Joint committee formed to tackle state pension fund woes

The South Carolina Statehouse. File

COLUMBIA — A Columbia senator is making another attempt at loosening the requirements for towns, colleges and local governments to unilaterally remove Confederate monuments and symbols controlled under the state's 2000 Heritage Act.

Sen. Darrell Jackson, D-Hopkins, filed the bill Tuesday ahead of next year's legislative session.

It wasn't the only controversial measure lawmakers rushed to get in on the official opening day for legislation to be submitted for the 2017 session that begins Jan. 10.

Bills targeting so-called revenge porn, drones and term limits were also in the leading batch tossed into the proverbial hopper.

Jackson's Heritage Act legislation falls in line with previous methods suggested by lawmakers to let local governments to address issues of Confederate heritage or other monument matters. It comes in the wake of several regional controversies which have flared in recent times.

One example is at The Citadel, where school officials and others would like to remove the Confederate Naval Jack from Summerall Chapel. However, their hands are tied in doing so until the Legislature gives its approval since, under the Heritage Act, the Statehouse must give a two-thirds vote to endorse any such removal.

Another government seeking the power to alter a public monument is in Greenwood, where some locals want to change out panels on a war memorial that lists and segregates dead soldiers from World Wars I and II as “colored” and “white.”

Jackson proposed the bill last year, but it didn’t make it out of committee. It still remains a long shot since it would need two-thirds of both the Senate and House to change the current law.

Of the approximately 200 bills submitted Tuesday, a few stood out as addressing emerging issues or to find new ways to tackle old ones. A sampling includes:

Townville Elementary School shooting: Sen. Kevin Bryant, R-Anderson, prefiled two proposals to address the October school shooting that injured two and killed 6-year-old Jacob Hall. Bryant has proposed "Jacob Hall's law" that would let school officials carry weapons on property after receiving appropriate training.

Another bill would absolve students from making up the five school days missed after the shooting.

Racial profiling: Several bills dealing with discrimination and race were filed, including the proposed creation of a committee to review state and local law enforcement practices involving racial profiling.

Sen. Gerald Malloy, D-Hartsville, introduced two similar bills that would establish a panel of lawmakers who could recommend changes based on the findings. Additionally, Malloy again is sponsoring legislation to create a hate crimes charge, which currently does not exist in South Carolina. It would cover when a murder is committed against someone based in their race, religion, sexual orientation or other factors. He proposed the change last year but it did not make it to the Senate floor.

Revenge porn: Jackson again is trying to crack down on what is known as "revenge porn." The act is described as sexually charged pictures or video being shared with others without consent of the person in the images — often by a scorned lover after a bad breakup.

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Jackson's bill would make revenge porn a misdemeanor and impose a fine of up to $1,000 and/or a sentence of up to one year in jail.

Home protection tax breaks: While the state recognizes a Second Amendment Weekend where firearms, rifles and shotguns are tax-free for 48 hours, Sen. Danny Verdin, R-Laurens, wants home protection products, such as surveillance cameras and security doors, to be tax-exempt as well.

Crackdown on drones: Some senators want them banned from flying near military installations or prisons. Bills introduced Tuesday would make it a misdemeanor punishable by a fine up to $500 to fly drones within a certain distance of the facilities. Drones are a frequent problem at prisons where they can deliver contraband, such as cell phones, to prison yards for inmates to retrieve.

Term limits: State Sen. Mia McLeod, D-Columbia, wants to term limit each senator and representative to three and six terms, respectively, or a total of 12 years for each position. McLeod served three terms in the House until winning former Sen. Joel Lourie’s seat in November.

While early filing helps bring measures exposure and attention, there truly is no boost or correlation toward them actually passing one of the Statehouse chambers or becoming law.

Tuesday's window was for members of the Senate; the House of Representatives gets their opening shot later this week.

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

Maya T. Prabhu covers the Statehouse from Columbia. She previously covered city government and other topics in South Carolina and Maryland. Maya has a bachelors in English from Spelman College and a masters in journalism from the University of Maryland.

Gavin Jackson covers the Statehouse from Columbia for The Post and Courier. He previously covered local government for the Morning News in Florence and interned at newspapers in Baton Rouge and Columbus. He is a 2008 Kent State University graduate.