The Buzz

August 16, 2014

The Buzz: Golf, BMWs and agenda-setting among topics at GOP legislative caucus retreats

This weekend, S.C. House Republicans flocked to Myrtle Beach to play golf Friday and talk Saturday about the next legislative session.

The Buzz

A blog from The State's political team of Cassie Cope, Jamie Self and Andy Shain. Email tips to thebuzz@thestate.com.

This weekend, S.C. House Republicans flocked to Myrtle Beach to play golf Friday and talk Saturday about the next legislative session.

They likely talked about ethics reform, which House Speaker Bobby Harrell’s spokesman, Greg Foster, said would be a priority next year along with addressing the state’s road and infrastructure needs.

Representatives have spent two months in their districts since the June end of the legislative session, hearing from their constituents. A big concern that constituents regularly are bringing up is roads, Foster said.

This year, a bill by the GOP-controlled House died that would have directed to roads the second half of revenues raised by the state sales tax on vehicles. Next year, the goal likely will be to identify an already-existing source of state revenue that can be dedicated to road repairs, Foster said.

While House Republicans teed off Friday, their Senate counterparts are waiting to have their retreat until November, said Senate Republican Caucus executive director Mark Harmon.

Senate Republicans likely will gather in Charleston because they went to Greenville last year, Harmon said.

“We don’t have as many golfers as the House does,” Harmon said.

While the agenda for the Charleston retreat has not been set, it likely won’t include the same adrenaline rush as last year, when senators test drove BMWs at the carmaker’s Upstate facility, Harmon said. “I don’t think we’ll be racing cigarette boats or anything.”

Like House Republicans, the topics that GOP senators, who hold a majority of the Senate’s seats, likely will discuss include ethics reform and road funding, Harmon said.

The Senate’s Democratic Caucus likely will meet in November or December, after the Nov. 4 general election, said Phil Bailey, an adviser to Senate Democrats and, formerly, director of the caucus.

A date and location for that meeting has not been set. Last year, it was held at the clubhouse at Defender Services in Lower Richland, Bailey said.

A former tradition of Senate Democrats was a duck hunt, held the morning after their retreat, a concession to former Senate Minority Leader John Land, D-Clarendon, an avid hunter, Bailey said. But Senate Democrats have not been hunting on their retreat recently, Bailey said.

Senate Democrats will discuss what their priorities should be during the 2015 session at the retreat, hoping to reach consensus.

Meanwhile, House Democrats won’t have their retreat until next year.

House Democratic Caucus executive director Duane Cooper said the tentative date will be the Thursday and Friday before the session starts.

This year, for the first time, House Democrats held their retreat in January, and it worked well, Cooper said. The retreat was held at The Mills House in Charleston, and it will likely be in Charleston again next year, Cooper said.

Legislative topics likely to be discussed by House Democrats include ethics reform, legalizing medical marijuana, school funding and possibly the state’s gambling laws, Cooper said.

SC Dems chat with McAuliffe

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe called S.C. Democratic Party donors and supporters Thursday.

The donors were thrilled to chat with McAuliffe about his race, which changed the Virginia governor’s mansion to Democratic blue from Republican red, said S.C. Democratic Party spokesperson Kristin Sosanie.

McAuliffe, whose expertise is in fundraising, was chairman of the Democratic National Committee from 2001 to 2005 and chaired campaigns for both Bill and Hillary Clinton.

Political science experts to weigh in on governor’s race rematch

Five political scientists from colleges across the state will weigh in Thursday on November’s rematch in the governor’s race that once again pits Republican Gov. Nikki Haley of Lexington against state Sen. Vincent Sheheen of Camden.

Scott Buchanan of The Citadel, Scott Huffmon of Winthrop University, Todd Shaw of the University of South Carolina, Alissa Warters of Francis Marion University and David Woodard of Clemson University are set to participate.

Charles Bierbauer, dean of USC’s College of Mass Communication and Information Studies, will moderate. USC political scientist Don Fowler organized the symposium.

The event, which is free and open to the public, will take place from 7 to 9 p.m. in the campus room of Capstone House.

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