Sen. Larry Grooms says recent backlash about a proposed state law that would merge the College of Charleston and the Medical University of South Carolina only reinforced his decision to introduce companion legislation in the state Senate.
Grooms, R-Bonneau, filed the bill in the Senate on Tuesday that would merge the schools by July 1, 2016.
A similar bill was introduced by Rep. Jim Merrill, R-Charleston, and Rep. Leon Stavrinakis, D-Charleston, in the S.C. House of Representatives on Feb. 6.
Grooms said he would have introduced his companion bill before Tuesday if the Senate had not been dismissed because of the ice storm last week.
"Had we not had the ice storm, I would have introduced it without hearing some of the backlash," Grooms said. "That helped reinforce to me that the bill is not going to harm the College of Charleston, nor will it harm MUSC."
The proposal to merge the schools has been met with considerable resistance among faculty and staff at both schools, as well as the MUSC Board of Trustees, since it was introduced in the House.
And on Tuesday, the College of Charleston Faculty Senate unanimously passed a resolution opposing the merger legislation.
Lynn Cherry, speaker of the faculty, said they are not opposed to collaborating with MUSC, or to the college offering more graduate programs. They're simply opposed to the legislation.
The MUSC faculty and board both passed resolutions against the legislation last week.
"Some of the concerns that have been aired so far have been about protection - 'Let's don't do anything to harm these institutions,' " Grooms said. "The bill won't do that. It doesn't do anything to harm anything."
Grooms' bill is nearly identical to the bill introduced in the House by Stavrinakis and Merrill.
The only change, Grooms said, is that in his version, the College of Charleston would not be renamed the "Charleston University George Street Campus," as the House version suggests. It would simply be called Charleston University.
The Senate bill has been referred to the Education Committee for discussion.
Grooms said he filed the companion bill to allow lawmakers in both chambers of the Legislature to discuss the proposal at the same time.
Mayor Joe Riley, the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce and outgoing College of Charleston President George Benson also support the proposal to merger the schools.
Reach Lauren Sausser at 937-5598.