For the past week and much of the coming week, the Senate is occupied with crafting the state’s budget for the coming year.

Much of the time has been spent discussing core government functions like adequately funding school bus transportation, and funding transportation infrastructure improvements. In addition to those big ticket items, the Caucus is continuing to look for other ways to save taxpayer money. For instance, Senator Chip Campsen proposed an amendment that was successfully adopted calling for a cost-benefit analysis of the state-owned plane.

This week the budget debate will shift to a school choice measure proposed by Senator Larry Grooms. The amendment would give tax credits to parents choosing to educate their children in a private school, home school, or in another public school that they weren’t zoned for. We expect this amendment to be thoroughly debated, as school choice has always been a contentious issue within the Senate.

In other matters, a bill sponsored by Senator Katrina Shealy was ratified and signed by the governor. The bill provides that flags atop state buildings will be lowered to half-staff when an SC resident in the military loses their life.  The bill also requires the governor to identify the person being honored on the day of the funeral on the Governor’s Office website.  It’s another small way we in the Senate believe we should recognize those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

We also just passed the Department of Employment and Workforce (DEW) Integrity Bill. This legislation allows DEW to impose a penalty for fraudulent overpayments. This bill keeps SC in compliance with federal law which will allow employers to continue to receive certain tax credits for their employees. The savings are estimated to be up to $400 per employee for businesses in our state.

Finally, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed a tough new Ethics law that we expect to be debated on the floor of the Senate very soon.

The bill makes a number of important changes, all centered on making sure citizens can trust the government representing them to make decisions ethically and transparently.

Among other things, the bill will increase the waiting period for former legislators to take lobbying jobs, remove ethics investigations regarding legislators to a new statewide board rather than being done within the chamber, strengthen conflict of interest and income disclosure rules, and establishes a Public Integrity Unit at SLED.

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