Legislative Week in Review
“If you’re not at the table, then you’re on the menu.”
-Representative Gilda Cobb-Hunter (D-Orangeburg) during a Ways and Means Committee Meeting discussing the proposed budget.
Volume IV - February 23, 2015
Haley’s DHEC Appointee Withdraws from Consideration
Eleanor Kitzman withdrew her name Sunday from consideration to become the next director of the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), after spending the previous week fielding question from state senators about her lack of experience, past financial troubles, and her close relationship with the Governor. Ms. Kitzman, a friend and campaign donor to Governor Haley, was selected by the governor to replace Catherine Templeton after she left the agency in the beginning of January. Many senators felt Ms. Kitzman was unqualified and lacked the necessary qualifications to run the agency. The DHEC board will now be tasked with finding a replacement.
The House Ways and Means Committee met last week and passed a budget that will next be considered on the House floor. As the budget currently stands, social workers at the Department of Social Services will receive a 20% raise in an attempt to curb the high employee turnover rate, the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) will receive $50 million to for a new children’s hospital, and SC State University will be allowed to remain open as long as leadership changes are made.
The Ways and Means Committee also voted to approve a proposal to borrow nearly half a billion dollars, $497.2 million to be exact, to fund projects across the state. Out of the nearly half a billion dollars, $146 million of the borrowed money would go towards building projects for higher education, $94 million would go towards technical school projects, $60 million would be for sewer and water projects, $50 million would go to deferred maintenance at state owned facilities, and $50 million would be allocated for K-12 education. This is the first time in nearly fifteen years lawmakers have voted to issue bonds for transportation and infrastructure funding, although the measure must still be approved by the full House before being considered by the Senate.
Criminal Domestic Violence
The Senate began debating S. 3 last week which is a bill designed to strengthen the State’s criminal domestic violence laws. Criminal domestic violence has been a highly publicized topic at the State House this session with press conferences, media attention, and pressure from both sides of the aisle calling for action. South Carolina is statistically one of the worst states in the nation for domestic violence related incidents, and lawmakers are hoping to pass legislation to help change that.
The bill has gotten somewhat tied down on the Senate floor with most of the discussion centering around the proposed firearm restrictions included in the bill. Under the current version of the bill, a person convicted of domestic violence would be prohibited from possessing firearms for ten years, and a person subject to an order of protection would be prohibited from possessing firearms during the lifetime of the order, but not more than one year. It is expected the Senate will continue to work on the issue this week, and supporters of the bill, such as the only female senator Katrina Shealy (R-Lexington), are hoping any issues can be resolved that would prevent the bill from advancing to the House.