With a week left in the legislative session, the Senate Republican Caucus is pleased to announce the passage of a balanced budget – one that not only funds our state’s needs but, also provides tax relief.
Highlights include $152 million in new money for schools, $180 million for the port of Charleston and $20 million for the Commerce Closing Fund. The budget also pays for a 3 percent raise for state employees, a $77 million tax cut for small businesses and $500,000 to protect our voter ID law from Democratic lawsuits. Also included in the budget is funding for the lawsuit over Savannah Harbor Dredging.
Budget bases covered, the Senate Republican Caucus is looking to finish the session strong wth some much-needed reforms, but in the face of Democratic resistance.
Last week Sen. Gerald Malloy (D) continued what seems to have become an unfortunate end-of-session tradition for the Democrats, filibustering our reform proposals relentlessly. This time, Malloy is filibustering a reform to protect the free market by not allowing local governments to get into the telecommunications business. While Democrats obstruct, the Senate Republican Caucus continues to push our cause.
Of the list of reforms we hope to pass by the end of the session, the Pollution Control Act is first. This bill reestablishes the balance of interest between property owners and the environment, offering equal protection to both. The line was blurred last year after the SC Supreme Court ruled against a developer, deciding they needed a permit because the US Pollution Control Act required one. Taking it a step further, the court ruled that any SC citizen has the right to sue another person or entity on the grounds of discharging pollutants into the environment. Prior to that, the law was interpreted to mean that a plaintiff had to be directly impacted by another in order to sue. Passing the Pollution Control Act to make sure our state’s job creators aren’t impeded by lawsuit-happy extremists.
Second is Flow Control. This bill prohibits local governments, like HorryCounty, from enacting ordinances that mandate all in-county waste be disposed of at county-owned landfills. As it stands, the current mandate allows HorryCounty to charge higher prices than other area landfills, a fact that leaves haulers hurting. Putting in jeopardy the future of the private waste market and the integrity of the free market system, this trend will spread if not stopped by the Senate.
Third on the list of must-pass reforms is the Peer Review Act. In short, it encourages full, candid review of patient care while promoting the safety and quality of that care. It also protects hospital staff in the event of catastrophic injury occurring in the hospital. This bill has so far been yet another casualty of Democratic obstructionism – Senator Malloy has been singlehandedly impeding the bill, and has done so for more than two months
Finally is the bill outlawing so called “Sweepstakes” machines, the new generation of video poker that is cropping up across South Carolina. If action is not taken against these machines within the year, it is feared the state will become overrun with them.
We also plan to finish work on two important items that have cleared both the House and the Senate, but with differences between the two bills that must be worked out in a conference committee. The Department of Administration bill and the Retirement System Reform bill will be deliberated in conference committees next week, and hopefully sent back out the House and Senate floors in short order.
Here at the Senate Republican Caucus we understand our responsibility to the citizens of South Carolina. Going into the final week of the legislative session, our goal is to pass reforms and more, despite the objections of Democrats that seek to hold our state back.