Medical marijuana, no state income tax and online gambling -- whohoo!

jmonk@thestate.comJune 11, 2014 

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Republicans want to curb abortions by giving fetuses the same rights as humans who’ve been born and also get rid of the state income tax.

Democrats want to pass gambling taxes to finance road and bridge repairs, to allow South Carolina – not Congress – to regulate online gambling and to legalize marijuana, but only if you’re sick.

Those were the results of non-binding advisory questions – two on the Republican primary ballot and three on the Democratic – in Tuesday’s primaries. Each passed by overwhelming majorities.

The hot-button topics offered a glimpse into the mindset of each party’s loyalists – the faithful minorities of each party who contribute money and who turn out in June to select who will represent the party on the November ballot.

Although the questions touched on divisive issues, they also avoided other volatile topics, such as gun control, same-sex marriage or whether the state should adopt policies to address climate change.

“The purpose of these questions was to take the pulse of our grassroots and give our elected officials guidance on the rights of the unborn and tax reform,” said Chairman of the S.C. Republican Party Matt Moore. “Our elected officials can take this back to their respective bodies and craft more conservative reforms.”

“Think of it as kind of a general survey,” said S.C. Democratic Party chairman Jaime Harrison. “Our House Democratic Caucus wanted to get a good sense of where Democrats were on those particular issues and use that to draw up legislation.”

Not everyone who voted chose to answer the questions.

“I don’t like to vote on something I haven’t read thoroughly and prepared for, and I did not do either – I voted on everything else,” said Kemn Dodds, who voted in the Republican primary at the Shandon precinct on Duncan Street in Columbia.

Jay Elliott, a Columbia lawyer who voted in the Democratic primary at the Shandon precinct, said he voted to legalize medical marijuana and to have the state – and not Congress – decide whether to allow online gambling.

But, said Elliott, he voted against updating state gambling laws to generate taxes that would go to fund some $20 billion in needed road and bridge repairs. Much of that money comes from gasoline taxes, and South Carolina’s gas tax is one of the nation’s lowest.

“Transportation repairs – that’s a routine state function. Everybody should pay for roads,” Elliott said.

Questions for Republicans:

With about 34 of 46 counties reporting:

1. The privileges and immunities of citizens of South Carolina and the United States shall not be abridged ... These rights shall extend to both born and pre-born persons beginning at conception. Yes-77 percent; No-23 percent

2. Shall S.C. law be amended to replace the state income tax imposed on individuals, estates, trusts, and others by reducing the rate of taxation by 1.4 percent each year until the state income tax rate for all brackets is zero percent? Yes-79 percent; No-21 percent.

Questions for Democrats:

With about 34 of 46 counties reporting:

1. Do you believe each state-not Congress- should decide for itself whether to allow online gaming and determine how to regulate online gaming in their state? Yes-91 percent; No-9 percent.

2. The S.C. Department of Transportation estimates more than $20 billion is required to fix S.C.’s crumbling roads and bridges. Should gaming laws be modernized to fund the repairs instead of a tax increase? Yes- 80 percent; No- 20 percent.

3. Should medical marijuana be legalized for use in cases of severe, chronic illnesses when documented by a physician? Yes-75 percent; No-25 percent

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