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S.C. Politics Today: Sanford spotted hiking Capitol Hill


"What's happened with Governor Sanford only highlighted, really, what's been going on in some respects throughout our history in terms of not notifying the lieutenant governor when he leaves the state. That's been a running joke around the State House for years."

- Sen. Larry Martin, on legislation that passed a Senate committee Tuesday that would make it difficult for a governor to ditch his security detail


Sanford spotted hiking . . . Capitol Hill

Gov. Mark Sanford was back in the national headlines Thursday after CNN spotted him on Capitol Hill. And a day after making a final apology for his conduct, it looks as if the governor was turning the page.

Sanford, a former congressman, was in Washington, D.C., on official business. But he took some time to go see old friends on the hill.

According to media reports, Sanford spent some time with U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, the Texas Republican who ran for president in 2008 and its credited with helping start the so-called Tea Party movement.

Sanford's political career has been damaged, if not ended, by his June disappearance. But among libertarian-leaning Republicans, Sanford and Paul are heroes.

Paul is expected to run for president again in 2012. So The Buzz wonders, is Sanford sowing the seeds for 2012? Stranger things have happened.


'Sanford' security changes get OK

A bill approved Thursday by a South Carolina Senate panel would keep governors from ditching their security details like Gov. Mark Sanford did for a June rendezvous with his Argentine lover.

The bill would still need approval from the full Senate and House before becoming law. It was one of eight bills before Martin's panel touching on the fallout from Sanford's affair.

When Sanford disappeared, he told his security detail that he didn't need them. Later, when questions arose about Sanford's whereabouts, the State Law Enforcement Division had no way to reach him to verify he was safe.

Lawmakers said it's important to pass the legislation before June so candidates for governor know what comes with the office. Sanford is in the final year of his second term and can't run for re-election. A new governor will be elected in November.

- The Associated Press


The Senate ended its week unable to iron out differences on a contentious point of sale bill affecting real estate values.

"We've heard loud and clear the desire to have all parties involved in coming up with a proposal," said Sen. Thomas Alexander, R-Oconee, who helped hammer out a compromise on point of sale legislation.

"The one I presented (Wednesday) has been put on hold." But, "We've got the parties working," he said Thursday.

The point of sale bill, under the compromise currently on the table, exempts commercial real estate, second homes and other properties taxed at 6 percent from reassessments when they are sold, which can add on a substantial tax to the transaction.

The proposed tax relief doesn't include owner-occupied homes, which are taxed at 4 percent, raising some concerns with residential real estate agents.

Schools, counties and local governments said rescinding point of sale would hit their budget for an estimate $44 million, according to Board of Economic Advisors, a figure that would increase each year.

The compromise would have suspended point-of-sale reassessment for one year for commercial property and second homes, and then stepped up the tax liability for the new, additional property value to a maximum of 80 percent. That means that a $200,000 business sold in 2014 for $300,000 would pay the property taxes on the $200,000 value plus 80 percent of the property taxes on the new, additional $100,000 in value.

Representatives of local government and real estate agents plan to meet Monday with lawmakers.

- Roddie Burris and John O'Connor


The Employment Security Commission bill ran into trouble on Thursday with Sen. Robert Ford, D-Charleston, who placed an objection on the Senate bill.

"You can't break up an agency like that, and revamp an agency like that - that is responsible for jobs - in the middle of a recession," Ford said. "That doesn't make sense."

The Republican-led Senate pointed out a way earlier in the week to take up the legislation, when it got two senators to remove their objections from the bill, though they avoided making the bill a priority.

Ford said the legislation, which folds the Employment Security Commission into a new Department of Workforce, only has half the Senate's support right now, and noted a Legislative Audit Council report is due out on the agency soon.

Ford also said reinventing the agency while the state has such a high unemployment would create a "chaotic situation" for South Carolina workers. "Maybe it needs to be revamped, but not right now. When things are better, sure, I might support it, but not now."

- Roddie Burris


House Democrats say they'll push this year to root out corruption among their fellow lawmakers, create tax credits for homegrown energy including nuclear energy and push for a reserve fund in flush budget years.

Thursday, the Democrats unveiled their 2010 legislation agenda, which included a few items that Republicans say they want too, including restructuring the embattled Employment Security Agency.

At the top of Democrats' list this year: increasing the public's trust in lawmakers. One idea they plan to push is requiring all lawmakers to disclose all companies they do business with that employ a lobbyist at the State House.

Democrats also want lawmakers to have a say in whether state agencies raise fees.

"Republicans always claim that cutting taxes is good for both families and businesses," said House Minority Leader Harry Ott, D-Calhoun. "Instead, what they have done is raise hidden taxes on families and businesses by disguising these taxes as fee increases."

Democrats face an uphill battle as Republicans control both the House and Senate. The House is comprised of 73 Republicans and 51 Democrats this session.

- Gina Smith


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