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MORNING BUZZ: Key SC Senate committees meeting for first time today

02/03/2014 5:33 PM

02/04/2014 6:44 AM

The Senate's two largest committees -- finance and judiciary -- are scheduled to meet today for the first time this legislative session.

The finance committee meets at 3 p.m. (Watch live by clicking here .)

The committee is scheduled to discuss several tax bills, including:

S.940 : South Carolina counties can charge a 1 percent sales tax to pay for public school construction projects if voters allow it. But there is a catch: Counties are only eligible if they collect at least $7 million a year in hotel room taxes. Only two counties meet that standard: Charleston and Horry (Myrtle Beach). This bill would let every county collect the tax -- but only if the county's total sales taxes do not exceed 3 percent. If the other 44 counties were to collect the tax, it would bring in an additional $540 million.

S.953 : This bill would conform the state's tax code with recent changes in the federal tax code. When lawmakers tried to do this last year it actually would have raised taxes by about $200 on people making more than $250,000 a year. After lots of debate, the state Senate decided not to conform that part of the tax code. But don't expect similar drama this year. State economists say the changes will not change state rates.

S.402 : This bill would offer state tax credits to South Carolina residents who buy an alternative-fuel vehicle, including a hybrids and electrics. State lawmakers actually already passed this into law in 2006, but at the time the tax credits were tied to the federal tax credits -- most of which have expired. This bill would reinstate those tax credits. State economists predict the tax credits would cost the state about $3.8 million next year.

S.329 : This bill would give businesses a state tax credit for using solar power. The credit would be worth up to 25 percent the cost of the system. South Carolina has had a rocky relationship with solar energy . But recently, state utilities have been expanding into solar energy.

The Judiciary Committee meets at 3 p.m. (Watch live by clicking here ).

The committee is scheduled to discuss several bills, including:

S.815 : This bill would make it more difficult for state political parties to change how they nominate candidates. Right now, parties nominate candidates by having open primary elections, where voters decide. But last year, a small group of S.C. Republicans tried to change that so candidates were nominated by delegates at a convention. This bill would only let parties change the nominating process three-quarters of the party's convention delegates approve and a majority of voters agree in an election.

S.505 : This bill would establish the Public Integrity Unit, creating a formalized process where the state's Attorney General, SLED and other entities could investigate public corruption charges. Critics say the bill is not needed because nothing prevents those agencies from working together.

S.605 : This bill would make it harder for state lawmakers to use the state planes. House lawmakers would first need the permission of the House Speaker, and Senators would need permission from the president pro tempore. The bill would also ban lawmakers from using the state plane to transport people to testify before legislative committees -- something Rep. Bill Chumley did last year .

S.115 : This bill would allow people to carry guns in South Carolina without a concealed weapons permit. It is very controversial, and has been on the Senate Judiciary Committee's several times only to have lawmakers pass it over. Will they vote on it on Tuesday? Lawmakers have already passed a bill -- and Gov. Nikki Haley will sign it into law -- that allows people to carry concealed weapons into bars and restaurants.

Gov. Nikki Haley's public schedule today

10:30 a.m.: Address the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce Board of Advisors in North Charleston

12:30 p.m.: Address the Rotary Club of Charleston in Charleston

(See more of her schedule the week here .)

Sen. Vincent Sheheen's schedule today

• 5:30 p.m.: The presumed Democratic gubernatorial nominee is slated to attend the Fort Mill Democratic Forum in Fort Mill.

(He also is expected to visit Spartanburg Community College at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, according to The Greenville News. The S.C. Democratic party is holding its issues conference in Greenville that day.)

Bars owners shun guns

Seems many Columbia bar and restaurant owners will say "no" to gun-toting patrons possibly having a shot with their beer.

Owners they plan to ban weapons after Gov. Nikki Haley signs a bill into law allowing South Carolinians with concealed-weapons permits to carry firearms into places serving alcohol, according to a report from The State's Jamie Self:

The question is not whether people licensed to carry concealed weapons are responsible and trustworthy, says Matt Shmanske (below), a 34-year-old concealed-weapons permit holder and owner of a restaurant and two bars near Five Points.

“(The gun) can get away from you,” Shmanske said. “Other people could take your gun and use it against you. Simply no good can come from having guns in bars.”

Shmanske has ordered signs prohibiting concealed weapons for the Moosehead Saloon and the Thirsty Parrot in Five Points and his Devine Street restaurant, Burger Tavern 77.

They're back

"Truthful Tuesday" protesters will be back at the State House on Tuesday.

The group, inspired by the "Moral Monday" protests in North Carolina, had a rally on the first day of the 2014 legislative session (photo below) that drew several hundred people to rally about health care, voting rights and education.

Tuesday, several people who say they have benefited from the federal Affordable Care Act will speak at a news conference outside of Republican Gov. Nikki Haley's office at 12:30 p.m.

