South Carolina Legislative Update - January 20, 2016
January 20, 2016
The South Carolina General Assembly reconvened for the second regular session of the 121st General Assembly last Tuesday. The Senate mourned the loss of Senator Billy O’Dell (R-Abbeville) who passed away unexpectedly the first week of January and welcomed Senator Margie Bright Matthews (D-Colleton). In addition, the House welcomed Representative Russell Fry (R-Horry). Infrastructure reform and funding remains a priority for both chambers. H. 3579, which passed the House last year, is before the full Senate in special order status. Senate President Pro Tempore Hugh Leatherman (R-Florence), recently appointed a bipartisan committee of eight senators (co-chaired by Senator Ray Cleary (R-Georgetown) and Senator Brad Hutto (D-Orangeburg)) to work on a reform/funding solution.
In The News
Busy week under the SC State House Dome
Senators on the Judiciary Committee will at 3 p.m. consider a proposal that would kill some 200 pending class action lawsuits against 211 S.C. car dealers. The proposal is sponsored by Senate Judiciary Chairman Larry Martin, R-Pickens. Thirty minutes after the Judiciary Committee adjourns, state Sens. Lee Bright, R-Spartanburg, Katrina Shealy, R-Lexington, and Vincent Sheheen, D-Kershaw, will consider proposals regarding resettling refugees in South Carolina. Meanwhile, S.C. House Ways and Means Committee members will continue to meet in subcommittees and hear requests by state agencies for part of the added $1.2 billion to the state’s general fund budget. Gov. NikkiHaley unveiled her spending priorities last week, suggesting $345 million should be spent to repair the state’s roads. On Wednesday, Haley will deliver her State of the State address. The Republican governor has been in the spotlight since last week after she gave the GOP response to the State of the Union. But what if she had given the same address to an audience in the Palmetto State?
2016 Candidates in S.C.
No 2016 presidential candidate visits are scheduled so far for the rest of the week as hopefuls start to concentrate on Iowa, which holds its caucus two weeks from Tuesday. Democratic candidates attended King Day at the Dome in Columbia on Monday and debated in Charleston Sunday night. Ben Carson was also in town Monday. Read more here.
Gov. Nikki Haley unveils state’s roughly $7.5 billion executive budget
Spending more money to address the state’s crumbling roads and better funding for local government are among Gov. Nikki Haley’s top priorities in this year’s executive budget. Haley unveiled her spending priorities on the state’s roughly $7.5 billion budget Friday. The state has $1.3 billion in new money and unspent funds this year. Among the priorities Haley is calling for are fully funding the Local Government Fund to 4.5 percent of the previous year’s budget, costing an additional $113 million. The Legislature has been shorting the fund for more than five years since the economic downturn. The fund is used to offset the costs of public services. Haley would also send $350 million in anticipated new dollars toward roads. She plans to continue to push the plan she unveiled during the 2015 legislative session that calls for raising the tax on gasoline by 10 cents per gallon over three years, while reducing the state income tax from 7 percent to 5 percent over 10 years. Read more here.
Who’s not running again in 2016
All 170 seats in the S.C. State House are up for election this year. But even before those contests, not every legislator will be back in Columbia next January. At least nine members of the General Assembly have said they do not plan to seek re-election. More than half are from the coast. More lawmakers are expected to decide to end their trips to Columbia before primary filing begins March 16. (By the way, S.C. party leaders say all seven congressmen and U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-North Charleston, will run again.)
Here are the state legislators who have said they will leave their seats at the end of the year:
- Ray Cleary, R-Georgetown: Dentist known for fighting to win roads funding will leave after three terms.
- Joel Lourie, D-Richland: Departure after 18 years in House and Senate will end a streak of his family serving in the Legislature since 1965.
- Paul Thurmond, R-Charleston: The son of legendary S.C. politician Strom Thurmond, the Charleston Republican backed removing the Confederate flag from the State House and now will depart after a single term.
- Stephen Goldfinch, R-Georgetown: Two-term representative will run for Senate seat being vacated by Cleary.
- Jenny Horne, R-Dorchester: Running for Congress against U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford, R-Charleston, after gaining note for a fiery take-it-down speech during the Confederate flag debate.
