— As debate continues on a bill that would ban “sweepstakes” machines, one prominent legislator took to the House floor Wednesday to complain about “selective enforcement” of the state’s strict gambling laws. State Rep. Todd Rutherford (D-Columbia), the House Minority Leader, said it was hypocritical to outlaw sweepstakes machines in gas stations and internet cafes while at the same time allowing amusement centers like Chuck E. Cheese or the state lottery to continue operating. Legislators delayed a vote on the bill Wednesday. The state Attorney General’s Office insists there is a difference— it believes sweepstakes are already illegal under South Carolina’s video poker law.
— Several parents from a Charleston girls’ school pushed Senators to pass a bill that would make South Carolina share mental health information to use in gun purchase background checks. The parents were from Ashley Hall School, where 28-year-old Alice Boland is accused of trying to fire a handgun at several employees during a carpool pickup. Boland’s gun did not fire and no one was hurt, but she became a poster child for reform once it was revealed she had been declared mentally incompetent in 2005. Last month, lawmakers in both chambers introduced bills aimed at sharing South Carolina’s mental health data with federal authorities who maintain the databases against which gun background checks are run.
— A bill that advanced past a House judiciary subcommittee Wednesday would ban kids from buying electronic cigarettes. Rep. Bruce Bannister (R-Greenville) sponsored legislation that would add “e-cigarettes” to a law barring the sale of tobacco products to anyone under age 18. “E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that heat a nicotine solution and create a vapor that users inhale. They are not classified as tobacco in South Carolina. No one spoke against the idea during Wednesday’s meeting.
— State legislators are giving the South Carolina High School League an ultimatum: change your rules or we will eliminate you. The league oversees high school athletics in South Carolina and has operated independently of state government. But league officials have made powerful enemies in recent years with several controversial decisions, most notably disqualifying an undefeated Goose Creek football team for using an ineligible reserve player. Lawmakers are considering placing its functions under the state Department of Education, but senators decided Wednesday to hold off until the league holds its annual convention this weekend, where numerous rule changes are on the agenda.
— The head of South Carolina’s environmental and public health agency is requesting an additional $1.5 million to help keep sensitive information safe, WLTX-TV reports. Director Catherine Templeton told a Senate Finance panel Wednesday that the money would be for hardware updates and replacements, enhancements to software system, and network and data security. The agency says none of the money is expected to fund personnel. Senators say they are still working to see how much it would cost for improved security all state agencies.
— The legislature will take a two-week spring break starting at the end of the month. Both the House and the Senate have begun furlough weeks in recent years as a budget-saving gesture. The Senate voted Wednesday to not meet during the weeks before and after Easter. The House had already made that decision. While the House usually takes off at least one week around Easter, this marks the first time in at least three decades that the Senate has taken two weeks off. Lawmakers estimate the total amount saved in reimbursed travel mileage and daily expenses would be about $150,000.