- Associated Press - Sunday, May 7, 2017

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - South Carolina legislation that lets more people carry guns, legalizes medical marijuana and borrows money to repair public buildings statewide are among proposals dead for the year.

While they received attention, one issue eclipsed all others this legislative session - fixing South Carolina’s deteriorating roadways. Legislators are poised to pass South Carolina’s first gas tax hike in 30 years, if they can approve a compromise worked out late Friday between the House and Senate plans and overcome Gov. Henry McMaster’s pledged veto.

That’s still a tall hurdle. By law, the regular session ends at 5 p.m. Thursday.

Legislators could carry debate on road funding and the state budget into a special session. The Senate passed a resolution Wednesday setting aside May 23 through May 25 for that possibility. But other issues will have to wait until next year.

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WHAT MUST BE DONE?

By law, the only thing the Legislature must do is pass a state budget for the fiscal year starting July 1.

The House and Senate have each passed a roughly $8 billion spending plan for state taxes. Many of the differences are in education.

For example, the House’s version would provide $100 million to high-poverty districts to help refurbish dilapidated K-12 schools, while the Senate plan cuts that in half. And the Senate version gives public colleges an additional $16 million, while the House proposal provides colleges no new funding.

But the road-funding bill is holding up work on a budget compromise. Legislators don’t want to finalize a budget until they have a compromise on roads.

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WHAT WON’T MAKE IT?

The House has yet to vote on a bill that borrows $498 million for a backlog of repairs at South Carolina’s public colleges and other state-owned facilities. About half of the borrowing package approved by Ways and Means would go to colleges. The committee had whittled down more than $2 billion worth of requests.

But just before the House was set to debate the bill, McMaster asked legislators to replace it to instead borrow up to $1 billion only for roads. That killed the borrowing bill for the year. Legislators have not passed a statewide bond bill since 2001.

Bills legalizing medical marijuana in South Carolina have made little progress, despite support from some of the state’s most conservative legislators. The idea’s Republican backers tout the bills’ “seed-to-sale tracking” as guarding against recreational use.

The legislation would allow people with a debilitating medical condition, or their adult caregivers, to legally possess 2 ounces of marijuana. The House version advanced in February to the chamber’s full medical committee, where it remains. A Senate subcommittee has taken lots of testimony but has yet to vote on an identical bill.

Advocates and opponents of various gun bills have filled committee meetings, but none of those controversial bills will make it.

The House passed a bill allowing any adult who can legally own a handgun to openly carry it in South Carolina, negating the need for a concealed weapon permit. Law enforcement officials oppose the idea, saying people should undergo training before carrying a gun in public. A Senate panel advanced an identical bill last week, setting up debate next year by a full Senate committee. Similar bills have died repeatedly in the Senate since 2011.

Bills that don’t make it to McMaster’s desk this year don’t die completely. They won’t have to be reintroduced. The process will pick up next year at whatever point legislation is when the gavel falls Thursday.

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WHAT HAS BEEN DONE?

Lawmakers crossed a major item from this year’s to-do list April 25, when McMaster signed a law that aims to stabilize South Carolina’s pension system for public employees.

The law requires higher payments from workers and employers, starting July 1. Workers’ rates won’t rise again, but their taxpayer-supported employers will face increases through 2022.

Legislators’ budget plans include roughly $150 million for pension contributions in 2017-18.

While McMaster applauded legislators for addressing a “pension liability crisis,” he said he’s disappointed the law doesn’t set a date for moving new hires to a defined contribution plan, such as 401K retirement accounts. Legislators have repeatedly said more changes are coming.

Also last month, McMaster signed a law allowing South Carolinians to obtain a driver’s license that meets federal identification requirements for boarding a plane or getting onto a military base. It reversed a decade-old law forbidding the state from complying with the federal REAL ID Act, which Congress passed in reaction to the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

The new IDs require additional documentation. But they remain an option - not a mandate. And they won’t be available for at least six months.

Little else substantial has made it to McMaster’s desk.

Other signed laws let South Carolina drivers brag about the national college championship of their choice. They direct the Department of Motor Vehicles to create special license plates recognizing Clemson’s football championship and Coastal Carolina’s College World Series win. A bill creating a University of South Carolina’s women’s basketball license was sent to his desk Thursday.

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This story corrects paragraph 2 to update with late Friday developments

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