- Associated Press - Friday, May 23, 2014

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - South Carolina lawmakers up against adjournment in early June are trying to speed up the passage of a bill that will create a research university within the College of Charleston that is designed to meet the workforce demands of the state’s changing economy.

In an unusual move, lawmakers voted 22-15 on Thursday to remove the bill that creates what they are calling the University of Charleston from the Senate Education Committee and send it directly to the Senate floor.

Lawmakers could vote on the bill early next week despite objections of Senate President Pro Tem John Courson, R-Columbia, who chairs the education committee. It was originally scheduled to be brought before the full Education Committee as part of the normal legislative process. The regular legislative session ends June 5.

Senate Finance Chairman Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, made the motion, saying the process needs to be accelerated because a significant unnamed donor is waiting on the bill’s passage.

Courson said the bill should be delayed until it is vetted and the full committee should meet over the off-session to determine its impact.

“We may be on the verge of passing a bill that nobody knows the costs,” said Courson. “My concern is not the legislation itself because I haven’t really gotten into it yet.”

Sen. Larry Grooms, R-Bonneau, said, “It is safe to say Sen. Courson is not inclined for that bill to pass this year and fearing that he has the ability to slow walk this bill to the Senate calendar, a number of us felt that we need to take the unusual and necessary step of getting it placed on the calendar.”

Grooms said that if the Senate had waited until next week for the bill to be found favorable by the committee, it would have risked not getting on the Senate calendar in time for it to have a chance of passing this session.

In addition to creating an advanced research facility associated with the College of Charleston, the bill which passed the House 95-8 last month would also bar the University of Charleston from duplicating programs already offered in Charleston.

A previous version which sought to create the comprehensive research facility by merging the College of Charleston and the Medical University of South Carolina was opposed by MUSC’s board.

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