Today, the Senate wrapped up the first year of the two-year legislative cycle. The Caucus achieved several important goals for the people of South Carolina, and initiated action on several more issues that will be completed in January.
Criminal Domestic Violence R80/S3
This week the Governor signed into law the Domestic Violence Reform Act that significantly increased protections for victims of domestic violence and increased the penalties for those who prey on family members. Judiciary Chairman and lead sponsor of this bill, Senator Larry Martin said, “For much too long South Carolina has led the nation in domestic violence deaths. This bill represents a huge step in taking us in the opposite direction.”
Body Cameras for Law Enforcement /S47
With the issues between civilians and police making headlines here and across the United States, the Caucus worked hard to pass an effective statewide approach to equipping front line officers with body cameras. Former prosecutor, Senator Greg Hembree stated “Law enforcement has led South Carolina into the age of body cameras for our police officers. The SC Legislature through this body camera legislation is supporting our law enforcement officers, the justice system and most importantly our citizens.”
Adjutant General Reform R1/S8
Upon the expiration of the current term of the Adjutant General, he/she will thereafter be appointed by the Governor upon the advice and consent of the Senate. This is an important continuation of the Caucus’ government reform agenda.
Charitable Raffles R5/H3519
This law will allow local religious, charitable or nonprofit organizations to hold fundraising raffles for religious, charitable or eleemosynary purposes.
Human Trafficking R16/S196/S183
Crimes involving Human Trafficking will now be in the purview of the State Grand Jury system. The second bill also makes clear the definitions of human trafficking, which strengthen our ability to prosecute these crimes.
S.C. State University R17/S382
This is a joint resolution to authorize the agency head of South Carolina State University to institute a mandatory furlough program of up to seven days in fiscal year 2014-2015. The legislature also removed and replaced all of the Trustees and a new president was installed. This is part of the broad legislative approach to address the financial crisis at S.C. State University. Majority Leader Harvey Peeler has also requested a full audit of the University by the Legislative Audit Council.
Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act H3114
Following weeks of intense work, the South Carolina Senate Republican Caucus passed The Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. The bill is now in conference committee and is expected to be completed later this month. The bill will prohibit someone from performing an abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy with certain very limited exception. Senator Larry Grooms (R-Berkeley), the chief champion of the bill in the Senate, praised pro-life advocates in South Carolina for their support. “Without the leadership of the pro-life community, especially South Carolina Citizens for Life, the Catholic Diocese of Charleston, the South Carolina Baptist Convention and the Palmetto Family Alliance, we would not have been successful. This bill will significantly advance legal protection for innocent human life in South Carolina.” Oran Smith, President of the Palmetto Family Alliance, thanked the Caucus for its diligence and commitment: “The Palmetto Family Alliance is grateful to the South Carolina Senate Republican Caucus for its leadership in getting the Pain Capable Unborn Child Act up to bat through Special Order and passed. This will reduce late term abortions—-those that are particularly dangerous to women and obviously painful to children.”
Transportation Network Companies H3525
This bill will permit innovative transportation service companies like UBER to operate lawfully and safely in South Carolina.
Roads and Bridges
The Caucus supported the use of new surplus revenue totaling more than $400,000,000 for road and bridge repair on our primary and secondary roads. This money can be used in every county in the state to address immediate needs. At this time the full amount of the funds to be allocated for this purpose has not been finalized.
The Caucus also advanced a comprehensive plan that will provide balanced and consistent DOT funding, DOT reform and the state’s largest personal income tax plan in state’s history. This bill will be ready for debate in January.
The Caucus supported and passed several pieces of legislation supporting our military personnel and their families.
- In-State Tuition Rates for Military Personnel R23/S391: An amendment revising the criteria under which veterans who are honorably discharged and their dependents to receive in-state tuition rates.
- State and Local Veteran Issues R30/H3324: A bill to establish a committee to study state and local level veterans issues and to make appropriate legislative recommendations for improving the structure, delivery and coordination of veterans services in South Carolina.
- Reemployment rights of the National Guard R34/H3547: A bill to amend statute to provide that the reemployment rights and protections granted to members of the South Carolina National Guard and the South Carolina State Guard who serve state duty shall apply also to a person who is employed in South Carolina but is a member of another State’s National or State Guard.
- Property tax R44/S153: A bill to extend the disabled veteran property tax exemption.
Pollution Control Act S229 (Currently in House)
A bill relating to the remedies for causing or permitting pollution of the environment, to clarify the persons who may file a petitioner with the Department of Health and Environmental Control and to provide that certain DHEC decisions are not subject to judicial review in a civil proceeding.
- Notice of Meeting S11 (conference report adopted, will be ratified): This would require a public body to provide an agenda for all regularly scheduled meetings.
- FOIA S10 (passed the Senate, currently stalled in the House) This Bill would make public under FOIA the reports prepared by, at the request of or in the possession of, a coroner as to the cause and manner of death of a person examined by autopsy.
State Telecom Equity in Funding Act S277 (Currently in House)
This bill would clarify the jurisdiction of the public service commission over certain providers regarding telephone service for hearing and speech impaired people. It would limit the size of the universal service fund and require certain providers to contribute to the fund.
Sometimes what is defeated is as important as what is passed. This year the Caucus successfully blocked an attempt to pass a borrowing bond bill that was not well planned and loaded with special projects. To address the real needs of the state in a potential bond bill, Majority Leader Peeler authored a proviso that establishes practical and a joint study committee that will consider the merits, necessity and projected costs of each the capital improvement plans and projects it studies and prepare recommendations addressing the priority of the projects for future funding.
The committee will make report its findings and recommendations, including proposed legislation by December 31, 2015. The Senate is expected to take action on the recommendations in 2016.
Persons Age Sixty and Over Attending Classes R81/S261
Lifelong learning is important to the people of South Carolina and the Caucus worked with higher education in the Palmetto State to increase the opportunity for our seasoned citizens to complete or expand their college education. This bill allows persons age sixty and over attending state-supported colleges, universities and technical schools to do so without payment of tuition.