QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“We don’t have shared goals with the Democrats. ... Every time we compromise with Democrats, we spend more, we borrow more, we grow government.”
U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint, R-Greenville, addressing the Conservative Political Action Committee’s annual meeting last week, urging no compromise with President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats
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A look at where members of the state Senate will be eating and drinking this week — while members of the House are on furlough — and who will be footing the bill:
Tuesday — 6-7 p.m., members of the Senate, reception, Capital City Club, sponsored by the American Red Cross
Wednesday — 6-7 p.m., members of the Senate, reception, Columbia Marriott, sponsored by the Municipal Association of South Carolina
Some highlights from the fifth week of the S.C. legislative session
Pension reform: Public workers would have to work two years longer, but they won’t have to turn 62 to retire with full benefits under tweaks made to a House panel’s draft for shoring up the state’s pension system. The draft would require employees to work 30 years. But retirement would not be tied to age. The extra two-year requirement would apply only to new hires. The House panel also settled on a way to give retirees cost-of-living increases. An increase would kick in automatically only if the pension portfolio’s rate of return averaged above 7.5 percent over five years. Employees would have to contribute an additional percent of their pay toward their retirement. The panel’s work will likely be introduced as a bill later this month.
Government restructuring: The S.C. Senate voted to eliminate the agency that handles much of the state’s bureaucracy and put much of its duties under the governor’s control. The approved amendment could mark an end to the powerful, five-member board that oversees the 1,000-employee Budget and Control Board. The measure puts day-to-day operations in a Cabinet-level Department of Administration. Debate on the bill continues. Remaining questions include oversight of the state’s retirement system.
S.C. Judiciary: South Carolina’s top jurist told state lawmakers that she needs nine new judges to run the state’s court system more effectively – and she’ll use a new electronic filing system to pay for them. In her annual State of the Judiciary address, Chief Justice Jean Toal told a legislative joint session that she can pay for judges by implementing a new system for attorneys around the state to file court documents electronically. The courts system will reap any fees generated by the program.
DOT reform: A bill to eliminate the board that oversees the state Department of Transportation and give the governor full oversight of the agency advanced to the House floor. A 2007 law restructuring the agency put it in the governor’s Cabinet but gave oversight to a seven-member commission, appointed by legislators and the governor. The proposal creates a 17-member advisory board to provide input without authority.