Headlines from the SC Statehouse:
–Senators approved a $6.6 billion General Fund budget Thursday. Among the highlights were a three percent raise for most state employees (plus a five percent raise for law enforcement and a two percent increase in teachers’ pay), 100 additional law enforcement officers, and an additional $10 million for economic incentives. The budget now goes back to the House.
–Part of the budget included a compromise on abortion funding. Some conservative legislators have tried to stop abortion coverage on the state health plan in the cases of rape or incest, saying it should not be funded by taxpayers. Democrats have called that position insensitive. On Thursday, Sens. Brad Hutto (D-Orangeburg) and Lee Bright (R-Spartanburg) reached an amendment that would require such abortions to be covered solely by workers’ premiums, and not the taxpayer-funded portion of the plan.
–A state representative who was also running for Congress was arrested Wednesday night on DUI and weapons charges. Rep. Ted Vick (D-Chesterfield) was pulled over for speeding near Columbia’s Five Points entertainment district. An officer said Vick was arrested after refusing a breathalyzer test. When he was later searched at a county detention center, officers realized Vick was carrying a pistol with an an expired permit.
– A Senate panel advanced a bill that would make it a crime for teens to send a sexually-explicit image on their cell phone to another person. Sponsor Rep. Joan Brady (R-Columbia) said she worries the practice, known as “sexting,” often encourages cyber-bullying. It now heads to the full Senate Judiciary Committee– although it remains to be seen whether senators have enough time to take it up before the session ends.