A daily review of what’s making news in South Carolina state government.
— Members of the House on Thursday plan to take up legislation that would require South Carolina move to comply with new national Real ID standards. Congress passed a law in 2005 that required standardization across the states. However South Carolina was among a handful of states that refused to participate, viewing the new federal database as too intrusive.
As critical deadlines approach, however, Republican lawmakers are reconsidering their position. Starting in June, any South Carolina residents seeking to enter a federal building or military base will no longer be able to use their state driver’s license and must use a second form of ID. The same will also be true for anyone seeking to fly commercial airlines after January 2018.
Gov. Henry McMaster has already contacted the Department of Homeland Security about granting a waiver for the Real ID requirements. The agency has already granted a deadline extension before South Carolina must comply with the law. The House could debate a measure Thursday that authorizes the Department of Motor Vehicles to begin authorizing the new licenses.
— The state Senate unanimously advanced legislation Wednesday to fix South Carolina’s struggling pension fund. Under the bill, state workers would pay slightly more than their current 8.66 percent contribution into the system but would have the amount capped at that level in the future. Government agencies on the other hand would see their contribution rates go from 11.66 percent to 18.56 percent by fiscal year 2023. The House passed a similar bill a day earlier, but the Senate version notably included a provision that would eventually phase out the pension system in favor of a “defined contribution” plan for new employees.
— House members on Wednesday gave key approval to a bill which tries to raise $600 million more each year towards fixing South Carolina’s roads, largely through an eventual ten cents per-gallon gas tax increase. The 97-18 vote came after more than three hours of debate. State Rep. Gary Simrill, R-Rock Hill, said the gas tax has not been increased in 30 years. Some opponents among the GOP said residents do not trust state government to spend their money wisely without reforms in how the state highway agency operates.
— A House panel on Wednesday unanimously advanced a measure which would eliminate the education and experience requirements that county coroners must have before they can run for the elected office. The State newspaper reports supporters say the current law limits who can run for the post. But coroners say the laws guarantee only qualified people are elected to investigate suspicious or unexpected deaths.
— Gov. Henry McMaster has chosen to replace the head of a transportation financing board, a few weeks after Charleston-area legislators pushed for his removal due to his opposition on the contentious Interstate 526 extension. Chairman Vincent Graham had led the State Transportation Infrastructure Bank for the past two years. McMaster chose Spartanburg attorney John B. White to replace Graham.