A roundup of what’s making news in South Carolina state government.
The South Carolina House of Representatives will enter day three of debate on a $6.86 billion General Fund budget Wednesday.
While lawmakers will debate several amendments, including South Carolina State University funding, repaying counties for 2014 ice storm damage, and a review of state employees’ pay.
The biggest fight is expected to come on a $500 million bond package that was tacked onto the end of the budget. Gov. Nikki Haley strongly opposes borrowing the money to pay for items like technical college job training and economic development incentives. Haley has compared the bonds to using a credit card to pay for home repairs.
But House budget chairman Brian White, R-Anderson, says it takes care of state needs at a time of historic low interest rates. He said it would not increase what the state has already been paying on interest because old debt is being paid. A competing proposal by State Rep. Rick Quinn, R-Cayce, would instead devote the potential debt payments South Carolina would have made over to infrastructure and other needs.
The measure is expected to be debated Wednesday evening.
–In what is likely a preview of upcoming legislation next week, the South Carolina House voted Tuesday to replace the board of trustees at financially struggling South Carolina State University. The budget amendment approved in a unanimous voice vote Tuesday would only last for a year and would not take effect until July. So it is likely that lawmakers will hold a similar vote on stand-alone legislation next week. The Senate last week passed a similar bill.
— A state Senate panel voted 21-2 Tuesday to revive a near-dead effort to toughen the state’s ethics laws. The State newspaper reports the proposal stands little chance of passing this year on the Senate floor, where strong disagreement exists over whether lawmakers should be allowed to investigate themselves when accused of violating ethics laws. The Senate Judiciary Committee took up a House-passed ethics bill Tuesday. But they replaced the bill’s language with a proposal nearly identical to one that died in the Senate last month.
— Half of the state Senate has requested an audit into South Carolina’s highway department. The 23 senators were led by State Sen. Lee Bright, R-Spartanburg, who said he wants to know how money is being spent at the state Department of Transportation before lawmakers consider increasing the state gas tax. The audit by the Legislative Audit Council would look into any spending irregularities or issues with contractors. An LAC audit would likely take several months and would not be finished until after lawmakers adjourn for the year in June.