SC politics: House OKs teaching safe sex in schools

04/29/2014 9:32 PM

04/29/2014 9:34 PM

House OKs teaching safe sex in schools

House lawmakers agreed Tuesday to update South Carolina’s 26-year-old sex education curriculum to include the teaching of safe sex, which supporters say would help reduce pregnancy and dropout rates.

The measure still requires another vote before it can advance to the Senate for consideration.

The House voted 57-53 in favor of the bill, which would require sex-education instructors to teach medically accurate information, including the use of contraceptives. Abstinence still would be stressed in classrooms.

To ensure compliance, school districts also would be required to file reports with the state and parents detailing what they are teaching and in what grade. Under current law, there’s no punishment for noncompliance and many districts don’t bother to fill out an annual, self-reported state survey on their sex-ed curriculum.

The bill’s sponsor, state Rep. B.R. Skelton, R-Pickens, said the update is needed to help prevent teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, as well as decrease abortions, high school dropout rates and even poverty levels.

“This is not a panacea for solving all of those problems,” Skelton said. “But if it solves it a little bit and decreases teen pregnancies a little bit and decreases STDs a little bit, then we are all a whole lot better off.”

State Rep. Wendy Nanney, R-Greenville, opposed the bill, saying it would overturn abstinence education.

“I just have a real struggle with the whole concept that it is the school’s responsibility to be doing that in the first place,” Nanney said, adding that if sex ed is to be taught in schools, it should be abstinence only.

Senate moves elections bill forward

The Senate approved a bill Tuesday requiring all 46 counties to merge their voter registration and elections boards.

The S.C. House either will agree with the Senate version of the legislation Wednesday or send it to a conference committee to hash out differences. State Sen. John Scott, D-Richland, expects the former.

Approval of the bill would solve a constitutional issue with the way that Richland County and 37 other counties merged their registration and voting boards. The bill stipulates the joint board is responsible for hiring an elections director, who then hires and manages office staff.

It also sets out an elections board with five to nine members, at least one from the county’s minority political party; places no limit on four-year terms; and instructs the board to select its own chair. Further, it says county councils should pay both for board members and staff.

House OKs creating University of Charleston

The House has approved a bill creating a research university as a subsidiary of the College of Charleston.

Legislators voted 98-5 Tuesday to establish the University of Charleston to award advanced degrees benefiting the local economy. Another perfunctory vote on Wednesday will send the measure to the Senate.

The bill initially created a comprehensive research university by merging the College of Charleston and the Medical University of South Carolina. But that proposal was opposed by MUSC’s board.

The compromise bars the University of Charleston from duplicating programs already offered in Charleston.

The bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Jim Merrill, R-Charleston, said the College of Charleston needs to be elevated into a research university to meet the workforce needs of the Lowcountry’s growing economy.

DHEC wants review of Certificate of Need ruling

South Carolina’s public health department wants the state’s highest court to revisit its ruling that the agency must administer a program regulating the building or expansion of medical facilities even though money for that program was vetoed by the governor.

The Department of Health and Environmental Control Tuesday filed a motion for reconsideration with the Supreme Court.

Last year, Gov. Nikki Haley vetoed the nearly $2 million needed to run the Certificate of Need program, saying the process would be best left to the free market. Hospitals sued, saying state law still mandates the review.

The court told DHEC to find another way to pay for the program. In a statement provided to The Associated Press, Haley said Tuesday the court was out of line.

Dawn Hinshaw and the Associated Press

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