A daily review of what’s making news in South Carolina state government.
— A House effort to block local governments from banning plastic bags and styrofoam coolers failed to pass Wednesday, with opponents muscling just enough votes to delay debate until next year. Democrats and coastal Republicans allied to narrowly block the legislation, which would have prevented municipalities from banning “auxiliary containers.” The 50-49 vote effectively killed the proposal in the House until 2018. Supporters of the bill said South Carolina needs uniform trash laws across the state. Opponents accused House leaders of overreaching into local affairs for the benefit of a plastics company in Hartsville which could be impacted by the ban.
— House members approved legislation Tuesday that would tighten the restrictions on mopeds in South Carolina — although not as severely as was originally proposed. The measure approved in a 75-29 vote would require moped drivers to have a license, wear reflective vests at night and for drivers under 21 to wear a helmet, among other changes. Supporters agreed to a late amendment that would allow mopeds to drive on roads with a speed limit of up to 55 mph (originally, the bill barred mopeds from roads with speed limits of 45 mph). The proposal heads to the Senate after another procedural vote. Senators have already passed a similar bill — although it did not include the reflective vest requirement.
— Senate leaders hope to begin move debate to the floor on increasing the state’s fuel tax by ten cents per-gallon as soon as next week. Transportation finance subcommittee co-chair Paul Campbell, R-Berkeley, said during a meeting Tuesday that expediency is important so that road contractors have time to prepare for the extra funding and work. State Transportation Secretary Christy Hall said a massive input of money at once for repairs and construction will drive up costs. The subcommittee is considering a House proposal to raise roughly $600 million more for roads each year through the gas tax increase and other means.
— A South Carolina Senate committee stalled a bill on Tuesday that would hold heroin dealers legally responsible for overdose deaths. The bill would require that a drug dealer face up to 15 years in prison for involuntary manslaughter if one of their customers, died from an overdose. But the bill’s sponsor State Sen. Greg Hembree, R-Horry, said he’s not concerned about it getting carried over for more revisions.
— Members of the state House introduced a plan Tuesday that would borrow more than $400 million to cut into a massive backlog of maintenance needs, particularly at South Carolina’s colleges. If approved, it would be the first time since 2001 that state lawmakers have raised money for colleges in this way. A House budget panel on Tuesday revealed roughly $2 billion in project requests submitted by various schools and agencies which could be considered for the bond package. However, that list will need to be pared down significantly to meet the $400-$425 million goal set by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Brian White, R-Anderson.