- Chip Limehouse, R-Charleston: Longtime legislator who helped create panel that financed the Ravenel Bridge will step aside after 22 years.
- Deborah Long, R-Lancaster: Will depart after four terms. Lancaster County GOP chairman Brandon Newton, 21, is her expected successor.
- Mia McLeod, D-Richland: Three-term House member is running for the Senate seat being vacated by Lourie.
- Walt McLeod, D-Newberry: Lawmaker with an unmistakable voice will leave the Legislature after two decades.
Read more here.
Senators could reach road deal in coming weeks
The Senate’s Thursday session will end early so a group of senators can continue working behind the scenes on a road-repair deal, Senate leader Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, said Wednesday. “Hopefully, the Senate will bite,” Leatherman said of the compromise that emerges from the working group of eight senators. In an ideal world, the senators would wrap up their work Thursday, said state Sen. Ray Cleary, R-Georgetown, the working group’s co-leader. But if that doesn’t happen, the senators will work long days next week to reach a compromise that can be debated on the Senate floor, he said. Read more here.
Abbeville state senator dies at 77
State Sen. Billy O’Dell, R-Abbeville, died Thursday at 77. Greenwood County Coroner Sonny Cox said his office responded a little before 11 a.m. to the lawmaker’s home, where he was pronounced dead. Cox said the cause of death is thought to be related to a heart condition. Senate Majority Leader Harvey Peeler, R-Cherokee, called for a moment of silence in announcing O’Dell’s death at a State House meeting. Read more here.
Haley proposes $200 million a year fix for blighted rural schools
Gov. Nikki Haley proposed Wednesday the state borrow up to $200 million a year to renovate blighted school buildings or build new ones. In making her proposal, Haley said that some S.C. schools are in “horrible condition.” “We're seeing schools with leaky roofs. We're seeing teachers having to wear rain boots to walk through the rain. We're seeing walls that are molded ... building structures that are not safe,” Haley said, announcing her education proposals for the 2016 legislative session. “It is time to deal with facilities.” The Lexington Republican is making education a focus of her second term. Read more here.
SC House speaker aims for ‘substantial progress’ on education this year
S.C. House Speaker Jay Lucas said Thursday that he wants the General Assembly to make “substantial progress” on education issues this year. The Darlington Republican said House members will introduce bills this month that include an education task force’s recommendations to improve K-12 public schools, especially in rural, impoverished communities. The state budget also will address some of the goals of that task force, said Lucas and state Rep. Kenny Bingham, the Lexington Republican who chairs a House K-12 budget-writing panel. Legislators and budget forecasters met with S.C. media Thursday to preview issues that will top the legislative agenda this year. Lawmakers return to Columbia Tuesday. Read more here.
Wednesday, January 20
- 8:00 am - 10:00 am -- Blatt Room 112 -- Legislative Breakfast: South Carolina Forestry Association
- 8:30 am -- Blatt Room 318 -- Legislative Group (Rep. Deborah Long)
- 9:00 am -- Blatt Room 433 -- Higher Education Subcommittee
I. H. 4639 – Higher Education Commission
- 9:00 am -- Gressette Room 308 -- Joint Bond Review Committee
- 9:15 am - 11:00 am -- Blatt Room 317 -- United Way Associations of South Carolina
- 10:00 am -- Gressette Room 105 -- Conversation with the Conservationists Briefing
- 10:00 am -- Blatt Room 321 -- Ways and Means Legislative, Executive, and Local Government Subcommittee
I. Department of Administration
II. Governor’s Office – Mansion and Grounds
III. State Fiscal Accountability Authority
IV. Member Requests
- 10:00 am -- Blatt Room 433 -- Higher Education Subcommittee
I. H. 4639 – Higher Education Commission
