A daily review of what’s making news in South Carolina state government.
A bill that would effectively ban abortions in South Carolina will not become law this year. The Charleston Post & Courier reports the state Senate Judiciary Committee put the brakes on legislation that would bestow the rights of “personhood” on a fetus starting at the moment of conception. That means the bill will not be able to pass the Senate before the year’s regular session ends after next week.
The bill passed out of subcommittee last week in a split vote, with the committee’s three Republicans supporting and two Democrats opposing. Opponents say the measure is likely unconstitutional and does not allow doctors to perform abortions if the mother’s life is endangered by the pregnancy.
Supporters hope to set up a court fight on their belief that undeveloped life in the womb should be afforded the same legal rights as newborn infants.
The bill is not dead, however, as this is only the first of a two-year session. Senators will be able to resume debate on the measure when they return for the 2018 session next January.
— A Senate bill which clears the way for carrying guns in South Carolina without needing a concealed weapons permit advanced past a judiciary panel on Tuesday. The State newspaper reports the Senate bill is different than one which passed the House last month. The Senate bill also allows those who are legal gun owners to carry openly without needing to hide their weapon. The Senate panel advanced the measure in a 3-1 vote to the full Senate Judiciary Committee.
— Meanwhile, an effort to move forward legislation that would have closed the so-called `Charleston loophole’ in South Carolina will have to wait until next year after a state Senate panel decided against advancing it Tuesday. According to The State newspaper, the panel spent ten minutes debating a proposal to lengthen the amount of time gun dealers must wait to sell a weapon if the FBI believes further background checks are needed. Supporters of the measure note Dylann Roof was able to skirt the law when he bought the gun he used to kill nine African-Americans at a downtown Charleston church in June 2015.
— A House panel nixed a proposed tax credit aimed at attracting more solar farms to South Carolina. The State newspaper reports the budget subcommittee had its first meeting on the idea since it passed the Senate in a 38-4 vote back in February. The measure requires counties give future solar farms an 80 percent property tax break. However, the House’s budget chief State Rep. Brian White, R-Anderson, said he does not support using the tax code to create “niche” benefits for certain industries at the expense of others.
— A bill strengthening the public’s access to government records reached the Senate floor Tuesday, but a single senator’s opposition could once again block its passage this year. The Associated Press reports the Senate Judiciary Committee voted on a proposal that would require public agencies to respond more quickly to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and to blocks them from charging excessive fees for those records. But Sen. Margie Bright Matthews, D-Colleton, is objecting for a second consecutive year, saying she dislikes the idea of creating a new division within the Administrative Law Court to settle disputes over requested information.
— Flying drones over military bases in South Carolina would be banned under legislation making its way through the state Senate. State Sen. Thomas McElveen, D-Sumter, offered the amendment during debate Tuesday that would ban drones from flying over military bases. The proposed ban would make it unlawful to fly an unmanned aerial vehicle within a horizontal distance of 1,000 feet or a vertical distance of 400 feet from a state or federal military installation. But some lawmakers questioned if the state even has authority over military airspace. The language was approved in an amendment on the Senate floor but did not advance further.
— Former York County Sheriff Bruce Bryant won the Republican nomination for an open House seat representing the Charlotte suburbs around Rock Hill. He is hoping to replace former State Rep. Ralph Norman, who gave up the seat in February to run for an open seat in Congress. Bryant eked out about 54 percent of the vote compared to opponent Tom Nichol’s 46 percent. The retired sheriff will face Rock Hill education nonprofit official Bebs Barron Chorak in the June 20 general election.
Meanwhile, former local school board chair Wendy Brawley and Eastover farmer Heath Hill are the two Democrats moving to a runoff in the special election to replace the late State Rep. Joe Neal. Brawley, a magazine publisher, is the favorite and received 40 percent of the vote on Tuesday, compared with Hill’s 24 percent. The two will square off again in a May 16 runoff. Neal died suddenly in February after 24 years representing the district in southeast Richland County.