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Late session business
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Usually around the end of May the House and the Senate prepare for the end of session. Before the General Assembly can leave for the year, a budget must be passed. The State Fiscal Year ends on June 30. The Senate is currently working on its version of the budget. The House and Senate versions will be worked out in conference committee and brought before both chambers for a vote. The budget will then go to the Governor. The General Assembly makes arrangements to be in session in order to receive and act on any gubernatorial vetoes. In addition to this typical sequence of events, this session the General Assembly must also pass a redistricting plan.

In order to accommodate for redistricting, the House has passed a resolution that extends the mandatory adjournment of the General Assembly from the June 2, 2011, deadline to allow the Senate and the House of Representatives to meet in statewide session on Tuesday, June 14, 2011, at 12:00 noon and to continue in statewide session, if necessary, until not later than 5:00 p.m. on Friday, July 1, 2011. During this extension, the General Assembly must limit itself to consideration of redistricting plans for the South Carolina House of Representatives, South Carolina Senate, and Congressional Districts and a list of other items including gubernatorial vetoes, confirmation of appointments, and conference and free conference reports. The Senate must agree to these terms or propose other terms for our adjournment.

It is also usually around this time of year that legislators in the House decide that the General Assembly meets for too long. So the House approved and sent to the Senate a bill that provides for the shortening of the legislative session. The legislation changes the date for the mandatory adjournment of the General Assembly from the first Thursday in June to the last Thursday in May preceding the National Memorial Day holiday. This is usually a futile exercise because the Senate never seriously considers the proposals.

Nevertheless, important work does get done during this last full month of the regular session. One example is that the House finally passed out a bill providing enhanced enforcement provisions for the theft of copper and other nonferrous metals. Copper theft has disturbingly increased in Kershaw County and throughout the state. This bill increases the penalties for copper theft and requires businesses that buy copper to obtain a permit from a sheriff. Lugoff resident Henry Powers of Powers and Gregory, Inc., provided helpful testimony to the criminal laws subcommittee that studied the bill before it was brought to the House floor.

The process by which the General Assembly creates its budget is often criticized for not being thorough enough in its examination and evaluation of the agencies and the programs funded. So a bill revising the South Carolina Federal and Other Funds Act is a welcome improvement. The legislation expands the definition of “matching funds” so that it includes not only general fund monies but also other monies that are used to meet federal match requirements. Under the bill, state agency proposals that include receiving federal matching funds must outline the details of any conditions imposed on the state by accepting those matching funds. The recommended budget is then required specifically to accept in detail those conditions when federal funds are included in the proposed budget. The bill has passed both the House and Senate.

The House Ways and Means Committee, the committee that develops the state budget, recently elected Rep. Brian White of Anderson as its new Chairman. Rep. White replaces Rep. Dan Cooper, who is resigning from office at the end of this session.

I was pleased that a bill I filed received a favorable report from the Criminal Laws Subcommittee last week. To keep pace with technology and society, the Digital Impersonation Prevention Act was filed to protect constituents from electronic identity theft. This bill would provide legal recourse for individuals that victimized by someone who used their identity, without consent, to inflict personal or economic harm on another individual through an electronic message, on a social media site, or by telephone. The SC Law Enforcement Division (SLED) and Ed Corey with the KC Sheriff’s Department provided valuable testimony to the subcommittee. The bill is now before the full House Judiciary Committee.

Before the end of the regular session, there will be a few more committee and subcommittee meetings along with the time we spend on the House floor clearing the calendar. The last weeks of session are often testy and lively as leadership tries to complete necessary business and fit in its priorities, and Members attempt to get bills passed before the final hour. Even with just a few regular legislative days left, there is still plenty of opportunity for mischief and last minute pushes on major or controversial issues. So even in the waning days of the session, a lot can happen!