Scoppe: The Sheheen bills

Associate EditorSeptember 29, 2010 

What follows is a list of about two-thirds of the bills Sen. Vincent Sheheen has sponsored since he was elected to the House in 2000. Most of those that did not become law died in committee. The complete list is at thestate.com/opextra.

Bills that became law

♦  Crack down on the abuse of handicapped license plates and parking permits, among other things making it a crime to use someone else’s.

♦  Spell out in state law that public school students have a right to express their religious beliefs the same way they can express other views; require that work based on religious views be graded the same as work based on non-religious ideas; and allow students to organize religious groups or gatherings on the same basis as nonreligious groups.

♦  Create a “certificate of birth resulting in stillbirth” that parents can request after a miscarriage.

♦  Outlaw beer bongs.

♦  Require the state rather than the political parties to run presidential primaries.

♦  Require local election commissioners to complete a basic training course.

♦  Require campus police to work with SLED on death and criminal sexual conduct investigations.

♦  Increase fines for child safety-seat violations.

♦  Require the clerk of court to notify the receiving party of any changes to child support and alimony payments.

Other Sheheen bills that became law increased magistrates’ jurisdiction and the penalties for people who don’t show up in court as required; outlawed snagging fish with hooks for the purpose of impaling the fish; authorized and provided rules for using electronic instead of paper traffic tickets; allowed fuel to be dispensed at unattended service stations; required public notice before DHEC issues a permit for construction of a sludge storage or treatment facility; and updated the life expectancy table used in civil litigation.

Ethics, elections and government restructuring

♦  Replace the Budget and Control Board with a Department of Administration that reports to the governor. Allow the governor to appoint the adjutant general, agriculture commissioner and education superintendent and abolish the secretary of state and state Board of Education. Create an inspector general who reports to the governor. Create a board of regents to oversee state colleges. Overhaul the legislative committees to serve as investigative, oversight bodies of an empowered executive branch.

♦  Require the Supreme Court rather than local senators to nominate magistrates for gubernatorial appointment.

♦  Prohibit state agencies from hiring lobbyists.

♦  Require elected officials to attend training sessions on the ethics and campaign finance law.

♦  Prohibit elected officials from collecting money through “leadership PACs,” which allow them to bypass campaign finance limits. Require people making independent campaign expenditures to print their name on any election-related communications they pay for. Ban the practice of lobbyists “unregistering” while the Legislature is out of session in order to evade the prohibition on lobbyists donating to political candidates.

♦  Prohibit the use of office space in the House and Senate office buildings for partisan political activities.

♦  Require nonpartisan elections for clerk of court and probate judge.

♦  Hold both presidential primaries on the same day.

♦  Allow the Legislature to vote on all candidates found qualified by the Judicial Merit Selection Commission, not just the three who are nominated for each office. (This is the one truly awful bill Mr. Sheheen has filed; he filed it only once, early on in his career.)

Taxation and spending

♦  Overhaul the way tax money is distributed to schools, and eliminate school taxes on owner-occupied homes in return for raising the sales tax, enacting a uniform statewide property tax and raising a handful of other fees. (The Legislature later eliminated the school taxes in return for a higher sales tax, but made none of the other changes.)

♦  Require the governor to apply for federal stimulus funds in 2009; this proposal was incorporated into the state budget.

♦  Require a programmatic budget, which includes an explanation of the programs being funded.

♦  Give a 20 percent preference in state competitive bids to S.C. companies over out-of-state companies and U.S. companies over foreign companies.

He also proposed bills to roll back recent increases in admission fees to state parks; provide free college tuition for military veterans; allow state employees to take courses at state colleges for free on a space-available basis; exempt purchases made by public schools from the state sales tax; exempt smaller school districts from the state procurement code requirements; increase Medicaid reimbursement rates to the maximum allowed by federal law.

Environment

♦  Create an electronic waste recycling program, with fees of $6 to $10 on electronic-device purchases and sites for consumers to recycle e-waste at no charge.

♦  Protect conservation easements from condemnation unless there is no “prudent and feasible alternative.”

♦  Require incandescent bulbs to be replaced with compact fluorescent bulbs in state offices within three years.

♦  Allow small towns to open small, unlicensed sites for disposal of yard trash.

Crime and courts

♦  Require coroners to be notified if someone dies within 24 hours after invasive surgery or entering a health-care facility, and give survivors a right to an autopsy of relatives who die in the hospital.

♦  Create tiered sentences for shoplifting, depending on the value of stolen goods; allow judges to reduce the sentence for first-time convictions of selling a lottery ticket to a minor; allow solicitors to create traffic diversion programs, similar to pre-trial intervention programs.

♦  Allow victims of identity theft to put a freeze on their credit reports; prohibit officials from charging fees for expunging criminal records of people whose charges are dismissed or who are found not guilty.

♦  Provide a legal definition of joint custody; spell out the conditions under which spouses can sue for alienation of affections.

♦  Allow reserve state police officers to carry guns.

♦  Prohibit magistrates from issuing arrest warrants based on complaints by private citizens. (They still could issue summonses.)

Miscellaneous

♦  Prohibit students from possessing pagers at school.

♦  Exempt funeral homes, community centers and places of worship from having to have an architect design the building if it is one story and less than 5,000 square feet.

♦  Prohibit companies from sending out unsolicited checks that are actually loans.

♦  Give preference for state government jobs to honorably discharged veterans.

♦  Correct a glitch in state law that prevented thousands of out-of-work South Carolinians from drawing the unemployment benefits they were due.

♦  Allow physicians trained in acupuncture to perform it without additional licensing; require heart hospitals to have a cardiologist on site at all times.

♦  Allow owners to drive RVs without a commercial license.

♦  Exempt employees of horse trainers from the state’s workers compensation law.

♦  Create a state do-not-call list.

♦  Allow private contractors to inspect and license septic tanks.

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