By Ben Homeyer
A new Sherriff in town.
Rep. Murrell Smith (R-Sumter) was elected unanimously to take over leadership of the House when the General Assembly’s regular session ends on May 12. Smith will serve as Speaker during any special sessions and when legislators return to take up vetoes and the budget this summer. He will be up for reelection as Speaker when House members return in December for organizational session. As part of the shuffling of the deck Rep Gary Simrill from Rock Hill was elected to lead the House Ways and Means Committee beginning May 12th. Simrill will take the budget to conclusion as the lead negotiator for the House when conference committee begins.
The Senate Budget
The Senate this week gave final approval to their version of the state budget. It is vastly different than the version which the house passed just a few weeks ago. The Senate version takes in to account the Senate version of their tax plan which has a $1 billion refund to all South Carolinians that file an income tax return. The maximum refund would be $700 and the minimum (which most South Carolinians would see) would be $100. Numerous Senators spoke against the measure as it took money away from projects such as I-73, employee pay raises, and K-12 funding. Items such as the $100 million that DOT needed for federal match, funding for the new department at DMV just for Motor Carrier Services and Be Pro Be Proud dollars were included. However the new money for commercial airports re-development, as well as local road dollars and a number of other economic development projects were removed.
The General Assembly has six days to go. Election reform has become a major issue for both bodies. The House and Governor support one version and the Senate another. The House taken steps to attach their version of election reform to every bill coming out of the House. It should make for a long two weeks.
In addition this week the House will take up the Compassionate Care act which is also known as Medical Marijuana. Over one thousand amendments are on the desk and it could take up the rest of the time for the House. Needless to say the final few weeks won’t be boring.