Tort reform and incandescent light bulbs will be oft-repeated phrases in the South Carolina Statehouse this week.
The Senate plans to take up tort reform over the next few days. GOP leaders want to cap how much a company can be sued for punitive damages. Punitive damages are civil lawsuit awards that are designed to punish the company for something it did wrong. They are different from compensatory damages, which cover any losses suffered by a plaintiff suing the company.
The bill, which passed the House in February, would cap punitive damages at either $350,000 or three times the compensatory damages– whichever is higher. The Senate made some minor changes in committee, including the trial proceedings of a person who was not wearing a seatbelt and is suing the car manufacturer.
Sen. Larry Martin (R-Pickens) has shepherded tort reform through the committee process. He says one sticking point may be a seatbelt provision in the proposed law. “We’re one of the few states that has an outright bar to the admission of seatbelts in an accident case. There’s going to be some discussion on this floor about that,” says Martin.
Meanwhile, the House will take up a bill that would attempt to open up South Carolina to incandescent light bulbs after the federal government begins phasing them out for more efficient compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) in 2012.
Some Republicans are testing if a theoretical lighting company based in South Carolina could sell the bulbs purely in-state to avoid the interstate commerce parts of the law. Rep. Bill Sandifer (R-Pickens) is co-sponsoring the bill, saying CFLs are inferior in quality.
The color of the light is poor. The brilliance is poor. They take a long time to come on. If you should break one on the floor of your house, you almost have to call a hazmat team in to come in.
The bill has garnered national attention for its uniqueness. However, critics question whether it will actually accomplish anything since there are currently no lightbulb manufacturers in South Carolina.
Also scheduled this week:
-A House panel will hold its first hearing Tuesday on a bill that would effectively make driving mopeds while drunk a crime. Currently, mopeds are not considered a vehicle, so they are not covered by the state’s DUI laws.
– A House subcommittee will hear testimony Wednesday about a proposed bill that would offer a tax incentive for those who attend private schools. Parents would be able to apply the tuition costs towards a state tax credit. It would also allow businesses to claim a tax credit if they donate to a scholarship fund for lower-income students to attend a private school.
– The Senate Judiciary Committee will consider some changes Tuesday to a House bill that attempts to move much of the state’s bureaucracy under the governor’s control and away from the largely independent Budget & Control Board. A Senate subcommittee recommended the amendments two weeks ago.
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