Members of the General Assembly return to Columbia for start of session

Members of the General Assembly return to Columbia for start of session
Members of the General Assembly return to Columbia for start of session (Source: Jason Raven)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Lawmakers returned to the State House Tuesday to continue their work in the legislative session.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle in the House and Senate said there are various issues they are hoping to tackle in 2020 like tax reform, Santee Cooper, what to do with the windfall in the budget, raises for state employees and teachers, and of course, education.

Senators made education a priority for them in 2020. Today, with a 40-4 vote they made the amended version of the education reform bill a special order. Which means that the bill will be the first thing they take up this year.

We spoke with Senator Katrina Shealy (R-Lexington) following the vote. She said, "We put it on special order so we're going to take it up starting tomorrow and we'll have to push forward with that before we can get on anything else."

Senator Vincent Sheheen (D-Kershaw) said this vote proves the Senate is serious about education reform. "I think it will take some time. We are in session for five months. I'm going to hold my colleagues and myself to the fire to make sure we accomplish education reform this year."

The House passed its version of the education reform bill in 2019.

Representatives said education will also be a priority for the House but they will be focused on other issues as well to start off the year.

Tuesday, they spent the day reading the dozens of pre-filed bills across the desk. Members of the House committee responsible for coming up with a budget plan began meeting today as well. The Ways and Means Committee will have a little extra money to work with due to the $1.8 billion windfall.

Representative Todd Rutherford (D-Richland) said, "We've got to meet the state's obligations. We can't do it without funding the Department of Corrections, funding DSS, making sure our IT needs are met and this is not a time for gimmicks."

Representative Chip Huggins (R-Lexington) said, We obviously want to give some back to the taxpayers - so we will be working hard on that. We have to make sure we spend the money in the best places for South Carolina."

Wednesday, lawmakers were supposed to receive a report from the Department of Administration with details on bids to buy, manage or reform Santee Cooper. According to a spokeswoman, the Department of Administration opted to extend the deadline for presenting the recommendations to lawmakers. They do not anticipate using the full sixty-day period authorized for the extension.

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