— The Senate has passed a bill which would allow concealed weapons permit holders to carry guns into businesses that serve alcohol, as long as they follow certain conditions. Under a compromise, no firearms would be permitted in bars and restaurants serving alcohol between midnight and 5 a.m. Business owners could also ban weapons and the CWP holders also could not drink. The bill now goes to the House.
— A House ethics reform proposal that unanimously passed committee last week is now coming under heavy fire. Democrats and some Republicans are slamming the proposal for effectively decriminalizing all ethics violations. Meanwhile, the GOP’s Majority Leader responded that his intention had only been to decriminalize minor violations. The controversy flared up largely because the language was drafted in private meetings and only made public once it reached the House floor. Gov. Nikki Haley has even urged the House not to pass the current version.
— The House sent to the Senate a bill that would ban minors under age 18 from buying “laser devices.” The bill comes in response to warnings from the Coast Guard and others that laser pointers are becoming a real danger to pilots in the Grand Strand region. The bill, which was approved 81-8, would ban stores from selling laser devices to minors.
— Meanwhile, lawmakers advanced a proposal that would no longer require high school students to pass an exit exam to get their diplomas. Legislation that would remove the mandate unanimously passed the state House Education and Public Works Committee Tuesday. The bill now heads to the SC House floor. While most students easily pass the test, legislators and educators say students with learning disabilities often struggle with it.
— Another House committee agreed to fast-track legislation that would increase tax rebates for movies and TV shows, The State newspaper reports. It’s an effort to woo a CBS legal drama which is currently deciding whether to film in Charleston or Georgia. The Peach State offers more incentives than South Carolina. South Carolina currently pays production companies a rebate of 15 percent of whatever they spend on wages and supplies purchased in South Carolina. The bill would increase those rebates to 30 percent for supplies and 20 percent for wages. Gov. Nikki Haley has opposed similar efforts in the past, although her staff has not indicated whether she would veto this bill.
— The Senate Finance Committee cleared a bill that gives Clemson University more leeway in construction and real estate deals. If passed, the legislation would allow Clemson to avoid navigating the state’s construction bureaucracy for privately-funded projects. Under an amendment adopted Tuesday, only athletics, economic development and graduate-level research would be eligible. The bill now heads to the Senate floor.
— A Senate committee will spend the next two weeks trying to create a long-term solution for better funding repairs for the state’s aging roads. The Associated Press reports the Transportation Funding Special Subcommittee met for the first time Tuesday, considering eight different bills that would provide more money to fix roads and bridges. The ideas ranged from borrowing $500 million, to building toll lanes on interstates, to setting aside the sales tax paid on vehicle purchases only for road work.
— The temporary director of the state’s tax collection agency said he is trying to restore credibility there. During Gov. Haley’s Cabinet meeting Tuesday, Department of Revenue director Bill Blume said the new mantra at the agency is that security is “non-negotiable.” Blume said his agency has now finished some changes that cyber-security experts believe would have prevented a massive data breach at the agency last year.
— Meanwhile, another one of Haley’s Cabinet agencies came under fire from the Senate’s top Democratic senator Tuesday. Senate Minority Leader Nikki Setzler (D-West Columbia) took to the floor to demand answers as to why the state Department of Employment and Workforce (SCDEW) posted 291 job openings on the day after it announced 100 layoffs. An SCDEW spokeswoman told the Associated Press that many of the job “openings” were actually restructured jobs where laid-off employees could re-apply.
— The House Judiciary Committee advanced a bill that tries to protect kids from drug-abuser parents. The legislation would give courts clearer guidance on when to terminate parental rights in cases of drug abuse. The bill is named after Jaidon Morris, a 22-month-old who died from an overdose of narcotic cough syrup a week after a judge removed him from foster care and returned him to his parents. It now heads to the House floor.
— Religious leaders from around the state gathered at the Statehouse Tuesday, asking lawmakers to expand Medicaid coverage to cover more of the poorest, uninsured South Carolinians. Although the House rejected a similar appeal during its budget process, senators will take up the issue in committee meetings this week. The groups made appeals based on Jewish, Christian, and Islamic values.