MORNING BUZZ: The State House -- where sex, guns, elections and the state plane meet

Posted by JAMIE SELF and ANDREW SHAIN on January 21, 2014 

SC State House

AP

— Sex, guns, politics and the state plane are all on the State House agenda Tuesday.

Guns in bars: The S.C. House is expected to add to its calendar a bill that would allow concealed weapons into bars and restaurants. The bill, which originated in the Senate, could get an up or down vote this week.

The bill passed the Senate and House last year, and returned to the Senate with some changes, where it stalled as the clock on the legislative session ran out.

Last week, the Senate took it up and sent it back to the House where it is expected to pass and head to Gov. Nikki Haley’s desk for her signature.

Sex ed changes: A pro-life group will rally in the State House at noon, and later Tuesday, the House Education and Public Works Committee has on top of its agenda a bill that would change what S.C. public-school students learn about sex.

Safe-sex and abstinence-only advocates have divided sharply over the bill’s direction. The question this year is: can lawmakers negotiate a compromise?

Primary challenge: The Senate Judiciary Committee also has some interesting bills on its plate, including one that would allow a political party to nominate candidates by convention rather than in a primary election if voters and party delegates agree to the change.

Supporters of similar plans have expressed concerns that Democrats vote in Republican primaries, leading to more moderate Republicans winning the nomination. (South Carolina has open primaries, meaning voters can choose the primary in which they want to vote and do not have to register with a political party.)

Also before the Senate Judiciary Committee is a bill that would restrict uses of the state plane — which proved to be the most controversial inanimate object in the state last year.

No permits necessary: And Sen. Lee Bright, a Republican from Spartanburg who is running against U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham in June’s primary, has a bill before the Senate Judiciary too, one that would allow people to carry guns without a permit, concealed or out in the open.

The Buzz fully expects Bright to promote his bill again this year on the Senate floor and campaign trail, despite it gaining no traction last year.

As Sen. Greg Gregory, R-Chester, put it at the time, the bill “is going nowhere” and “won’t get six votes” in the Senate.

Feds make move against military shipper

A moving company and an affiliate are accused of shipping away millions in government cash by filing false reports about how much belongings of military personnel – including soldiers based at Fort Jackson -- they transported.

The State's John Monk with an exclusive on the lawsuit filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Columbia:

Covan World-Wide Moving, and its affiliate, Coleman-American Moving Services, are paid by the government based on the weight of items moved. Over the years, they “systematically falsified weight certificates, shipping records and invoices by increasing shipment weights,” the lawsuit said.

The alleged “potentially vast and complex fraud” first was discovered at an Augusta truck shipping depot that receives and ships Fort Jackson soldiers’ belongings, according to the lawsuit and related government filings in the case.

Lawyers for the company said last week the government’s claims can’t be supported.

The lawsuit says Covan and its affiliate billed Uncle Sam $723 million in shipping and relocation costs since 2009. The feds' complaint has no estimate how much of the $723 million in billings were bogus.

But ...

"(T)he lawsuit asserts that of one group of shipments reweighed by the government, “nearly 80 percent” were billed in excess of their actual weight.

Could Nikki Haley give the SOTU response?

Politico speculates that Gov. Nikki Haley could give the GOP response to President Barack Obama's State of the Union address next week.

The site looked at the pros and cons of 10 possibilities.

Haley's main pro is that she's a D.C. outsider who is a "forceful opponent" of the Affordable Care Act.

The con? "Haley’s star isn’t quite where it was when she was first elected in 2010," Politico says.

The Palmetto State leader was No. 6 on the list -- ahead of Govs. Susana Martinez of New Mexico and Chris Christie of New Jersey but behind the top pick Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

Buzz Clicks

Rallying cries at King Day at the Dome: NAACP leaders launch petition drive to take Confederate flag off the State House grounds and take a swipe at Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell's hopes to become the next president at the College of Charleston. Full story

The sheriff and the soldiers: Richland County sheriff’s deputies are conducting a secretive joint exercise around the county with unidentified units from Fort Bragg, according to the sheriff’s department. No word on which Ft. Bragg units will be involved -- and no reporters as well, the department said. Also it will be noisy at times. Full story

TB or not TB, that is the question: Students and staff at a Charleston area high school should get results back this week on tuberculosis tests they were given after a former student was diagnosed with the disease. Full story

