What’s on tap for S.C. lawmakers in 2020

What’s on tap for S.C. lawmakers in 2020
Santee Cooper, education reform, an abortion ban, and a large state budget with a windfall are among the issues state lawmakers will take up when they return to the State House on Jan. 14. (Source: WIS)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - When lawmakers return to Columbia for the start of the second year of a two-year session, they'll have a lot on their plates.

Some of the big issues they'll be taking up include Santee Cooper, education reform, an abortion ban, and a large state budget with a windfall.

In November, leaders with Santee Cooper approved a plan that would restructure the utility. That reform plan has remained private and will be released to the public when the Department of Administration sends lawmakers a report on the different bids to purchase, manage, or reform Santee Cooper.

They are expected to receive that report no later than Jan. 15.

We spoke with Senator Paul Campbell in 2019 during a committee hearing. He said Santee Cooper needs to be addressed by lawmakers this session.

"This is the largest financial fiasco in the history of South Carolina. Between what SCE&G did and what Santee Cooper did and put 9 billion dollars in a hole in the ground that will never produce a kilowatt. Now we have to go and fix it as best as we can," he said.

Ratepayers are still paying for the nuclear fiasco at VC Summer. Santee Cooper has nearly $7 billion in debt. A good chunk of that debt is from the failed nuclear project. Santee Cooper officials said they did not raise rates for their customers in 2019 and don't plan on raising rates in 2020.

People who retired after working with Santee Cooper for years are watching very closely. They hope it is not sold.

"The best case would be working with a Southern Company or Dominion to do a joint dispatch to share some resources and to have more efficient operations," Glen Stephens said.

When it comes tot he budget, lawmakers will have a $1.8 billion windfall to work with. Lawmakers have different priorities. Some want to address critical needs and return some of that extra money to the taxpayers.

But before senators get to Santee Cooper and the budget, they'll tackle the education reform bill. The Senate Education Committee voted to send an amended version of the House bill to the Senate floor.

SC For ED, the group responsible for organizing the teacher rally on May 1, 2019, has been the biggest critic of the legislation. They said some teachers do not feel their main concerns have been addressed despite working with lawmakers in 2019.

SC For ED has laid out an eight-point legislative agenda. They are giving lawmakers until March 17 to comply. They said, if there are issues still not addressed, they might schedule another rally.

"I feel like teachers are at a point across the country where they want to get things done in the system and with the legislature,” said Steve Nuzum, who is a high school teacher in Richland County, “but if that doesn't happen, I don't know what's going to happen then."

The House and Senate will convene on Jan. 14.

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