COLUMBIA — The state Senate passed a government restructuring plan Thursday that would give the governor direct control of state administrative functions and lawmakers more oversight of state agencies.
The bill would eliminate the powerful State Budget and Control Board and create a Department of Administration that answers directly to the governor. The bill now is before the House Judiciary Committee.
Gov. Nikki Haley has called for the reform since campaigning for office.
“South Carolinians want and deserve a government that is responsive, efficient and accountable, and that, in no small part, means it’s time for government restructuring that includes a Department of Administration,” Haley spokesman Rob Godfrey said in a statement. “While this isn’t a perfect bill, it’s great that it’s out of the Senate and that the House can now get to work – and the governor looks forward to signing a historic restructuring bill into law.”
State Sens. Shane Massey, R-Edgefield, and Vincent Sheheen, D-Kershaw, the bill’s primary sponsors, said its benefits include forcing the Legislature to review state programs, instead of waiting until problems arise to review agencies’ activities.
The bill also would restrict the ability of state agencies to run deficits, give the governor an agency to develop an executive budget and consolidate many administrative functions – including human resources and information technology, and management of the state’s fleet of vehicles – in a department that reports directly to the governor.
Sheheen, a longtime proponent of government restructuring, said the bill “should be considered a big victory for all of us in South Carolina,” urging the House to pass it quickly.
Last year, a similar bill moved back and forth between the two chambers only to die in the Senate when lawmakers could not agree on a compromise.
The Senate gave the second of three required approvals of the bill Wednesday with bipartisan support after debate over who should be responsible for the state’s procurement functions.
Critics did not want state procurement – the process of reviewing bids and awarding contracts – placed under a newly formed board which the bill would create and that would be similar to the Budget and Control Board.
The proposed board, called the State Fiscal Accountability Authority, would have the same makeup as the budget board. Its members would be the governor, state treasurer, comptroller general, House Ways and Means chairman and Senate Finance Committee chairman.
Senate Finance chairman Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, fought to place the procurement powers under the new board, arguing that placing purchasing under the direct control of the governor could lead to abuse.
Massey failed to convince the Senate to place purchasing directly under the Administration Department, arguing that would create more accountability and savings for the state.
The proposal is not perfect, said Massey, who, in the end, voted for the bill. “(But) it’s a whole lot better than it is bad.”
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