p’ville post: tort reform, medicaid, local legislation

Powdersillve Post by Jason Evans

Sen. Bryant speaks on tort reform, Medicaid, local legislation

POWDERSVILLE — Sen. Kevin Bryant’s school days are behind him, but he recently received a passing grade from Gov. Nikki Haley

Haley gave Bryant an “A” score on her legislative report cards.

Bryant, who represents District 3 in the SC Senate spoke at a recent Town Hall meeting hosted by Councilman Ken Waters at Wren High School.

He spoke about some of the items Haley highlighted in her report card including on-the-record voting

Bryant has long been a proponent of transparency, often asking for his vote to be entered in the record during voice votes.

“Voice votes are when the presiding officer says ‘All in favor say aye and all opposed say no’, and you don’t know how they’re voting,” Bryant said.

Before legislation was proposed requiring votes to be recorded, the Senate changed its rules to require that votes be recorded.

“We changed our rules very early, yet the governor was very adamant that it be put in statute,” Bryant said. “I don’t think you really care how we do it — you just want to know how we vote.”

Bryant said that even though he voted for the on-the-record legislation, “I just don’t see the big deal there.”

“It’s all done,” he said. “It’s in legislation and it’s in the rules.”

Visit scsenate.gov to find out how senators are voting.

“I see a lot of waste in Medicaid,” said Bryant, who owns a pharmacy in Anderson. “A customer comes up to me with a prescription that costs $1,000 and their co-pay is $3.40, or the customer comes up to me and their prescription is $10 and their co-pay is $3.40 — there’s no consumerism there on their part to save you the taxpayer money.”

Bryant said he believed Medicaid should be allowed to use prior authorizations — making a customer meet a level of criteria before a prescription or procedure is paid for.

Prior authorizations can be a pain to providers, Bryant said, but he feels they are necessary

“Because the dollars are scarce and we need to protect your money,” Bryant said.

He also spoke on a tort reform bill that caps punitive damages on lawsuits.

The bill does not cap economic damages — loss of wages, damages to crops.

“Punitive damages are these things that go over and beyond, and those are capped at $500,000,” Bryant said. “That’s still a very large amount of money. That will help our economy. Anytime you do something to prevent frivolous lawsuits, it does help our economy.”

Bryant said he supported the majority of Gov. Haley’s budget vetoes.

He spoke about local legislation.

“Local legislation is a bill that comes to the Senate and only two people vote, me and Sen. O’Dell, the only two people that represent Anderson County,” Bryant said. “Then it goes to the House and the only ones who vote on it are the House members and it only applies to Anderson County.”

He feels the legislature “has gone too far” regarding local legislation.

“There were some bills that would allow some school districts to borrow money to pay ongoing expenses — to bond out money to pay the light bill, so to speak,” Bryant said. “I felt that wasn’t necessary, even though it wasn’t Anderson County. I felt like what they’re doing is being very irresponsible. The state’s going to have to bail them out, so it does affectyou up here, even though the school district is across the state.”

Gov. Haley has been vetoing many such local legislation bills, Bryant said.

Bryant also spoke on the proposed Department of Administration.

“South Carolina is the only state that has a Budget and Control Board,” he said. “The legislature controls more things in South Carolina than in most state. Our Office is the Governor is very weak. I feel personally that that’s not the best way to do business. The legislature ought to pass law and the executive branch ought to put forth that law.

“The Department of Administration bill eliminates the Budget and Control Board … puts a lot of these things in the executive branch,” Bryant continued.

He feels confident the Senate will pass that bill in the upcoming session.

“It’ll be one of the first things we do when we go back in January,” Bryant said.

The legislature could also look at changing the state Constitution to allow the State Superintendent of Education to be appointed, not elected, Bryant said.

“It would require two-thirds vote in the House and the Senate and then it would be put on the ballot for you to vote on,” Bryant said.

He also approves merging the Department of Parole with the Department of Corrections.

Bryant said he didn’t know if the Voter ID bill would be in effect in time for next year’s election, as there is a court challenge to the bill.

“I feel like that was very important,” Bryant said. “I feel like if I go vote, and someone goes to vote that shouldn’t be voting, they stole my vote.”

South Carolina is $32 billion in debt, a figure that includes unfunded liabilities, police officers retirement and state retirement, local government, unemployment and higher education, he said.

“What the legislature has been doing is offering things without figuring out how to pay for them,” Bryant said. “That’s how we got into this mess.”

Paying off the debt will lower unemployment taxes that employers have to pay, which will in turn help employers create jobs, Bryant said.

Bryant is up for re-election in 2012.

“I’ll be up for hire or fire,” he said. “I’ll leave that up to you.”
© powdersvillepost.com 2011