Buzz Clicks

'Today's the day that my job ends' : Police dashboard video of the Friday arrest of South Carolina's former Department of Transportation director shows him telling the arresting trooper he had some vodka the night before but that he wasn't impaired. Visibly uncomfortable sitting in the officer's front seat with hands restrained behind his back, Robert St. Onge says, "Today's the day that my job ends." He resigned later that day. Full story

Swifter movement expected this year from Haley group : A slow political season meant a relatively quiet second half of 2013 for a pro-Nikki Haley political group. But that will change as the South Carolina governor’s race heats up this year. The Movement Fund raised $57,000 from four out-of-state contributors late in 2013, while spending more than twice that amount on consultants and lawyers, according to an Internal Revenue Service filing. Full story

SC businesses see hope for federal immigration reform : Leaders from three of South Carolina’s largest business interests renewed their calls for immigration reform, after Republican House leaders indicated they are willing to bring the issue up for debate. Full story

Hearing for large solar farm in Anderson : Sun-drenched South Carolina lags well behind its neighbors in solar production, but solar advocates who believe 2014 could be the year solar takes hold will make their pitch before a state board today on a proposal that would urge Duke Energy to develop one of the nation’s largest solar farms in Anderson County. Full story

You be the judge : A frenetic lobbying effort on behalf of both candidates running for the top spot on the state's Supreme Court is expected on Tuesday, one day ahead of the Legislature's scheduled winner-take-all vote in a race that has been marked by its intensity and gamesmanship. Full story

Wilson's introduces bill to halt Guard cuts : In what is likely the opening shot in a looming battle between Congress and the Army, Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., has introduced a bill that would freeze the Army’s plans to transfer all of the National Guard’s AH-64 Apache helicopters to the active-duty force and prevent most of the proposed Guard personnel cuts. Full story

Another group aiming for Graham : Tea Party Patriots, a prominent national group, is launching a super-PAC to engage heavily in Senate races and plans to target at least three Republican incumbents -- including South Carolina's Lindsey Graham. Full story

Pat McKinney on the trail : GOP candidate for lieutenant governor stumps in Anderson. Full story

No cruising on Myrtle Beach's Ocean Boulevard? : Those who were hoping to see a Bourbon Street type of pedestrian area on Ocean Boulevard in Myrtle Beach might not get their wish. Full story

State House meetings today


• 10 a.m.: State Regulation of Public Utilities Review Committee. (Gressette Room 105 / Agenda )


Full Senate meets at noon

• 3 p.m.: Finance Committee (Gressette Room 308 / Agenda )
• 3 p.m.: Judiciary Committee (Gressette Room 105 / Agenda )


Full House meets at noon

• 9:30 a.m.: Ways and Means Transportation and Regulatory subcommittee (Blatt 501 / Agenda )
• 9:30 a.m.: Ways and Means Public Education and Special Schools subcommittee (Blatt 521 / Agenda )
• 10 a.m.: Ways and Means Higher Education, Technical and Cultural subcommittee (Blatt 321 / Agenda )
• 10:30 a.m.: Ways and Means Legislative, Executive, and Local Government Subcommittee (Blatt 511 / Agenda )
• 11 a.m. Majority Caucus (Blatt 112)
• 11 a.m.: Minority Caucus (Blatt 305)
• 11 a.m.: Ways and Means Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice subcommittee (Blatt 409 / Agenda )
• 11:45 a.m.: Greenville County Legislative Delegation (Blatt 501)
• 11:45: Leadership Colleton (Blatt 318)
• 2 p.m. (or one hour after House adjourns): LCI Regulations subcommittee (Blatt 403)
• Upon Adjournment: Minority Caucus (Blatt 112)
• One hour after House adjourns: Ways and Means Healthcare subcommittee (Blatt 108 / Agenda )
• One hour after House adjourns: Ways and Means Higher Education, Technical, and Cultural Subcommittee (Blatt 321 / Agenda )
• One hour after House adjourns: Ways and Means Transportation and Regulatory Subcommittee (Blatt 501 / Agenda )
• 2:30 p.m. or one and a half hours after House adjourns: Judiciary Committee (Blatt 516 / Agenda )
• One and a half hours after House adjourns: Ways and Means Legislative, Executive, and Local Government Subcommittee (Blatt 511 / Agenda )
• One and a half hours after House adjourns: Ways and Means Public Education and Special Schools Subcommittee (Blatt 521 / Agenda )
• 3 p.m.: Education and Public Works K-12 subcommittee (Blatt 433 / Agenda )

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A blog from The State's political team of Cassie Cope, Jamie Self and Andy Shain. Email tips to Follow The Buzz @buzzatthestate. Follow Cassie @cassielcope. Follow Jamie @jamiemself. Follow Andy @andyshain.

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