Senate

The South Carolina Senate debates a bill that would have outlawed almost all abortions in the state. The measure was killed in an overnight vote in the early hours of Friday. Jamie Lovegrove/Staff

State lawmakers worked until 1 a.m. Friday to stop utilities from billing you more than $300 a year to pay for abandoned nuclear plants.

They toiled tirelessly into the night to prevent your money from ending up in some Wall Street investor’s dividend check or SCANA official’s trust fund.

They’re looking out for your interests, South Carolina.

Just kidding.

They were actually talking about Viagra, birth control and abortion.

"Have you ever ovulated?" Sen. Margie Bright Matthews asked Sen. Richard Cash in the debate.

Yeah, that's where we were.

In the past week, the Legislature pulled more session hours than it often does in a month. Proponents of the anti-abortion legislation, which sucked up all the air in the building, said it was about life.

And it was: Their political life.

It’s an election year, which means it's time to push for an outright ban of on abortions. You know, at least until bedtime.

Conservative lawmakers cranked up the annual crusade like the telethon it was. Never mind that state law does not supersede federal law or that any number of other states which have tried this ended up paying millions in legal fees.

They know that but hope nobody else does.

Just as they hope no one notices they work much harder to get re-elected and spend your money than to keep it from being stolen in the first place.

Germane?

On Thursday, Charleston Democratic state Sen. Marlon Kimpson filibustered into the night to stop “big government” from interfering with women’s health care.

He was eloquent and funny but also deadly serious. As this issue should be.

At one point, President Pro Tem Hugh Leatherman announced the Senate would reconvene on Friday — gasp, overtime at the Statehouse — to continue the debate.

But when the Republicans folded at 1 a.m., the Friday session was canceled.

Translation: We'll come in on our day off to play politics at taxpayers’ expense but not to combat the flagrant malfeasance of SCANA — which continues to bill its ratepayers an average of $27 a month for the shuttered V.C. Summer nuclear plant.

House members have ordered SCE&G to stop charging us for that but so far the majority of senators won’t go along. Apparently they find it more worthwhile to talk about things they can't do.

Kimpson pointed out there are only a few days remaining in the legislative session and this grandstanding prevented the Legislature from addressing pressing issues such as:

  • The opioid crisis.
  • Education funding and teacher pay.
  • Beefing up prison security.
  • And yes, the SCANA nuclear plant boondoggle.

Instead of fixing all that, we have Republican Lt. Gov. Kevin Bryant ruling that the Viagra amendment is not germane to the abortion bill.

Cue Captain Obvious: The dad-blamed Germans got nothing to do with it.

This is your tax dollars at work.

So there's a price?

This is a complicated issue, and a federal one.

State officials can't pave roads easily enough so do we really expect them to understand complex medical issues or constitutional law?

"We have tons of issues that are really important," Kimpson says, "and I think the people of South Carolina want us to do something about those things."

Yes, and most voters probably don't include "June primary talking points" on that list.

Reasonable people can, and do, disagree on this issue. But it's hard not to question the motives of people who claim they respect life and then:

  • Shortchange the Department of Social Services, which protects thousands of children a year.
  • Refuse federal Medicaid dollars to make sure needy children get health care.
  • And take no action to stop madmen from shooting up schools full of kids.

That's not a consistent philosophy; but then, hypocrisy seems to be the rage these days. And it was on display last week at the Statehouse.

In the midst of this legislative marathon, Sen. Brad Hutto, D-Orangeburg suggested that, instead of sending taxpayers the legal bills for an ill-advised abortion lawsuit, the money should come from legislative salaries.

That went over well.

Anyone truly sincere about stopping abortion should have supported that move in an instant. Of course, if they were truly serious they might have agreed to work on a Friday.

Instead, we got a bunch of old white men condescendingly preaching about medical procedures they don't understand. And, when they got tired, they gave up and went home with some handy campaign talking points.

Makes you wonder if that wasn't the plan the whole time.

Reach Brian Hicks at bhicks@postandcourier.com.