Headlines from the SC State Capitol:
–One day after Occupy Columbia protesters returned to the Statehouse, House members rushed legislation through committee Thursday to prevent them from camping on the grounds. The group left the grounds in December after a judge upheld emergency regulations passed by the Budget and Control Board which barred overnight stays at the Statehouse. But those regulations expired after 90 days earlier this week. The Senate passed the new ban last week and the House will likely vote on it next week. The protesters are legally allowed to stay on the grounds until then, however.
–A day after he resigned from office, State Rep. Thad Viers (R-Myrtle Beach) was indicted by a grand jury on charges of first degree stalking and harassment. Viers was arrested in January after his ex-girlfriend told police he continued to call and text her repeatedly and showed up at her home uninvited.
–A bill that prohibits prison inmates from creating or maintaining social network accounts will head to conference committee after the House and Senate disagreed over how far the restrictions should go. Several House members became concerned about a Senate amendment that would bar anyone from creating a page on an inmate’s behalf. They worried it could criminalize friends and family who create pages supporting a prisoner’s innocence.
–The Senate sent on to the House a bill that would require coaches, camp counselors, and others to report suspected child abuse. The legislation is inspired by a former Citadel camp counselor who is accused of molesting several students. Sponsor Mike Rose (R-Summerville) said those who work with children as part of their job should have the same obligations as teachers.
–New Department of Health and Environmental Control director Catherine Templeton is generating controversy as she restructures the leadership of the agency. Specifically, several watchdog groups are questioning four new high-paying executive jobs that Templeton says are necessary to make the agency more efficient.
–A House panel advanced a bill that would make gold and silver legal tender in South Carolina. A bill by Rep. Mike Pitts (R-Laurens) would allow a business to accept gold and silver coins as currency if it chooses. The subcommittee voted to change Pitts’s language that would have required businesses to accept the coins and instead make it optional. Advocates say metal coins are more stable than the U.S. dollar.
–Another House panel voted to move forward with a bill by Rep. Laurie Funderburk (D-Camden) that would allow voters to register online. Nine other states currently use a secure online database, which supporters say will help save the state money and create a more reliable list of voters. The legislation now moves forward to the full House Judiciary Committee.