— A showdown over a pair of gun bills is looming in the Senate, the Anderson Independent-Mail reports. After facing a flurry of amendments filed by opponents, senators adjourned for the week Thursday without a vote on legislation that would allow concealed weapons permit (CWP) holders to carry their guns into bars and restaurants that serve alcohol. But one particular amendment to eliminate CWPs altogether is rankling the bill’s supporters.
— A bill expected to come up for a vote in the House next week would end jobless benefits for unemployed South Carolinians who fail a drug test. Under the legislation, if an employee fails a test from a would-be employer, that employee would be ineligible for benefits. Supporters say those on unemployment are supposed to be willing and able to work. Opponents say it violates privacy rights.
— An ethics reform bill that would require legislators to disclose more of their income and contributions has reached the House floor. The House Judiciary Committee approved the proposal Wednesday. Most of the debate dealt with a new committee that would handle ethics investigations for all public officials in South Carolina (currently legislators have their own special committees to investigate House and Senate members).
— A Senate bill that would ease the state’s current ban on seawalls surged through a subcommittee Wednesday. The bill’s sponsor Sen. Glenn Reese (D-Spartanburg) says he does not want to end the ban entirely, but wants to address the manmade erosion that is threatening homes on Folly Beach. However, environmental officials don’t like seawalls because they often cause even more rapid erosion on the beach.
— An attorney representing Sen. Robert Ford (D-Charleston) says “accidental errors” led to ethics violations by Ford. Attorney William Runyon told the Associated Press that Ford was confused by the unwieldy process to file campaign paperwork. The Senate Ethics Committee found probable cause Wednesday to support accusations that Ford violated seven different areas of ethics law, including misusing campaign funds and not reporting all of his spending.
— University of South Carolina officials were at the Statehouse Thursday to launch a new online program called Palmetto College. The program would allow students to finish a four-year degree online without enrolling at a physical campus. USC President Harris Pastides said he wanted to personally thank legislators for setting aside $5 million to create the program last year. He said he’s continuing to push for a permanent $2.1 million to be added to the school’s funding annually.
— South Carolina’s Medicaid agency has posted information about the financial health of the 60 acute-care hospitals in the state. The Associated Press reports the new data is now available on the Department of Health and Human Service’s website. Agency director Tony Keck said, as the debate over expanding Medicaid coverage continues, he wants lawmakers and the public to know which hospitals are struggling and which are turning a profit.