Senate to debate fate of gov's restructuring bill

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - Senators on Wednesday agreed to debate whether South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley's government restructuring agenda will have to wait until next year.

Without discussion, senators agreed to put a resolution on the calendar that allows them to debate the legislation. Haley wants them to include four bills on the agenda of the Legislature's wrap-up session.

At the top of Haley's list is a proposal to move much of the state's bureaucracy into a new, Cabinet-level Department of Administration that reports to her. But she also wants to advance measures that would elect governors and lieutenant governors jointly, allow governors to appoint the state education superintendent and merge the state's parole and prison agencies.

The Legislature agreed two weeks ago to limit their wrap-up session work to a few issues, including redrawing election district lines and working out state spending plan compromises.

Changing that legislative agenda requires a two-thirds vote in the House and Senate and the fate of the measure that does that is far from certain. Twelve senators on the Senate Judiciary Committee signed a polling sheet to bring the change bill to the floor for debate and eight voted against it.

The agenda-setting resolution could be debated as early as Thursday.

But Senate Rules Committee Chairman Larry Martin said supporters of the Department of Administration legislation want the debate delayed until Tuesday because they need to make sure they have enough members on hand to vote for it.

In the House and Senate, Democrats are expected to decide the measure's fate because Republican lack the two-thirds majority needed without them.

If the Senate passes the sine die measure, Democrats won't support it in the House, Minority Leader Harry Ott said.

"Any changes to the sine die are not going to happen," said Ott, D-St. Matthews. "I'm not in a hurry to give the governor more authority."

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