COLUMBIA — At a legislative workshop on Thursday hosted at the State House by the S.C. Press Association, Several lawmakers agreed: The most contentious debate in the 2013 General Assembly session could be Obamacare, also known more formally as the Affordable Care Act depending on who's talking about it.
The other major issues include data protection reform and education funding.
When House and Senate members report Tuesday, however, they are expected to look with particular speed at election reform. Last spring, nearly 200 prospective and subsequently enraged candidates for local and state government positions – including many in Aiken – were eliminated from seeking office.
The decision was upheld by a unanimous vote of the S.C. Supreme Court. Citizens, too, were baffled by the situation.
The Justices said they had no choice; they couldn't ignore the way new election filing requirements overlapped existing, older regulations. A few candidates figured out how to comply properly, while current officials and those seeking new positions didn't have to follow the same rules.
S.C. Rep. Chandra Dillard, D-Greenville, said a committee on which she serves has listened to stakeholders on the situation.
“The issue boils down the State of Economic Interests form,” she said. “This is not an issue around the (Republican and Democratic) parties. Our proposal is to straighten out the technical aspects and bring that to the parties.”
Democratic legislators also advocate early voting as a part of the discussion. When Republican Rep. Bruce Bannister of Greenville said six weeks was too much, Sen. Harry Ott, a Calhoun County Democrat, drew a laugh when he asked Bannister if two weeks would work. But the most significant issue, Bannister said, is that incumbents and challengers must have the same requirements to file for office.
In legislative priorities cited by both parties, the differences in Medicaid expansion are at loggerheads. The Republican majority in the House indicated they would be “fighting the implementation of this law, and the massive tax increases that follow it.”
The Affordable Care Act “is officially here to stay,” reported the S.C. House Democratic Caucus. “If we fail in the Medicaid expansion, our tax dollars will simply go to insure people in other states.”
Legislators at the workshop also voiced their concerns about data security.
The massive data breach within the Department of Revenue didn't have layers of protection, said Sen. Bryce Bryant, R-Anderson.
“I was asked how that happened,” he said. “I had never found the need to call the revenue department. It would have seemed they were 'locking the doors,' that it would have been a no-brainer. As it turned out, it wasn't.”
Democrats and Republicans agreed that such protection could have been provided simply and inexpensively.
“There's a hodgepodge of security,” Bannister said. “We need a comprehensive review of what we have.”
Still, not all agencies should have the same protection, Bryant said, to ensure that a successful breach couldn't expand any further.