A roundup of what’s making news in South Carolina state government.
Vice President Joe Biden has certainly been no stranger to South Carolina since his election to the White House in 2008.
The VP is scheduled to visit the Palmetto State once again on Wednesday, making stops in Mount Pleasant and Columbia for speeches about infrastructure investment.
Biden will spend the morning at the Port of Charleston’s Wando Welch Terminal in Mount Pleasant. He will be joined by Secretary of Transportation and former Charlotte mayor Anthony Foxx, as well as current Congressman Mark Sanford. The Vice President also spoke at Charleston’s Columbus Street terminal in September 2013.
The Army Corps of Engineers is currently finishing up a study that recommends deepening Charleston Harbor to make room for larger container ships arriving along the East Coast. South Carolina and the federal government have entered a cost-sharing agreement for both the study and the dredging that would follow.
Foxx and Biden will then travel to the Midlands for another appearance at Owen Steel in Columbia in the afternoon. Organizers say Biden will make a similar infrastructure speech there. The pair will then head to Charlotte.
Biden has been a regular in the Palmetto State since his unsuccessful presidential run seven years ago, even vacationing at Kiawah Island outside Charleston on occasion. He was last in the state for an October 2014 “Get Out the Vote” event at Allen University in Columbia. Prior to that, he gave the commencement address for University of South Carolina graduates in May.
— Cold weather and winter storms delayed the start of Tuesday’s Statehouse session, pushing all meetings back by two hours. That led to delayed debate on a controversial budget proviso that would close South Carolina State University for two years until officials can get the school’s financial house in order. SC State alumni packed Tuesday’s Ways & Means Committee meeting, but were likely disappointed when lawmakers ran out of time to take up the issue until Wednesday.
–Meanwhile a group of SC State students and alumni have filed a lawsuit against state lawmakers and the Commission on Higher Education, arguing the school was undermined by funding and other state institutions offering similar degree programs. The lawsuit filed by Orangeburg attorney Glenn Walters claims the “separate but equal” method led to enrollment declines at SC State which, in turn, affected the school’s finances during the recent recession. State lawmakers argue SC State has already received more state funding than other similar-sized public colleges.
— The House on Tuesday unanimously gave its approval to legislation that requires all public and governmental bodies to post agendas and notify the public at least 24 hours before a meeting. Most councils had already been doing that for years, but the state Supreme Court ruled in 2014 that state law does not require town councils, county councils, and school boards to post an agenda beforehand. The measure now goes to the Senate, which passed a similar bill last month.
— Meanwhile, the Senate started the first of what could be many days of debate on a criminal domestic violence bill. The Charleston Post & Courier reports most of the attention will likely be on the bill’s language that would ban gun ownership by those convicted of domestic violence. Many conservatives say they’re not comfortable taking away the gun rights for those who are found guilty of the lowest level offenses or have a protective order against them. Federal law already requires such a ban, but South Carolina lacks a mechanism to enforce it.
— A Greenville County senator took the floor Tuesday to apologize for what he said was a joke that women are a “lesser cut of meat” (a reference to the Biblical passage stating God created Eve from Adam’s ribs). State Sen. Tom Corbin, R-Greenville, admitted making the comment to South Carolina’s only female senator Sen. Katrina Shealy, R-Lexington, during an off-hours legislative function last week. Shealy was not amused and took to her Facebook page to make the exchange public. She accepted Corbin’s apology on Tuesday, reading a statement in her own floor speech minutes later that urged more women to become involved in public service.