Another State House good-bye: Rep. Liston Barfield, a Horry Republican who has spent 21 years in two stints in the General Assembly, says he will retire from the state legislature when his term ends in 2014, according to a report. Full story

Benjamin's new idea: As Mayor Steve Benjamin launches his second term, he will seek to shift Columbia’s motto to “a city of ideas.” That will be his theme Tuesday evening, Benjamin said, when he delivers his fifth State of the City address at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center. Benjamin spent most of his first four years in office pushing for Columbia to become “a world-class city.” Full story

The numbers adding up for some teachers: Like the rest of the nation, South Carolina continues to face a shortage of math and science teachers in its public schools. What's bad news for school districts is a potential boon for soon-to-be-math and -science education graduates. Full story

The orange-and-purple crowd stick together: Gov. Nikki Haley, a Clemson grad, got a birthday surprise from Tiger coach Dabo Swinney, who sent a video message with a former school star now in the NFL. Full story

Tweet Things

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham's four Republican primary opponents appeared together at the S.C. Tea Party Convention in Myrtle Beach Monday. Graham, who was invited according to an event organizer, did not attend.

Graham tweeted from a town hall meeting on Monday at the National Wild Turkey Federation headquarters in Edgefield. The Seneca Republican managed to work a little sport into his schedule, too:

Looks like Sen. Paul Thurmond, R-Charleston, is against the Department of Administration compromise and also plans to skip Gov. Nikki Haley's State of the State address on Wednesday.

Activists who oppose a bill that would allow concealed weapons in places that serve alcohol were handing out flyers in Charleston, Charleston City Paper reporter Corey Hutchins tweeted Monday:

Gov. Nikki Haley's public schedule

Her office did not release a schedule on Monday, a state holiday

State House meetings today

Joint

• 11:50 a.m.: Fourth Congressional District Delegation Election of a DOT Commissioner (State House, 2nd Floor, Senate President Pro Tem Office / Agenda)

Senate

Meets at noon

• 3 p.m.: Finance Committee (Gressette Room 308 / Agenda)

• 3 p.m.: Judiciary Committee (Gressette Room 105 / Agenda)

House

Meets at noon

• 9:30 a.m.: Ways and Means Transportation and Regulatory Subcommittee (Blatt Room 108 / Agenda)

• 10 a.m.: Ways and Means Economic Development and Natural Resources Subcommittee (Blatt Room 521 / Agenda)

• 10:30 a.m.: Ways and Means Legislative, Executive and Local Government Subcommittee (Blatt Room 511 / Agenda)

• 11 a.m.: Majority Caucus (Blatt Room 112); Minority Caucus (Blatt Room 305)

• 2 p.m.: 3-M Subcommittee II, Medical Occupational Regulation and Licensing Boards (Blatt Room 427 / Agenda)

• Upon adjournment of the House: Minority Caucus (Blatt Room 112)

• Upon adjournment of the House: EPW Transportation Subcommittee on H.4384 (Blatt Room 433 / Agenda)

• 1 hour after the House adjourns: Ways and Means Higher Education, Technical, and Cultural Subcommittee (Blatt Room 321 / Agenda)

• 1½ hours after the House adjourns: Ways and Means Healthcare Subcommittee Agenda Available (Blatt Room 108 / Agenda)

• 1½ hours after the House adjourns: Ways and Means Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Subcommittee (Blatt Room 305/ Agenda)

• 1½ hours after the House adjourns: Ways and Means Legislative, Executive and Local Government Subcommittee (Blatt Room 511 / Agenda)

• 3 p.m. or 1½ hours after the House adjourns: Education and Public Works Committee on H.3231, H.3435 and H.4384 (Blatt Room 433 / Agenda)

• 3 p.m.: Legislative Group (Rep. Shannon Erickson) (Blatt Room 318)

• 3 p.m. : Ways and Means Public Education and Special Schools Subcommittee (Blatt Room 523 / Agenda)

• 4:30 p.m.: Legislative Black Caucus (Blatt Room 427)

Schmoozing today

• 6 p.m.: Reception by American Council of Engineering Companies of South Carolina, South Carolina Society of Professional Engineers, American Society of Civil Engineers - South Carolina and American Institute of Architects - South Carolina (The Clarion)

• 7 p.m. Reception by S.C. Department of Natural Resources (Ellison Building, State Fair Grounds)

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