Lawmakers gear up for legislative session

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WACH) - Some lawmakers are ready to hit the ground running even though the second half of the 119th South Carolina General Assembly doesn't start until January 10th.

Fiscal fitness is the name of the game in some of the legislation that will be filed next month. Democrats are teaming up with Republican lawmakers on key legislation; that includes the South Carolina False Claims Act. Lexington Senator Jake Knotts says the bill empowers citizens and state employees to blow the whistle on waste, fraud and abuse by protecting them from retaliation.It also establishes a formula to reward them.

"We had five million dollars taken in one instance from DSS, by one person that developed a scheme to defraud the state, said Knotts.

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Knotts and Camden Democratic Senator Vincent Sheheen are also joining forces to craft legislation that would close loopholes in the constitution letting state agencies get around a law preventing them from running a deficit.

"You can go around pretending like you're some fiscally responsible person, but your actions speak louder than words," said Sheheen. We have not seen that in the leaders of South Carolina in the past few years, it's time that we see it."

"We sit here night after night in the session, to cut this agency and that agency, said Knotts; "just to learn that after we go out of session, certain cabinets are allowed to run a deficit."

Sheheen wants to rein in state agencies even further with a bill allowing the legislature to have more oversight.

"State agencies operate basically independently, nobody is looking to see if they're solving the problem we expect them to solve.

Knotts says lawmakers may propose legislation to prevent what some critics call a "job killing" move by DHEC. Last fall the agency fast tracked approval of a permit allowing the state of Georgia to expand the Savannah River.

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