SC's 2013 Session Ends With Much Left Undone - WSPA.com

SC's 2013 Session Ending With Much Left Undone

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COLUMBIA, S.C. -

The South Carolina legislature ended its regular session Thursday at 5 p.m. after admittedly not getting a lot done.

"I'd say the legislature, unfortunately, accomplished very little," says House Minority Leader Rep. Todd Rutherford, D-Columbia. "I'd say that the citizens of South Carolina should be disappointed in this Republican-led legislature that we did not address roads and bridges," he says. "We had a huge security breach, and we've done very little to address that security breach."

Fixing the state's roads and bridges was one of the main issues for the legislature. The SCDOT says it needs an additional $29 billion over the next 20 years just to bring roads and bridges up to a level it would call "good". But lawmakers could not agree on how to raise the money to do that, especially when many of them are adamantly opposed to any kind of tax increase, and Gov. Nikki Haley told lawmakers she would veto a gas tax increase.

Lawmakers did agree to put $50 million in the budget to use to borrow $500 million for roads and bridges, but that's far below the additional $1.4 billion a year the SCDOT says it needs.

Rep. Phil Owens, R-Easley, chairman of the House Education and Public Works Committee that oversees roads and bridges, says, "Have we accomplished big, major issues as far as funding on either side of the equation? I don't think we have. I think we still have that challenge before us."

He says lawmakers did take steps to improve schools, including putting more money into the base student cost, and providing $21 million for instructional materials for teachers.

Lawmakers said when they started this session that ethics reform was going to be one of their top priorities, but they adjourned without passing an ethics reform bill. The House passed a bill, but it died in the Senate.

Senate Ethics Committee Chairman Sen. Luke Rankin, R-Myrtle Beach, says the case against Sen. Robert Ford shows that the Senate doesn't need to make major changes. Ford resigned during a Senate ethics investigation into his personal use of campaign funds.

"This is not an issue that affects people's daily lives," he says. "This is not a job creator. This is not one where our children are better prepared, better trained, ready for college, ready for industry, ready for work. This is really more of a political football that, again, at the end of the day, we believe we have a system that works in the Senate, with our rules."

Lawmakers will go back to Columbia on June 18th, for up to three days, to work on bills that have passed both bodies but in different versions. That includes finishing work on the state budget, which takes effect July 1.

 

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