S.C. House overrules one veto, sustains another in special session

The South Carolina Statehouse. Grace Beahm/Staff

COLUMBIA - The S.C. House took up Gov. Nikki Haley's vetoes of two bills on Wednesday, one that cracks down on unruly library patrons and another that would have raised the property tax rate in a district of Murrells Inlet.

The property tax bill, S. 293, took up the bulk of the roughly two-hour, one-day special session, and the House ended up siding with the governor, voting 58-49 to sustain the governor's veto. At issue was the Murrells Inlet-Garden City Fire District, where local officials asked the General Assembly to allow a possible property tax rate hike in order to better fund a new fire station. Others felt a local referendum should decide the issue.

On Facebook, the governor thanked those who sided with her veto. "Thank you for your help with the bill I vetoed that would allow an unelected board to raise property taxes without a referendum," she wrote. Her spokesman, Doug Mayer, also added: "The House did the right thing today in agreeing with the governor that we should not be unilaterally raising taxes on our people," he said. "It's a win - not just for the people and businesses of Murrells Inlet, but for our entire state."

Reps. Garry Smith, R-Greenville, and Nelson Hardwick, R-Surfside Beach, said that such decisions are why members are elected. "We're elected to come here and make these decisions," Smith said.

Supporters of the bill said they worried a new area fire station would be inadequately funded, leading to problems with its insurance rating and therefore insurance hikes for area residents and businesses.

The House overrode Haley's veto to another bill, S.813, which criminalizes unruly library patrons and allows librarians greater authority to kick them out. The vote was 75-36 without any debate.

Haley vetoed the bill because she said it gave librarians too much authority to deprive residents of their right to access public libraries.

Some had criticized House Speaker Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston for calling a special session on two seemingly minor matters at a cost of roughly $32,000 for mileage and expenses. "That debate showed otherwise," Harrell said from the dais.

Reach Jeremy Borden at 708-5837.