Legislative Update: February 21

Posted February 21, 2012 6:42 am | Filed under State/Regional News
The Sons of the American Revolution commemorate George Washington’s 280th birthday on the Statehouse steps Monday

The House and Senate return for another week Tuesday. The House, coming off a self-imposed furlough, will take up the budget in its Ways & Means Committee starting Tuesday. The Senate will try to catch up on several minor bills after spending the past two weeks heavily invested in the government restructuring bill.

–The House Ways & Means Committee will have several issues to address when it takes up the budget. A larger General Fund means the state will have more money available, but the debate still remains over what to do with it. Specifically, what programs will be restored, if at all?
–Municipal governments across South Carolina are also lobbying to get the full amount they are supposed to receive under a state funding formula. However, budget writers don’t seem too keen on granting it– although they are planning to increase the Local Government Fund.
–More names are surfacing as possible challengers for House members seeking reelection. A Francis Marion student is seeking the Florence County seat currently held by Republican Kris Crawford. While undoubtedly a long-shot, Austin Smith would easily be the youngest legislator in the Statehouse at age 20 if he succeeds… Meanwhile Rep. Rita Allison (R-Spartanburg) will face another challenge from construction executive Jim McMillan, who secured 38 percent of the vote in 2010 despite running as a petition candidate.
–The House this week could take up legislation that would require teachers to take a two-hour suicide awareness training course. It’s known as the Jason Flatt Act, after a Tennessee teen who took his own life.
On Tap:
Governor Nikki Haley will spend the day in the Upstate. Haley plans to speak at the 2012 Governor’s Conference on Tourism and Travel in Greenville at 9:00 am. She will then visit Alexander Elementary School in Greenville before holding an “Open Door after Four” at USC-Upstate.
–The Finance Committee will take up several bills they were scheduled to discuss last week, before the restructuring debate ran long into the night. Among those bills is the “Taxpayer Fairness Act” by Sen. Glenn McConnell (R-Charleston) that would require the state Department of Revenue to interpret tax code more favorably towards the payer, rather than the state.
–The Judiciary Committee agenda is getting extremely long (23 bills) after yet another meeting was cancelled by floor debate last week. On Tuesday, senators will also hear from SLED Chief Mark Keel and Department of Public Safety director Leroy Smith. Both of the governor’s appointees require legislative approval.
–The Ways & Means Committee will meet Tuesday as it starts to put together a formal budget for the House next week. (See more above)
–The Judiciary Committee will take up several bills, notably one by Rep. Bill Taylor (R-Aiken) that would limit what fees state agencies can charge for Freedom of Information requests by the public.
–The Medical, Military, Public, and Municipal Affairs Committee will meet Tuesday. The agenda includes a bill by Rep. Brian White (R-Anderson) that would create a state Medal of Honor for military personnel who are killed while serving overseas… Committee members will also discuss a regulation that alters some regulations of physical fitness centers by the Department of Consumer Affairs.
–The Public Utilities subcommittee will hear testimony on a new regulation that would require electric utilities to submit more information when they seek new financing approval through the state.
–A Health & Environmental panel will hear testimony on another regulation that would slightly change what types of medical purchases by hospitals and other medical providers require a Certificate of Need.