As South Carolina shifts into recovery mode after historic rainfalls and flooding this month, questions are swirling about what the S.C. General Assembly will do to help flood victims and at what cost.
The Buzz has some answers:
Will the S.C. Legislature come back early to address flood damage?
State House Reps. Rick Quinn, R-Lexington, and James Smith, D-Richland, have called for an emergency session to borrow money for roads and help homeowners with costs of rebuilding not covered by insurance or federal disaster aid.
But state Sen. Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence – the leader of the Senate – said Tuesday he does not plan to call senators back to work before January because lawmakers do not yet have clear estimates of the damage. Leatherman appointed a special panel Friday to assess flood damage.
Gov. Nikki Haley said Wednesday she does not foresee lawmakers needing an emergency session.
And House Speaker Jay Lucas, R-Darlington, said his chamber’s state budget-writing committee will hold hearings in coming weeks to determine the impact of the flood and potential costs of the recovery. A spokesperson for the speaker would not say whether Lucas thinks that work will continue until January, which would rule out an emergency session.
Are state employees’ bonuses safe?
Yes, all you people emailing The Buzz!
One-time $800 bonuses for state employees, who earn less than $100,000 a year, went out late last week. (Check your bank account). The bonus does not apply to school teachers who are paid by school districts.
Will lawmakers consider relief for homeowners?
Quinn and Smith – the bipartisan House duo – are pushing for aid to homeowners. But Leatherman said using the state budget to assist homeowners victimized by the flood would “have to be looked at very carefully.”
Translation: He’s noncommittal.
State Sen. Larry Martin, R-Pickens, said the state likely can do something for homeowners, but it should not be in the form of grants.
“We want to be as helpful as we can be, and maybe we can set up a specific flood victims program to, maybe, do some low-interest loans,” Martin said. “But I don’t see us paying off mortgages on houses or writing a check to a homeowner.”
What other ideas are being discussed?
Borrowing more money for roads.
State Sen. John Courson, R-Richland, said a proposal to borrow money for maintenance at state colleges and universities could be expanded to include money for transportation when lawmakers return to work in January.
Leatherman said last week he plans to push that borrowing package for education again next year.
How much federal aid could the state receive?
Perhaps, a lot.
If Hurricane Hugo is any guide, within the first 60 days after that hurricane hammered the state, federal aid had topped $250 million.
Will the state have to spend money on the recovery?
In mid-1990, the S.C. General Assembly agreed to borrow $31 million to pay costs related to Hugo, which made landfall in South Carolina late Sept. 21, 1989. The money included $18 million in matching funds for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
▪ Gov. Nikki Haley was in Georgia when the historic rainstorm struck Columbia on Oct. 3-4. Haley left South Carolina for a Republican Governors Association’s retreat in Sea Island after giving a media briefing about the threat of flooding at the S.C. Emergency Management Center on Oct. 2, her office said. The retreat draws large donors to the association. She returned to South Carolina about noon Oct. 4. “Gov. Haley has been working on the flood all day, every day, since before it began,” said Rob Godfrey, Haley’s deputy chief of staff.
▪ A State Ethics Commission hearing into Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster’s possible excessive campaign contributions, scheduled for Wednesday, has been postponed. The two sides are in settlement negotiations, commission director Herb Hayden said. A final order could be issued within several weeks. McMaster was charged with accepting $72,700 in improper contributions from 51 donors to pay off debt from his 2010 bid for the GOP nomination for governor.
2016 in SC
Where the presidential candidates will be this week:
▪ Jeb Bush, Florida’s former GOP governor, will join U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-N. Charleston, for a town-hall meeting at Bishop England High School on Daniel Island at 9 a.m. Saturday.
▪ Republican Carly Fiorina, a former Hewlett-Packard chief executive, has two speaking events Friday — University of South Carolina-Beaufort’s auditorium at 2 p.m. and at Magnolia Hall in Sun City at 4 p.m.
▪ U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Seneca Republican, will speak to the S.C. Construction Financial Management Association about the threat of radical Islam on Monday at 12:15 p.m. at the Poinsett Club in Greenville.
▪ U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., will join S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson, R-Lexington, in West Columbia on Friday for a Conservative Leadership Project presidential forum on legal issues. The event starts at 5:30 p.m. at Brookland Banquet and Conference Center, 1066 Sunset Blvd. Rubio will speak at a Concerned Veterans of America town hall in Greenville at 11 a.m. Saturday.
▪ Republican Donald Trump will hold a rally at the Anderson Civic Center on Monday at 6 p.m.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect the correct date Hurricane Hugo hit South Carolina.