COLUMBIA -- Bills that would clear up South Carolina's law against human trafficking and levy harsher sentences for some murder crimes are among a 10-point legislative wish list presented Wednesday by the state's top prosecutor and law enforcement leaders.
"We agree on so much that we need to start working together and speak with one voice," Attorney General Alan Wilson said during a presentation with State Law Enforcement Division Chief Mark Keel and the directors of the state's sheriffs and prosecutors associations. "This is what law enforcement as a whole wants for South Carolina. This transcends party."
Among the proposals that Wilson said carry the support of the state's sheriffs, prosecutors and local police agencies is a bill that would make a prison sentence of life without parole mandatory for murder cases, including cases of kidnapping, armed robbery or where the victim is a child age 11 or under.
There is also a proposal that would clear up the state's prohibition on human trafficking, a law Wilson said is needed to bring South Carolina in line with other states in how the problem is handled. If the proposal were to become law, trafficking victims could bring civil lawsuits against their perpetrators and also seek restitution for costs of psychological treatment or court costs.
"These are men and women in your community who are victims and are perpetrators of this heinous crime," Wilson said. "This is a first step in tightening up those laws."
The bills, some of which already have legislative sponsors, also include a proposal that would ban more than 100 chemicals that have no medicinal use, in an effort to quash the rise of synthetic drugs including "bath salts."
Last year, the state Department of Health and Environmental Control announced a ban on the synthetic drugs days after federal officials classified the substances as illegal drugs. Prior to the state ban, some counties and cities across the state had already restricted the sale of synthetic marijuana and similar substances.
That statewide ban was limited, and Keel said Wednesday more comprehensive action is needed.
Wilson and Keel also talked about the need for more funding for South Carolina's law enforcement community. To Keel, who has renewed SLED's mission of assisting local law enforcement agencies, said that the state's police force needs more money to adequately respond to those requests.
"We're trying the very best we can to provide that now," Keel said. "But we're 100 or so less agents than what we were in 2008. The requests are coming in faster than we can handle them."
Saying Gov. Nikki Haley's budget includes a request for 30 new agents, Keel also noted that he needs to replace 25 forensic scientists his agency has lost since 2008.
"That has a lot to do with the backlogs that we have," Keel said. "We have to prioritize things."
And even if the state prosecutor's office is well-funded, Wilson said he can't make cases to the best of his ability without sufficient support for law enforcement.
"It's got to be comprehensive. If you give them all the funding and don't give it to us, or vice versa, the system is going to implode on itself," Wilson said. "There is so much work to be done."