State Sen. Vincent Sheheen said he will fill legislation on Tuesday to offer universal 4-year-old kindergarten in South Carolina.
The bill would build upon a $26 million budget proviso Sheheen sponsored -- and Gov. Nikki Haley signed -- earlier this year that expanded the state's 4-year-old kindergarten program into 17 school districts where at least 75 percent of the students qualified for Medicaid or free or reduced price lunch. Because it is a budget proviso, it expires after one year -- unless lawmakers approve it again.
"We’re on a mission to make it permanent law and expand it to all 46 counties so all kids have that opportunity, if they so choose," 'Sheheen told The State newspaper Saturday morning in Columbia before his scheduled speech to the Democratic Women's Forum at the Clarion Hotel.
Haley is also working on an education reform proposal.
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Sheheen, the likely Democratic nominee for governor in 2014, said he would file his bill on Tuesday, the first day state Senators can file bills in advance of the upcoming legislative session.
House members prefiled legislation last week, including state Rep. Bakari Sellers, D-Bamberg, who is running for lieutenant governor.
One of Sellers' bills -- H.4365 -- would offer a tax credit to medical device manufacturers designed to offset a tax in the federal Affordable Care Act. In a news release, Sellers said the bill would “lessen the burden of some provisions of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).”
The Haley campaign called on Sheheen to "concede, like State Rep. Sellers has, that ObamaCare is hurting South Carolina’s businesses."
Sheheen -- who publicly supported expanding Medicaid in South Carolina under the Affordable Care Act -- said he has not seen Sellers bill. But he said "One of the great things about being a South Carolina Democrat is a lot of times we look at things practically."
"I think that it’s important that we as South Carolina Democrats say that we are for whatever works regardless of the ideology," Sheheen said.
House and Senate lawmakers will finish prefiling legislation on Dec. 17. Lawmakers will return to Columbia on Jan. 14, where Sheheen and Haley will be heavily involved in S.22, the government restructuring bill both have been pushing for. The bill has passed the House and the Senate, but a conference committee -- which includes Sheheen -- has not met yet to discuss it.
Last week, Haley posted this on Facebook:
Saturday, Sheheen said "I believe we will have a bill, and we will have it early in session."
"The governor likes to play politics with substantial substantive issues. So I ignore that and say, 'What can we do to actually advance the goal of having a streamlined, better working government?'" Sheheen said.
Haley's campaign said the restructuring bill "would be law already if Vince Sheheen had not voted against it in 2012," referring to a Senate vote in 2012 that would have forced a vote on the restructuring bill but failed by one vote.
"In June of this year, six legislators, Sheheen included, were tasked with finishing the bill - they have not met a single time. Not once. Being a legislator means doing your job, and there's nothing 'political' about the governor pointing out that Sheheen and his colleagues have not done theirs," Haley campaign spokesman Rob Godfrey said.
Last week, Sen. Shane Massey, R-Edgefield, said the committee planned to meet Dec. 19 and 20 to finish work on the bill. And Sheheen said he has been pushing for restructuring for 10 years.