A bill that would expand the College of Charleston into a research university and allow Clemson University to speed through construction projects with less state bureaucratic oversight has stalled in the Statehouse.
House and Senate members are trying to work out a compromise, but still have concerns about the legislation for different reasons. But the negotiators ended their meeting Tuesday afternoon with no resolution.
Senate Majority Leader Harvey Peeler, R-Cherokee, said he thinks more time is needed to study the idea.”Will the world come to an end and the sky fall if we do neither and start over in January?” he asked during the meeting. “That would give everyone time to look and vent. What’s six months going to cost us?”
Legislators plan to adjourn for the year after this week.
Peeler has previously said he was concerned that the College of Charleston may try to buy the struggling private school Charleston School of Law.”The possibility of the College of Charleston acquiring the bankrupt law school is a concern,” Peeler said. “It’s not our only concern, but it’s a concern.”
But State Rep. Jim Merrill, R-Charleston, said the school had no intentions of doing that. “I promise you that setting up some kind of system where the College of Charleston could suddenly become the second state-supported law school is not a part of (this bill),” Merrill said. “Whatever it would take to allay your fears, I think we’re willing to do that.”
Merrill said the idea behind the bill is to let the College of Charleston offer more research post-graduate degrees.
The bill would also allow Clemson University to create a new “Enterprise” division that would allow construction projects that do not use state funds go through the approval process more quickly.
On the House side, Ways & Means Chairman Brian White, R-Anderson, had pushed for larger higher education construction funding changes to be included in the bill.
The negotiators agreed to meet again later Tuesday afternoon, but House members made it clear they want a deal this year.