Department of Administration Bill Just ‘BCB-Lite,’ Lawmaker Says

April 19, 2013

Investigative Reports

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South Carolina FlagA state House panel Thursday approved an amended government-restructuring bill, though one lawmaker contended it would maintain the status quo with a form of the existing S.C. Budget and Control Board.

“Let’s just call it what it is – the Budget and Control Board (BCB) – because it’s Budget and Control Board-lite,” said Rep. Rick Quinn, R-Lexington and a member of the House Judiciary Constitutional Laws Subcommittee.

The BCB is a quasi-executive body made up of the governor, comptroller general, treasurer and chairmen of the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance committees. Bills that would create a Department of Administration under the governor’s control have proposed doing away with the BCB, which critics say yields enormous power with little accountability.

But S. 22, sponsored by Sens. Vincent Sheheen, D-Kershaw, and Shane Massey, R-Edgefield, features a new “State Fiscal Affairs Authority” (SFAA), which would be made up of the same members of the BCB.

And another government-restructuring bill, H. 3646, sponsored by Rep. Garry Smith, R-Greenville, would create a “State Contracts and Accountability Authority” (SCAA), which would be similar to the BCB. Its members would include the governor, treasurer, comptroller general, the House speaker’s designee, the Senate president pro tempore’s appointee, lieutenant governor and attorney general.

That House Judiciary subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Bruce Bannister, R-Greenville,  voted Thursday to make an amended H. 3646 the new S. 22. Rep. James Smith, D-Richland, cast the lone vote against the final version.

The most significant difference between the Senate’s SFAA and the House’s SCAA is S. 22 as passed by the Senate gives all procurement power to the SFAA. The two bills also would give power to the proposed Department of Administration and General Assembly to address a deficit within a state agency.

The subcommittee stripped H. 3646 of language that would have eliminated the Public Employee Benefit Authority (PEBA) because the General Assembly created PEBA just last year. Rep. Walt McLeod, D-Newberry, proposed that amendment.

Smith told The Nerve following the meeting he remains confident that a government-restructuring bill will pass.

“If you look at what came out of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the bills are almost exactly the same,” Smith said.

The Senate Judiciary Committee’s version would:

  • Eliminate the BCB;
  • Create  a cabinet-level Department of Administration;
  • Move all procurement activities to the Department of Administration;
  • Repeal the power of the BCB to loan funds from one agency to another, and would move it to the Legislature; and
  • Give authority to recognize deficits solely to the General Assembly, which was previously vested with the BCB.

Smith said that with the new version of S. 22 passed Thursday, a conference committee made up of members of both chambers likely would be needed to resolve any differences, such as which entity would control procurement.

During Thursday’s meeting, Quinn offered an amendment that could streamline the approval process for higher education capital projects. He said some members of the state Joint Bond Review Committee (JBRC) and BCB have a tendency to delay decisions.

“They don’t want to vote against it, but they really want to make it tough because they really don’t like it,” he said.

Quinn’s amendment would require the BCB, or the entity that would replace it, to vote within 45 days of when proposals were submitted. A project would be favorably reviewed by the JBRC and approved by the BCB if either panel failed to notify the institution within the 45-day deadline. The subcommittee amended Quinn’s proposal to 90 days.

In offering the amendment, Quinn said he was motivated by a Senate bill ( S. 535), which would create an “enterprise” division within Clemson University that would be free from JBRC and BCB oversight.  He predicted that bill would have a tough going in the House.

“I don’t think that’s realistic in the House,” Quinn said. “It may be for the Senate, but in talking to a lot of members of the House Ways and Means Committee, they seem to have a lot of objections. And that’s one of the reasons why I am doing this because I don’t think they’re going to get an opportunity for that bill.”

Contacted after Thursday’s meeting, Massey told The Nerve he is pleased that the House is moving the bill. He said both chambers need to get the bill to a conference committee so lawmakers can talk about key issues.

Olson can be reached at (803) 254-4411 or curt@thenerve.org. Follow him on Twitter @thenerve_curt and @olson_curt. Follow The Nerve on Facebook and on Twitter @thenervesc.