COLUMBIA - State lawmakers are back in their districts in the coming week, as both bodies take a break from this year's session.
The House of Representatives' second furlough week begins on Monday; the Senate took off for a break after Wednesday's session.
When they return April 29, only six weeks will be left, and all eyes will be on the Senate as it debates the budget and other contentious bills, such as removing South Carolina from the consortium that would test Common Core standards in the coming school year.
The bill - introduced by Sen. Wes Hayes, R-Rock Hill - is being touted as a compromise that would keep Common Core standards in place for now, but requires the state begin a review of the standards no later than 2018.
It's a bill that Sen. Larry Grooms, R-Charleston, promises to monitor. Grooms introduced a bill that would repeal Common Core standards from South Carolina's schools, but opposition by another senator is blocking it from being discussed on the Senate's floor. Grooms expects debate on the floor of Hayes' bill to take several days.
Fellow Charleston Senator, Marlon Kimpson, a Democrat, is expecting to become involved in that debate, because he believes the state should continue its implementation of the standards and remain in the testing consortium.
"Those standards were approved by the state board and many school districts have started implementing the program, which cost millions of dollars," Kimpson said. "I just think given our position in the country on education that something new and different that seeks to prepare our children to compete nationally ought to be implemented."
While the Common Core debate goes on, the Senate's finance committee will be working on the Senate's version of the budget. It's expected to hit the floor in the week of May 5 for debate.
"Some years, our Senate debate lasted eight weeks," Grooms said, "and I've been there where the budget debate lasted only three days."
Grooms said he expects the budget debate to take awhile this time, particularly with fresh controversy over House budget cuts to the University of South Carolina-Upstate and the College of Charleston - cuts triggered by two controversial books on their reading list. That's another issue Kimpson said he will fight.
"I am very disturbed that there are members of the General Assembly who would seek to reduce funding for colleges and universities based on what books are on their approved reading list," he said. "It's a shame that they have made this issue a priority. We should not be patrolling recommended reading book lists."
What other issues are taken up depends on how long these debates take. Kimpson, for example, plans to make a case for more money being allocated toward the proposed International African American Museum. Charleston Mayor Joe Riley requested $12.5 million for the coming year. The House only approved $250,000.
Both Kimpson and Grooms agreed infrastructure will likely be another issue Senators will push for, if time permits. And then, there's the ethics reform bill. The House passed its version and the Senate passed another. Now they must agree.
"That's a major one that a lot people think it's over and done with, but it's not," Grooms said. "It's still not certain if we'll have an ethics reform this year."
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