It took longer than expected -- and there were some tense moments -- but a panel of House and Senate lawmakers approved a government restructuring bill Thursday morning at the State House.
"This is a tremendous piece of legislation that will be significant to the future of this state," Sen. Thomas Alexander, R-Oconee and chairman of the conference committee, said.
The committee was supposed to meet at 9:30, but they were delayed while House and Senate members met privately in the hallway wrangling over last minute details. At one point, Sen. Shane Massey, R-Edgefield, walked out to meet with his colleagues but was sent back because he was "one person too many" in order to keep that meeting private.
The bill, as reported by The State newspaper this morning, would abolish the state Budget and Control Board and move most of its functions to the new Department of Administration under the control of the governor.
The new department will control human resources, information technology, the state's fleet of vehicles and state-owned buildings. She would not control purchasing or be able to issue bonds. Those powers would belong to a newly created State Fiscal Accountability Authority, made up of the governor, state treasurer, comptroller general and chairmen of the House and Senate budget committees -- the same five people who make up the Budget and Control Board.
That's why the S.C. Policy Council tweeted this:
But lawmakers, including state Sen. Vincent Sheheen, say the bill is important because it will hold the governor's office accountable for more of state government's operation.
House Speaker Bobby Harrell, who returned to the State House on Thursday after a brief hospitalization for a respiratory illness, said he wants the House to adopt the conference report "as soon as possible."