A review of what’s making news in South Carolina state government.
The South Carolina House and Senate will meet in joint session Wednesday to fill an opening on the state Supreme Court — but any suspense about their choice ended a day earlier.
That’s because Sumter judge George “Buck” James is the only remaining candidate seeking to fill the seat — which came open this year after Chief Justice Costa Pleicones reached the mandatory retirement age. His opponent Judge Diane Goodstein dropped out of consideration Tuesday, according to The State newspaper. The move appeared to indicate James had pledges from a majority of legislators.
James is the resident judge for the Third Judicial Circuit, which comprises Clarendon, Lee, Sumter and Williamsburg counties. He graduated from The Citadel, then the University of South Carolina School of Law in 1985 and worked as an attorney in Sumter until lawmakers elected him as a circuit court judge. He became the Third Circuit’s resident judge in 2006.
The vote will come around noon Wednesday.
— Hundreds of people rallied at the Statehouse on Tuesday in protest of President Donald Trump’s executive order last week that temporarily barred new refugees from resettling in the United States for at least four months. The rally organized by the Carolina Peace Resource Center featured a few immigrant protesters or their descendants, but was mostly students or native South Carolinians. Some reports estimated at least 600 people and up to 1,000 gathered.
— The Senate moved legislation to the top of its agenda Tuesday that would make the state education superintendent’s position one appointed by the governor instead of elected by statewide voters. Senators set the proposed constitutional amendment to special order, which makes it the first bill taken up once the Senate moves through its agenda into contested legislation. Supporters say the change would give the governor more sway over education policy in South Carolina. Opponents say voters should choose the state schools chief.
— South Carolina lawmakers will likely try to borrow millions of dollars through revenue bonds to pay for repairs and maintenance projects at state-owned buildings and facilities. The State newspaper reports $446 million included in the state budget that will take effect July 1 will probably go to prop up the state’s underfunded pension system, for damage costs caused by Hurricane Matthew and state services which includes K-12 public education. The Department of Administration estimates that on top of deferred maintenance costs, the state will have $799.2 million in building costs over the next three decades.
— One of the state’s most recognizable Democratic legislators said Tuesday he will not seek election to a seat in Congress that could open next month. State Sen. Vincent Sheheen, D-Kershaw, posted to Facebook that he had considered suggestions to run for the Fifth District seat, but ultimately decided he should stay in his current position. Current Fifth District U.S. Rep. Mick Mulvaney has been nominated by President Trump as head of the White House Office on Management and Budget. Mulvaney would resign his congressional seat if confirmed by the Senate.
— South Carolina’s prisons agency wants to install netting along the fences that surround its high- and medium-security prisons to prevent people from tossing over cellphones and other contraband. The State Fiscal Accountability Authority on Tuesday approved the project’s design phase, expected to cost $113,400. Last year, officers at prisons statewide discovered 225 throw-overs, with monthly confiscations ranging from 7 last March to 28 in December, according to the agency.