House moves forward legislation enhancing fatal domestic violence data collection

The South Carolina Statehouse

COLUMBIA — Panels of experts soon could be created across South Carolina to help track and analyze fatal domestic violence cases.

A bill calling for establishing “domestic violence review committees” in 16 solicitor circuits received second reading in the House on Thursday. It passed 86-7.

A Senate panel Thursday morning also issued a preliminary approval to a companion bill that will go before its Judiciary Committee.

The General Assembly last year passed several domestic violence reforms, which included the statewide creation of a similar panel.

“This is a bill that actually lays out some structure and procedure for that committee,” said Sen. Greg Hembree, R-Myrtle Beach, chairman of the subcommittee discussing the bill. “How it will be formed and the power that it has and what it’s supposed to do.”

The bill was proposed at the recommendation of a state Domestic Violence Task Force created by Gov. Nikki Haley. The Legislature took up the issue after The Post and Courier published a series called “Till Death Do Us Part.”

Department of Corrections Director Bryan Stirling, who also serves as the chairman of the group’s criminal justice division, said South Carolina is one of few states that don’t have a panel collecting data specifically on domestic violence-related homicides and suicides.

“We do now have a statewide one, but what (stakeholders) told us is that they needed them to be county or circuit wide,” he said. “This is just a force multiplier.”

Information collected locally would be funneled to the statewide committee, which could be used to shape changes to domestic violence laws and train law enforcement.

The House version of the bill will be up for third and final reading next week.

Reach Maya T. Prabhu at 843-509-8933.