The General Assembly returned to Columbia this week for the second half of our two-year term. We made significant progress on a notable Republican Caucus agenda item.
After more than a decade of effort by the House Republican majority, our state is once again on the verge of the biggest streamlining of state government in nearly three decades. We have approved this legislation five times in the past seven years, and other versions of it have been in the legislative pipeline since 2000.
A House-Senate Conference Committee signed off on a “Department of Administration” bill this week that moves the vast majority of the administrative functions of state government – human resources, information technology, state vehicles, and “general services” – under the control of the Governor for the first time.
The bill also effectively eliminates the old Budget and Control Board – a quasi-legislative/executive agency that controlled much of state government.
The House leadership under two Speakers and four House Majority Leaders has worked with Governors Sanford and Haley to make this legislation a reality.
Other notable highlights of the compromise legislation:
- We prohibited any state agency from running a deficit unless it receives the explicit approval of the General Assembly. We whole-heartedly oppose any state agency running a deficit, but this window needs to stay cracked in case of major state emergencies, natural disasters, or other unforeseen calamities.
- We protected the state’s AAA credit rating by creating two small, independent agencies (with a total of fewer than 200 employees) with broad decision making structures to ensure secure management of the state’s fiduciary responsibilities. This includes bonding authority and the state auditor.
- The Office of State Budget and the Board of Economic Advisors will be completely independent from the Governor’s Office and the General Assembly. This will ensure politics does not play a role in effective budgeting.
- The General Assembly is required to review every state agency and every program on a five-year basis. While this isn’t the true “sunset panel” we have advocated for more than a decade, it is a step in the right direction for holding state bureaucrats accountable to the public.
The Conference Report will be voted on in the House and Senate next week and, if it passes both bodies, it will be sent to the Governor for her signature.
There are two other major pieces of government reform legislation pending in the state Senate that would give state voters the option of letting the Governor appoint the Adjutant General and the Superintendent of Education. The House approved both of those bills last year. If these bills pass the Senate the question will be put to the voters in November, for a constitutional amendment.
Much of the week was reserved for the House Ways and Means subcommittees to begin work on writing the 2014-2015 state budget. January is always a busy time for the House members on that committee as they work on crafting the balanced budget that we have approved every year since voters gave Republicans control of the State House in 1994.