SC politics: Oops ... lawmaker says bill’s goal was not to intend regulations

February 25, 2014 

Oops . . . lawmaker says bill not intended to kill state regulations

State Rep. Todd Atwater, R-Lexington, said he did not mean for the House to pass a bill that, if it became law, immediately would eliminate several regulations that protect public safety, health and the environment.

Atwater said Tuesday that he wanted the amendment, added to a judicial ethics bill last week, to require that any newly created regulations sunset after five years, requiring their re-evaluation and re-adoption if merited.

The bill that passed the House last week referred to existing regulations, not new ones, which, Atwater said, was an oversight.

The Senate sent the bill back to its Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, after that committee’s chairman, Larry Martin, R-Pickens, said the bill was unconstitutional because it tacked regulatory legislation onto a bill involving administrative law judges.

Martin said lawmakers need to have a debate about state regulations. But, he added, that discussion would be better suited to a bill dealing with legislative oversight of state agencies.

Jamie Self

Threat of steep penalties stymies protests

Organizers of the Truthful Tuesday protests at the S.C. State House say a state law specifically targeting demonstrations inside the capitol is stifling their movement.

The law, passed in the 1960s, allows judges to sentence anyone convicted of demonstrating inside the capitol to up to three years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Prosecutors have told protest organizers they will try them under that law, instead of something like trespassing, which would carry much smaller penalties.

Organizers told the 25 people gathering for Tuesday’s protest about the law before the demonstration began. It is one of the biggest reasons protesters aren’t getting arrested in South Carolina like they did in similar demonstrations over Republican policies and social injustice in North Carolina.

“It makes a big difference,” protester Labarre Blackman, 65, said of the steeper penalties. “I can’t afford to put my time or my wallet where my mouth is.

The protests were the third of the Truthful Tuesday demonstrations to ask S.C. lawmakers to accept federal money to expand Medicaid. Protesters split up in several places to catch senators as they came into the State House.

Then they all gathered outside the Senate chambers and chanted “shame” at a volume just louder than the normal din in the lobby, but not loud enough to reach the disruptive level cited in the State House protest law.

The Rev. Nelson Rivers III with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People said civil rights groups are looking to see whether they can win if they challenge the law in court. The law is vague, including language saying it is unlawful for anyone “to parade, demonstrate or picket within the capitol building.”

“It has got to be unconstitutional to prevent people from telling their government they don’t like the direction it is heading,” Rivers said.

The Associated Press

Measure would shorten separation for S.C. divorce

A proposed amendment to the S.C. Constitution would allow couples to divorce after 150 days of separation, rather than one year.

The House Judiciary Committee voted 12-11 Tuesday to advance a measure asking voters whether to shorten the required separation for a no-fault divorce to five months.

Opponents argued couples may reconcile during that year. But House Majority Leader Bruce Bannister, R-Greenville, says forcing couples to remain married beyond when they can get a legal settlement only adds contention and can make it more difficult on children.

House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford, D-Columbia, agreed, adding the current law gives people incentive to lie to get a quicker divorce. Residents can get a divorce in 90 days on the grounds of adultery, desertion, physical abuse or habitual drunkenness.

The Associated Press

Senators weighing changes to S.C. investment board

The chief operating officer of the agency that invests South Carolina’s pension portfolio says legislators need to end hostilities between the agency and state Treasurer Curtis Loftis that are harming the fund.

Former state Sen. Greg Ryberg, R-Aiken, told a Senate panel Tuesday that Loftis, R-Lexington, is waging a war against the Retirement System Investment Commission with inaccurate accusations. Loftis countered that his criticisms aimed at protecting taxpayers from fraud, waste and abuse are nothing personal.

Senators on the subcommittee looking into Loftis’ accusations say there’s little the Legislature can do about personality conflicts. The treasurer is the commission’s only publicly elected member.

But the panel may suggest changes to the law creating the commission. Possibilities include adding members and requiring the treasurer to also have financial experience.

The Associated Press

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