Politics & Government

State budget cuts could be automatic

South Carolina's top legislators want automatic budget cuts for all agencies that can deal with future budget shocks more quickly.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Hugh Leatherman said Monday the package of changes he's backing would trigger budget cuts when state revenues are 2 percent short.

Current law lets a state budget oversight board decide whether to cut spending when revenues are 4 percent short.

Leatherman and top officers of the House and Senate are backing that proposal as well as other changes that include increasing the state's reserves to handle shortfalls.

South Carolina has cut 9 percent from its budget since September as the recession and high unemployment slam tax collections.

- The Associated Press

Filing opens for Columbia City Council

Three people officially filed for Columbia City Council seats Monday, the first day of filing.

Councilwoman Tameika Isaac Devine filed for re-election as an at-large council member.

Sparkle Clark, a United States Postal Service employee and nature photographer, filed for the mayor's race.

Walter Powell Jr. filed for the 4th District council seat being vacated by Councilman Kirkman Finlay, who has said he is running for mayor.

Filing closes Feb. 5. The election is April 6.

- Adam Beam

Three file for seats on Swansea Town Council

Three candidates have filed for two seats on Swansea Town Council that were left open with the November resignations of two frustrated councilmen.

Jerald Sanders is seeking to fill the two remaining years of the seat vacated by former Councilman Petey Bailey, Lexington County elections director Dean Crepes said Monday.

Former mayoral candidate Doris W. Simmons and Benjamin G. Simons are seeking the seat left empty by Councilman Barrett Black's departure.

A special election is set for Feb. 2.

Black said he and Bailey resigned out of frustration that their efforts to change the town were consistently defeated in 3-2 votes on council.

The two stepped down just after council voted Nov. 9 to grant re-elected Mayor Ray Spires a $8,000 raise and the rest of council $400 pay boosts while the town is nearly $500,000 in debt.

- Clif LeBlanc

S.C. Supreme Court to hear election case

CHARLESTON - The S.C. Supreme Court will decide whether candidates who lose a primary election can run in the general election under a different political party.

The Post and Courier reported Monday the justices will hear arguments this week in a case concerning state laws that allow a candidate to represent more than one party on the ballot, but prevent a candidate from running after losing a primary.

The American Civil Liberties Union is arguing for Eugene Platt, who tried to run for the S.C. House in November 2008 as a Green Party candidate after losing the Democratic Party's nomination.

Democrat Ann Peterson Hutto won the election.

The case would not put her term in jeopardy. The state's high court would provide clarity for future elections.

- The Associated Press

Cayce to hold public hearing on smoking

Cayce residents and business people will get a chance today to voice their opinions on the divisive issue of whether to ban smoking in workplaces.

Council has scheduled a public hearing at 6 p.m. at City Hall in advance of a first vote later tonight on a ban that mirrors the new one in unincorporated Lexington County.

That ban, which took effect New Year's Day, prohibits lighting up in most workplaces but allows outdoor smoking decks, largely at bars and restaurants.

Private clubs would be exempted but only if they are registered as nonprofit operations and are not effectively bars or restaurants.

City council also is scheduled to give final approval to new controls on the reimbursement of expenses for its members.

- Clif LeBlanc