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On Wednesday Senator Hugh Leatherman attempted to place the Infrastructure Funding Bill (H. 3516), for special order. Placing the bill in a special order slot guarantees the bill will be debated this year. To place the bill for special order, a two-thirds majority (28 votes) vote is needed. This week the vote to place H.3516 on special order failed 23-18. Here’s the voting breakdown:
AYES (For Special Order): Alexander, Allen, Campbell, Cromer, Fanning, Gambrell, Gregory, Hutto, Jackson, Johnson, Kimpson, Leatherman, Malloy, J. Matthews, M. Matthews, McLeod, Nicholson, Rankin, Reese, Scott, Setzler, Sheheen, Williams
NAYS (No Special Order): Bennett, Climer, Corbin, Davis, Goldfinch, Grooms, Hembree, Martin, Massey, Peeler, Rice, Senn, Shealy, Talley, Timmons, Turner, Verdin, Young
ABSENT: Campsen (probably a nay), McElveen, Sabb (both probably ayes)
In conversations with Senate members leading up to the vote as well as our Chamber partners, it became obvious that this vote wasn’t going to go in our favor. In many cases, special order motions fail the first time they are tried due to political posturing. The Senate typically places the most important and contested pieces of legislation in a special order slot.
What Does This Mean?
Short and sweet: there is no deal yet. Several of the Senators who are sympathetic to the Chamber’s position, and will probably end up voting for the bill, said they are trying to extract a better deal from Senator Leatherman on a tax reduction or DOT reform. It is also important to keep in mind a bi-partisan group of Senators, as of yesterday afternoon, were still working on a deal that both sides can live with and that can withstand a gubernatorial veto.
Ultimately, this debate is no longer about road conditions, cost to drivers or the gas tax itself. This is now all about the internal politics of the State Senate. The divisions are deep and are rooted back in the President pro tempore election between Sen. Leatherman and Sen. Harvey Peeler (R-Cherokee) on January 25. If we look at today’s vote versus the vote for President pro tempore in January (28-16 for Sen. Leatherman), the votes are nearly identical: Only three Senators – Sens. Goldfinch, Martin and Senn – voted for Leatherman in January and voted “no” today.
On this issue, the Senate is fractured into at least four factions: The Democrats (18), the “Leatherman Republicans” (6), the “Massey Republicans” (11) and the “Never a Gas Tax Republicans” (10). There are two vacancies one in Anderson and Senator Courson has been suspended.
Shortly after the vote, the 11 “Massey Republicans” held a press conference in the lobby saying they were committed to passing a road funding bill this year. Attending the press conference were Bennett, Climer, Grooms, Hembree, Massey, Rice, Senn, Shealy, Talley, Timmons and Turner.
The Senate will begin debating the budget next week on the floor, so nothing else will be debated. They are scheduled to take furlough the week of April 10 for the Easter holiday unless the budget isn’t completed next week. Two things lead our Chamber partners to believe they will complete budget week in a timely fashion: The Masters is April 6-9 and The Heritage is April 13-16. A good handful of Senators have tickets to one or both of the tournaments and will be motivated to wrap up the budget debate.
Many in and around the Statehouse, including many of the Senators who voted no for special order, believe that something will pass this year but time is beginning to run out. We will be asking you to reach out to your Senator as early as next week. Stay tuned!
Meanwhile in the South Carolina House, they will begin debate of the Capital Improvement Bond Bill next week. The monies generated will be used by the state agencies, colleges, universities and technical schools for capital and technology improvements. Chairman of House Ways and Mean Brian White has stated that he wants to keep bond the bill under $500 million and will kill the bill if items are tacked on during debate on the floor. The current version of the bill totals over $498 million statewide. Locally the legislation includes:
- $10 million The South Carolina Ports Authority for terminal renovations
- $8 million The Citadel for Stevens Barracks, STEM Labs, and critical maintenance
- $12 million The College of Charleston for 58 George Street and the Silcox Physical Education and Health Center
- $25 million MUSC for critical capital maintance
- $87 million to be disturbed to the technical colleges statewide for capital needs
If the bill is successful, it will be the first bond bill for capital improvements in 17 years. That’s a lot of deferred maintenance over the years and it is very much needed throughout the state.
We need your help! As I mentioned above, Chairman White has stated that he will put this legislation on the shelf if the bill expands much above $500 million on the floor next week.
Please contact your House member and urge them to support the Capital Improvement Bond Bill in its current form by Noon on Tuesday.
House District 15 – Samuel Rivers
House District 92 – Joe Daning
House District 94 – Katie Arrington
House District 97 – Patsy Knight
House District 98 – Chris Murphy
House District 100 – Sylleste Davis
House District 102 – Joe Jefferson
House District 108 – Lee Hewitt
House District 109 – David Mack
House District 110 – William Cogswell
House District 111 – Wendell Gilliard
House District 112 – Mike Sottile
House District 113 – Seth Whipper
House District 114 – Lin Bennett
House District 115 – Peter McCoy
House District 116 – Robert Brown
House District 117 – Bill Crosby
House District 119 – Leon Stavrinakis
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