Tensions are usually high in the final week of a legislative session and things generally move at a frenetic pace. In this “final” week of the 2019 session, tensions between the House and Senate were at an all-time high and while the pace was frenetic, tangible outcomes were few…more on that a little later.
I had hoped to write today celebrating a major milestone on Mark Clark Expressway completion. Frustratingly, we end the week with no change. The Joint Bond Review Committee (JBRC) met on Wednesday morning to hear from their Mark Clark project review subcommittee about funding plans submitted by the South Carolina Department of Transportation, the South Carolina Infrastructure Bank and Charleston County. All presentations to the subcommittee over the last month were solid and all three parties feel confident in the funding strategy moving forward. We were hopeful that a vote would be taken Wednesday. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.
All of the House members on the JBRC felt they had all of the information they needed to move the project forward. Several of the five Senators serving on the committee said action needs to be taken on the Mark Clark. Senator Alexander, who heads up the subcommittee looking into the project, and Senator Leatherman, chairman of the JBRC, believed they needed more time. All of the House members, led by Leon Stavrinakis respectfully called for a vote but no vote was allowed.
Don’t despair folks, there is light at the end of this long, dark tunnel!
Under pressure from other members of the JBRC, Senators Leatherman and Alexander said that the subcommittee will meet before June 4 to vote to move the project forward. Senator Leatherman agreed that the full JBRC will vote at their next meeting on the Mark Clark and that meeting is tentatively scheduled for June 4.
Rest assured that we’re pushing hard for the meeting to happen as scheduled and will be there on June 4 in support.
Other Legislative Headlines
The House and Senate have been at odds over the last few weeks over Santee Cooper, the Carolina Panthers incentive package and Senate Bill S.1, passed in January, that limits the Governor’s recess appointment power. The last issue caused a real logjam in this final week of session.
The House didn’t take up the Senate’s appointment powers bill during session. So as we neared the final buzzer this week, the Senate amended more than 20 bills to include the S.1 language and sent them back to the House. The House leadership didn’t see the humor in that maneuver and refused to give critical third reading to Senate bills on the House calendar.
The resulting deadlock held several Chamber priorities in limbo until a deal was reached around 4 p.m. on Thursday. With only an hour left in the legislative session, things really picked up, but there wasn’t enough time to settle everything.
Due to that delay, more than 20 bills, including the state budget, will go to a conference committee where three members of the House and Senate get together to hammer out their differences in a bill.
The conference committee dealing with the budget will meet next week. The General Assembly will meet beginning May 20 to take up the budget conference report and allow time for all of those other conference committees to meet.
The Angel Investor Tax Credit – a Chamber priority – is in House bill 3986 which is going to a conference committee. We hope to get this critical tool for entrepreneurship to the finish line this year.
After the General Assembly leaves the week of May 20, they will return some time after Memorial Day to take up budget vetoes. It is likely they will also return some time in the fall to determine what to do with Santee Cooper. So this Thursday was Sine Die, the official end of the session. But not really.
Once things finally wrap in a couple of weeks I will give you a more robust update on what passed and didn’t this year. This being the first year of a two year session legislation that didn’t pass this year will remain on the calendar to be taken up next year.
Have a great weekend.