With the regular legislation session done for the year, State Senate President Pro Tempore Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, said a high point this year was when senators set aside $40 million help out farmers after October’s floods.
“Our farmers feed us, furnish food that goes on our tables and they really need our help,” Leatherman said at the end of the session Thursday. “This Senate and the House came through this year,”
The $40 million aid package was passed by both houses earlier this year under the threat of a veto from Gov. Nikki Haley, which she kept. The governor argued farmers were getting a special form of aid not available to other flood-damaged businesses. Both chambers of the legislature by overwhelming margins overrode the veto.
“I feel like that $40 million we provide for farmers is actually an investment in South Carolina,” Leatherman said. “And that bill provides $40 million in grants to our farmers.”
Under the legislation farmers will be able to apply for grants from the state. To qualify, a farmer must have lost at least 40 percent of a crop. The grants will cover 20 percent of that loss, up to $100,000.
Members of the South Carolina House leadership were irritated at the Senate by session’s end, however, on the upper chamber’s failure to pass two ethics reform bills. A joint committee representing both chambers had reached a deal on a bill that would have revamped the State Ethics Commission so it could also investigate both House and Senate members for the first time, although punishment would have still been determined by the House and Senate ethics committees.
But senators rejected that compromise Thursday, disagreeing with when the investigation’s existence should be revealed to the public. That led to an angry floor speech from House Speaker pro tempore Tommy Pope, R-York.
“We have given and given and given,” he said on the House floor last week. “Maybe they really want it to die and maybe I’m supposed to just get mad… and that will crash and be the end of it.”
A second bill would have required legislators list all their sources of income. Current state law only requires them to list income they receive from the government or businesses and groups that employ lobbyists.