By Barney Blakeney
The 2020 S.C. Legislative session is slated to begin January 14 and continue through the first week of June. Local legislators predict this session likely will be lackluster.
Because 2020 is an election year, local legislators say their colleagues likely will be focused on re-election. Legislative matters will be a secondary priority. But several issues may receive what attention they give. Those include education and the proposed sale of the Santee Cooper Electric Cooperative.
Sen. Marlon Kimpson said things will move slowly in this election year. House members are elected every two years while senate members are elected every four years. All legislators will be elected this year. He suggested few legislators will be anxious to engage controversial issues that may alienate voters. What he didn’t say outright is that while legislators play it safe, voters shouldn’t expect many major legislative decisions.
One major decision already has been made however. Kimpson noted that funding for four-year-old kindergarteners will be made available to all counties. In the past the legislature funded the state’s poorest counties, primarily in the infamous ‘Corridor of Shame’. But this year funding will be made available to include wealthier counties such as Charleston, Horry, and Richland counties. Kimpson sounded an alert saying voters should be mindful the state has a budget surplus and should keep an eye on how it’s spent.
North Charleston Rep. David Mack noted this session will end the two-year legislative calendar, so voters shouldn’t expect a lot of new stuff. But he expects the legislature will focus on some workforce issues. A lot of new industry has located in the state. They need a competent workforce, he said. Education initiatives may take center stage though he doesn’t anticipate any significant wage increase legislation, he said.
The SCE&G/V.C. Summer nuclear reactor construction fiasco hasn’t really disappeared, Mack said, but consumers shouldn’t expect any refund on the abandoned construction’s $9 billion investment. The proposed sale of Santee Cooper electric cooperative will get some attention, he said.
Hollywood Rep. Robert Brown said education reform will flare up, but likely will burn out before any major decisions are made. More conclusively, he thinks a decision will be made about Santee Cooper. Though critical issues such as changes to Medicaid requirements and education reform will be on the table for discussion, legislators’ watchful eyes on re-election will dictate how much gets accomplished, he said.