Politics & Government

S.C. Politics roundup

QUOTE OF THE DAY

"This is a significant step forward in jump-starting what I hope will be a renaissance in nuclear energy. ... And a renaissance in nuclear energy will create thousands of high-paying jobs."

- U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., on Obama administration loan guarantees that will provide $8 billion toward building nuclear power plants

CAMPAIGN TRAIL

Notes from election 2010.

Spears: Connor for lieutenant governor

Adjutant General Stan Spears has endorsed Bill Connor in his bid for the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor.

Spears, who is not seeking re-election, is the first statewide official to endorse in the race.

Spears said Connor's experience as a veteran meant he was the right person for the job. Connor was the first lieutenant governor candidate to air television ads during a car race this weekend.

Connor is battling Florence County Councilman Ken Ard for the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor. Charleston attorney Ashley Cooper is seeking the Democratic nomination. Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer, who is running for governor, is not seeking re-election.

- John O'Connor

CAPITOL CONNECTION

Lawmakers work to close payday loophole

Lawmakers said Tuesday it may be time to consider either banning payday lending in the state or severely capping the interest rate the lenders charge.

Several senators expressed frustration Tuesday with payday lenders' efforts to skirt newly passed regulations, the first placed on the industry since it was legalized in 1998.

"Unfortunately, too many payday lenders see regulation as a game with the point being to skirt whatever rules are in place so they can continue to abuse the most vulnerable citizens of our state," said Sen. Vincent Sheheen, D-Kershaw, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor.

About 100 payday lenders in South Carolina have switched their business licenses since last year to become supervised lenders. The switch allows them to extend bigger loans stretched over longer repayment terms. New regulations cap payday loans at $550.

New legislation under consideration this year is needed to prevent the payday lenders from switching licenses, then continuing to make the same short-term, high-interest loans, the lawmakers said.

"Every time we try to close a loophole, (the industry finds a way around it)," said Sen. David Thomas, R-Greenville, who heads the Senate committee that passed the new proposal expected to be debated later this week.

"I'm at the point where we may need to ban or cap (the industry) at 99 percent (interest)," Thomas said.

Switching licenses is only one of the loopholes the Legislature has uncovered in the law passed last year.

The new electronic database installed under the law to register and track outstanding payday loans can only record one loan per person at a time, leaving those with multiple loans devoid of the protections intended by the law, and at the mercy of the lenders who have taken to presenting the checks they hold from borrowers to banks for collection.

The new bill stops those actions, too.

- Roddie Burris

ECO-DEVO BILL DELAYED IN HOUSE

House lawmakers have delayed a bill that changes a number of state economic development incentives after lawmakers wanted more time to review the bill.

The bill allows local governments to lengthen the period of time of property tax breaks, gives a state economic development group more authority over a university research program and would eliminate corporate income taxes, among other changes.

The bill is championed by House Speaker Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston, and the House Ways and Means committee is scheduled to resume debate today.

- John O'Connor

VOTER ID AMONG HOUSE PRIORITIES

House lawmakers return to Columbia after a week's furlough facing a crowded calendar and a looming budget debate.

House Speaker Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston, said the calendar is lengthy.

Among the bills waiting are measures to ask voters whether they wanted an elected or appointed superintendent of education and secretary of state.

The second bill failed by one vote the first time on the floor, but Harrell thought the new version would pass after working with House Democrats.

"My sense is we'll probably have the votes to get it done," Harrell told House Republicans this morning.

Other bills would require voters to show ID to cast a ballot and another that allows police officers to search people on parole.

Another bill that is likely to come up this week would require candidates to disclose certain donations and expenses online during the two weeks prior to elections.

Harrell said the House will likely work long this week in order to move bills along prior to floor budget debate, which is scheduled for three weeks from now.

- John O'Connor

SENATE CONTINUES ESC DEBATE

South Carolina's jobless benefits agency would be part of the governor's Cabinet under a bill Senate lawmakers continued to discuss Tuesday.

The Senate resumed debate on an overhaul of the Employment Security Commission.

Republican Sen. Greg Ryberg of Aiken is pushing legislation that clamps down on employers abusing the jobless benefits system through routine layoffs and imposes tougher standards on jobless workers that would keep them from drawing benefits if fired for good cause.

The House also is working on its version of the bill, and debate in the lower chamber is expected today.

Neither side has addressed higher employer premiums to repay federal loans approaching $1 billion that are covering state benefit checks.

- The Associated Press

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