Lawmakers focus on Ports Authority and Employment Security Commission

The Senate officially passed a bill to restructure oversight of the State Ports Authority and its board. The measure is now in the House. The bill would strip the governor’s power to fire members of the State Ports Authority without cause. One of the most controversial parts of the bill that would have added an advisory board was dropped. The advisory board would have been made up of stakeholders directly affected by the ports. Senate President Pro Tem Glenn McConnell says the bill is a sound piece of legislation. “But what we’ve hopefully done is refocused the port to be a quasi-business operation, an economic engine, that looks at what’s good for the state of South Carolina. And not on a provincial basis, not what’s good for bonuses, not what’s just good for the bottom line, but what’s good to increase the quality of life and the opportunities for the people across this state. We ought to be proud of this legislation.”
Governor Mark Sanford said the bill was a step backward in accountability. Sanford preferred making the ports authority a cabinet agency.
Sanford may get his wish in making the Employment Security Commission a cabinet agency. Legislation that would place the ESC into the governor’s cabinet was voted out of a House Judiciary Subcommittee Thursday. The vote was taken after a Wednesday afternoon session in which embattled ESC executive director Ted Halley defended the agency against attacks by Governor Sanford that the commission is mismanaged.
Halley said South Carolina is not alone in battling rising job losses that have wiped out unemployment trust funds, “to my knowledge there are six or seven states that now have trust funds that are insolvent, and we have been recently contacted by an additional state to ask us about the format we use for requesting loans. I can tell you it was the state of Florida.”
Thursday House Speaker Bobby Harrell introduced a bill that would use a 50-cent cigarette tax to create the Healthy Families Insurance Trust Fund that would provide small businesses and lower income workers access to private sector healthcare coverage through the use of insurance premium tax credits.