Palmetto Sunrise: University of Charleston bill take two

Rep.J im Merrill, R-Charleston (left), and Rep. Leon Stavrinakis, D-Charleston, jointly filed a bill Thursday, that would allow the College of Charleston to become a research institution.

COLUMBIA — Two members of Charleston’s delegation have filed a familiar bill that ruffled feathers during the 2014 legislative session and pit a few Republican lawmakers against each other.

Reps. Jim Merrill, R-Charleston, and Leon Stavrinakis, D-Charleston, have filed a bill that would allow the College of Charleston to offer doctoral programs and become South Carolina’s fourth research university, according to The Post and Courier’s Jeremy Borden.

The short version of what happened to the previous bill is that it died in the Senate. But the longer version is much more interesting.

It got emotional toward the end when the bill was slowly dying in the Senate, as it became associated with the departure of then-Lt.Gov., now-President of The College of Charleston Glenn McConnell. Sen. Larry Grooms, R-Charleston, said procedural holds placed on the bill by Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harvey Peeler, R-Gaffney, and then-Senate President Pro Tempore Sen. John Courson, R-Columbia, were “in legislative terms, that’s a declaration of war on Charleston.”

Peeler, in a lengthy, emotional floor speech, accused McConnell of a “conflict of interest” when he presided over a procedural matter that dealt with the U of C bill. He also said that his Read to Succeed initiative for more funding for early education reading initiatives — which ultimately passed — was threatened by House members if he didn’t play ball on the Charleston bill.

Though the bill died in the Senate, months later the S.C. Commission on Higher Education unanimously approved in September C of C’s newly amended mission statement, paving the way for future graduate offerings. But several lawmakers were critical of the commission on whether it had the authority to OK the plan without getting approval from the General Assembly.

Last year’s bill sailed through the House when Bobby Harrell was Speaker of the House and when McConnell presided over the Senate. This session’s bill could run into road blocks, unless South Carolina’s lawmakers are willing to bury last year’s grudge.

In other news:

House committee moves ahead with ‘comprehensive’ domestic violence bill (The Post and Courier)

Ginny Deerin files paperwork tied to mayor of Charleston bid (The Post and Courier)

‘Pain-capable’ SC abortion ban gains early ground (The State)

Aiken residents ask SC Senate to limit river withdrawals by megafarms (The State)

South Carolina panel advances bills on open records law (The Associated Press)

Clyburn Offers Personal Perspective on the Relevance, Power of ‘Selma’ (Roll Call)

Lindsey Graham for President? Home-State Voters Say Not So Fast (NBC News)