Originally created 04/22/06

Lawmakers put rush on measures



COLUMBIA - Rep. Bill Herbkersman tried a legislative quarterback sneak this week in hopes of getting a real estate transfer fee approved for Bluffton.

Mr. Herbkersman, R-Bluffton, attempted a quick, quiet motion Thursday to get the bill removed from the Ways and Means Committee, which hasn't acted on the legislation.

"It was the end of the day, and I thought I could pull it out," he said Friday with a smile. "But someone heard (my request)."

Rep. Alan Clemmons, R-Myrtle Beach, did indeed object, which kept the legislation in the committee.

Mr. Herkbersman said, though, he'll still try to get it out of committee, attach the proposal onto another bill or, if necessary, wait till next year.

With a key deadline looming, Mr. Herbkersman and lawmakers in both chambers are scrambling to advance their priority bills.

According to legislative rules, lawmakers have until May 1 to get their bills out of their chamber - the House or the Senate - in order for the other chamber to consider the legislation during this session.

So House Speaker Bobby Harrell said early this week that he would try to give committees as much time as possible to consider bills.

The Ways and Means Committee killed plans to increase the state's cigarette tax. The funds would have helped pay for health programs and tax cuts.

Ways and Means did vote to increase tax breaks to encourage movie makers and television shows to film in South Carolina.

The House already has passed legislation related to most of the session's key issues - including property taxes, workers' compensation, eminent domain. On Thursday, the House voted in favor of Lexington Medical Center's request for a heart surgery center.

Senators, meanwhile, debated property taxes for the past two weeks before adjourning debate on the issue until May 2.

The Senate will consider the Fiscal Year 2007 budget next week.

But Senate President Glenn McConnell said he expects the talks to go smoothly, so there should be time Thursday to consider other legislation.

Still up for discussion, he noted, is the much-debated "right to farm bill," which would prohibit counties from making zoning regulations on farms stricter than those set by the state Department of Health and Environmental Control.

On Wednesday, a committee of Senate and House members did agree on a compromise to create a statewide charter school district. The agreement still needs the approval of the full House and Gov. Mark Sanford.

But Mr. Sanford's spokesman Joel Sawyer said the governor supports the legislation.

Reach Kirsten Singleton at (803) 414-6611 or kirsten.singleton@morris.com.