COLUMBIA -- A head-to-toe makeover at the agency that pays out unemployment checks became virtually assured Wednesday.
Capping off two weeks of debate, the Senate reached a compromise to restructure the Employment Security Commission that gives more power to the state's next governor.
The Senate bill will receive final approval today before it moves to the House. The legislation is likely headed for conference negotiations, although many similarities exist between the Senate's plan and the version passed by the House last week.
"What we wound up with is clear reform," said Sen. Mike Rose, R-Summerville. "We have more accountability, transparency. We should not have a repeat of the problems of the past."
Gov. Mark Sanford said he was pleased with the Senate's action.
A recent audit of the agency showed mismanagement. That audit solidified legislators' resolve to overhaul the agency when combined with problems with the oversight of the trust fund that pays out jobless benefits.
The trust fund ran out of cash in late 2008 and since then the state has borrowed more than $800 million to cut unemployment checks.
Rose offered an amendment to the bill that will require the Department of Insurance to audit the trust fund every five years to make sure it is solvent.
The legislation renames the agency, calling it the state Department of Workforce.
Sen. Greg Ryberg, an Aiken Republican who shepherded the bill through the Senate, said the three main elements to the reform plan are:
--Disqualification from benefits for people fired for gross misconduct, such as using drugs or stealing from their employer.
--Removal of the current commissioners.
--Creation of a screening committee to nominate a new agency director. The next governor will select a director from the list of nominees and that person will be appointed with the Senate's approval.