- Associated Press - Thursday, May 1, 2014

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - Bills that would outlaw abortion and strengthen South Carolina’s open records law are among those unlikely to survive what is referred to as the crossover deadline in the Legislature.

Legislation that didn’t advance from one chamber to the other by Thursday has little chance of becoming law this year.

After the May 1 deadline, bills require a two-thirds vote to even be considered by the other chamber for the session that ends June 5. That’s a high hurdle for contested measures. Since this is the end of a two-year session, bills that don’t pass this year officially are dead.

Measures that have not crossed over include:

- A bill strengthening the state’s Freedom of Information Act. As written, the bill barred government entities from charging excessive fees, required them to respond more quickly to requests, and inserted penalties for ignoring the law. But an amendment removing the exemption for legislators’ correspondence stymied the effort again. The House voted in March 2013 to send the bill back through the committee process. It has made no progress since then.

- Several anti-abortion bills. Two so-called “personhood” bills by Sen. Lee Bright, R-Roebuck, would outlaw abortion outright by granting legal rights at fertilization. Those remain in subcommittee. Another of Bright’s bills seeks to close abortion clinics by requiring doctors who perform them to have admitting privileges at local hospitals. That advanced to the Senate floor, but a senator is blocking debate. A bill dubbed the “Pregnant Women’s Protection Act” is viewed by opponents as a back-door attempt to end abortions. It states that a pregnant woman has a right to defend a threat to her unborn child using deadly force. It’s the definition of “unborn child,” as beginning with conception, which concerns abortion-rights activists.

- A proposed amendment to the South Carolina constitution allowing couples to divorce after 150 days of separation, rather than one year. The measures would shorten the required separation for a no-fault divorce to five months, if voters approve the change in a referendum. The bills narrowly advanced to the House floor in February. But the House voted last month to send them back through the committee process.

- A bill giving families the ability to electronically monitor their loved ones in South Carolina’s nursing homes. A tie vote of 7-7 prevented its advancement to the Senate floor last month. It would require nursing homes to allow residents or their families to install a camera and pay any monitoring costs. Its sponsor, Sen. Paul Thurmond of Charleston, said families should have the opportunity to check in on loved ones to ensure they’re not being abused or neglected. But the state’s nursing home association is fighting the measure as interfering with private businesses and invading people’s privacy.

- An attempt to slow down drivers in highway construction zones by increasing penalties and state troopers’ presence. The bill creates the crime of endangering a highway worker for anyone speeding or ignoring traffic signs inside construction or utility work zones. Half of the increased fines would go to the Department of Public Safety to fund more troopers at the sites. The current fine for speeding in a work zone is $75 to $200 and up to 30 days in jail. The bill would increase that to between $500 and $1,000 if no one’s injured, and up to $5,000 if injury results. Currently, about 20 troopers are assigned to a team that patrols work zones statewide.

- A bill repealing the state’s “stand your ground” law. The bill would delete from state law residents’ right to use deadly force to defend themselves against an attacker wherever they are, as long as they have a right to be there. That language was added in June 2006. The bill introduced in February would still allow people to use deadly force against someone illegally and forcibly entering a home, business or occupied vehicle. The bill went nowhere.

- A bill allowing people to openly carry guns in South Carolina without a permit. That proposal’s chances were shot down in February, as the Senate Judiciary Committee refused 4-17 to advance the measure to the full Senate. It’s rare for legislators to defeat a bill outright, but the committee wanted to move on to other issues, a year after a room packed with gun enthusiasts applauded its subcommittee passage. Currently, only people who hold a concealed weapon permit can carry a gun in public, and the gun must remain concealed. The legislation sponsored by Bright, who’s running for U.S. Senate, would have deleted the need for training and a permit. Gun enthusiasts argue such steps are against their constitutional rights. Opponents included law enforcement.

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