General Assembly returns to Columbia for start of legislative session

VIDEO: Lawmakers return to Columbia for start of legislative session

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle in the House and Senate who returned to the Statehouse Tuesday said there are various issues they are hoping to tackle in the 2020 legislative session.

Those issues include tax reform, Santee Cooper, what to do with the windfall in the budget, raises for state employees and teachers, and of course, education.

Senators made education a priority for them in 2020. With a 40-4 vote Tuesday, they made the amended version of the education reform bill a special order. This means that the bill will be the first thing they take up this year.

“We put it on special order so we’re going to take it up starting tomorrow and we’ll have to push forward with that before we can get on anything else,” Lexington Republican Sen. Katrina Shealy said after the vote.

Kershaw County Democrat Sen. Vincent Sheheen said this vote proves the Senate is serious about education reform.

“I think it will take some time. We are in session for five months,” he said. “I’m going to hold my colleagues and myself to the fire to make sure we accomplish education reform this year.”

The House passed its version of the education reform bill in 2019. But state representatives said education will also be a priority for the House but they will be focused on other issues as well to start off the year.

They spent the day reading the dozens of pre-filed bills across the desk. Members of the House committee responsible for coming up with a budget plan began meeting today as well. The Ways and Means Committee will have a little extra money to work with due to the $1.8 billion windfall.

“We’ve got to meet the state’s obligations,” Richland County Democrat Rep. Todd Rutherford said. “We can’t do it without funding the Department of Corrections, funding DSS, making sure our IT needs are met and this is not a time for gimmicks.”

“We obviously want to give some back to the taxpayers, so we will be working hard on that,” Lexington County Republican Rep. Chip Huggins said. “We have to make sure we spend the money in the best places for South Carolina.”

Lawmakers were expected Wednesday to receive a report from the Department of Administration with details on bids to buy, manage or reform Santee Cooper. But a Department of Administration spokesperson said the agency opted to extend the deadline for presenting the recommendations to lawmakers. They do not anticipate using the full 60-day period authorized for the extension.

Copyright 2020 WCSC. All rights reserved.