Progress on domestic violence

House Speaker Bobby Harrell has called the General Assembly back into session today in Columbia. (Grace Beahm/File)

Today's special session of the Legislature is expected to only consider gubernatorial vetoes of two bills. One allows public libraries to eject misbehaving patrons, and another permits a tax hike for fire department improvements in Murrells Inlet.

It hardly appears sufficient to call the House back for even a day - certainly not at a cost of $34,000.

And the terms of the adjournment - the legislative sine die resolution - restrict the House from taking up anything else.

But the gathering of legislators will at least allow the beginning of something substantial, as an ad hoc legislative committee on criminal domestic violence (CDV) breaks the ice today.

House Speaker Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston, has named that panel to start the overdue process of improving the state's ability to deal with criminal domestic violence.

The five-day Post and Courier "Till Death Do Us Part" series, which ended Sunday, revealed the inadequacy of the state's response to CDV. South Carolina ranks worst nationally in the rate of women killed by men.

The committee is expected to come up with recommendations to improve the state's safeguards against and response to criminal domestic violence. As our series revealed, stronger protections are needed for victims of violence, as are enhanced penalties for perpetrators.

And as Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, D-Orangeburg, observed, a solution will require the Legislature to take a principled stand against the powerful gun lobby.

Rep. Cobb-Hunter, who will serve on the committee, praised The Post and Courier series for having "lit a fire under people to get something done."

The committee will be chaired by Rep. Shannon Erickson, R-Beaufort, who will seek testimony from experts in states that have a much better track record than South Carolina on this issue.

The fact that numerous bills were filed last session to improve the state's abysmal record on criminal domestic violence is an indication that at least some legislators are aware of the challenge. That none of those bills passed, except one to provide shelter for animals of CDV victims, is a sad statement on the Legislature's lack of real purpose.

Rep. Harrell's decision to proceed with the ad hoc committee shows a needed reappraisal of legislative priorities.

The speaker also plans to name an ad hoc legislative committee to make recommendations for improving the state's deteriorating road system, according to his spokesman. Maybe that will be a step toward dealing with this persistent problem, as well.

The state's shortcomings on roads and bridges are generally recognized, but have been treated with half-measures by the Legislature - which has then congratulated itself on a job well done.

Let's hope lawmakers approach criminal domestic violence with a heightened sense of responsibility next session. Post and Courier reporters have already done a lot of the advance work for them to consider.