A roundup of what’s making news in South Carolina state government
A lawmaker who sponsored an amendment that would have effectively eliminated every state regulation more than five years old now says that was not his intention.
State Rep. Todd Atwater, R-Lexington, said Tuesday he had only intended to require any new regulations to follow a five-year “sunset provision,” meaning they would expire after five years unless lawmakers acted to keep them in place.
“Each agency is already supposed to review their regulations every five years. They’re not doing that,” he told South Carolina Radio Network Tuesday. “They’re just leaving them on the books… So this would make them do it or (the regulation) would go away.”
However, Atwater admitted inartfully drawn language meant the change would have applied to every regulation currently on the books. Since most regulations are well beyond five years old, that could have meant serious consequences after the legislation passed the House unanimously last week.
The problem was revealed when The State newspaper published a report noting the language (which had been added as a late amendment to a minor bill dealing with administrative law court judges). Atwater was not quoted in the story, but state health and labor agencies were — and they were not happy.
The change was never in serious danger of becoming law, according to State Sen. Larry Martin, R-Pickens, who had sponsored the original bill that Atwater piggy-backed onto. The Senate Judiciary Committee, which Martin leads, voted to strip out the language Tuesday.
But Martin said he would not have supported the change even if it did exactly what Atwater originally intended. “This bill is much more narrowly focused on administrative law judges and really is not the vehicle (for) regulations that affect the whole of state government,” he told South Carolina Radio Network. Martin said he believes a court would have struck down the law for violating the “One Subject Rule” preventing unrelated legislation from being joined into a single bill.
Atwater said he does not plan to try re-adding a sunset provision for now. A bill he sponsored which would do just that remains stuck in a House committee.
More news from the Statehouse
— The Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday also advanced a bill that would ban texting while driving statewide, but the bill is weaker than originally proposed. Among the changes were allowing drivers to text while stopped or while using a hands-free mobile device. The committee also approved banning teens with learners’ permits or restricted licenses from using a cell phone at all behind the wheel.
— A bill that would not allow abortions after 20 weeks, instead of the current 24-week maximum, made its way to the House floor Tuesday. The House Judiciary Committee advanced the bill Tuesday by a voice vote. About a third of the committee opposed the measure, with some members citing a federal court ruling that struck down a similar Arizona bill.
— The Judiciary Committee also advanced legislation that would lessen the amount of time that married couples could separate before officially divorcing. The bill would shorten the required separation period from one year to 150 days. The committee approved the change in a narrow 12-11 vote, with opponents worried that couples would give up too quickly under the change.