MORNING BUZZ: SC legislators return after break to weigh budget, ethics reform

Posted by ANDREW SHAIN and JAMIE SELF on February 17, 2014 

The dome inside the State House

BGUZIOR@THESTATE.COM — Betsey Guzior

— The General Assembly returns today after a week off -- and legislator have a lot to do.

The House will tackle next year's nearly $7 billion state budget when the full Ways and Means committee meets after today's session. The House has lost two weeks early in this year's session to a snow storm and furlough.

Lawmakers have an extra $108 million to spend after state economic advisers added some lottery revenue and a drug lawsuit settlement to the pot.

The Senate will try continue its rather brisk clip this year and get ethics reform off the table this week after canceling the session for the ice storm.

Top clicks

Put those (open-carry) guns away: A bill that would allow South Carolinians to carry guns in public — concealed or “open” in plain sight, with or without permits or training — may meet a swift death, senators say. The state Senate’s Judiciary Committee is expected to take up the proposal Tuesday. It faces heavy opposition, said the committee’s chairman, state Sen. Larry Martin, R-Pickens. Full story

Fighting for more sun: Solar power boosters implored the public Monday to support efforts to make sun panels more affordable for homeowners, non-profit groups and businesses in South Carolina. Full story

Winter storm death toll reaches seven: A seventh death statewide was attributed Monday to last week’s winter storm as more homes regained power. Meanwhile, a few shelters for warmth and more remain open in the Lowcountry, which was hard hit by ice. Meals also continue to be delivered in those areas. Full story

Ice damages SC timber: It appears Mother Nature came through with giant clippers and trimmed a little off the top of a 600-acre tract of 16-year-old longleaf pines in Manchester State Forest. Last week’s ice storm hit other areas with more ferocity, but the Manchester situation offers one snapshot of the enormous impact ice damage can have on the state’s No. 1 cash crop – timber. Full story

Long leaf pine trees at Manchester State Forest in Wedgefield, SC, were among those hit hardest by the recent ice storm. (Photo by Gerry Melendez/The State)

Happening today

• A political committee opposing U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham's re-election bid says it has found a way to extend the state's election runoff period beyond two weeks. The group, Carolina Citizens United, will hold a press conference at 9:15 a.m. at the State House to discuss a complaint the group plans to file with the U.S. Department of Justice about South Carolina elections. (Meanwhile, Graham is opening campaign offices across the state.)

• A nonprofit run by Sheri Few, a Republican candidate for S.C. Superintendent of Education, is holding a noon rally at the S.C. Department of Education, 1429 Senate St. (Read more)

• S.C. State University will send representatives to the State House to tout the state's only public historically black college. The school told lawmakers last month that it needs a $13 million bailout after years of financial shortfalls and dropping enrollment. \\\

• U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-Columbia, speaks about civil rights and equality in modern America in celebration of Black History Month at 5:30 p.m. in the University of South Carolina's Hollings Library.

Gov. Nikki Haley's public schedule today

• 12:30 p.m.: Address the Spartanburg Downtown Rotary Club at the The Piedmont Club.

• 6:30 p.m.: Participate in the State of South Carolina Economy town hall event hosted by the Palmetto Conservative Alliance in association with the S.C. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce at the Poinsett Club in Greenville.

Haley, along with other governors, meet with President Barack Obama later in the week. See the rest of her schedule.

SC Clicks

Groups trying to strike out baseball stadium: A group of Columbia activists is organizing to block public funding for a new baseball stadium, while worried arts organizations are anticipating a key meeting Tuesday with Mayor Steve Benjamin to discuss whether taxpayer money spent on baseball might hurt cultural events. Full story

SC bank getting regional name change: Columbia-based SCBT unveiled its name change -- to South State Bank -- Monday. With its new name and plans to spend up to $20 million on improvements, the bank -- which now owns Charleston's First Federal -- is positioning itself as a growing regional powerhouse. Full story

Meet the Midlands' up-and-comers: Find out who -- including some with political ties -- were named to The State's 20 Under 40 class of 2014. Full story

What the storm left behind: Long after the snow and ice from last week's winter storm melt away, drivers may begin noticing another type of damage from the weather — more potholes. Full story

No talks on prisons: An advocacy group representing mentally ill prisoners has declined to reopen mediation talks with the South Carolina Department of Corrections. Full story

