The Buzz

December 10, 2013

STATE HOUSE: Richland election and hospital regulatory fixes top pre-filed bills

The Buzz

A blog from The State's political team of Cassie Cope, Jamie Self and Andy Shain. Email tips to

Lawmakers in the state House and Senate can pre-file legislation Tuesday, one of two days each chamber's members may introduce bills before returning to Columbia in January.

House and Senate bills have been released. See highlights below.

Lawmakers seek statewide law for merging county elections and voter registration boards

House Democrats pre-filed a bill that would give counties the option of combining their voter registration and elections boards with permission from their county legislative delegation and county governing body.

Another bill giving counties the option to merge the two boards is expected to be filed in the Senate today, said Senate President Pro Tempore John Courson, R-Richland.

In August, a circuit court judge said that a 2011 state law that merged Richland County's two boards is unconstitutional.

The General Assembly began merging counties’ voter registration and elections boards in the 1970s through county-specific acts. But the Supreme Court has ruled repeatedly that single-county legislation is unconstitutional.

In 2008, the General Assembly passed legislation codifying those mergers into state law. Since 2008, the General Assembly has merged the voter registration and elections operations of two counties — Richland in 2011 and Clarendon this year — through single-county legislation. Senate bill and House bill

A Certificate of Need fix

State Sen. Joel Lourie, D-Richland, pre-filed a bill today to restore a state program that clears new hospitals to open.

Gov. Nikki Haley vetoed funding for the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control's Certificate of Need program earlier this year. Then DHEC chief Catherine Templeton decided that without money to pay for the program, DHEC would not enforce it. In response, hospitals and nursing homes are suing DHEC in the state Supreme Court.

Lourie's bill would force DHEC to find a way to maintain the program. A member of the Senate Medical Affairs Committee, Lourie said in a news release, “Healthcare planning and construction has been stuck in neutral since the Governor’s veto in July. We have hospitals and other providers waiting to invest close to $200 million in capital in South Carolina. This has an enormous impact on our economy and the quality of healthcare we deliver to our citizens.” Bill

Tougher sentences for crime committed on bond

State Sen. Thomas McElveen, D-Sumter, pre-filed legislation that would toughen penalties for people who commit crimes while released on bond and awaiting trial for other criminal charges. The bill would allow up to 40 percent of the maximum allowable sentence for a crime to be added to a sentence when the crime was committed while on bond.

“We’ve seen recent high-profile cases of horrific crimes committed by offenders who were released on bond,” McElveen said in a news release, referring in part to the Columbia murder of a bakery employee by assailants who were out on bond for other alleged violent crimes. "By providing our prosecutors a new option to stiffen penalties for those violent criminals who insist on committing additional serious and violent offenses while awaiting trial, we will assist them in ensuring that the folks who truly belong in jail remain incarcerated." Bill

Senate pre-filed bill would allow lawsuits for 'Alienation of Affection'

What do state Sen. Katrina Shealy, R-Lexington, and her predecessor former Sen. Jake Knotts have in common?

Both have introduced bills that would allow married people to sue their spouses' paramours.

Shealy's bill, pre-filed Tuesday, would allow a married person to file a civil action for "alienation of affection" against a spouse's lover if the married person has suffered loss of affection or contact with his or her spouse.

The legislation has been filed before Knotts by other lawmakers too. Shealy said she filed the bill because it is a "great concern" to one of her constituents. Bill

