House lawmakers stayed into the early morning hours Wednesday as they approved an $8 billion General Fund budget ($27.4 billion in total funds) following a marathon session that began more than 15 hours earlier.
The budget plan passed in a 113-5 vote, with the “no” votes split between three Democrats and two Republicans. Since the vote actually happened Wednesday, the House briefly adjourned before returning for Wednesday’s session minutes later to give the plan a required third reading before it can head to the Senate.
Members voted to show their displeasure with the state’s public safety director by stripping his salary from their budget. The 76-20 vote for the amendment to eliminate Leroy Smith’s position and pay came early in Tuesday’s debate. While only the governor can fire a Cabinet official, the House can refuse to authorize or fund the position. Tuesday’s House vote would survive any potential veto from Gov. Henry McMaster. Supporters said morale is low at the Department of Public Safety and road deaths are increasing as the agency is having trouble hiring and keeping troopers. Opponents said legislators are interfering with a Cabinet agency outside their purview.