Happy anniversary, Hunley: On a clear, moonlight night 150 years ago, the hand-cranked Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley glided out over glassy seas off South Carolina, sailing into history as the first submarine ever to sink an enemy warship. A century and a half later — and nearly a decade and a half after the sub was raised — just why the Hunley and its eight-man crew never returned is a mystery, albeit one that scientists may be closer to resolving. Full story

The Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley is raised from a barge by a crane at the former Charleston Naval Base in North Charleston in 2000

DC Clicks

Clyburn visits the Garden State: A day after a Florida jury deadlocked on a murder charge in the so-called "loud music" trial, the highest-ranking African-American member of Congress said the case is more proof that race does matter in America — and in its courtrooms. Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina, the House's assistant Democratic leader, made the remarks Sunday after serving as a guest speaker, celebrating Black History Month, at St. Luke Baptist Church in Paterson, N.J., the city where he spent his summers working as a teenager and later got married. Full story

Mulvaney hold town hall in Spanish: U.S. Rep. Mick Mulvaney was candid with the 150 or so Hispanics gathered for his first town hall conducted exclusively in Spanish in Gaffney. Mulvaney, who represents the Fifth Congressional district, including Cherokee County and a small portion of Spartanburg, was fluent in Spanish 25 years ago and lived in Spain for a short time, but doesn't frequently speak in Spanish. He said he was committed, though, in his effort to conduct the meeting focusing almost entirely on immigration in Spanish. Full story

Elections Clicks

Mace stumps in Greenwood: Nancy Mace has never been one to shy away from a challenge. That willingness to fight is serving her well at the moment, as she is attempting to defeat incumbent U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, as well as a host of other GOP candidates, in a June primary. Mace, of Charleston, was the guest speaker Monday afternoon during the regular meeting of the Republican Women of Greenwood County. Full story

Graniteville attorney eyes S.C. House seat: Chris Corley, a Graniteville attorney, said he will run for the state House seat now held by state Rep. Roland Smith, R-Aiken. Full story

State House Clicks

Giving ex-felons a second chance: Ex-felons in South Carolina could soon have a chance to wipe their criminal slates clean. It's part of a proposed bill called Second Chance that would revise expungement laws to help ex-criminals get jobs. Full story

No parole for you: Almost a year after Sen. Larry Martin of Pickens urged the Senate to expand no-parole offenses following the parole of former HomeGold chairman Jack Sterling, the Senate Judiciary Committee may get a chance. Today the Senate Judiciary Committee, which Martin chairs, will take up a bill by Martin and Sen. Greg Hembree, a former prosecutor from North Myrtle Beach, that will expand the number of felonies which won’t be eligible for parole. Full story

State House meetings today

Senate

Full body meets at noon

• 10 a.m., Banking and Insurance Subcommittee (Gressette 407 / Agenda)

• 11:45 a.m., Spartanburg County Delegation (State House, President Pro Tempore’s Office)

• 3 p.m., Finance Committee (Gressette 308 / Live broadcast)

• 3 p.m., Judiciary Committee (Gressette 105 / Live broadcast)

House

Full body meets at noon

• 9 a.m., Ways and Means Healthcare Subcommittee (Blatt Room 108 / Agenda)

• 11 a.m., EPW K-12 Subcommittee (Blatt Room 433 / Agenda)

• 11 a.m., Majority Caucus (Blatt Room 112)

• 11 a.m., Minority Caucus (Blatt Room 305)

• 1½ hours after the House adjourns, Full Ways and Means Committee (Blatt Room 521 / Agenda / Live broadcast)

• 2:00 p.m. or 1½ hours after the House adjourns, Judiciary General Laws Subcommittee on H.4223 (Blatt Room 516 / Agenda)

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

• 2:30 p.m., Agriculture Wildlife Subcommittee on H.4345, H.4543, H.4551, H.4561 and H.4596 (Blatt Room 410 / Agenda)

• 2:30 p.m. or 1½ hours after the House adjourns, L.C.I. Business and Commerce Subcommittee on H.4578 and H.4604 (Blatt Room 410 / Agenda)

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

Schmoozing

6 p.m., Clarion Hotel Downtown reception (Clarion Hotel Downtown)

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