- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 17, 2014

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - A series of proposals to give extra benefits to help military veterans is a step closer to becoming law in South Carolina.

A conference committee quickly approved a bill Tuesday that would extend property tax exemptions to land used for military housing and allow soldiers and their spouses to vote with absentee ballots in all elections. The House approved the compromise 114-0 later Tuesday. The Senate is expected to take it up later this week.

Lawmakers have already passed proposals to allow private employers to favorably consider military service when hiring and to create special courts to treat veterans who have run into nonviolent legal trouble.

A proposal to allow military members and their children to immediately pay in-state tuition at South Carolina colleges and universities is waiting in another conference committee.

Sen. Tom Davis, who was on the conference committee, said the proposals are the right thing to do, but also could help South Carolina keep its military bases the next time the federal government looks to close some of them. The Beaufort Republican noted that federal officials have said they will consider specific quality-of-life issues during the next round of debate on base closures and the proposals deal with those issues.

Rep. Murrell Smith thanked senators on the conference committee for working with House members on the proposals.

“This is a good message you are sending to our military men and women,” said Smith, R-Sumter.



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