A roundup of what’s making news in South Carolina state government
A bill that would require some drivers convicted of DUI to pass a Breathalyzer test each time they start their vehicle is now two votes away from heading to Gov. Nikki Haley for her signature.
The bill, known as “Emma’s Law,” got key approval in the South Carolina House of Representatives in a unanimous 112-0 vote Wednesday. Another procedural vote is needed to send the legislation back to the Senate, where senators could send it to the governor as soon as next week.
If passed, the legislation would require ignition interlock devices inside the vehicles of anyone convicted of DUI if that person recorded a blood-alcohol level of .15 or higher during their arrest. The devices are currently required after a second offense. The state Department of Probation, Pardon, and Parole Services said 731 drivers are registered to use them statewide.
The bill cleared the House after surprisingly little debate in the chamber, especially considering a heated Judiciary Committee meeting just one week earlier. The relative ease came after the parents of a 6-year-old killed by a drunken driver two years ago ran a very public campaign in favor of the law.
David and Karen Longstreet have spent over a year pushing “Emma’s Law,” named after their daughter killed in 2012 when the family car was struck on their way to church.
“I’m a selfish mom – I would rather have her here,” Karen Longstreet told The State newspaper moments after the bill’s passage. She did hug her husband after the unanimous vote.
The Senate passed a slightly different version of the bill last year. The Senate version would require ignition interlock devices for drivers with blood alcohol levels of .12 (the legal limit to drive is .08). House members wanted the higher number because it matches other state DUI laws.
A person who is required to have an ignition interlock system, but uses other vehicles to get around the law risks a $1,000 fine and year in prison for a first offense. That increases to $10,000 and up to 10 years in prison after a third offense.
— The House passed a bill Wednesday that creates a narrow exception for a marijuana extract oil that may be able to treat severe forms of epilepsy. The legislation approved in a 90-24 vote is similar to a measure that passed the state Senate last week. The main difference is that the Senate version only allows the oil in clinical trials, while the House version would allow a patient to possess it.
— Proposed legislation that will allow alligator farms to start in South Carolina is now headed to the Governor’s Office after a unanimous vote in the House Wednesday. The Captive Alligator Propagation Act would allow the state Department of Natural Resources to grant permits for gator farms. There would be several strict rules in place, including a ban on capturing wild gators or their eggs for farming. (Background)
— A bill that tries to force all coroners in South Carolina to report suspicious deaths of children made its way through a Senate subcommittee Wednesday, the Associated Press reports. Coroners are supposed to report unexplained deaths of children within 24 hours to the State Law Enforcement Division, but Sen. Tom Young, R-Aiken, said some coroners are not following that requirement. The bill comes as the Senate investigates whether South Carolina’s child services agency did enough to prevent the deaths of dozens of children they had previously investigated.
— The state Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled the Catawba Indian Nation cannot open a video poker gaming facility on its York County reservation. Under a 1993 agreement, the Catawbas are able to offer any gambling that’s allowed elsewhere in South Carolina. The tribe had pointed to a 2005 state law allowing gambling cruises to sail offshore into international waters, but the court rejected that argument.