The General Assembly has approved legislation naming the mammoth the official state fossil and barbecue as South Carolina's official picnic cuisine. But there is still much to be done as the Legislature moves into the last week of the session.
At the top of the list is an ethics bill that should include the House provision for the independent investigation of legislators charged with ethics violations. Already the bill has been diminished by the absence of an independent body for judging those violations. It is a cliché that retaining House and Senate ethics committees is like having the fox guard the henhouse. But it is nonetheless true.
Refusing to allow for independent investigation will only confirm the suspicion that legislators don't want to have the same oversight as every other elected official in the state. Indeed, its absence would so weaken the bill that it would hardly qualify as a significant reform.
Other bills that have yet to be approved include a ban on texting while driving, improving sex education in public schools and strengthening oversight of the state Department of Social Services.
Failure to approve a total ban on texting while driving would be nothing short of an embarrassment for the Legislature. Such bills have been debated for years and allowed to fail despite mounting evidence of the hazards of texting behind the wheel. The latest research shows that the practice is a greater danger than driving under the influence. Would the Legislature weaken DUI? Allowing texting by motorists has much the same effect.
The House approved a bill that would prohibit texting by motorists generally, but the Senate largely neutered the proposal by limiting the ban to young motorists, and outlawing texting altogether only in school and hospital zones. Forty-three states have prohibited texting behind the wheel. South Carolina should join them.
The Legislature should also approve a coastal zone management bill that comports with a blue-ribbon committee's recommendations, specifically as regards the baseline on the beach beyond which construction is not allowed. It should not allow the line to be moved seaward even if the beach accretes because the threat of erosion persists.
The bill also should not allow exceptions to the existing law's prohibition against sea walls, which damage the beach.
Certainly, the Legislature should approve a bill that allows the creation of the University of Charleston, to provide a framework for a comprehensive research university offering doctoral degrees. The timing is right as Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell prepares to become the next president of the College of Charleston. A major problem with the proposal at this point is the likelihood that it can only advance if bobtailed onto another bill. If not germane to that bill, the possibility exists that a lawsuit could void the measure.
A bill that would require sex education to include medically accurate information has been approved by the House, and a Senate committee. But is being held up by Sen. Mike Fair, R-Greenville. It's a reminder that senior senators effectively have greater veto authority than the governor. But that doesn't make it right.
A Senate committee investigating ongoing problems at DSS wants a yearly report from the troubled agency providing information on matters including client levels for case workers. The Senate has endorsed the proposal, and the House should follow suit.
An election bill that would make uniform county election operations remains in conference. It must be approved next week, or the June 10 primary election will be at risk. Meanwhile, there's a state budget to finish work on.
Actually, the Legislature has made some progress this session, besides adding the mammoth and barbecue to the apparently unending list of state icons and emblems. For example, the Legislature approved the creation of a Department of Administration as a new Cabinet agency, effective July 2015, and it agreed to have the voters decide whether the adjutant general, who heads the state National Guard, should be appointed as in every other state in the nation. And it approved a bill that will allow the leasing of solar panels for residential use.
But clearly there's a lot yet to be done, and little time to do it. The Legislature has to get moving or the session will be tagged a disappointment, or worse.