— The state Senate passed a bill Thursday that increases the penalties for killing or harming police dogs and horses. “Hyco’s Law” is named for an Anderson County K-9 that was shot and killed by a carjacking suspect in October 2015. The current maximum penalty is up to five years in prison and a maximum $5,000 fine. Under Hyco’s Law, those penalty limits would double. Anyone convicted would also have to pay to replace the dog or horse, including the expense of training it.
— An effort to eventually raise South Carolina’s gas tax by 10 cents per-gallon unanimously cleared the state House budget committee Thursday. The measure now goes to the full House floor. The Ways and Means Committee only slightly altered a proposal that would pay for $600 million in additional road repairs each year through the eventual dime per-gallon increase. The tax would increase by 2 cents per year for five years, eventually growing from 17 cents per-gallon to 27 cents.
— A federal judge has halted South Carolina’s efforts to seek $100 million in fines over nuclear waste that remains at an Energy Department facility in the state more than a year past its initial deadline. The Associated Press reports U.S. District Judge Michelle Childs ruled the state needed pursue the fines through U.S. Court of Federal Claims. But she did allow other parts of the case to proceed, including the state’s claim that the federal government must remove plutonium currently held at the Savannah River Site (SRS). Mediation in the case is set for July.
— A Senate panel on Wednesday delayed advancing a bill that would place the state’s disabilities agency under the governor’s control, after senators said they were confused about how the agency operates. The Greenville News reports senators had appeared ready to vote on the concept of placing the Department of Disabilities and Special Needs into the governor’s cabinet. But some senators said they became confused about the agency the more questions were asked and wanted more information. Two legislative committees are about to review the agency’s operations.
— Coastal Republican lawmakers are seeking to stop environmental groups from being able to indefinitely delay road and construction projects. Legislation making its way through both the House and Senate would place limits on the appeal process, setting any appeals at 30 days once a project is permitted by a state agency. After that, the appealing individual or group could be on the hook for the costs of delaying the project further. Conservation groups say it could take away the public’s ability to challenge a project that impacts them.
— A new report from the Center for Public Integrity notes more than a dozen legislators have taken trips to Turkey in the past decade funded by groups connected with an exiled Muslim cleric who’s accused of a failed coup attempt last summer. They were among more than 150 state lawmakers who took trips to Turkey paid for by groups inspired by Fethullah Gulen, who teaches a brand of Islam that seeks to fit the religion’s traditional teachings to a modern world. One of those legislators State Rep. Neal Collins, R-Easley, told the Greenville News the trips were meant to show Turkey’s history, economy and education systems. Collins said he paid for a plane ticket, but other expenses were funded by the Atlantic Institute.