A daily review of what’s making news in South Carolina state government.
— South Carolina’s child services agency says it needs to hire more than 160 case managers as it continues a years-long effort to reduce its disproportionately high caseloads-to-worker ratio. Department of Social Services (DSS) Director Susan Alford said her agency is requesting an additional $11 million next fiscal year to hire 163 new case managers, plus additional funds for a total of $18 million for 250 new positions. The agency is several years removed from admitting its understaffed caseworkers were overwhelmed by massive workloads, but yet about five percent are still responsible for more than 50 children each.
— A Senate panel advanced two bills Thursday that would limit landowners’ ability to indefinitely delay construction projects which impact land or air near their property. The legislation deals with “automatic stays,” when private citizens ask South Carolina’s environmental agency DHEC to delay any permits it approves until a judge can take up the case. One bill approved Thursday would limit that delay to 30 days. The other would require landowners to post a bond that would cover the full cost of delaying a permitted project past 30 days. Environmental groups criticized the bills as taking away legal tools for those affected by new landfills, mines, or factories.
— In the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, a Bluffton lawmaker is trying to increase the penalty for those who commit burglaries. The Charleston Post & Courier reports State Rep. Weston Newton, R-Bluffton, wants to give residents more peace of mind by strengthening the penalties. The proposal would clarify entering a property during an evacuation period is a first-degree burglary would carry a minimum sentence of 15 years and a maximum of life in prison. But House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford, D-Columbia, said requiring judges to impose a mandatory minimum sentence of at least 15 years is too much.
— Lawmakers this week praised South Carolina State University’s leaders for their work on improving conditions at the state’s only public historically-black school. S.C. State officials were in Columbia this week and made their annual budget request before the Higher Education Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee. The university had gone through some tough financial times, including probation, low enrollment and near-bankruptcy. But now leaders say things have turned around for the school.