COLUMBIA — Clemson University officials believe they will eventually get the spending and procurement reforms they seek, despite the last-minute stall by a Republican senator (and Clemson alumni) this week ahead of an important legislative deadline.
State Sen. Shane Martin, a Republican from Spartanburg, objected to sending the so-called Clemson Enterprise Act to the House of Representatives for consideration before Wednesday, the crossover deadline for bills to move from one chamber to the other without special orders. Each senator is allowed to place holds on up to three bills at a time for any reason, under Senate rules.
“I was prepared to take the floor and discuss my concerns with the bill, and I asked that we carry the bill over until later in the day to the point at which other business would have been completed,” Martin told the Independent Mail onWednesday. “When that motion was denied, I had no recourse but to object to the bill. My concerns about the bill have to do with my duty as an elected official to protect the taxpayers of South Carolina. I have no other motivation.”
According to university officials and legislative supporters, the measure as it stands would streamline the oversight of how Clemson uses privately raised money to finance building projects — such as dormitories and athletic facilities — and public-private partnerships like the university’s International Center for Automotive Research in Greenville. It would be along the lines of the reforms approved for the Medical University of South Carolina’s hospital system in Charleston over a decade ago.
Martin declined to comment further when asked exactly what he was protecting taxpayers from with his hold. He would not tell the newspaper — or his colleagues, apparently — exactly what he doesn’t like about Clemson’s proposal.
“He won’t tell us,” Sen. Larry Martin, a Republican from Pickens, said Wednesday. “I have no idea what his objections are. I asked him and he won’t say ... it caught us completely by surprise. We seemed to have everybody pretty much on board with it.”
University President Jim Barker was not available for comment, but Clemson’s top lobbyist said the measure still has a shot at passage during this session.
“The bill can continue to be taken up in the Senate,” said Angie Leidinger. “It is currently on the Senate calendar and up for second reading with the objection pending.”
The Senate could go ahead and send the act to the House of Representatives. Larry Martin, who is chairman of the Senate’s Judiciary Committee, said there is time to get the legislation passed out of the Senate with a special order and over to the House, even if his colleague from Spartanburg refuses to release his hold.
“I don’t think the door is shut, but I don’t think there’s a huge crack either,” he said.
Once the Clemson bill makes it over to the House, by whatever means, it would still require two-thirds support from House members just to put the measure back in play for this session.