South Carolina’s House and Senate will be busy this week trying to meet a legislative deadline. Bills that haven’t advanced from one chamber to the other by Friday have little chance of becoming law this year.
After the May 1 crossover deadline, bills require a two-thirds vote to even be considered by the other chamber for the session that ends June 4 – a high hurdle for measures that are at all controversial.
So far this session, little has made it into law. Several measures that legislators had called a top priority for the year – those addressing road funding, domestic violence, and ethics reform – have at least gotten one chamber’s approval, but their fate is questionable, with just 18 legislative days left. Ethics reform is almost certainly doomed for the third consecutive year.
However, measures that don’t pass this year don’t die. Debate can resume in January at whatever point in the legislative process they are when the session ends.
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The following bills are among those that haven’t crossed over yet but are on legislative calendars for potential floor debate this week:
▪ Bills that aim to eventually equip law enforcement officers across South Carolina with body-worn cameras. A Senate bill would require all state and local law enforcement agencies to submit policies for review within nine months. Implementation would occur over a multi-year phase-in, depending on funding. The Senate Finance Committee’s budget proposal includes money for an estimated 2,000 cameras. More than 12,000 officers are employed statewide; it’s unclear how many already have cameras. The House version creates a six-month study of law enforcement agencies in South Carolina already using them – essentially allowing lawmakers to postpone making decisions until at least next year.
▪ A bill that creates a felony charge for drivers who seriously injure someone while driving recklessly. Sen. Shane Massey, R-Edgefield, says his bill addresses a huge gap in the law, as the current punishment is a traffic ticket. State law provides felony prosecution for intoxicated drivers who kill or seriously injure someone. And a driver who’s not drunk but kills someone while driving recklessly faces years in jail. But there’s no punishment for a sober driver who puts someone in a coma while knowingly driving dangerously, Massey said.
▪ A bill clarifying the state line with North Carolina, more than 200 years after it was originally drawn. The Senate unanimously gave key approval Thursday, but another vote is needed to send it over. The border bill comes 20 years after surveyors, using satellites and GPS, pinned down the 334-mile boundary between the Carolinas within inches. Senate Judiciary Chairman Larry Martin, R-Pickens, said both states must pass the exact same language. Only about 90 properties will change states.
▪ A reciprocity bill that would automatically allow people with a concealed weapon permit issued by Georgia to carry their gun in South Carolina. Its main backer, GOP Rep. Bill Hixon, is from North Augusta, just across the Savannah River from Augusta, Ga. That state doesn’t recognize South Carolina permits, but supporters hope the measure prompts Georgia legislators to change that. The bill is backed by more than 60 House members of both parties.
▪ A bill eliminating any need to get a concealed weapons permit to carry guns in public. Under a compromise amendment the House approved Thursday, people 21 and older could not openly carry a gun – it would still need to be concealed – but they would no longer have to go through hours of training and pay a fee for a permit. Current law on where guns are banned – such as a courtroom, school or daycare – would still apply. A perfunctory vote that sends the bill to the Senate is expected Tuesday. But a similar bill died in that chamber last year, with law enforcement agencies opposing it.
▪ A bill banning the tattooing or piercing of a pet. Anyone convicted of doing so could pay up to a $1,000 fine and spend 30 days in jail. Its sponsor, GOP Rep. Todd Atwater of Lexington, said he’s not aware of any cases in South Carolina, but he heard of instances in New York, where it’s been illegal since December.