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Senate Summary Week of May 20 – 22, 2008

May 26, 2008
Senate Summary Week of May 20 - 22, 2008
 
Quote of the Week– "This is not a mean budget, but it is a lean
budget.”
Senate Finance Committee Vice-Chairman, Harvey Peeler (R-Cherokee),
commenting on the budget agreement reached this week by Senate and House
members who worked to resolve the differences in the proposed
appropriation plan. 
 
Budget Approved by General Assembly (Thursday, May 22)
The House and Senate approved the budget agreement reached by a
six-member joint legislative conference committee this week. The $7
billion appropriations plan is education friendly, providing
approximately $148 million new General Fund dollars to K-12, and gives
priority to health care for low-income and elderly citizens. The 2008-09
General Appropriations Bill, which goes into effect July 1, will now be
sent to the governor for his consideration. 
 
“This has obviously been a tough budget year, but I think we have
achieved a responsible budget that addresses the core needs of the
state,” says Senate Finance Chairman Senator Hugh Leatherman
(R-Florence). “This year’s budget is focused on K-12 education and
maintaining health care for indigent care and senior citizens. Overall I
am pleased with the work that we did and the compromise that was worked
out in committee.”
 
Government Restructuring on Senate Calendar        
The Senate Judiciary Committee gave a favorable recommendation to a
government-restructuring bill (H.3590) this week that will establish a
new Department of Administration. The bill is an attempt to move purely
administrative, day-to-day functions of state government under the
purview of the governor’s office. The new department would become part
of the Cabinet with the installation of a new administration in January
of 2011. 
 
Historical Document Bill Returns to the House (Thursday, May 22)
The South Carolina Senate approved the “Foundations of American Law
and Government” display bill (H.3159) this week.  The bill allows for
the placement of a historical documents display in public buildings.
 
The Declaration of Independence, Bill of Rights, Ten Commandments,
Lord’s Prayer, as well as other specified historical documents and
speeches are all acceptable items to include in the display. All of the
documents to be included in the display are documents that have played a
significant role in the foundation and development of the American
system of law and government.
 
‘I Believe’ License Plate Could Soon Be Available (Thursday, May
22)
The General Assembly has approved the creation of the ‘I Believe’
license plate. The new plate will contain the words “I Believe”
along with a cross superimposed on a stained glass window.  The measure
will now go to the governor for his consideration. 
 
Passage of Cigarette Tax Historic (Thursday, May 22)
This week the General Assembly approved a bill (H.3567) that would
raise the per-pack tax on cigarettes to 57 cents, up from the current 7
cents. Most of the $159 million that will be generated by the increase
will be used to extend health insurance coverage in the public and
private sectors. This week’s final approval of the bill was the first
time in 31 years that South Carolina has increased its cigarette tax.
 
Despite the widespread public support for the increase, Governor Mark
Sanford has vowed to veto the bill because it is not revenue neutral.
 
Payday Lending Stays Alive But It Is Sitting On The Casket (Thursday,
May 22)
In an effort to keep legislation regulating payday lending alive, the
Senate approved another bill (H. 4058) this week that will give the
House one more opportunity to vote on the issue.  Previous legislation
has stalled in the House Labor, Commerce and Industry Committee. 
 
Senators passionate about regulating the payday lending industry hope
the House will consider the latest bill before the end of this session,
which also brings to a close the two-year legislative cycle.  The bill
has been sent to the House for consideration. 
 
Reduced Cigarette Ignition Propensity Standards Adopted  (Wednesday,
May 23)
The Senate has approved the "Reduced Cigarette Ignition Propensity
Standards and Firefighter Protection Act" (H.4900). The bill requires
all cigarettes sold in South Carolina to comply with the American
Society of Testing and Materials "Standard Test Method for Measuring the
Ignition Strength of Cigarettes." In simple terms, a lit cigarette
should not generate enough heat to continue burning if left unattended. 
The bill now returns to the House. 
 
South Carolina Public Invocation Act Passes General Assembly(Thursday,
May 22)
The General Assembly gave final approval this week to the “South
Carolina Public Invocation Act" (S.638), sponsored by Senator Chip
Campsen (R-Charleston). The bill allows a local or state government body
to adopt policies preserving the tradition of opening public meetings
with an invocation. 
 
A member of the public body must administer the invocation on a
rotating basis, or the body can elect a chaplain from among its members,
or an invocation speaker may be selected on a rotating basis from
religious leaders serving established religious congregations in the
local community where the public body meets. The bill now goes before
the governor for his consideration. 
 
Spending Limit Bill Returns to Committee (Wednesday, May 21)
A majority of the Senate voted to approve a constitutional amendment
(S.718) that would limit state spending, but supporters of the effort
did not gather the 31 votes needed to satisfy the two-thirds majority
required to pass the bill.  After the vote the constitutional amendment
and a supporting statutory bill (S.1220) were recommitted to the
Judiciary Committee.
 
In the Week Ahead:
DPS Director Confirmation Hearing Rescheduled for Tuesday 
The Senate confirmation hearing process for Department of Public Safety
Director nominee, Mark Keel, will begin on Tuesday, May 27 at 2:30 (308
Gressette). Governor Mark Sanford nominated Keel, the current Chief of
Staff at the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, in mid-April. Keel
has been with SLED since 1979. 
 
Illegal Immigration on Senate Special Order
The Senate will once again work to pass an illegal immigration reform
bill next week. Prior to the Senate’s adjournment on Thursday, May 22,
Senator Glenn McConnell (R-Charleston) requested H.4400 be moved into
Special Order status. This puts the bill in position for debate on
Tuesday, May 27.  
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