.A daily review of what’s making news in South Carolina state government.
State senators on Wednesday narrowly rejected several different attempts to insert tax cuts into a bill that would increase South Carolina’s 17 cents per-gallon gas tax to pay for road repairs.
State Sen. Sean Bennett, R-Dorchester, said offsetting the proposed 12 cents per-gallon increase with an income tax cut and reforming the Department of Transportation is the right way to fix the state’s crumbling roads. “We’re going to get a roads bill done. It’s a matter of is it going to be the right roads bill and is it going to come into law?” Bennett said on the Senate floor Wednesday. He insisted the current proposal lacks the votes to overcome a threatened veto by Gov. Henry McMaster.
The Senate voted 22-20 on Wednesday against an amendment that would have cut income taxes and manufacturers’ property taxes, and increased tuition tax credits for students and tax deductions for officers. Opponents of the amendment say it jeopardizes the roads fix and should be taken up in separate legislation.
“For the sake of South Carolina, why can’t we just pass a bill to fund and fix our highway infrastructure? Period,” State Sen. Kevin Johnson, D-Clarendon, said. “So why can’t we do what the House has done overwhelming and in a bipartisan manner why can we not pass a roads bill?”
The House has already passed their version of the bill, although it was only a 10 cents per-gallon increase and including provisions weakening legislative influence at the Department of Transportation.
Senate debate will continue on Thursday.
— Members of the state House on Wednesday shot down a proposal to eventually require seat belts on all new school buses in South Carolina, with lawmakers concerned about the cost and the potential new requirements for drivers to be responsible for each student. The measure would have required any new buses bought by South Carolina school districts after July 2020 to have “harness” seatbelts installed.
— Worried about the potential threats to state infrastructure and sensitive information, Gov. Henry McMaster on Wednesday signed a new executive order designed to strengthen the state’s cybersecurity efforts. McMaster’s order creates the South Carolina Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity (CIC) Executive Oversight Group, which will implement a statewide plan recommended last year by a working group set up under then-Gov. Nikki Haley. Details of that plan remain confidential.
— A proposal that would give South Carolina towns the ability to require developers to build affordable housing units into their residential projects moved forward in a state Senate subcommittee Wednesday. The State newspaper reports activists say there is an affordable housing “crisis” in South Carolina, particularly in coastal cities. However, home builders and real estate agents say the “forced charity” would counterproductive and burdensome to new development. The measure is unlikely to become law this year.
— A House Education and Public Works subcommittee advanced a bill late Wednesday afternoon which would require all high school students to get opioid abuse education as part of their health curriculum. The bill now goes to the full committee, although it is unlikely to become law this year. Lead sponsor State Rep. Eric Bedingfield, R-Belton, pushed for the bill a year after his son Josh died a year ago from a drug overdose. He told WSPA-TV he wants teens to be aware of the drugs’ danger.
— State Democratic Party Chairman Jaime Harrison, who is not running for reelection this summer, has picked up a new job working with the national party headquarters. Harrison announced Tuesday he is becoming associate chairman and counselor of the Democratic National Committee. The new job includes initiatives like the State Party Partnership, training programs and 2020 convention and debates planning. The job also includes leading outreach to the DNC’s Southern Caucus, Rural Caucus, Disability Caucus and Native American Council, according to the Charleston Post & Courier.