SC politics: Statewide texting ban passes

June 4, 2014 

Statewide texting ban passes

S.C. lawmakers overwhelmingly have passed a statewide ban on texting while driving.

Under the ban approved by the state House and Senate on Wednesday, drivers still can text on a handheld device if stopped at a red light or stop sign. Drivers would not receive penalty points, but would face fines starting at $25. However, GPS navigators and texting to contact emergency services would be permitted.

Police would issue warnings the first 180 days of the ban before citations are handed out.

Sponsoring Democratic state Sen. Vincent Sheheen of Camden says the ban will save more lives than any other bill passed in years.

Once it’s signed into law, South Carolina will be the 49th state to adopt a law on texting. Only Montana doesn’t have a texting ban.

Hearings to go on despite Koller’s resignation

Members of a state Senate panel investigating South Carolina’s child welfare agency said Wednesday their work is not over, even though the agency’s director has stepped down.

The three senators reviewing the Department of Social Services will continue to meet the rest of the year and have a few hearings outside of Columbia, said subcommittee chairman Sen. Tom Young, R-Aiken.

The subcommittee was supposed to hear from director Lillian Koller, but she resigned Monday. Senators told Social Services officials they would give them time to reorganize before they asked any agency employees to testify again.

Senators are upset with the agency over what they say are crippling caseloads, too much emphasis on numbers and not on helping children, and a slowness in helping authorities investigate child deaths.

“The director leaving was not our ultimate goal when we started this. Our goal was to help the children of South Carolina,” said Sen. Katrina Shealy, R-Lexington.

The subcommittee also was supposed to hear from a Greenville mother whose 3-month-old daughter died in an illegal home day care, but she had a scheduling conflict. Instead, the three senators talked about what they want to do with their investigation. They plan to present a report before the General Assembly returns in January.

Sen. Joel Lourie, D-Richland, said he wants to find out how big caseloads really are. He said Social Services sometimes includes administrators, who might handle only one or two children in their caseload figures, skewing down the average number of children being handled per caseworker.

Lourie also told Gov. Republican Nikki Haley that lawmakers will scrutinize her next nominee to run the agency very carefully. “A simple Google search last time could have prevented some of the things we have gone thorough now.”

The Associated Press

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