House pre-filed bills

Create a Department of Child and Family Services with the consolidation of the child protection and adoption units from the state departments of Social Services and Juvenile Justice, Continuum of Care for Emotionally Disturbed Children Division of the Office of the Governor and the Division of Children, Adolescents, and Families of the Department of Mental Health. The bill aims to end fragmenting and duplicating services and “to create a service delivery system for abused, neglected, dependent, abandoned, delinquent, and emotionally disturbed children within a continuum of care, that is child-focused and engages the family.” (Main sponsor: Rep. Jenny Horne, R-Dorchester. Bill )
Allow police to administer breath tests for alcohol and drugs of drivers arrested after an accident where another person was injured badly or killed. (Rep. Bill Clyburn, D-Aiken. Bill )
School districts must include on their websites forms that students can complete anonymously to report bullying. Schools must investigate the allegations and report the number of incidents reported through the website and their status. (Rep. Chip Limehouse, R-Charleston. Bill )
Start a pilot program to allow public-college students to pay a percentage of their income after graduating rather than pay tuition while enrolled. (Limehouse. Bill )
Set the state minimum wage at $10 an hour or the federal minimum wage, whichever is greater. The bill also allows workers in machine and textile shops from not working on Sundays. (Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, D-Orangeburg. Bill )
Require middle and high school students receive an electrocardiogram during their physical exams. (Cobb-Hunter. Bill )
Allow restaurants and bars serving alcohol to locate within 300 feet to 500 feet of a playground or church if they do not object in writing. Alcohol could not be soled within 300 feet to 500 feet) of a school. (Cobb-Hunter. Bill )
Counties, cities and school districts must send emails and text messages or call every registered voter in the area before meetings where annual budget will be adopted. (Rep. Chip Huggins, R-Lexington. Bill )
Declare Jan. 17 of each year as "Eartha Kitt Day" in South Carolina in honor of the late singer and actress. (Cobb-Hunter. Bill )

Read all the House bills

Senate pre-filed bills

Legislators cannot vote for judges if they represent clients in any state court and senators cannot appear as an attorney before a magistrate they recommended to the governor for appointment. (Main sponsor: Sen. Katrina Shealy, R-Lexington. Bill )
Name state buildings, roads, bridges, interchanges or intersections for any elected or appointed official only until they have been dead for at least five years. (Shealy. Bill )
Require drivers physically unable to take field sobriety tests in accidents where another person has died to allow breath, blood, or urine tests for alcohol and drugs. (Shealy/ Bill )
Employers cannot fire or discipline employees who was late to their jobs because of their work with a volunteer fire station or emergency medical service (Sen. Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence. Bill )
Establish rules for homeowners associations, including registering with the S.C. Department of Consumer Affairs, conduct open meetings, prepare annual financial reports and hold hearings over potential violations. (Sen. Darrell Jackson, D-Richland. Bill )
State, county and city governments cannot recognize any labor union as a bargaining agent for public employees (Sen. Larry Martin, R-Pickens. Bill )
Political parties can change nomination of candidates to a convention from a primary with approval from three-fourths of convention membership and a majority of the voters in the next primary election. (L. Martin and Sen. Chip Campsen, R-Charleston. Bill )
Increase the age that a child must be secured in a passenger restraint system to seven years old from five and prohibit a child from sitting in the front passenger seat until 12 years old instead of five. (Sen. Thomas Alexander, R-Oconee. Bill )
School employees or volunteers who aid bullied students are immune from criminal or civil liability. (Sen. Raymond Cleary, R-Georgetown. Bill )
Any board vacancy unfilled after a year can be appointed by “an appropriate legislative group.” (Cleary. Bill )
Convene an Article V "convention of the states" to impose spending restraints on the federal government. Sens. Larry Grooms, R-Berkeley, and Mike Fair, R-Greenville, filed separate bills. Grooms bill and Fair bill )
Children 12 years old and younger convicted of mistreating animals must receive psychiatric or psychological treatment. (Sen. Paul Campbell, R-Berkeley. Bill )
People between 15 and 20 years old who have never held a driver’s license must take a driver-training course and anyone age 21 or older must complete an eight-hour defensive driving course. (Sen. Shane Massey, R-Edgefield. Bill )
Designate the mammoth as the official state fossil. (Sen. Kevin Johnson, D-Clarendon. Bill )

Read all the Senate bills

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