March 2, 2015

SC Big Story: Snow Day at the Statehouse

College of Charleston mascot "Clyde" pretends to speak behind a podium at the Statehouse during College of Charleston Day

College of Charleston mascot “Clyde” pretends to speak behind a podium at the Statehouse during College of Charleston Day

A roundup of what’s making news in South Carolina state government.

The House and Senate are both out of the chamber Thursday, as legislative leaders didn’t want their members driving through a potential six inches of snow forecasted for the Upstate and Rock Hill regions.

Naturally, it ended up being much less than forecasted. But lawmakers had already returned to their home districts by then.

— State senators gave their approval to a bill Wednesday that would create tougher penalties against those convicted of domestic violence. The measure includes language that would bar gun ownership for those convicted of any level of domestic violence. It passed in a 38-3 vote, with opponents saying they felt the gun ban was too strict for those convicted on low-level misdemeanors. The measure will head to the House after another procedural vote expected next week.

— The Senate Education Committee advanced a bill to the full Senate Wednesday that would get rid of South Carolina State University’s current board of trustees. Instead, a new panel would take its place appointed directly by the governor and General Assembly leaders. The board voted 10-1 Wednesday in favor of the proposal. But the sole “no” vote by Sen. Gerald Malloy, D-Darlington, and his decision to file a “minority report” opposing the bill will make it harder to take up on the Senate floor.

— An unusually animated Gov. Nikki Haley accused the House’s chief budget writer State Rep. Brian White, R-Anderson, of running up the state’s debt with a proposed $500 million in borrowing. The language was included in the proposed budget plant that will be taken up on the House floor next month. Much of the half-billion bonds will be used to pay for college construction and job training projects. Other House budget writers defended the bonds as a way to pay for the projects at a time the state’s debt is comparatively low.

— The board that governs South Carolina’s environmental and public health agency said Wednesday that it will conduct a national search for its next chief. The State newspaper reports the board for the Department of Health and Environmental Control appears to be stung by criticism it got for only interviewing one candidate — former state insurance director Eleanor Kitzman — in January. Kitzman withdrew her name from consideration this weekend after a strong backlash from Democrats (and a few Republicans) over her credentials and close political ties to Gov. Haley.

SC Senate approves domestic violence bill, including gun ban

State Sen. Chip Campsen, R-Charleston (File)

State Sen. Chip Campsen, R-Charleston (File)

South Carolina state senators gave their approval Wednesday to a bill that puts tougher penalties in place against those convicted of domestic violence.

The measure, which passed in a 38-3 vote, includes language that would bar gun ownership for those convicted on any level of domestic violence. However, a group of senators led by State Sen. Chip Campsen, R-Charleston, got a last-minute amendment included that would give a judge discretion in ordering a weapons ban for the lowest tier of offenses. That amendment passed by a narrow 22-20 vote.

The legislation will head to the House after another procedural vote expected next week. The House has not yet taken up its own version, which currently does not include the gun ban.

Campsen said he was concerned a person could lose their gun rights for low-level misdemeanor offense where no injury occurred. “A (criminal domestic violence) third degree can be something as minor as throwing the briefcase on the floor when you learn about something your spouse has done,” he said on the Senate floor. “Throwing a plate in their general direction and breaking it. Slamming the door, text messages that are unwanted.”

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Former congressional candidate wins SC House race

Jay Jordan (Image: Jordan for South Carolina)

Jay Jordan (Image: Jordan for South Carolina)

A Florence attorney active in regional politics has won a special GOP primary for an open seat in the South Carolina House of Representatives.

Jay Jordan’s 55 percent of the roughly 3,520 votes cast was enough to avoid a runoff against Florence City Councilman Robby Hill and Timmonsville property manager Elijah Jones. Since there is no Democratic candidate in the race, Jordan will almost certainly take the seat in April.

He will replace former State Rep. Kris Crawford, R-Florence, who resigned in December shortly after his reelection. Crawford said his time in the House was “disruptive” to his career as an emergency room doctor and for his family.

While Jordan has never held elective office before, he is hardly a newcomer to politics. He unsuccessfully ran for a new seat in Congress three years ago, finishing third in the GOP primary with roughly 21 percent of the vote. Then-Horry County Council chairman Tom Rice would end up winning the nomination and eventually the seat in the U.S. House.

Jordan serves on the Florence City Planning Commission and is the former chairman of the Florence County Election Commission and Voter Registration Board.

Hill received 30 percent of the vote while Jones picked up just 10 percent.

SC Big Story: Senator tells of sister’s abuse during domestic violence debate (AUDIO)

State Sen. Katrina Shealy, R-Lexington, speaks on the domestic violence bill Tuesday (Image: SCETV)

State Sen. Katrina Shealy, R-Lexington, speaks on the domestic violence bill Tuesday (Image: SCETV)

A roundup of what’s making news in South Carolina state government.

South Carolina’s only female state senator spoke about her own family’s struggles with domestic violence on the floor Tuesday.

State Sen. Katrina Shealy, R-Lexington, spoke as the Senate continued debating a bill that seeks to impose tougher punishments for convicted batterers. It also came as opponents continue to hold up a vote because the bill would bar an offender from owning a gun after a misdemeanor domestic violence conviction.

During her five-minute speech, Shealy said her sister struggled with an abusive husband for thirty years. The senator said her brother-in-law often made threats to kill his wife and children. “She would sit in her room and she heard him in another room cocking a gun over and over again,” Shealy said. “Finally, one Friday night in November of 1999, she had had enough after almost 30 years of living in torment.”

LISTEN TO SHEALY’S FULL SPEECH (5:02)

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Senate panel gives OK to replacement of SC State trustees

Members of the Senate Higher Education subcommittee discuss the bill Tuesday

Members of the Senate Higher Education subcommittee discuss the bill Tuesday

A state Senate panel on Tuesday advanced a bill that would remove the South Carolina State University board of trustees.

The Higher Education Subcommittee voted unanimously in favor of a bill that would replace the current board with a new five-member panel. That panel, appointed by the governor and legislative leaders, would serve through 2018. The proposal slightly differs from House budget language that would replace the board with the State Financial Accountability Authority (consisting of the governor, Senate and House budget chairmen, State Treasurer, and Comptroller General).

The measure now heads to the Senate Education Committee for its meeting Wednesday. It will likely be taken up on the Senate floor next week then sent to the House.

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