January 31, 2015

SC House panel OK’s shortening window for abortions

State Rep. Wendy Nanney (File image: SCETV)

State Rep. Wendy Nanney (File image: SCETV)

South Carolina House lawmakers have advanced a bill that would ban abortions after 19 weeks of pregnancy.

In a unanimous vote, the House panel of four Republicans and one Democrat allowed the bill to clear its first hurdle Thursday by unanimously passing it up to the House Judiciary Committee. Similar legislation passed the House in 2014, but opponents prevented it from reaching a vote in the Senate.

Currently, South Carolina bans abortions after 23 weeks — which is when it considers a fetus to be “viable,” or potentially able to survive outside the mother’s womb. The bill’s sponsor State Rep. Wendy Nanney, R-Greenville, argues whether or not a fetus can feel pain after 19 weeks should be considered.

“As human beings, we’re not going to intentionally inflict pain on a little baby,” she told South Carolina Radio Network.

[Read more…]

Domestic violence bill, with new gun ban, advances in SC Senate

The bill's sponsor Sen. Larry Martin said concerns about gun rights need to be weighed against South Carolina's high murder rate (Image: SCETV)

The bill’s sponsor Sen. Larry Martin said concerns about gun rights need to be weighed against South Carolina’s high murder rate (Image: SCETV)

After hours of sometimes heated debate, a state Senate committee decided to bar any individuals convicted of domestic violence from possessing guns for up to 10 years.

That language received the most debate during the Senate Judiciary Committee meeting on Wednesday. Committee members voted to advance the bill to the full Senate floor after defeating several proposed amendments that would have eased or eliminated the ban.

“We in state government have a duty to protect the most vulnerable in South Carolina, and tragically, that too often ends up being members of an abuser’s household,” committee chairman Larry Martin, R-Pickens, said in a statement. “South Carolina has been among the worst in the nation in domestic violence for far too long, and I’m hopeful the full Senate will address this bill quickly.”

The approved wording would bar gun ownership for anyone convicted on any domestic violence level. The new bill creates three degrees of domestic violence, based on the severity of the incident or assault. Current law escalates the penalties based on whether it is the first, second or third occurrence.

[Read more…]

SC Big Story: Governor covers road funding, job training, in State of the State speech

S.C. Statehouse

S.C. Statehouse

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

Governor Nikki Haley on Wednesday indicated she would no longer oppose raising the state’s gas tax, but only if it came with a much larger income tax cut and significant changes to South Carolina’s transportation agency.

Haley outlined a proposal during her State of the State address that would gradually increase the state’s gas tax by 10 cents up to 26 cents per gallon by 2019. But that would be offset by a 2 percentage point decrease in South Carolina’s income tax from 7 percent to 5 percent.

She said lawmakers must also eliminate the South Carolina Transportation Commission, the eight-member panel which must approve spending for any construction projects.

Democrats, most notably House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford, slammed the idea as “not a plan at all” and said Haley’s conditions effectively place lawmakers in a box.

The governor also introduced a new proposal that would offer jobs skills training to help employees land jobs at small businesses and medium-sized companies. The initiative, known as “Succeed SC” is patterned after the readySC program which currently offers job training programs for large corporations such as Boeing and BMW. Haley gave only a few details of how the program would work. She did say the state will pay for a prospective employee to get training for a specific skill a company needs. That employee would then repay the state trough their paycheck after getting the job.

[Read more…]

Haley says she’ll support gas tax increase, with big caveats

Haley spoke for roughly 39 minutes in her fifth address to the legislature (Image: SCETV)

Haley spoke for roughly 39 minutes in her fifth address to the legislature (Image: SCETV)

Governor Nikki Haley indicated Wednesday a willingness to reverse an earlier pledge not to raise the state’s gas tax, but only if it came with a much larger decrease in income taxes and a restructuring of the state’s transportation agency.

Haley offered her roads plan during her fifth annual State of the State speech Wednesday night. The governor proposed raising South Carolina’s 16-cents per-gallon gas tax, but only if it was included in a “three part package.”

“Let’s increase the gas tax by 10 cents over the next three years and let’s dedicate that money entirely towards improving our roads,” she said. “That will keep our gas tax below both Georgia and North Carolina. And we can do it without harming our economy.”

But her caveat made it clear she would not support the increase unless it also came with a reduction in the current income tax from 7 percent to 5 percent. She also pushed for the elimination of the current South Carolina Transportation Commission, an eight-member board appointed largely by the legislature (with one seat selected by the governor) that approves all road projects in South Carolina.

Haley said the commissioners often focus on getting what is best for their region at the expense of the entire state.

[Read more…]

Ethics reform bill will be first major legislation on SC Senate floor

Senate Judiciary Chairman Larry Martin (Image: SCETV)

Senate Judiciary Chairman Larry Martin (Image: SCETV)

Bills that would revamp South Carolina’s ethics laws have now reached the full state House and Senate floors, after the respective Judiciary Committee in each chamber advanced the legislation on Tuesday.

The issues on the Senate side appear to be the same ones that ultimately stalled the measure last year — the membership of the new Ethics Commission and whether independent group ads should be regulated. While the Senate is attempting to pass an omnibus bill, the House is attempting to pass similar language in separate smaller bills in the hope that less-controversial sections would be approved more quickly.

While some objections were raised to various parts of the Senate version, only one senator opposed it moving to the floor for further debate. That would occur next week at the earliest.

Some Democratic senators took issue with the proposed expansion of the South Carolina Ethics Commission. The commission would now be able to investigate ethics complaints against legislators for the first time, ending the current jurisdiction of the House Ethics Committee and Senate Ethics Committee. The Senate version would split the commission into 4 members chosen by the General Assembly (two from the House and two from the Senate) and 4 more appointed by the governor. The House version would have 12 members, with 4 additional from the state’s judiciary branch.

State Sen. John Scott, D-Richland, wanted the governor’s appointees to be vetted by the legislature. “How are we going to have half the commission vetted in the legislative process in making sure everything’s straight, the other half that we’re guessing?”

[Read more…]