SC political briefs: Panel advances bill to keep guns from mentally ill

March 21, 2013 

A House panel has advanced a bill designed to prevent people who have been declared mentally ill from buying guns.

The vote sends the bill to the Judiciary Committee. It ensures the names of those determined mentally insane by a state court are put into a federal database for purposes of background checks for gun purchases.

State Rep. Leon Stavrinakis, D-Charleston, says the safety reporting bill closes a glaring loophole.

It’s already illegal to sell guns to someone who is mentally ill. But the lack of reporting means gun shops don’t get that information when they run a check.

Last month, authorities charged a 28-year-old woman with trying to fire a handgun at a Charleston girls’ school. No one was hurt because she had loaded the gun incorrectly.

The Associated Press

State’s special education penalty won’t continue

S.C. schools chief Mick Zais says congressional action averted the continuation of a $36 million federal punishment of the state over special education spending.

A clause inserted in a stopgap spending bill given final approval Thursday by the U.S. House repeals the penalty, slated to continue perpetually.

Zais praised Congress, particularly South Carolina’s delegation, as hearing his plea for common sense. “This is a victory for students with disabilities.”

The vote comes a day before the state Education Department is slated to argue in federal court that its challenge to the punishment over recession-era budget cuts deserves to be heard. Arguments will be before the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The hearing will continue, as Zais hopes to recover the $36 million lost in the current budget year.

But the provision slid in as the Senate debated the bill sidestepping threats of a government shutdown means the state’s worst possible outcome is that the current reduction will stand. That is, provided that President Barack Obama signs the bill.

It also means the Senate has an additional $36 million to designate for 2013-14. The budget proposal approved by the House last week set aside $36 million in case Zais lost his court fight.

The Associated Press

Democrats to gather in Charleston

S.C. Democrats will gather Saturday in Charleston their annual issues conference.

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, a possible candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, will address the conference Saturday morning. O’Malley will be introduced by Jim Hodges, the last Democratic governor of South Carolina.

State Sen. Vincent Sheheen, D-Kershaw, will appear on a panel discussion of public education. Sheheen narrowly lost a bid for the Governor’s Mansion to Republican Nikki Haley in 2010 and is expected to challenge Haley again in 2014.

Among the other topics scheduled to be discussed is expanding Medicaid – which S.C. Republicans oppose and Democrats favor, saying it would give 500,000 South Carolinians medical insurance and create thousands of jobs.

Staff Reports

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