A daily review of what’s making news in South Carolina state government.
A conference committee of South Carolina Senate and House members are working on the differences of their road fix bills.
One issue is a vehicle registration fee that legislators are proposing to charge new residents of the state. House Majority Leader State Rep. Gary Simrill, R-Rock Hill, said he thinks the amount the Senate wants to charge is too high.
“This is a registration component of moving into South Carolina,” Simrill said during a meeting Thursday morning. “I think $600 is not a welcome sign.”
The Senate argument is that part of the reason roads need to be repaired and upgraded is because of the growing population. State Sen. Paul Campbell, R-Berkeley, defended the $600 fee. “Basically we’ve spent money to widen our roads in the Lowcountry,” Campbell said “Not because of the people who live there. Because of the people moving there.”
State Sen. Vincent Sheheen, D-Kershaw, said the residents of his district have been paying for their roads for a long time. “On the gas tax, which primarily funds the roads has been paid by my constituents for years and years and years and years. Then somebody moves here and basically inherits the improvements that have been made,” Sheheen said.
State Rep. Todd Rutherford, D-Columbia, said the fee would encourage new residents not to register their vehicles in South Carolina but remain with their home state. “People who don’t have the $600 are going to look to skirt the law and we’re not going to collect it. And it’s kind of high at $600,” Rutherford said.
The Senate version of the bill raises more money for roadwork by increasing the gas tax and other fees by a larger amont than the House proposal. Getting the most attention is the House plan to raise the gas tax by 10 cents per-gallon over the next five years, while the Senate would increase the tax by 12 cents over six years and peg increases each year after that to inflation.
— One area where the negotiators have agreed is a new proposed fee for hybrid and electric vehicles will be in the final compromise. Both sides on Thursday said the section is necessary to ensure drivers of those vehicles still pay for road use despite much less need for gasoline. The fee could be up to $120 every two years for drivers. That fee was agreed upon and will be in the final bill.
— A bill allowing farmers to grow industrial hemp in a South Carolina pilot project is headed to the governor’s desk. Hemp is controversial because it is a close relative to marijuana, but does not possess the chemical properties that make a person feel “high.” Under the plan approved by both the House on Thursday, the program would allow up to 20 farmers to apply for permits to grow up to 20 acres of hemp for the project’s first year. Gov. Henry McMaster’s spokesman indicated the governor will sign the bill when it reaches his desk.
— A bill on the House floor that aims to allow liquor in minor league baseball stadiums had to survive a fight by some legislators to put new limits on the number of liquor stores a business can open across South Carolina.State Rep. Greg Delleney, R-Chester, tried to attach the language after the state Supreme Court earlier this year ruled South Carolina’s current three-license limit unconstitutional. House Speaker Jay Lucas killed the amendment on a technicality, though, saying it violated House rules. The baseball liquor bill will head to the governor after another procedural vote next week.
— The Senate passed legislation this week which would allow minors as young as 16 to get a court order of protection without needing their parents permission. The Charleston Post & Courier reports the bill is targeted to help domestic violence victims. It would also create a dating violence education program for the state’s middle and high schools. The measure next heads to the House, which will likely wait until next year to take it up.