A review of what’s making news in South Carolina state government.
— Responding to scores of dam failures the past two years, the South Carolina House on Wednesday approved legislation that expands those types of dams which can be inspected and also put new requirements on dam owners. The measure easily cleared the House in a 104-3 vote. Another planned vote Thursday would send it over to the Senate. The proposal increases the number of dams that would be regulated as “significant hazards” by the state Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC).
— A proposed constitutional amendment that would ask voters if the South Carolina education superintendent should be appointed by the governor rather than elected received key support in the state Senate Wednesday. Democratic senators backed the proposal after supporting Republicans agreed to add requirements that future appointees have experience in public school administration. The measure will head to the House with another vote.
— The Senate also gave key approval to a proposal that would bar flying drones near a state prison or county jail. The proposal would make it a misdemeanor to fly a drone within 500 feet around or 250 above a state prison or jail without the consent of the facility’s director. Prison officials say smugglers have begun using drones to dro contraband over prison fences. The measure heads to the House after another formal vote.
— A House committee moved to block local governments from banning plastic bags. The Charleston Post & Courier reports the committee on Wednesday advanced the legislation to the House floor in a 13-3 vote. Environmentalists said coastal commucall over-reaching legislation to keep local governments from passing laws that ban the use of plastic bags.
— Legislators have chosen a Circuit Court judge from Sumter as South Carolina’s newest state Supreme Court justice. Members of the House and Senate on Wednesday elected Judge George “Buck” James to the state’s highest court. The vote came after two other candidates dropped out of consideration once James secured pledges from a majority of lawmakers earlier this week. The seat came open earlier this year after Chief Justice Costa Pleicones reached the mandatory retirement age.
— South Carolina’s state treasurer says the state’s pension fund is in even more dire shape than lawmakers are willing to admit. In a news release Tuesday, Treasurer Curtis Loftis cited an opinion from the Attorney General’s Office that speculates a court would likely find unconstutional the process used to calculate the pension plan. Loftis requested the opinion from the attorney general’s office.
— Spartanburg lawyer Grace Knie has been elected to serve as the next circuit court judge in the Seventh Judicial Circuit. The Seventh Circuit covers Cherokee and Spartanburg counties. The only other candidate in the race withdrew before Wednesday. The vote came despite concerns about Knie’s husband donating $8,000 to more than a dozen legislators last year. However, the donations are perfectly legal under state law and her husband said they occcurred before the bench seat opened.