A roundup of what’s making news in South Carolina state government
An 8-year-old New Zion girl’s effort to get the mammoth recognized as South Carolina’s official state fossil is almost over.
State senators voted 32-3 in favor of giving the designating to the Columbian Mammoth Tuesday, a week after the House voted to do the same. That sends the bill to Gov. Nikki Haley’s desk for her approval.
Olivia McConnell, 8, had asked her district’s legislator Rep. Robert Ridgeway, D-Manning, for help. McConnell said she learned that South Carolina is one of only seven states without an official fossil. She told Ridgeway that she thought the mammoth would be a good choice, since some of its fossils were found in the Lowcountry area as far back as 1725. Ridgeway agreed, saying he wanted to encourage kids to see how laws are created.
But the seemingly-insignificant bill has had an extremely difficult journey to make it this far. While it cruised to relatively easy passage in the House. the legislation got hung up in the Senate. First a few Republican lawmakers got language attached that would have stated the mammoth was “created on the Sixth Day with the other beasts of the field.”
Then Senate Majority Leader Harvey Peeler, R-Cherokee, became frustrated with what he considered wasted time passing official “state anythings.” Senators agreed to include language from Peeler barring lawmakers from creating any more “official” state designations. The House rejected the ban and Creationist language, sending the mammoth bill to a conference committee last month. The committee stuck with the clean House version and sent that back to legislators last week.
Haley has not said if she will sign the bill.
— The Senate Ethics Committee on Wednesday fined former Sen. Robert Ford, D-Charleston, $30,000 and ordered him to repay over $14,000 in improper purchases. The committee also said it will forward its findings to the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office for further investigation. Ford resigned from the Senate last summer after a separate ethics investigation (Ford maintains he resigned for health reasons). But committee members said Ford kept creating potential violations even after leaving office, when he converted all his remaining campaign funds to a nonprofit he controlled and used that for several personal expenses.
— The state Senate gave the final reading to its version of next year’s proposed budget on Wednesday, sending the $7 billion plan for state taxes ($24 billion total when combined with fees and federal dollars) back to the House. Senators voted 38-6 to approve the budget, which includes expanded 4-year-old kindergarten and an increase in the amount legislators can be reimbursed for expenses. The House and Senate are expected to eventually hammer out their differences in conference committee next month.
— And environmental groups on Wednesday criticized a bill they expect to come up for debate in the House this week. The bill would create an exemption for South Carolina’s current ban on seawalls along the beach. This particular exemption would allow an upscale Georgetown County neighborhood to rebuild a new wall along the community beach. But opponents say the seawall will speed up erosion and destroy an additional two feet of beach. But the amendment’s author Rep. Stephen Goldfinch, R-Murrells Inlet, said many houses are dangerously close to the ocean already and need further protection.