February 6, 2016

SC House reverses earlier vote that doubled distance boaters must idle

Image: SCDNR

Image: SCDNR

The South Carolina House of Representatives reversed itself this week on a bill that would double the distance boaters must idle their engines while traveling on freshwater lakes or rivers.

The House initially voted 107-1 Tuesday in favor of a bill by State Rep. Chip Huggins, R-Columbia, that would increase the “no-wake” zone around a dock, pier, or anchored vessel from 50 feet to 100. However, the lone “no” vote State Rep. Murrell Smith, R-Sumter, was able to convince his colleagues to send the bill back to committee the next day for further review.

Smith told South Carolina Radio Network he had concerns about the law’s impact on travel in the marshes and tidal rivers along the coast. He said it “would take an hour-and-half to get from Garden City (town near Myrtle Beach) to the ocean,” since boaters would never be more than 100 feet from a dock or anchored boat.

Huggins agreed the bill’s sponsors had not realized the impact on coastal freshwater boating. The bill was quietly sent back to committee in a voice vote on Wednesday.

The bill was the result of several Department of Natural Resources hearings with boaters around the state on how to improve lake safety. Huggins said the intention was to make it easier for resource officers to enforce speed limits around areas with possible swimmers. “It’s hard to visually enforce anything,” Huggins said. “This would at least let them do a little better judging from this kind of distance and hopefully know if someone’s getting too close.”

Supporters say they will try to find a solution in committee, although Huggins said any future proposal would likely use a measure besides distance. He was not sure what that would look like, however.

Senate panel to discuss allowing prison inmates to attend funerals

State Sens. Margie Bright Matthews, D-Colleton, and Karl Allen, D-Greenville, listen to state Corrections Director Bryan Stirling last week

State Sens. Margie Bright Matthews, D-Colleton, and Karl Allen, D-Greenville, listen to state Dept. of Corrections Director Bryan Stirling last week

A state Senate panel plans to discuss legislation Thursday morning that would allow South Carolina prison inmates to attend funerals of loved ones while under guard, but the idea is opposed by corrections officials.

South Carolina’s prisons director Bryan Stirling said in a hearing last week he sympathizes with the idea of allowing nonviolent inmates to attend the funerals. But he told the Senate Corrections panel his agency does not have the manpower to spare for extended trips — particularly trips out of state.

“We just do not have the resources to carry this out,” Stirling said. “We have concerns with having officers transport across the state and possibly across the country. If we had enough officers and enough staff and we felt like we could do this safely, we would be all for it.”

The proposal sponsored by State Sen. Karl Allen, D-Greenville, would require the South Carolina Department of Corrections give the opportunity for inmates not considered a “security risk” to attend their family member’s funeral or hospital deathbed. The trips would be paid for by the family. Funerals for certain foster parents, stepchildren and other non-relatives would also be allowed. [Read more…]

Lawmakers promote Few to be newest SC Supreme Court justice

Judge John C. Few talks to legislators shortly after his election Wednesday

Judge John C. Few talks to legislators shortly after his election Wednesday

State lawmakers have chosen the newest justice on South Carolina’s Supreme Court.

Judge John Few is the first new justice tapped to the state’s highest court since 2009. Few has led the South Carolina Court of Appeals as chief judge for the past six years. He won a close vote Wednesday to take an open seat in the Supreme, defeating fellow appeals court judge H. Bruce Williams 92-73. Supreme Court judges in South Carolina are elected by a joint session of the state legislature.

“There’s just excitement, relief, and understanding the responsibility that comes with winning that seat,” Few told reporters shortly after the vote. “So, (I’m) excited and yet serious about it.”

He will replace former Chief Justice Jean Toal, who stepped down in December after reaching the mandatory retirement age last year. Last year, legislators picked Associate Justice Costa Pleicones to take over as chief justice for the Supreme Court. He reaches the mandatory retirement age later this year, so lawmakers will have to find another replacement by June.

Few had unsuccessfully run for a seat on the Supreme Court on three previous occasions. Few was able to secure a majority of legislators after chief judge of the Administrative Law Court Ralph King Anderson dropped out of the race less than 24 hours before Wednesday’s vote.

 

Proposal approved in House doubles distance boaters must idle in SC lakes

State Rep. Chip Huggins, R-Columbia (Image: SCETV)

State Rep. Chip Huggins, R-Columbia (Image: SCETV)

The South Carolina House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted Tuesday to double the distance a boat driver must slow down from a dock, pier, or another anchored vessel.

House members voted 109-1 to increase the distance that boaters must idle their engine as they approach shore. At an idle speed, a powered boat is no longer creating waves with its motor (known as “wake”). The new proposal doubles the distance to 100 feet from the current requirement of 50 feet.

State Rep. Chip Huggins, R-Columbia, said the bill stems from a series of public hearings across the state that sought input on how to improve boating safety. The state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) supports the change. Such zones are usually marked by buoys and are meant both to keep boats at safe speed limit and avoid damaging docks or piers with consistent strong waves.

Huggins said the measure is meant to improve boating safety. “It’s hard to visually enforce anything,” Huggins said. “This would at least let them do a little better judging from this kind of distance and hopefully know if someone’s getting too close.”

Vessels operating in the ocean would not be affected and must continue following the current idle speed requirement within 100 yards of the coast line.

The bill will head the state Senate with another procedural vote on Wednesday. State Rep. Murrell Smith, R-Sumter, was the lone “no” vote.

SC House supports letting governor pick Lt Gov, changes 3rd in line for office

S.C. Statehouse

S.C. Statehouse

South Carolina legislators are clarifying who will become the state’s chief executive in case both the governor and lieutenant governor become incapacitated.

The state House of Representatives is updating the corresponding laws after voters amended the South Carolina Constitution in 2012 so that the governor and lieutenant governor could run on the same ticket in the future. Current Gov. Nikki Haley and Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster are the last candidates to win office while running separately. The new changes will take effect for the 2018 election.

The bill approved unanimously on the House floor Tuesday would allow the governor to pick his or her running mate after successfully winning the party nomination. The language is meant to match how US presidential candidates make their vice-presidential picks. There had been a proposal to instead have the candidate pick their lieutenant governor during the primary, itself.

[Read more…]