The Senate is entering its third week in the budget debate after legislators narrowly shot down an attempt to end all abortions on the state health plan. Right now, a woman on the plan can go through the procedure only if she was the victim of rape, incest, or her life is at risk. Some conservatives, led by Sen. Lee Bright (R-Spartanburg), wanted to end the rape and incest exceptions, saying an infant should not be punished for its father’s crime.
Shortly after ending debate on the amendment, senators voted by a 26-20 margin to keep the exemptions in place. That angered Bright, who never had a chance to speak before the vote. He immediately took the podium and threatened to filibuster all remaining votes. That led the Senate to adjourn further debate until Wednesday.
The Senate did vote to keep funding for the Arts Commission intact as a line item on the budget, against the wishes of Gov. Nikki Haley. Haley had wanted the commission’s responsibilities shifted into her cabinet. Several legislators warned they did not have enough votes to overrule a veto.
Senators also approved $2 million for the state Conservation Bank, overcoming an effort by some conservatives to end funding for what they considered nonessential services.
The House changed the language of a bill that is considered “critical” for the state’s construction industry, then passed it. It attempts to clarify a state Supreme Court decision earlier this year that ruled damage from “poor workmanship” was not covered under construction insurance policies. Legislators worried the Court’s interpretation would stifle future development.
The House also passed a bill that would make copper theft a felony. Legislators want to crack down on a growing problem in South Carolina as metal prices rise. Opponents were upset that legitimate copper sellers would have to go through a permitting process. It’s unlikely to pass the Senate before the end of the year, however, meaning that body would have to take it up in January.
Legislation that would give towns and individuals the power to claim abandoned boats is heading to the governor’s desk for her signature after the House unanimously approved some Senate changes.
The General Assembly will not meet until Wednesday this week in honor of Confederate Memorial Day.