COLUMBIA - Bills becoming law in the Legislature's final days include those that allow epileptic patients to legally possess oil derived from marijuana, grow South Carolina's craft brewery business, and make barbecue the state's official picnic food.
The legislative session officially ended at 5 p.m. Thursday, though lawmakers will return in two weeks for a special session.
Perhaps the Legislature's biggest accomplishment this week has been finalizing its $7 billion spending plan for state taxes. Legislators approved a budget compromise Wednesday for the fiscal year beginning July 1. The last time they completed their plan before the regular session ended was 2010.
The Legislature will wrap up its work after Gov. Nikki Haley issues her line-item budget vetoes next week.
Haley signed nearly 60 bills into law earlier this week. They include those that:
Allow people suffering from severe epilepsy to legally use oil derived from marijuana to control their seizures. It allows people certified by a doctor as suffering from severe epilepsy, or their parents, to legally possess non-psychoactive cannabidiol, known as CBD oil. Many view it as a baby step toward allowing other medical uses of marijuana in South Carolina.
Remove brewers' production limits. The law is meant to grow South Carolina's craft brewery business and make the state a destination for beer aficionados. It also allows brewers to operate a restaurant onsite and get a permit to sell other producers' beer and wine.
Amend the state's centuries-old antigambling laws to allow games of cards, dice or tiles. It specifies that social clubs or groups can now gather at someone's home or community clubhouse to play the games - naming examples of bridge, canasta and mahjong. Electronic devices and betting on the games are still banned. The bill requires another perfunctory vote to head to the House.
Allow people to grow and cultivate hemp, as long as it's used for legal purposes, including the making of cloth, fiber, seeds and seed oil.
Require anyone who catches a great white shark to immediately release it and ensure it remains in the water while doing so. A 3,500-pound great white shark named Mary Lee has visited the South Carolina coastline since being tagged in 2012.
Create a state Prisoner of War Medal that the governor can award to a South Carolina resident.
Measures approved in a flurry of activity Thursday include one aimed at boosting students' chances of success through an expansion of 4-year-old kindergarten and early intervention in reading. The "Read to Succeed" bill seeks to ensure students can read by fourth grade through a coordinated focus that includes reading coaches, summer reading camps and teacher training. Beginning with the 2017-18 school year, students still struggling to read by the end of third grade would be held back for intensive help. That bill heads to Haley's desk.
The budget compromise includes money for additional reading coaches and summer camps, as well as a partial expansion of the state program for poor 4-year-olds, by increasing access in 10 districts. That means the program will be available in 61 of the state's 81 districts.
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