A roundup of what’s making news in South Carolina state government
South Carolina lawmakers have agreed to a compromise that the state’s dozen-odd breweries say is a game-changer and creates the potential for major expansions in the coming years.
Members of a conference committee representing both the state House and Senate on Tuesday signed off on the final version of a bill that would allow breweries to sell practically unlimited amounts of beer and serve food on their premises. Current law does not allow breweries to serve food on-site. On the flip side, those brewpubs that do make their own beer cannot distribute it to stores.
The bill approved Tuesday would eliminate those Prohibition-era requirements and would also allow brewers to sell outside beers and even wine on-site. Liquor sales would still not be allowed. Distributors had opposed the bill, worried it could give an advantage to breweries who serve directly to customers.
The Charleston Post & Courier reported Tuesday that one legislator even said the deal would clear the way for California-based Stone Brewing to open its first East Coast brewery in South Carolina. However, State Sen. Luke Rankin, R-Horry, later backed off his comments and added Stone’s new location was still not certain. A company spokesperson said Stone had not yet made a decision.
The legislation now heads back to the full House and Senate, where supporters say they have the votes to pass it.
— Speaking of alcohol, an effort to ban a new type of powdered alcohol failed in the Senate on Tuesday. The move comes as the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau considers whether to allow a new product called “Palcohol.” The powder can be mixed with water to create a mixed drink. A senator had made a late effort to tack the ban onto a separate bill, but the chamber’s acting president said the amendment violated Senate rules.
— State Attorney General Alan Wilson is asking the SC Supreme Court to seal some documents as it considers whether his office has the authority to investigate House Speaker Bobby Harrell. The Associated Press reported that Wilson made the request Friday to keep some State Grand Jury documents secret and away from Harrell’s attorneys. Wilson’s office said the documents deal with a criminal investigation underway against the Speaker.
— South Carolinians will decide on Election Day if they want to continuing electing the state’s top military chief, or if the position should become appointed. The House agreed Tuesday to a measure that would put the proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot in November. If voters approve, the governor would appoint the adjutant general beginning in January 2019. The adjutant general oversees the National Guard and the state’s emergency management division.
— The Senate refused to adopt the House’s latest version of an ethics reform bill, making it unlikely one of Gov. Nikki Haley’s top priorities will pass this year. Senators voted 39-2 Tuesday not to agree with last week’s House changes. That sets up a committee of House and Senate members to try to reach a compromise on the chambers’ versions. The House proposal had created an entirely new committee to investigate ethics complaints against all state officials, but senators wanted to keep that power in the Senate Ethics Committee.
— Eight Republicans seeking to become South Carolina’s next schools chief squared off in their only televised debate Tuesday evening. The ETV debate asked the candidates their positions on Common Core, school funding, and grading teachers. While all agreed that Common Core standards should be replaced, they disagreed on the extent of the changes. The GOP primary will be on June 10.