COLUMBIA - Last week was slightly hectic with both chambers full of energy as lawmakers worked with each other to get their measures passed.
It was crossover week and both bodies were working to send each other bills in order to receive normal consideration for approval before the session ends during the first week of June. Take a look at the measures that passed and those that just didn't make the cut.
Top 5 winners
University of Charleston: The House easily passed the University of Charleston bill this week as just five members voted against it. The bill would allow for a newly-expanded University of Charleston as part of the College of Charleston. Lawmakers said that its emphasis on the benefits for the business community helped it sail through the House, as well as the fact that a controversial merger between C of C and Medical University of South Carolina was taken off the table.
Even though it made it before the "crossover" deadline, with only weeks left in the legislative session it is unclear whether the state Senate will take up the bill.
Abortion: A controversial bill that would ban abortions at 20 weeks is headed to the Senate floor but with a procedural restriction that makes it unlikely it would be taken up. It has already passed the House. Few abortions are performed at such a late stage and South Carolina's abortion clinics do not perform them. Women's health advocates say that the ban - which also makes it a crime to perform such an abortion unless the life of the mother is at stake or unless rape, incest or serious problems with the fetus are involved - could interfere with a doctor's decision to make the best medical decision.
Supporters of the bill say that the 20-week mark is important because it's the stage that a fetus can feel pain, a disputed notion in the medical community.
Common Core: The Senate approved replacing Common Core in one year with standards developed in South Carolina. The bill is a compromise of legislation that initially sought to repeal the math and reading standards that have been rolled out in classrooms statewide since their adoption by two state boards in 2010.
Testing aligned to those standards must start next year, using new tests that assess college and career readiness, or the state will lose its waiver from the all-or-nothing provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind law.
Open DSS: With all the controversy surrounding the Department of Social Services and its embattled director, Lillian Koller, it's no surprise this bill made its way through panels with haste. DSS will have the ability to share more information of cases of suspected child abuse that are classified as unfounded with lawmakers and the public if the Senate approves the measure.
The bill aims to make DSS more transparent and it would ensure coroners report the deaths of children to law enforcement. The bill's sponsor - Sen. Tom Young, R-Aiken - pushed for its approval on the floor a few weeks ago, but Senators placed it on hold with the intention of revisiting the measure when they returned from break.
Roads: A bill that would increase funding for the state's crumbling roads was set for special order, guaranteeing its discussion, earlier last week. The bill makes changes to sales taxes; back in the '80s when South Carolina was competing in sales of vehicles with neighboring states, the legislature passed a bill that capped the sales tax at $300.
This bill would scrap motor vehicles, motorcycles and recreational vehicles, among others from the cap, increasing their sales tax. Taxes on boats, aircraft and trailers are still capped at $300.
Top 5 losers
Stand Your Ground: A bill that would have repealed the state's "stand your ground" law failed to advance this session, despite its sponsor's best efforts. Rep. Harold Mitchell, D-Spartanburg, wanted to strike the portion added to the state's castle doctrine in 2006 that allows for people to claim immunity from prosecution if they kill a person in self-defense at any location without the need to retreat.
His Reasonable Protection of Persons and Property Act would have still allowed for a person to use deadly force if someone was breaking into his or her home and vehicle. A new amendment would have also included businesses. But his efforts were misunderstood; many accused Mitchell of seeking to repeal the entire castle doctrine and the bill stayed in limbo.
Electronic monitoring: A bill introduced by Sen. Paul Thurmond, R-Charleston, that would have allowed for nursing home residents to be monitored electronically by loved ones from afar failed to advance to the Senate floor because of a tie vote at the committee level.
The bill was amended to address privacy concerns as it made its way through the Senate's panels. But there were still concerns, especially from the South Carolina Healthcare Association Board of Directors, whose chairman called the measure "bad public policy."
Thurmond argued, however, the measure would have placed power of oversight in the hands of family members without them having to be physically present.
Personhood: Several so-called personhood bills failed to advance for different reasons involving time. Sen. Lee Bright, R-Roebuck, introduced measures that would have given constitutional rights to an unborn child. His bills were trying to get in statute that life begins at conception, so that it would be a fundamental challenge to Roe v. Wade, he said. But his bills were never discussed by a panel that spent its time debating a different measure introduced by Sen. Katrina Shealy, R-Lexington.
Shealy's bill sought to expand Stand Your Ground laws for pregnant women. The bill would have allowed for a woman to use whatever force necessary if she fears a person is trying to cause her or her unborn child harm. But a long day on the Senate floor kept senators from discussing the measure at the committee level. The Senate then went on Easter break and time ran out.
Open Government: 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.
Open Carry: 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.
Reach Cynthia Roldan at 708-5891. Reach Jeremy Borden at 708-5837.
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