Legislative week: Cig tax, health care, gambling, working overtime

In order to comply with the Sine Die statute, that calls for the legislative session to be brought to an orderly close, state lawmakers are set to end the session early in order to gear up to work overtime.
With the anticipated squabble with Governor Sanford over the State Budget, state lawmakers are looking to work overtime. The Senate Thursday passed a resolution that   originated in the House that would officially end the legislative session on May 21st, with the stipulation that the two bodies meet beginning June 16th for a maximum period of three days.
Pickens County Senator Larry Martin says the General Assembly needs the extra time to focus on specific items of legislation and mainly the State Budget, “…not take up unlimited calendar issues but to take up the General Appropriations Bill, the issues we’ve got to finish including any vetoes on the General Appropriations Bill and then we would have completed our work for this legislative session.”                                      2legiswrapmay-84                                                             
Senate Finance Chair Hugh Leatherman says he hopes the Senate and House can agree on the budget and put it on Governor’s Sanford’s desk in the next few days for his anticipated vetoes.
Public hearings on kitchen-table gambling wrapped up this week in the Senate. Senate President Pro Tem Glenn McConnell says it’s now time to make social gambling legal. McConnell has sponsored a measure to override a 200 year old statute against certain forms of gambling. “To do nothing is the worst thing we can do because we’ve got a law on the books that’s not being enforced except selectively. It gives the pretense for somebody’s home to be searched and that shouldn’t be in this state. Thirdly, it’s an outdated law and it creates disrespect for the law.”
The Senate Finance Committee voted to raise the state cigarette tax from seven to 57 cents. Unlike the House measure, the Senate version would put the $145 million in tax revenue in a trust fund for Future health care needs. The House version would use the funds to issue tax credits for people who purchase their own health insurance.
After a furlough week, the House returns to work Tuesday.