A roundup of what’s making news in South Carolina state government
A House subcommittee is scheduled to hear from the public Thursday morning on legislation that would require drivers with DUI charges to install a breathalyzer in their vehicle in order to continue operating it.
Known as an “ignitiion interlock” system, the device would not allow the car to start unless the driver first blows into the breathalyzer with a 0.02 blood alcohol level or less on their breath.
The devices are already required after a second offense in South Carolina. But a House panel is considering a bill which would require the devices for a person who has a DUI arrest to keep their driving privileges. The interlock device would be installed as a condition for a driver with a DUI-suspended license to keep driving. The legislation passed the state Senate last year.
The proposal is nicknamed “Emma’s Law” after Emma Longstreet, a 6-year-old Lexington girl who was killed after her parents’ vehicle was struck by a drunk driver on New Year’s Day 2012. Emma’s parents David and Karen Longstreet have devoted much of their efforts since her death to push for tougher DUI laws.
While any blood-alcohol level at 0.08 or above is considered illegal to drive, the bill would only require the interlock devices for a BAC of 0.12 or above. That accounted for about 30 percent of South Carolina drivers who were tested after a fatal crash in 2011, according to MADD. Sponsor Joel Lourie said he would prefer a lower number, but said the .12 mark would punish the worst offenders.
Some sentators called the devices a harsh punishment for a first-time offender. Others were concerned that drivers would simply borrow other peoples’ cars to use.
The House Judiciary panel will meet at 9:00 a.m. Thursday,
— The House on Wednesday voted to narrow the time period for a woman to get an abortion in South Carolina, from 23 weeks down to 19 weeks. The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act passed in an 84-29 vote. Supporters said it was an effort to declare that 20-week-old fetuses are viable and capable of feeling pain. Opponents questioned the scientific reasoning and claimed the bill is unconstitutional.
— Senate Democrats landed a victory Wednesday after an anti-Obamacare bill was defeated — by a technicality in Senate rules. The bill had passed the House last year with language that attempted to “nullify” the law. But senators were afraid the language was unconstitutional and Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, garnered GOP support for an amendment that would no longer declare federal law void, but instead say South Carolina would refuse to enforce it. But Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell ruled the amendment violated Senate rules. Shortly afterwards, the Senate overwhelmingly rejected the bill 33-9.
— A Democratic senator called on Gov. Nikki Haley to fire her director of child services. The comments from Sen. Joel Lourie, D-Richland, came after his oversight committee heard two hours of testimony from county coroners and former Department of Social Services employees. The witnesses claimed DSS would often compromise the safety of children in foster care in an effort to improve their caseload. Lourie and other committee members remain frustrated that DSS director Lillian Koller refuses to testify, citing a doctor’s orders following a stroke late last year.
— And the son of former Gov. Carroll Campbell said he is running for lieutenant governor of South Carolina. Mike Campbell said he’s ready to try again for the job eight years after losing to then-Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer by 2.5 points in 2006. Current Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell announced in January that he would not seek re-election. Two other candidates (Democrat Bakari Sellers and Republican Pat McKinney) have also entered the race.