Haley awaiting domestic abuse bill

S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley

Gov. Nikki Haley said she has not yet read the criminal domestic violence bill passed by the General Assembly last week, but still not officially sent for her signature.

Haley, who spoke in Charleston to the National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors on Tuesday, told reporters her staff vetted 50 bills Monday and are working through others.

“We want to read through them first to make sure we’re not missing anything,” she said.

Technically, Haley doesn’t have an official copy of the bill yet because it hasn’t been ratified by the General Assembly, her office explained. Once leaders of both chambers sign off on the proposed law, the bill will head to Haley’s office for her approval.

Haley said she anticipates she will sign the criminal domestic reform bill, while acknowledging it’s probably not perfect.

“From everything we’ve read, it’s not everything we needed, but again, this is one of those things that’s a work in progress,” Haley said. “If we couple that legislation with what we’re doing on the community level and on the grass-roots level, I think we can make South Carolina a much safer place to live.”

The proposed state law would change criminal penalties for domestic violence. The severity of the crime would be factored into the sentence. The law also would establish a partial gun ban for abusers.

The Legislature passed the law following an in-depth investigation that The Post and Courier published last year on criminal domestic violence in South Carolina. The newspaper recently won the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for the “Till Death Do Us Part” series.

Domestic violence survivor Christan Rainey, who was featured in the series, is eager for Haley to sign the bill, but understands that she wants to read it carefully.

“People want to see it get done,” Rainey said. “But you want to make sure it gets done the right way.”

Rainey was away at college in 2006 when his stepfather was charged with murdering Rainey’s mother, Detra, and all four of his younger brothers and sisters during a spree of bloodshed inside their home.

Rainey, now a North Charleston firefighter, used his devastating loss to raise awareness, especially among other men and young people. He met with Haley’s staff and lobbied several state lawmakers to push for legislative changes included in the bill.

“It is a huge step in the right direction,” Rainey said.

But the bill alone isn’t enough. Rainey wants South Carolinians to alter a culture that has allowed domestic violence to exist under a shroud of secrecy for generations. He also wants to remove South Carolina from the list of top 10 states nationwide for men killing their intimate partners.

A statewide task force will continue to make recommendations.

“Domestic violence has been around for centuries. It’s just coming into the light where people are realizing it’s actually people losing their lives,” Rainey said. “It’s out there now for people to see.”

Cynthia Roldan contributed to this report.