South Carolina

ENERGY PLAN: Last year a committee of lawmakers, industry representatives and environmental experts met to debate the value and feasibility of drilling for natural gas off South Carolina's coast. Such talks are expected to continue this year.

Senate President Pro Tem Glenn McConnell, R-Charleston, had asked a joint legislative body to compile a report about the state's energy resources to be used this session to draft energy legislation. The report will also be used to tell the state's congressional delegation how South Carolina could be affected by federal energy policies.

VOTING TRANSPARENCY: A handful of senators have introduced legislation to require recorded votes, rather than anonymous voice votes, on spending bills. They say the current practice shields lawmakers from scrutiny.

CIGARETTE TAX: Last year's effort to raise the cigarette tax from its lowest-in-the nation rate of 7 cents per pack failed over arguments about whether to use revenues to broaden Medicaid benefits. The governor wants a 30-cent increase to help offset $131 million in income-tax cuts.

UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS: Roosevelt "Ted" Halley, the executive director of the state Employment Security Commission, said there "certainly will have to be some discussion" about reforming unemployment insurance taxes. The commission requested $150 million in federal loans to cover record unemployment claims and now faces an audit from the Legislative Audit Council.

The Statehouse's hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and 1-5 p.m. on first Sundays.