Bills dealing with child welfare, road funding and ethics are expected to top the priority list when state lawmakers convene for a new session in January.
Nothing makes powerful people appear more ethical than crafting their own ethics legislation. Approximately a dozen of the 450 House and Senate bills pre-filed in December deal with ethics.
The Senate Judiciary subcommittee held a public hearing Wednesday on an ethics reform bill by Sen. Larry Martin, chairman of the committee. The Pickens Republican said he added independent oversight of lawmakers who receive ethics complaints. Critics killed a similar proposal last June partly because it continued to let lawmakers police themselves.
But some activists oppose the current version, which could require some non-profits to disclose donors’ information. The subcommittee is set to take up amendments the first week in January in hopes of having a bill ready for the full committee when the session begins.
Officials say road funding will also be a significant part of the debate next year as they decide how to narrow the state’s annual $1.47 billion road funding gap.
Lawmakers are also focused on curbing child fatalities and caseworkers’ hefty loads. The 2013 death of a 4-year-old Richland County boy, who died from blunt force trauma, was one of the cases that prompted a series of Senate subcommittee hearings in 2014 to investigate the Department of Social Services.
Healthcare spending and reforms will likely surface as a key issue as people continue to see the effects of the Affordable Care Act. Lawmakers in both chambers have proposed healthcare bills, including a resurrected anti-commandeering measure in the House. A group of libertarian-leaning Senators tried a similar measure last session to bar state resources from being used to implement the federal law.
Senators pre-filed 268 bills in December. House members, who have pre-filed 182, may continue to pre-file through December 18.