Legislative week: Stimulus battle turns white-hot

The final scheduled week of the South Carolina General Assembly is packed with potential legislation … many of which will not make is through this year.
The past legislative week featured the SC Senate sending a $5.6 billion budget bill to Governor Sanford, which includes $350 million of  the $700 million in federal stimulus funds the Governor has steadfastly refused to apply for unless some of the funds are used to pay down state debt.
Senate Finance Chair Hugh Leatherman of Florence applauded his colleagues for not supporting governor mark Sanford’s refusal to sign for $700 million in federal stimulus funds. Leatherman says accepting the funds would be for the good of the people of South Carolina.
“This to me is a bridge for the next two years. There are those who say, well maybe we need to go ahead and fall off of the cliff this year. I’m not one of those. I believe that our economy will turn, that the revenue will pick up. But to come in here and penalize our people while we’re holding some ideology, I just simply can’t do that.”
Governor Sanford issued a statement Tuesday evening concerned about lawmakers hurrying the passage of the budget bill. "Being asked to vote on the budget in such a short amount of time isn’t fair ot the people expected to vote responsibly on it, and it’s a disservice to the people they represent. By notdedicating any of the stimulus dollars to debt relief as we’ve said, this budget does nothing to help our state weather an economic storm that is far from being over”
Wednesday Charleston County Representative Wendell Gilliard argued to add a 10th member to the State Ports Authority Board and that member should be a member of the Longshoremen’s Union rank-and-file, a person who actually works at the port.
Williamsburg County Representative Ken Kennnedy threw his support in favor of Gilliard’s measure, but was quick to warn his colleague from Charleston that he was fighting a losing battle.
Kennedy: “Do you know where you are?”
Gilliard:  yes
Kennedy: “You’re in South Carolina.”
Gilliard: Yes, I knew that (this question) was coming."
Kennedy: “You’re in the South Carolina General Assembly, anti-union! and you’re in the House.” You are aware of that?
Gilliard: Yes. but you see…(Kennedy interrupts)
Kennedy: “What you’re trying to do makes good sense, and I think you are right on time. I believe the rank-and-file should have representation on this Board.”
Kennedy’s observation proved to be true as the House voted 73-33 to table Gilliard’s amendment.
The Senate gave conditional approval Thursday to a measure meant to stop the pay day lending industry from trapping customers into a cycle of debt. The Senate postponed voting on various proposed changes until Tuesday.