Headlines from the South Carolina State Capitol Friday
–The buzz around the Statehouse Thursday centered mostly on the future of embattled Lt. Gov. Ken Ard. With nine months having passed since an investigation into ethics charges against him was handed to a grand jury, speculation is that an indictment could come down soon. Ard could resign beforehand or be suspended if it does happen. Either way, it could kick off a complicated reshuffling of power in the Senate.
–By a 35-0 vote, senators quietly granted second reading to a bill that would prevent future Occupy-style protests on the Statehouse grounds. The legislation, if given an expected third reading next week, would then head to the House. It would make permanent a temporary ban on camping and sleeping on the grounds, which the Budget and Control Board passed in December.
–The Senate also passed a bill by Rep. Jim Harrison (R-Columbia) that would reduce the liability of a landowner or forester conducting a prescribed burn. As long as the person follows state laws, and no negligence is proven, they would not be liable for any damages from the fire under the bill. It now goes back to the House.
–A Senate committee is considering lifting the caps on damages in lawsuits filed against the state. The bill was brought forward by Sen. Harvey Peeler (R-Gaffney) in response to a current $600,000 cap per incident that he says will not come close to paying for victims’ medical bills in the crash of a Spartanburg amusement train last year.
–Senators took a moment Thursday morning to honor Jim Davenport– the veteran Statehouse reporter for the Associated Press who has stepped aside to renew his personal fight against cancer. Davenport first said he had been diagnosed with the disease in 2010 but went on to beat it at the time. Shortly after Thursday’s honor, Davenport tweeted, “Humbled by the resolution and the years of work at one of the best gigs in the AP. Now let’s get strong and kick the cancer in round 2.”