MORNING BUZZ: Hearings on abortion bill, prisons chief today

Posted by ANDREW SHAIN, ADAM BEAM and JAMIE SELF on February 6, 2014 

Cocky, University of South Carolina mascot, has some fun as he tries to get inside the Governor's office inside the State House during the 11th annual Carolina Day. Alumni from all eight campuses of the University of South Carolina gathered to speak with lawmakers about the school.

GERRY MELENDEZ — gmelendez@thestate.com Buy Photo

— A bill that would limit abortion at 20 weeks of pregnancy and later is on the agenda of the House Judiciary General Laws subcommittee today.

Current law allows abortions in the first and second trimester, but bans them -- with exceptions -- after the 24th week.

The House bill, sponsored by state Rep. Wendy Nanney, R-Greenville, would limit abortions at 20 weeks and later except in the case of a medical emergency.

The bill, which has a companion piece of legislation in the Senate, would require a physician to determine the age of the fetus before performing an abortion.

Nanney, who joined the state House in 2009, co-sponsored a bill passed the next year that instituted a 24-hour waiting period for women seeking abortions.

Nanny is listed as a member of the National Pro-Life Women's Caucus, which is part of the Susan B. Anthony List, a pro-life organization. That group is supporting U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-Seneca, in his introduction of a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

The House committee meets at 9 a.m. in Blatt 516.

Questions SC's prisons chief might hear at conformation hearing

Bryan Stirling, Republican Gov. Nikki Haley's pick to lead the state Department of Corrections, has his confirmation hearing today before a Senate committee.

Three questions Stirling could be asked:

1) A state judge recently ruled South Carolina's treatment of its mentally ill inmates was unconstitutional. What is the department doing to meet the mental health needs of its inmates?

2) Because of sentencing reform, a 2010 law, the nonviolent prison population is declining while the violent prison population is increasing. What is the department doing to keep its officers safe?

3) A Lowcountry blogger has documented more than 150 inmates who have active Facebook pages. And a 2012 prison riot at Lee Correctional was orchestrated on contraband cell phones. What is the department doing to keep inmates off the Internet?

The hearing starts at 9 a.m. in Gressette 209.

Toal, Pleicones pledge peace after chief justice election

Jean Toal won re-election Wednesday as chief justice of the S.C. Supreme Court by a 95 to 74 margin over associate justice Costa Pleicones.

The vote among state lawmakers did not break down along party, gender, geographic or professional lines, The State's John Monk reported.

The pair promised to work together.

“We’re professional,” Pleicones said. “This changes really nothing in the professional relationship at all, nor in the personal relationship. … I’ve been sitting next to her in one capacity or another for the past 50 years.”

Pleicones, who had the support of most of the prosecutors in the state, said, “I thought it was going to be a nail-biter but it wasn’t as close as I thought.”

Toal, too, promised a good relationship.

“We’ve handled it with a great deal of affection for each other,” Toal said. “Our friendship is deep, and it won’t change because of this.”

S.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Jean Toal in the State House lobby soon after she won re-election.

Core of the matter in education election

The race for state school superintendent is shaping up to be a referendum on Common Core education standards, especially for Republican candidates.

The critics include the state’s two U.S. senators, Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott, and state Sen. Lee Bright, R-Spartanburg, who is running to unseat Graham in June’s GOP primary. Bright is pushing a bill that would void the standards. Gov. Nikki Haley also supports rolling back Common Core.

University of South Carolina political scientist Mark Tompkins said the Common Core debate really is about culture and beliefs, and could drive GOP primary voters.

“It might be a winning strategy in the Republican primary,” Tompkins said. “Because of that, it might be a central issue in the general (election).”

Read the full story from The State.

Buzz Clicks

S.C. State probe starts: The S.C. Inspector General’s Office has started an investigation into S.C. State University, just days after state lawmakers learned the school needs a $13 million bailout. Meanwhile, state lawmakers said they wanted to see the university administration’s plan before committing to giving the school more money. Full story

More road repair money or just passing the bucks?: South Carolina’s local governments could spend more of their hospitality tax dollars to repair roads and bridges under a bill that passed a Senate subcommittee Wednesday. But some local governments are concerned the bill is a veiled attempt to pass along the expensive cost of road maintenance to local governments. Full story

Who's got the dough in senate race: State Sen. Lee Bright's campaign to unseat Republican U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham spent more from October through December than it raised, leaving the state senator with $49,459 to spend to close out the year. Charleston PR executive Nancy Mace leads Graham challengers in fundraising. Full story

Why Haley was 'furious' over Georgia's problems last week: Gov. Nikki Haley is not too happy with her counterpart in Georgia, Nathan Deal, in his state's handling of last week's winter storm after her brother was stuick on an Atlanta interstate for 27 hours. Full story

Restructuring bill signing honors Campbells: Republican Gov. Nikki Haley honored the family of late Gov. Carroll Campbell and acknowledged her Democratic opponent in a ceremonial signing of a government restructuring bill at the State House on Wednesday. Full story

Mike Campbell, son of the late Gov. Carroll Campbell, speaks at a ceremonial signing of a government restructuring bill Wednesday at the State House.

