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SC Senate chief says ‘no’ to emergency legislative session to deal with flood

gmelendez@thestate.com

The leader of the state Senate said Tuesday he will not ask lawmakers to return to Columbia for an emergency session to address the historic flooding that struck the state this month.

Instead, legislators will return to work as scheduled in January faced with a new top priority – considering ways to help fix damage caused by that flooding, said state Senate President Pro Tempore Hugh Leatherman.

Dealing with a court order to improve the state’s public schools and finding money to fix the state’s crumbling roads and buildings also will be the focus of next year’s spending, said the Florence Republican, a chief writer of the state budget.

Last week, two House members called for an emergency session, convening before the regular session begins in January, to borrow money for roads and find a way to help flood victims.

But Leatherman said state lawmakers must “be careful” and wait for accurate estimates before doling out state dollars.

What would we do? If you don’t know the magnitude of what you’re trying to resolve, then I have no interest in asking the Senate to come back and just sit there, not knowing.

– State Senate President Pro Tempore Hugh Leatherman

“What would we do (if legislators returned earlier)?” Leatherman asked reporters rhetorically Tuesday, after a state spending panel met to discuss higher education projects. “If you don’t know the magnitude of what you’re trying to resolve, then I have no interest in asking the Senate to come back and just sit there, not knowing.”

Tuesday’s meeting of the S.C. Joint Bond Review Committee, a legislative committee that approves some state borrowing and spending, was the first public gathering of some of the state’s most influential budget writers since the heavy rainfalls, which took more than a dozen lives and caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage.

Leatherman, the committee’s chairman, previewed how tough it will be for some state agencies to get money next year, given the Legislature’s competing priorities. He told a representative from Trident Technical College in North Charleston to proceed with a plan to build an aeronautics training center at that school without counting on additional state money.

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