Sunday, Dec. 3, 2006
foreshadow future debates
SC Statehouse Report
3, 2006 - - If you want to know what big issues will be debated
on the floor of the state House and Senate next year, all
you have to do is check out the legislative study committees
at work during the off-legislative season.
They run the gamut - - from groups of lawmakers that look
at precise issues like state boundaries and retiree health
funding to those that study crime, restructuring and tax reform.
Senate President Pro Tem Glenn McConnell, the Charleston
Republican who also chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee,
said study committees give lawmakers a chance to delve into
complex issues without the pressure of the daily legislative
"These issues aren't something you can do in one meeting,"
McConnell said. "The study committees thoroughly review
these complex issues and bring to the table some consensus
legislation that can move forward."
That generally saves time during the session on the floor
and helps keep it from being clogged for weeks with one issue.
An added benefit is that because issues can be more fully
aired, researched and debated in a study committee, lawmakers
don't rush to pass something that might have unintended consequences,
Examples of past study committee work that led to smoother
action include tort reform, general government restructuring
and property tax relief. Here's a look at some of the issues
that have been in various study committees over the last few
Criminal justice. Lawmakers have spent the fall looking
at the court system, judges' workloads, gang activity, dockets,
parole, probation and more. The comprehensive review is expected
to lead to major improvements in how the state deals with
Property. A group of House and Senate lawmakers have
until March 15 to deliver a report on eminent domain actions,
regulatory takings and slum clearance.
Agency earmarks and restricted accounts. While the
state's general fund budget is $6.1 billion a year, various
earmarked and restricted accounts total another $6.7 billion.
But these things, which include college tuition, agency fees,
fines and assessments, aren't part of the annual general budgeting
process. A committee is reviewing to ensure that this big
but quiet part of government is fair.
Salaries. Another committee has a few weeks to deliver
a report on salaries of legislators, constitutional officers
Energy. A larger committee that includes some executive
office input is reviewing energy independence issues and should
deliver a report on Jan. 15.
Education funding. A House-Senate committee is reviewing
education formula funding.
Computer testing. There's another group looking at
whether state assessment testing for education can become
Immigration. A review is ongoing about how state immigration
laws can be improved in light of federal changes.
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Workers' comp. A Senate group is looking at whether
the state workers' compensation laws need to change. Business
groups are complaining that premiums are rising too quickly
and putting a burden on businesses, but the committee also
is working to ensure that any changes would be fair to employees.
Medical malpractice. Another Senate group is reviewing
tort reform laws on birth-related neurological injuries.
Department of Transportation. House Speaker Bobby
Harrell is organizing a House committee to look into the state
Department of Transportation, which is under fire following
a critical legislative audit.
Based on the plethora of study committees, two things ought
to be clear:
- Lawmakers have been working harder than you might think
when they haven't been in session to ensure the coming session
goes more smoothly.
- The coming session is going to be packed with major issues:
restructuring, school funding, criminal justice reform,
workers' comp reform, energy initiatives and more.
Send your comments to Andy Brack at email@example.com.
His book of commentary, Bugging
the Palmettos, is available for
here for more.
12/1: The real
meaning of shopping
Another great cartoon from Bill McLemore:
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