Photo by Pepi Stojanovski on Unsplash

In a $14 billion budget year where surpluses rule, old-time conservative spending seems to have gone out of the window as S.C. House budget committee members passed a plan Thursday to to give raises to teachers, state employees and law enforcement officers, build new schools, construct a state health lab, and buy more body cameras and bulletproof vests for police officers. 

The proposed budget, which House lawmakers will consider in March, also includes an income tax cut that will remove $8 billion from state coffers over the next 10 years. That proposal was passed Wednesday as a separate bill with less than 15 minutes of discussion. Now the bill goes to the state Senate. The House plan would cut the state’s top income tax rate from 7% to 6% over the next six years, a plan tied to economic growth. All other taxpayers would be combined into a 3% bracket. More: AP NewsWSPAWLTX.

In other recent news:

Biden interviews 3 for high court, including S.C.’s Childs. President Joe Biden is on track to decide on a nominee to fill the seat vacated by Justice Stephen Breyer by the end of February, according to reports from the White House. Among the three Black women he has interviewed for the job is U.S. District Judge J. Michelle Childs of South Carolina, a jurist being pushed strongly by powerful U.S. House Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C. More: The Washington Post.

S.C. elections officials prepare to use contested voting maps in 2022 elections. A federal lawsuit that alleges South Carolina’s new state House and congressional maps intentionally discriminate against Black voters is unlikely to prevent those maps from being used in this year’s elections.

S.C. Senate passes hands-free cell phone bill. The state Senate has passed the second of three readings of a bill that bans drivers from holding a cellphone while the vehicle is in motion or face a $100 fine. The bill faces a routine vote before heading to the House, which has failed to pass similar bills in recent years. 

Ban on modified trucks gains momentum after bill passes S.C. Senate.  A bill making it illegal to drive a “Carolina Squat” modified truck on South Carolina’s highways passed the Senate overwhelmingly, with drivers and law enforcement officers at odds about the dangers of such vehicles.

Family of man who died in S.C. jail pushes for hate crime bill. Jamal Sutherland’s parents appeared Wednesday with members of the Black Legislative Caucus in an effort to urge state lawmakers to pass a hate crimes law and a bill specifying excessive force by police officers as illegal. 

Federal court upholds ruling blocking S.C. abortion ban. A federal appeals court on Tuesday upheld a ruling blocking the enforcement of South Carolina’s fetal heartbeat law, which would ban most abortions after six weeks of pregnancy. 

Why high gas prices might actually encourage S.C. tourismA vast majority of those visiting Myrtle Beach drive to the destination, making it seem like the recent spike in gas prices would negatively impact the city. But Coastal Carolina University hospitality professor Taylor Damonte said that over the years, he’s noticed a positive correlation between fuel prices and how busy the region gets during the peak travel season. More: The State

This story originally appeared in Statehouse Report.

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