COLUMBIA -- South Carolina lawmakers have three weeks to get Gov. Nikki Haley a budget and decide what campaign promises they will deliver on and which ones will go unfilled this year.
Before the Legislature is expected to adjourn its regular session on June 2, legislative leadership pledges to pass illegal immigration reform, give Haley the state's first-ever Department of Administration in modern times and put a cap on the amount of money litigants can receive in certain lawsuits.
Dying on the vine, at least this year, is comprehensive tax reform, once a top priority that has been pushed aside by the economy's slow revival and lack of political willpower. Lawmakers likely also will not do much to overhaul government by leaving until next year bills that allow the governor to appoint a secretary of education and one that creates a statewide inspector general to sniff out government waste, fraud and abuse.
Most Republicans sell the year as a resounding success, especially the House GOP Caucus. The caucus boasts that since January it checked off all of the items on what was to be a two-year agenda. All except illegal immigration reform, which is expected to pass in the next three weeks.
Among the caucus' agenda items, the House passed anti-abortion measures, a bill to shorten the legislative session and changes to the way public schools are funded, all of which are awaiting action in the Senate.
Freshman Rep. Peter McCoy, R-Charleston, said he thinks lawmakers took action on bills with an eye toward a healthy economy and safe neighborhoods.
Sen. Chip Campsen, R-Isle of Palms, said progress has been slower than he would have liked. The Senate has been locked in extended debate on several issues, such as requiring voters to carry picture ID, and is starting its fourth week on budget deliberations today.
"I am a little disappointed in the level of success so far," Campsen said. "I think there are some things at the end of the session that we can bring across the finish line."
Still, Campsen said he is pleased that the Senate has written into the budget about $100 million to pay down the debt the state owes the federal government for unemployment benefits. Campsen also said he thinks there is still time to do more, such as address tort reform and create a Department of Administration.
Democrats, who don't have a majority in the House or Senate, are much more critical.
Sen. Robert Ford, D-Charleston, said most of the Legislature's time this year has been wasted. Bills such as voter ID requirements and immigration reform are "going straight to court." One highlight is a proposal to fund the Human Affairs Commission at a sustainable level to ensure diversity in the workforce, he said.
"Besides that, the session was a complete waste of time," Ford said.
Rep. Joe Jefferson, D-Pine-ville, said he still has hope for progress.
"We still have a voice and we're utilizing that voice to the best of our ability and we're forging ahead," Jefferson said.
The 2011 legislative session
Three weeks remain in the regular legislative session before the proposed June 2 adjournment. After regular adjournment, the Legislature is expected to meet between June 14 and July 1 to take up any budget vetoes that the governor may issue and set new lines for House, Senate and Congressional districts, among a limited amount of other issues such as hammering out differences between House and Senate bills. Any bills that don't pass this year can be considered again next year when the Legislature meets in January.
But before they adjourn for the year, lawmakers expect to send Gov. Nikki Haley:
Key bills lawmakers passed so far this year:
What is not expected to become law this year: