COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) – South Carolina lawmakers have spent hours at the State House this week trying to get bills passed and a budget for the state before session officially adjourned Thursday.
The last 2 weeks in the capital were spent handling unfinished business, but even with the lawmakers’ return, there are still big items left on the table.
“We are in a pandemic as a result. Our session was centered around addressing those emergency needs,” explained Senator Marlon Kimpson.
The change in priorities means lawmakers had limited time to pass key legislation not related to COVID-19.
In the last 2 weeks the General Assembly has been able to pass some of those bills.
The pandemic brought the lack of broadband access to the forefront.
“One of the biggest things we accomplished was this broadband incentive bill,” said Representative Seth Rose.
But the bill passed this week, offers relief by giving financial incentives to utility companies to expand their network.
Rep. Rose continued, “When you have electric coops that have power poles, it allows the telecoms to go in and work out a deal to use those same power poles for the purpose of broadband.”
Lawmakers also addressed flooding concerns. A bill was passed giving local governments the flexibility to use hospitality tax money to mitigate the issue instead of having to use the funds for tourism projects.
Senator Kimpson elaborated on the purpose of this legislation. “In Charleston, this additional source of revenue will be put to good use daily because what we have is sunny day flooding or nuisance flooding that’s a regular occurrence.”
But even with the passing of those bills, several items, like the state’s budget, are still on hold. The budget would include extra money for state employees and teachers.
“Teachers have been very patient and they are on the front lines with our children,” added Kimpson.
“I think a lot of us can agree we aren’t doing enough for our public school system, the rankings suggest that. Last year we did something significant, but it was not enough,” continued Rose.
The Senate’s version of the budget has been referred to House Ways and Means Committee; however, we can’t expect those conversations to continue until the new year.
Another hot issue that will be postponed until January is the fate of state owned utility company Santee Cooper and whether or not the company will be sold, or restructured.