Effort to cut Medicaid payments stalled
The Senate has approved it and Gov. Nikki Haley wants it, but House lawmakers failed Wednesday to take up a proposal to cut by 3 percent state payments to doctors and hospitals who treat the poor and disabled.
That means the state’s deficit-running Medicaid agency, the Department of Health and Human Services, will not be able to institute the cut early next month, as it had hoped, to save money.
“It definitely throws a wrench into it, but I don’t know if it’s a big wrench,” said Jeff Stensland, Health and Human Services spokesman. “Every day it’s not in place, it’s savings lost.”
The House is likely to take up the bill today or next week.
House leaders had hoped to do so Wednesday. But the House Rules Committee failed to get the two-thirds vote of its members needed to move cutting payments to health-care providers to the top of the House’s agenda.
The vote failed because state Rep. Kris Crawford, R-Florence, a doctor who sees Medicaid patients, recused himself after initially saying he would vote. Crawford said he changed his mind because lawmakers and the governor’s office recently have raised questions about lawmakers should cast votes in instances that could be viewed as conflicts of interest.
There also is no love loss between Crawford and Haley, who backs the bill.
During last year’s gubernatorial race, Crawford asked a judge to throw out tax-evasion charges pending against him, claiming it was impossible to get a fair trial because Haley discussed his case on the campaign trail, in an attempt to make her own tax problems seem less serious. Haley repeatedly paid her taxes late and was fined for it.
House OKs merging Probation, Corrections agencies
The S.C. House gave key approval Wednesday to proposal to merge the state Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services into the state Department of Corrections.
The restructuring bill, sponsored by state Rep. Bakari Sellers, D-Bamberg, split House Democrats but easily won over Republicans who control the House.
Some Democrats said the move would save the state money. Others doubted the cost savings and worried it would strip the state of its only African American who heads a cabinet agency, newly appointed director Kela Thomas.
After one more procedural vote, the bill, backed by Republican Gov. Nikki Haley, heads to the GOP-controlled Senate.
Bill to yank driving privileges of dropouts stalls
Discussion has been delayed on a bill to strip students who drop out of school or skip too many classes of driving privileges until they are 18. A House subcommittee was set to consider the bill Wednesday, but the meeting was postponed.
The Associated Press
Bill to ban smoking in cars with kids delayed
Drivers or passengers who puff away with a child under 6 in the car could be fined in South Carolina under a legislative proposal.
Proponents say it’s about protecting children from the dangers of second-hand smoke, including increased asthma attacks, ear and respiratory infections, as well as cancer.
“The child is a victim,” state Rep. Joan Brady, R-Columbia, said Wednesday. “They really are held captive in a car.”
The idea has died twice before in the libertarian-leaning S.C. Legislature. But it got a boost last month when the new bi-partisan Committee on Children – made up of legislators, agency heads, and residents – recommended its passage.
The bill was set for discussion in a House subcommittee on Wednesday, but the meeting was canceled as debate continued on the House floor.
The Associated Press
House debates keeping incandescent bulbs
Legislators wanting to keep traditional incandescent lights available to consumers are arguing over the side benefits of the bulbs – warmth and cooking power.
The Incandescent Light Bulb Freedom Act came up for debate Wednesday for the first time in the S.C. House. It would allow S.C. manufacturers to continue making the bulbs after federal energy efficiency laws phase them out in favor of lower wattage models.
Critics say the incandescent bulbs waste energy and generate too much heat.
But state Rep. Mike Pitts, R-Laurens, said heat can be used for other things such as keep doghouses warm in the winter and baking small cakes in Easy-Bake Ovens.
The Associated Press