An irate Rep. Todd Rutherford, D-Richland, decried the recently concluded legislative year as a “do nothing” session. Rep. Bruce Bannister, R-Greenville, called it “a good start to a two-year session.”
Until there’s more evidence to the contrary, we’ll go with Rep. Rutherford’s assessment. Of course, the House minority leader particularly objects to the Legislature’s failure to approve a major Medicaid expansion for state residents.
We don’t take issue with the Legislature taking an early pass on creating a long-term Obamacare financial obligation, but there is ample room for further complaint.
The regular legislative session ended on Thursday with little to show for it.
Ethics reform, the year’s most important initiative, was approved by the House but died in the Senate. And much of the legislative debate was centered around how to weaken a strong, comprehensive plan prepared by the governor’s Commission on Ethics Reform.
For the third year in a row, a bill to improve the state’s public records law foundered over an amendment to require legislators’ emails, correspondence and working papers to be open to the public. The bill also would have forced public bodies to respond more quickly to requests for public information, and restricted what those bodies can charge for that information.
It is generally agreed that the state’s road and bridges are in need of major funding — $29 billion over the next 20 years, according to a report for the state Department of Transportation.
But though some additional funding for highways and bridges was approved in the still-pending budget, it was not enough to make much of a dent.
And even though the report to the DOT found that about 30 percent of gas tax revenues are paid by out-of-state motorists, plans to hike that user fee failed to get out of committee. The gas tax, one of the lowest in the nation, hasn’t been increased since 1987. But our roads have gotten a lot worse.
The primary restructuring initiative, to create the Department of Administration and eliminate the antiquated Budget and Control Board, was finally approved by both chambers in its third year of debate. But it remains in conference committee and may not emerge until next year.
Other important restructuring proposals to let the voters decide whether the superintendent of education and the adjutant general should be part of the governor’s cabinet were approved by the House, but failed to advance in the Senate.
The Legislature did agree to allow voters to choose, in a statewide referendum next year, whether to legalize charity raffles. It was a minor nod to the people’s will and good news for church groups that are unfairly criminalized under the law.
And the Legislature approved additional incentives for Boeing’s expansion in North Charleston, and quickly. Hurrah for that.
Otherwise, the signal accomplishment of the session was to correct a flawed election law that resulted in 250 candidates being thrown off the ballot in the last general election.
Since the Legislature created the problem in the first place, it seems only right that the Legislature should fix it. And not take all session to do so.
But in typical fashion, the bill was finally approved on the last day of the session. For the 2013 session, it was a fitting end.
Even so, it’s not altogether over. Legislators were unable to complete work on the state budget on schedule, and the General Assembly will reconvene on June 18 to take that up.
If anything, the 2013 session is a good argument for a shorter legislative year.
The voters deserve an explanation from our legislative leaders:
Why does it take the General Assembly so long to do so little?