- 10:00 am -- Blatt Room 410 -- Agriculture Subcommittee on H.4565
I. H. 4565 – Reservoir and Dam Safety
- 10:00 am -- Blatt Room 110 -- Ways and Means Public Education and Special Schools Subcommittee
I. South Carolina Department of Education
II. Education Oversight Committee and Educational Improvement Act Funding
III. Public Testimony, School Districts, and Member Requests
- 10:00 am -- Blatt Room 427 -- 3-M Subcommittee IV, Military and Public Affairs
I. H. 4165 – Homeowner’s Association Fee Fairness to Deployed Service Members Act
II. H. 4573 – State and Local Veterans Issues Study Committee
- 10:30 am -- Blatt Room 521 -- Ways and Means Higher Education and Technical Colleges Subcommittee
I. University of South Carolina
II. Member Requests
- 10:30 am -- Blatt Room 108 -- Ways and Means Healthcare Subcommittee
I. Department of Alcohol & Other Drug Abuse Services
II. Department of Social Services
III. Member Requests
- 10:30 am -- Blatt Room 501 -- Ways and Means Transportation, Regulatory and Cultural Subcommittee
I. Commission for Minority Affairs
II. Patriots Point Development Authority
III. Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum
IV. State Library
- 11:00 am -- Blatt Room 433 -- E.P.W. K-12 Subcommittee
I. H. 3420 – High School Diplomas
II. H. 3657 – School Board Trustees
III. H. 4330 – Parental Right to Refuse Assessments Act
- 11:00 am -- Gressette Room 408 -- Banking and Insurance Subcommittee on S.849, S.850, S.972, S.973, S.976, S.977 and S.978
I. S. 849 – Pharmacy Benefit Managers
II. S. 850 – Principle Based Reserves
III. S. 972 – Unclaimed Life Insurance Benefits Act
IV. S. 973 – Insurance Premium Tax
V. S. 976 – Limited Line and Special Producer Licensing
VI. S. 977 – Clean Claim Filing Requirements
VII. S. 978 – Risk Based Capital Plans
- 11:00 am -- Gressette Room 209 -- Transportation Committee
I. S. 315 – Secretary of Transportation
II. S. 561 – Inspector General
- 11:00 am -- Blatt Room 511 -- Ways and Means Economic Development and Natural Resources Subcommittee
I. Department of Agriculture
II. Clemson – PSA
III. Forestry Commission
- 12:00 noon - 2:00 pm -- Blatt Room 112 -- Legislative Luncheon: United Way Associations of South Carolina
- 30 minutes after the Senate adjourns -- Gressette Room 105 -- General Committee on S.928 and S.997
I. S. 928 – Refugees
II. S. 997 – Refugees and Voluntary Resettlement Organizations
- 1 hour after House Adjourns -- Blatt Room 521 -- Ways and Means Higher Education and Technical Colleges Subcommittee
I. The Citadel
II. Member Requests
- 1:00 pm -- Blatt Room 403 -- L.C.I. Public Utilities Subcommittee on H.4566 and H.4661
I. H. 4566 – South Carolina Do Not Call Act
II. H. 4661 – Acceptable Piping Material
- 1:00 pm -- Blatt Room 305 -- Ways and Means Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Subcommittee
I. Attorney General’s Office
II. Member Requests.
Thursday, January 21
- 8:00 am - 10:00 am -- Blatt Room 112 -- Legislative Breakfast: South Carolina Broadcasters Association
- 9:00 am -- Gressette Room 209 -- Medical Affairs Subcommittee on S.371, S.571, S.853 and H.3251
I. S. 371 – Nurses
II. S. 571 – Maternal Morbidity and Mortality Review Committee
III. S. 853 – Emergency Anaphylaxis Treatment Act
IV. H. 3251 – Maternal Morbidity and Mortality Review Committee
- 9:30 am -- Blatt Room 427 -- 3-M Subcommittee III, Local Government, Corrections Affairs and Non-Medical Licensing Boards
I. H. 4447 – Mobile Barbershop Permits
- 9:30 am -- Gressette Room 307 -- Fish, Game and Forestry Subcommittee on S.780 and S.984
I. S. 984 – Southern Cobia Management Zone
II. S. 780 – Sale and Trafficking of Grass Carp
- 10:00 am -- Gressette Room 207 -- Education Committee K-12 Subcommittee
- 10:00 am -- Gressette Room 105 -- Judiciary Subcommittee on H.3191
I. H. 3191 – Create the Office of Freedom Act Review
- 30 minutes after the House adjourns -- Blatt Room 110 -- Legislative Oversight Committee Ad Hoc Committee - Other Study No. 1
Friday, January 22
- 8:00 am -- Blatt Room 112 -- South Carolina Attorney General's Office