The Senate wrapped up debate on the budget and gave it third reading on Wednesday, while the House continued work in committees. Only three weeks remain on the 2014 legislative calendar - there is little time left to finish up work for the year.
Senators worked late nights this week before ultimately giving their version of the FY 2014-2015 $7 billion state budget third reading on Wednesday. Dedicated funding for SC’s crumbling infrastructure and highway system was not included in either version of the budget and has not been debated. The budget now heads back to the House and a likely conference committee to iron out the differences in each version.
Two weeks ago, the Senate unanimously passed H. 3893 relating to Common Core. The House passed the legislation before furloughing in April. In both bodies, the legislation keeps the current Common Core State Standards in place for math and English and language arts for the next school year. During that time, a review will be completed and new, state-developed standards must be in place by the 2015-16 school year.
The new standards or revisions must be approved by the Education Oversight Committee, as well as the General Assembly, and the State Department of Education would be required to notify the Governor and General Assembly of any plans to change existing standards. The legislation also removes South Carolina from the Smarter Balance assessment consortium. The Senate added a provision to create a review committee for the procurement of an assessment system. The House will likely debate the Senate changes to the Common Core legislation next week.
Two weeks ago, the Senate voted in favor of S.1189, legislation that aims to diversify utility companies’ energy generation portfolio by creating targets for renewable energy. The bill was sent to the House and passed the House LCI committee with a favorable report on Wednesday of this week. Debate on the House floor could begin as early as next week. S.1189 provides protections for rate payers and allows regulated utilities to recover costs associated with renewable energy production. The bill has drawn complaints from groups outside of SC, but interested parties in SC have worked together over the past year to find common ground on diversifying South Carolina’s energy generation.
Texting While Driving Bans
A novice driver texting ban that passed the Senate earlier this year S. 459, was amended by the House Education and Public Works Transportation committee this week to include H. 4386. H. 4386 is a bill with language that bans texting statewide and passed the House earlier this year. The bill is now on the House calendar and could be debated as early as next week.
Transportation and Infrastructure Funding
Two weeks ago, the Senate voted to set the Highway Funding legislation H.3412 for Special Order by a vote of 34-4, which will hopefully ensure that highway funding will be debated in the Senate this session. Now that the Senate has finished debating the budget, the business community hopes the clock doesn’t run out before this urgent matter is debated! The bill is a comprehensive transportation and infrastructure funding package that contains a host of funding proposals.
Unfortunately, so far this year there has been very little movement on road funding legislation - dedicated funding for SC’s crumbling infrastructure and highway system was notably missing from the House version of the budget and so far has not made it into the Senate version of the budget. Governor Haley called on the legislature to use at least $100 million of the “new” money for transportation funding in her “State of the State Address” in January. Last year’s efforts to address the state’s dire infrastructure needs were just a starting point, and the business community has urged the legislature to continue working toward solving our state’s road funding needs.
The South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce (SC DEW) released data this morning stating that SC’s unemployment rate dropped to 5.3% in April from 5.5% in March. This is the lowest unemployment rate seen in SC in 13 years with the number of South Carolinians working reaching a historic high of just over 2 million.
Information provided by the Greater Easley Chamber of Commerce