Citizen Reporters Keep Tabs on Budget Provisos

February 22, 2011

Investigative Reports

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The NerveCitizen Reporters from The Nerve were on hand monitor committee budget debates held the past couple of weeks during which numerous budget provisos were proposed or amended.

The Nerve’s Citizen Reporters have been tracking provisos in an effort to hold lawmakers more accountable and plan to continue to do so until the budget hits the floor. Here is information about just a few of the provisos they’ve been following:

A Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice proviso recommendation would require a law enforcement officer to be present whenever traffic citations are issued in conjunction with the use of speeding or traffic control devices. This relates in part to municipalities using cameras to catch drivers speeding or driving through red lights at intersections.

Municipalities that use photographic evidence to ticket traffic violators must have a law enforcement officer on hand at the time the evidence is obtained and a copy of the written ticket must be handed directly to the offender by the officer on the day the citation is issued, according to the proviso.

Municipalities and counties must submit a letter to the state treasurer’s office by July 31 certifying that they are in compliance with this provision. Any entity which fails to do so will be notified that it has 30 days to comply.

If, after 30 days, the county or municipality has still failed to comply, the state treasurer’s office must withhold all payments scheduled for the municipality or county under the Aid to Subdivisions Act.

A second proviso prohibits municipalities from collecting any fines, fees or costs resulting from issuing traffic citations based on camera-assisted evidence.

A Legislative, Executive and Local Government Subcommittee proviso would preclude State Ethics Commission staff from making any public comment which reflects a personal opinion regarding any matter which is before the commission or pending action.

According to the recommendation, the provision would not “abridge the commission’s responsibilities pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act.”

Also, in the area of General Provisions, a new proviso would transfer the state’s Division of Aeronautics to the S.C. Department of Transportation. The move, which would be effective July 1, 2011, would include the duties, functions, responsibilities, personnel, equipment, supplies carry-forward funds, and all other assets and resources of Aeronautics.

The Division of Aeronautics would be administered separately from other programs within DOT, and require division funds be expended exclusively for the Division of Aeronautics.

It would also require DOT provide administrative support to the Division of Aeronautics upon request.

The Nerve’s Citizen Reporters are finding that public education funding will likely rise again. K-12 spending increased in the Fiscal Year 2010-11 budget and, once local bond revenue is included, is up nearly 20 percent since the beginning of the recession in 2007.

The Public Education and Special Schools Subcommittee is continuing this trend by increasing average per pupil funding from $11,372 to $11,651. (This appropriation excludes local bond revenue.)

The good news is that lawmakers want to allocate more money to the state’s public charter schools, including virtual charter schools – which are at risk of shutting down because of a historic pattern of underfunding by the General Assembly.

The per pupil charter school supplement would increase from $700 to $4,000 for brick-and-mortar schools and from $700 to $2,500 for virtual public charter schools.

A Higher Education, Technical and Cultural Subcommittee proviso recommendation would require all undergraduate professors at South Carolina colleges and universities to teach at least nine credit hours per semester.

Another Higher Education, Technical and Cultural Subcommittee proviso recommends a study committee be created to assess the fiscal sustainability of the new medical school at the University of South Carolina in Greenville.

The proviso calls for a seven-member board: three members appointed by the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, three members appointed by the Speaker of the House, and one by the Chairman of the Commission on Higher Education.

Of the Senate appointees, one member must be from the Senate Finance Committee and one member must be from the Senate Education Committee. Of the House appointees, one member must be from the House Ways and Means Committee and one member must be from the House Education Committee.

The committee shall review, but is not limited to, institutional missions and academic programs and planning; funding and institutional cost; buildings and facilities; and organization and plan implementation.

Citizen Reporter Mary Atkinson contributed to this report.