The House of Representatives made quick work of the Department of Administration bill, passing it 118-0 after about 10 minutes of debate.
But things are more complicated in the Senate, where a group of conservative Senators are blocking the bill, calling it "reform in name only."
The bill, S.22, would eliminate the state Budget and Control Board and transfer most of its administrative functions to the Department of Administration. It would not allow state agencies to run deficits without approval from the General Assembly. And it would create a new state agency -- the State Fiscal Accountability Authority -- that would control state purchasing and approve when the state borrow money.
But critics -- notably the William Wallace Caucus, a group of far-right state Senators -- say the State Fiscal Accountability Authority is nothing but the Budget and Control Board with a new name. Sen. Shane Martin, R-Spartanburg, is blocking the bill from coming to a vote by refusing to stop speaking about the bill on the Senate floor.
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If the Senate does not pass the report by Wednesday night, it would deny Gov. Nikki Haley a key legislative victory to tout in her State of the State address, scheduled for Wednesday night.
Haley has been pushing for the Department of Administration bill during her three years as governor. State Sen. Vincent Sheheen, Haley's Democratic opponent, has been pushing for the bill for about 10 years. Sheheen is the primary sponsor of S.22.
Martin asked to hear what the governor thought and tried to adjourn the senate. He feared the senate would vote on restructuring if he left the floor to speak with Haley.
Senators voted to stay in session, but they agreed to recess while Martin, Sen. Tom Corbin, R-Greenville, and Senate Majority Leader Harvey Peeler, R-Cherokee, met with Haley in her office.
After their 20-minute meeting, Martin thanked Haley for talking with home "on a personal level" and ended his blocking of the bill.
The Senate voted 39-4 in favor of the government restructuring measure.
Martin, who said a bill that could nullify portions of the Affordable Care Act was a bigger priority, was among dissenting votes.
Haley and Sheheen both claimed victory.
"Carroll Campbell is smiling today as the House and Senate passed the biggest piece of government reform since he was governor almost 20 years ago," Haley posted on Facebook. "South Carolina is showing the world that we are no longer in the dark ages!"
Sheheen tweeted, "We’ve built a bipartisan coalition around my bill to overhaul state govt & increase accountability. Today it finally passed the legislature."