COLUMBIA — A bill that would have eased state oversight of privately funded athletics, research and economic development projects at Clemson University was torpedoed Tuesday in the South Carolina Senate.
The measure would have createed an enterprise division that would be exempt from many state regulations. It represented the university’s top legislative priority and had the bipartisan backing of Senate leaders, several of whom are Clemson alumni.
University officials had hoped the Senate would pass the bill before a key deadline Wednesday. They were on the verge of achieving this goal when Sen. Shane Martin voiced an objection Tuesday that halted consideration of the measure.
The Republican from Spartanburg did not explain on the Senate floor why he was objecting to the bill. He could not be reached for comment Tuesday after the chamber adjourned.
By blocking a vote on the bill, Martin’s objection means that the measure cannot win Senate approval before Wednesday's “crossover deadline.” Any Senate bill passed after the deadline cannot be considered in the South Carolina House of Representatives unless two-thirds of its members agree to take up the measure.
Martin’s objection came as a surprise to Angie Leidinger, the university’s director of government affairs.
“It effectively means that the bill will not be considered in the House this year,” Leidinger said.
Clemson officials had been discussing the idea of placing an array of activities in an enterprise division for the past couple of years. They said the framework would eliminate time-consuming delays involving construction projects and private partnerships.
The enterprise division bill was introduced in March. After adding an amendment to limit the enterprise division to athletics, research and economic development, the Senate Finance Committee approved the measure earlier this month.
Sen. Ray Cleary, a Republican from Murrells Inlet, urged his colleagues to vote for the legislation Tuesday.
“This a great bill. This is a great amendment. This is a great university,” Cleary said.
Moments later, Martin made his objection.
One of the bill’s 17 sponsors, Sen. Billy O’Dell of Ware Shoals, missed Tuesday’s debate because he has been admitted to a Greenwood hospital for treatment of pneumonia. The 74-year-old Republican is serving his seventh term in the Senate.
Rusty Burns, Anderson County’s interim administrator and a close friend of O’Dell, said the senator has been feeling under the weather for a while.
“They are running some tests,” Burn said. “His prognosis is excellent.”
Independent Mail reporter Nikie Mayo contributed to this report.