SC Legislature

The S.C. State House
Ron Cogswell [CC BY 2.0] via Flickr

In the final hours of this year’s session of the state legislature, Senate yesterday passed an economic incentives bill  aimed at persuading the NFL’s Carolina Panthers to move it's headquarters and practice facilities from Charlotte to Rock Hill.  A $250 Million investment for York County.  Rock Hill Senator Wes Climer told the Senate it’s a huge win for the state's economy.

Teachers and their supporters rally outside the South Carolina State House in Columbia on May 1, 2019.
Thelisha Eaddy/SC Public Radio

Some 10,000 teachers and supporters from across the state descended on the Statehouse this week sending a powerful message to lawmakers that they want more state support in funding and in education reforms, and they are not happy with the school improvement bill pending in the legislature.

The South Carolina State House
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School Improvement Bill Pushed To Next Year

Leaders in the state legislature had hoped that the magnitude of deciding what to do with state-owned utility Santee-Cooper would not interfere with their efforts to pass a desperately needed school improvement bill this year. But with just two weeks remaining in this year’s legislative session Santee Cooper’s future is being debated on the Senate floor, and the education bill is being pushed to next year.

Sen. Chip Campsen (R-Charleston) flanked by Gov. Henry McMaster and a bi-partisan group of State Senators pushing to preempt off-shore drilling for oil and gas along the South Carolina coast.
Russ McKinney/SC Public Radio

Budget Also Contains Off-Shore Oil Prohibition

The S.C. General Assembly passes hundreds of bills and resolutions each year, but the most important measure enacted by the legislature is the annual State Appropriations Bill.  That’s the state’s operating budget for the next fiscal year which begins on July 1.  Not only does the budget provide the funding for state government to operate, it also identifies the priority needs of the state.

The South Carolina State House
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State lawmakers are in the final month of this year’s legislative session with most of this year's priority bills still being debated.

This week, a Senate sub-committee opted to hold until next year's session a controversial portion of the massive school improvement bill in hopes of securing passage of the remainder of the bill this year.  The bill which has already passed in the House of Representatives is viewed as the most important matter for the legislature this session.

The South Carolina State House
File

This year’s attempt by pro-life members of the state legislature to pass restrictions on abortions is centered in the House of Representatives.  A bill that would ban almost all abortions if a fetal heartbeat is detected in a woman passed the House Judiciary Committee this week on a mostly party line vote. Experts say a fetal heartbeat can typically be detected around the sixth week of pregnancy.

The South Carolina State House
File

S.C. lawmakers had hoped to keep the decks at the Statehouse clear this legislative session to be able to focus on improving the state’s public school system.  A major education bill has already been approved by the House.

But matters regarding the state’s energy future are generating a lot of attention. 

Aside from the enormous question of whether or not the state should sell Santee Cooper, the debt-plagued state owned utility, the future of solar energy in the state is being debated. 

Santee Cooper headquarters sign.
Santee Cooper

After months of discussion about Santee Cooper, the SC General Assembly this week took the first official actions that could lead to the eventual sale of the state-owned utility.

The State House of Representatives and Senate are considering Joint Resolutions that would begin a process to sell Santee Cooper which is burdened by an enormous debt incurred from the collapse of the giant V.C. Summer Nuclear Project in 2017. 

The S.C. House of Representatives approved the state's FY 2019-20 spending package on March 13, 2019
Russ McKinney/SC Public Radio

This year’s session of the state legislature is at the half-way mark.  And right on schedule this week the House of Representatives passed its’ version of next year’s $9 Billion state spending package.  It now goes to the Senate.

To pay for this year’s push to improve public education the budget contains millions of new education dollars. $160 Million dollars for teacher pay raises.

The House version also funds two percent pay raises for state workers, and $32 Million to help shore-up the state’s aging pension system. 

Republican leadership at the State House pushing a major overhaul of S. C. Public School system.
Gavin Jackson/SCETV

The S.C. House of Representatives this week overwhelmingly passed a major bill that overhauls the state’s education system.

It pumps more money into the system, gives the state education superintendent more ability to take over low-performing school districts, and creates a nearly $100 Million fund to help bring businesses to places where schools are poor and struggling.

The state’s low performing school system is hurting South Carolina’s businesses, and the state's Republican leadership is moving to try and correct deficiencies.

The South Carolina State House
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The S.C. General Assembly is attempting to exert its authority over local governments in this year’s legislative session.

The House of Representatives this week passed and sent to the Senate a bill that would stop local governments from passing regulations on cigarettes and vaping products.  Supporters of the bill say such power should rest only with the state so as to prevent a mixed bag of laws and regulations from popping up across the state.

S.C. Superintendent of Education Mollie Spearman flanked by Gov. Henry McMaster (L) and House Speaker Jay Lucas (R-Darlington) at the Statehouse Feb. 20, 2019.
Gavin Jackson/SCETV

South Carolina’s teachers have made their voices heard at the Statehouse as lawmakers debate a major public education reform bill. 

From the moment House Speaker Jay Lucas and dozens of fellow House members introduced the 84 page omnibus bill last month, teachers have been demanding changes. 

This week, Republican leaders in the legislature sought to re-assure them.

A House education committee is now moving to incorporate some teacher backed changes to the bill.

Sen Mike Fanning (D-Fairfield) in a recent meeting with public school teachers at the Statehouse.
Russ McKinney/SC Public Radio

Comprehensive bills to improve the state’s troubled public education system are being debated in both the State House and Senate.

Last month House Speaker Jay Lucas (R-Darlington) and dozens of other lawmakers introduced an 84 page bill aimed at improving student readiness for the workplace, help for rural school districts that are struggling, and perhaps most importantly increasing teacher retention.

African American Legislators Call Judicial Elections a 'Travesty'

The fallout from the 2017 V.C. Summer Nuclear failure continues at the Statehouse. This year lawmakers are dealing with what may be the hard part of unwinding the debacle;  what to do about state owned utility Santee Cooper.

S.C. Senate President Harvey Peeler, R-Cherokee (L).
Russ McKinney/SC Public Radio

When sworn in as the state’s new Lieutenant Governor last month Pamela Evette made history. She  became the first Lieutenant Governor elected as a Governor’s running mat instead of running for the office independently of the Governor.

The primary duty of the Lieutenant Governor is to step-up to the Governor’s Office if necessary as Henry McMaster did when Gov. Nikki Haley resigned the office in 2017.

Instead of being an elected state official the Lieutenant Governor is in essence now a member of the Governor’s staff.

Russ McKinney/SC Public Radio

Work is underway at the Statehouse on next year’s $9 Billion state budget which is expected to pump money into reforming the state’s public education system.

Gov. McMaster sent his budget recommendations to the legislature this week.  He calls for a 5 percent pay raise for teachers at a cost of about $155 Million, $36 Million for colleges aimed at holding down tuition,  and over $48 Million to put more trained police officers and mental health counselors  in schools.

The South Carolina State House
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After the first week of this year’s session,  it’s clear that the top priority for the South Carolina General Assembly is improving the state’s public school system, something that education advocates have been seeking for years.

In his Inaugural Address, Gov. Henry McMaster (R) joined legislative leaders in calling for what he termed a “bold" game plan to boost the state’s education system.