The 18th week of the legislative session:
ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION: Hispanic opponents of a bill meant to further clamp down on illegal workers in South Carolina lashed out at its sponsor Thursday in what became a rare shouting match in Senate offices. Legislators are considering how to crack down harder on illegal workers, just two years after passing what many called one of the country's toughest anti-illegal immigration laws. The bill introduced by Sen. Larry Grooms, R-Bonneau, would put South Carolina in line with Arizona's controversial new law by directing law enforcement to try to check the legal status of people they suspect are in the country illegally. It specifies that suspicion can't be based on race, color or national origin. The bill, which was discussed by a Senate subcommittee, has almost no chance of passing this year, with just two weeks set in the session. But that didn't stop emotions from escalating.
BUDGET--ABORTION: South Carolina budget writers who deal with big numbers find themselves wrestling with a major policy issue -- abortions under the state health plan. Leaders of the state budget debate were flummoxed as they headed Wednesday into the final stage of negotiations. Abortions and taxpayers funding them have become huge issues this year even though South Carolina mirrors federal law. It allows the state health insurance plan for state workers and teachers to pay for abortions only in cases of rape, incest or to protect the mother's health. The plan covered six such abortions last year. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dan Cooper saw his budget debate on the floor hijacked for hours by the issue in March. Cooper and Senate Finance Chairman Hugh Leatherman have been working behind the scenes for two weeks with no apparent compromise in sight.