Originally created 06/04/06

Session closes, but rift remains



COLUMBIA - State-sponsored charter schools, trust fund repayments, late-August school start dates? In.

Funeral protests, hog-dog fights, a Christmas Eve "blue laws" reprieve? Out.

Workers' compensation reform, real estate transfer fees, "mental cruelty" as a grounds for divorce? To be determined next year.

The General Assembly left Columbia on Thursday after a six-month session Gov. Mark Sanford likened to the movie The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

The state repaid the trust funds it borrowed from when the economy dipped a few years ago and used $105 million to correct a long-standing deficit. The House and the Senate cheered this move and were happy they gave some property tax relief by raising the state sales tax a penny, to 6 cents.

As for who gets the credit, lawmakers and Mr. Sanford disagree. This session, they disagreed a lot.

Mr. Sanford, for example, said his veto last year of a bill to cap property tax reassessments at 20 percent set up this year's debate over property tax relief.

But Senate Finance Committee member John Land, D-Manning, called the governor "a nonentity" in the discussion.

Lawmakers criticized the governor for vetoing a bill outlawing protests at funerals, including those for service members, and then easily overrode his veto. Mr. Sanford called the bill too broad.

The session even concluded with a political game of wills that pitted Mr. Sanford against Senate President Glenn McConnell and House Speaker Bobby Harrell.

Mr. Sanford threatened to call a special session next week, saying lawmakers should have to vote on his budget vetoes before the June 13 primary.

Mr. McConnell and Mr. Harrell said another week would give lawmakers more time to study the vetoes and rebuffed his attempts to bring them back earlier.

In the end, Mr. McConnell and Mr. Harrell appear to have won. By delaying the final ratification of the budget, they have made it virtually impossible for the governor to consider the budget, make his vetoes and call a special session before lawmakers were planning to return.

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