A roundup of what’s making news in South Carolina state government.
The state Senate gave initial approval Tuesday to a bill that would require South Carolina law enforcement officers wear body cameras. But debate does not appear over, as two senators say they will introduce amendments before a final vote Wednesday.
The bill has picked up steam ever since a bystander filmed a North Charleston cop shooting a suspect in the back four weeks ago. But some Republicans said it was moving too quickly. The bill’s sponsor State Sen. Gerald Malloy, D-Darlington, said he was willing to work with conservatives so long as they made good faith efforts to improve the legislation. He noted South Carolina is one of the first states in the country that would require body cameras.
“We want to make certain that we are the example to say this is what we want our state to be,” he said on the floor Tuesday. “I think we should get ahead of the curve and we should get an opportunity to end up having this discussion. I think this discussion is very healthy.”
The measure would give the state Law Enforcement Training Council the power to craft specific statewide regulations by the end of the year. Each law enforcement agency in South Carolina would then create its own policies for the council to review within nine months of the bill becoming law. The bill does not address funding the somewhat expensive cameras and video storage systems, which law enforcement groups have cited as a concern. Senate budget writers have pledged to set aside $3.4 million to purchase roughly 2,000 cameras if it passes. South Carolina has more than 12,000 law enforcement officers who would be covered by the law.
State Sen. Lee Bright, R-Spartanburg, said he hopes to add a late amendment Wednesday that would give the legislature power to overrule any proposed regulations. “Once the folks from law enforcement come back with their plan, I want to see what their plan is before we give them carte blanc on the plan,” Bright said shortly before dropping his objection to a vote.
The bill must clear the Senate by Thursday if it is to have any chance of becoming law this year. Any bills that have not passed either the House or Senate by May 1 must get two-thirds approval to even be taken up in the other chamber. In order to beat the deadline, senators voted unanimously Tuesday to give the bill second reading, but plan to hold debate before its final reading on Wednesday.
A similar bill in the House would require law enforcement craft new regulations before next year’s session. That bill was sent back to committee on Tuesday.
— A Senate committee decided Tuesday to scrap a House plan that would fund roads mostly through a new excise tax on gas wholesalers, substituting its own version that would instead raise the state’s gas tax by 12 cents per gallon. The measure passed 14-8, with an alliance of Democrats and moderate Republicans outvoting conservatives who opposed the tax increase. The proposal is identical to another bill that passed the Senate Finance Committee last month but failed to get anywhere once it reached the Senate floor.
— SC State University trustees announced a $100,000 donation from alumni that will go towards scholarship endowments, but the announcement comes as the school’s future leadership remains as unclear as ever. Four trustees have resigned in the last week, leaving a bare minimum of just six members left on the board. Meanwhile, the House and the Senate remain apart on picking how the board itself will be replaced. Gov. Nikki Haley urged both chambers to come together quickly, saying trustees are “dropping like flies.”
— State Rep. Carl Anderson, D-Georgetown, has been publicly reprimanded and fined $6,000 for accepting contributions from anonymous donors, failing to disclose campaign contributions and expenditures, and falsifying campaign reports, according to a Senate Ethics Committee report issued Tuesday. Anderson’s alleged violations came during his campaign for an open Senate seat last year. Ronnie Sabb eventually won the Democratic Primary in September and now represents the district. The report says that Anderson, the head of the legislative black caucus, was warned several times but did not comply.
— The date of South Carolina’s 2016 Republican presidential primary is now set, according to The State newspaper. The paper quoted state GOP chairman Matt Moore as saying the primary would be held on February 20, eleven days after the New Hampshire primary. The Democratic primary is scheduled a week later on February 27.