South Carolina would set a new standard for the way military servicemen and women and their families are treated under a bill Rep. Chip Limehouse will introduce when the Legislature reconvenes Jan. 12.
Limehouse, a Charleston Republican, wants to make it a felony to threaten members of the military or their families with violence because of their service to the country.
The legislation would carve out a special designation to enhance existing state and federal laws. It sets fines up to $10,000 and 10 years imprisonment for threats that come verbally or in writing, including electronically.
Limehouse said he felt compelled to introduce the bill after Nidal Hasan, an Army major and psychiatrist, allegedly killed 13 and injured 30 on Nov. 5 at Fort Hood in Texas.
Limehouse said he wanted to create another layer of protection for servicemen and women.
"They ought not have any reservation or fear about being victims on American soil," Limehouse said.
Ret. Marine Maj. Gen. James Livingston commended Limehouse for introducing the bill. Livingston, a Vietnam veteran and Medal of Honor recipient, said any threat based on the fact that a person wears a military uniform requires decisive and quick action.
"I think it sends a message that we really care about our servicemen," Livingston said.
The bill must make it through both chambers and to the governor's desk by the Legislature's summer adjournment to become law in 2010.
Limehouse said he is confident his bill will generate support in the Legislature.
"I have never seen a more patriotic group," he said. "We're proud of that role to protect and defend and stand up for South Carolina's military men and women."