Childs makes run official: Meka Childs, formerly a deputy superintendent at the state Department of Education, announced her campaign for state schools' chief in a video Wednesday. Full story

Medicaid program ran a surplus: South Carolina's Medicaid program ended the 2013 fiscal year with a $384 million surplus, state director Tony Keck told lawmakers on Wednesday. The surplus was a far cry from 2011, when the agency had a mid-year deficit of $228 million. Full story

Enough time in Congress for you: Rep. Mick Mulvaney has filed a bill that would cap members of Congress at 24 years of service for lawmakers -- 12 years each in both the House and Senate. Full story

Joe Wilson has a challenger: Columbia Democrat Ed Greenleaf plans to run against U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, R-Springdale, for the 2nd District congressional seat. Full story

Barnwell nuclear waste dump: Are open pits a threat?: Rainfall that routinely washes over open pits of nuclear waste dominated discussion during a state Court of Appeals hearing Wednesday, as judges tried to determine whether they should force better disposal practices at a leaking garbage dump near Barnwell. Full story

Longer prison time suggested for gang members: A gang member would receive a longer prison sentence under a bill proposed in the South Carolina House. Rep. Phyllis Henderson said Wednesday she hopes her bill, prompted by last October's shooting of University of South Carolina student Martha Childress, helps law enforcement keep gang members off the streets. Full story

All is well with wells at Fort Jackson, tests show: A toxic compound that is polluting groundwater at Fort Jackson has not made drinking water unsafe for people who live near the military complex, according to test results released this week by the state health department. Full story

More legal protection for doctors proposed: A physician who stops to help an accident victim on the highway in South Carolina is protected from malpractice claims by the Good Samaritan statute. A bill being considered in the state Legislature this session would extend the immunity to anytime a physician provides health care services for free. Full story

State senators meet with municipal leaders: Four state senators spoke to members of the Municipal Association of South Carolina on Wednesday about issues facing municipalities including infrastructure needs, texting while driving and the local government fund. Full story

Cocky invades the State House

The University of South Carolina mascot, Cocky, along with school president Harris Pastides and dozens of college officials and supporters came to the State House on Wednesday for the university system's annual en mass visit to legislators. Cocky tried to see Gov. Nikki Haley but could not see the state's CEO, who was preparing for a ceremonial bill signing. For more photos,click here

Gov. Nikki Haley's public schedule today

• 3 p.m.: Attend a Budget and Control Board meeting on State House grounds (Meeting agenda)

State House meetings today

Joint

• 9 a.m.: Agency Head Salary Commission (Gressette 209)

Senate

Full body meets at 11 a.m.

• 9 a.m.: Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on S.416 and S.459 (Gressette 307, Agenda)

• 9 a.m.: Senate Corrections and Penology Committee (Gressette 209, Agenda)

• 9:30 a.m.: Senate Medical Affairs Committee (Gressette 308, Agenda)

• 10 a.m.: Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on H.3367 (Gressette 105, Agenda)

• 10 a.m.: Senate Finance Subcommittee on Property Taxation on S.825 and H.3027 (Gressette 307, Agenda)

• 10 a.m.: Senate Professions and Occupations Subcommittee (Gressette 407, Agenda)

• 10 a.m.: Senate Fish, Game and Forestry Subcommittee (Gressette 209, , Agenda)

• Upon adjournment of the Property Tax Subcommittee: Senate Finance Special Subcommittee on S.279 on S.867 (Gressette 307, Agenda)

House

Full body meets at 10 a.m.

• 9 a.m.: House Judiciary General Laws (Blatt 516, Agenda)

• 1 1/2 hours after the House adjourns: House Ways and Means Public Education and Special Schools Subcommittee (Blatt 521, Agenda)

• Upon adjournment of the House: House Ways and Means Healthcare Subcommittee (Blatt 108, Agenda)

• 1 hour after the House adjourns: House Ways and Means Economic Development and Natural Resources Subcommittee (Blatt 523, Agenda)

Schmoozing today

• 8 a.m.: South Carolina Children's Hospital Collaborative breakfast, Blatt 112

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