of Medicaid, long-term funding to fix the state’s roads and bridges, and early childhood education, among other issues. Smith, an attorney, has taken on ethics cases against Haley and is often a critic of her policies.
One Democrat, State Rep. John King, D-Rock Hill went so far as to walk out of Haley’s speech while the governor was still talking. He called Haley “full of it” for refusing to expand Medicaid eligibility requirements and accepting the millions in federal dollars that are attached.
—- A state Department of Social Services official defended the agency before senators Wednesday, saying the child services agency is working to clear massive caseloads and investigating tens of thousands of cases each year. Deputy director Jessica Hanak-Coulter said DSS had seen a 50 percent increase in adoptions over the past three years. But senators were concerned that over 50 percent of all county DSS directors have left the agency in that same span. Senators had wanted DSS director Lillian Koller to testify, but her staff said Koller suffered a stroke last month.
— A panel that helps write the state tax code told married same-sex couples not to file their taxes for now, until officials at the Department of Revenue determine if they should file jointly or separately. The issue is same-sex couples who were married in states that recognize gay marriage, but then moved to South Carolina, which does not. But state law also requires a person to file the same way on their state form as they do on their federal returns. The federal government now recognizes LGBT couples following a Supreme Court ruling last year.
— The University of South Carolina says it will freeze tuition– if lawmakers give it an additional $10 million this year, The State newspaper reports. USC President Harris Pastides told a House budget panel that they also want the state to cover the cost of any state-ordered salary hikes or increases in health insurance and retirement expenses. But at least one lawmaker questioned why the school’s budget has continued to grow if money is tight.
— South Carolina’s highest court has tossed out a lawsuit that tries to halt expanded cruise ship operations in Charleston. The state Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that assorted preservation groups and neighborhood associations who sued Carnival Cruises over operations at a cruise terminal did not have legal standing to challenge the proposal. Another lawsuit is still in federal court over the proposed $35 million cruise terminal.
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