- Associated Press - Saturday, June 6, 2015

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - While the South Carolina Legislature’s regular session is officially over, the work is far from done.

Legislators’ primary task when they return for a special session June 16 will be passing a budget for the fiscal year that starts just two weeks later.

Legislators of both parties call this session a disappointment, as the issue that topped nearly all of their to-do lists - fixing South Carolina’s roads and bridges - has again been punted to next year. Though the bill that raises money for the nation’s fourth-largest roads system never got a vote in the Senate, it still dominated debate, as Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, spent the session’s final weeks filibustering a component of the Senate’s budget package to prevent the Senate from taking up the roads bill.

Another issue that’s been called a top priority since 2012 - ethics reform - died early. The House passed a series of ethics-related bills. But the Senate killed the effort in a rare, straight-up floor vote Feb. 11 against its single measure.

On Thursday, Rep. Rick Quinn, R-Cayce, was among those faulting a “dysfunctional” Senate for what he called “one of the more frustrating sessions I’ve been involved in.”

“I thought we would have at least gotten a bill back on infrastructure, even if it was totally different,” said House Majority Leader Bruce Bannister, R-Greenville. “Now, we don’t have a budget. We don’t have a capital reserve funding bill. … The Senate seems to have four flat tires.”


Legislators’ work in the special session is limited to the state’s budget package and bills that have passed both chambers with differences a six-member committee will attempt to work out:

-BUDGET: A committee will meet next week in hopes of having a compromise on the main budget bill, which spends $7 billion in state taxes, before the special session starts. The “capital reserve” bill for one-time spending usually moves in tandem with the budget. But Davis’ filibuster blocked its passage in the Senate. Davis said Thursday his filibuster of revenue bills is over, allowing the Senate to pass the bill that allocates about $100 million of revenue above original projections on one-time projects. The House will take up a supplemental bill that spends about $300 million in additional revenue that state economic advisers certified May 29. Some of that will go to roadwork. The question is how much.

-UBER RIDES: The Senate’s approval Wednesday kept alive a bill that allows Uber to continue operating in South Carolina past June 30. In January, the Public Service Commission issued a cease-and-desist order stopping the app-based ride-sharing service. But it reversed course two weeks later following criticism from lawmakers and granted a temporary license, with the expectation that legislation would pass this session. The House passed its version in March.

-ABORTION BAN: A compromise on a bill that bans abortion past 19 weeks could be difficult. The fight is over exceptions. The House provided exceptions only to save the mother’s life or prevent severe injury to her. The Senate added cases of rape, incest and severe fetal anomalies, which are generally detectable around the 20th week. The bill only affects abortions in hospitals, as the state’s three abortion clinics don’t perform the procedure past 13 weeks. Opponents of the measure argue they involve wanted pregnancies that go horribly wrong and politicians should play no role in that decision.


A few of the bills that made it to Gov. Nikki Haley’s desk:

-DOMESTIC VIOLENCE: Perhaps the session’s biggest success came Thursday, when Haley signed into law a bill aimed at stemming South Carolina’s persistently high rates of domestic violence. The new law increases penalties and gives prosecutors more options for punishment. Charges will now be based on a combination of the severity of the abuse, the number of offenses and circumstances surrounding the crime - for example, if it was committed in front of a child. The law also bans some batterers from having guns. However, no guns will be confiscated.

-BODY CAMERAS: Legislators gave final approval Thursday to a bill providing law enforcement agencies guidelines on police body cameras. Haley says she will sign it. The issue became a top priority in April, after a bystander’s video showed a North Charleston police officer fatally shooting an unarmed driver as he ran away. But the law does not mandate the cameras’ use. Instead, it directs the Law Enforcement Training Council to issue model guidelines and sign off on local agencies’ policies.

-SOUTH CAROLINA STATE: Last month, the Legislature passed a bill firing all trustees of financially troubled South Carolina State University and replacing them with a temporary fix-it board, which has already met twice. Lawmakers hope the newly appointed trustees can lead the state’s only public historically black college back to fiscal solvency.



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