The Buzz

July 8, 2014

SC politics: Haley’s veto of library trespass bill could stand

Gov. Nikki Haley’s veto of a bill intended to help South Carolina’s public libraries keep disrupters out may stand because of a timing issue.

The Buzz

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

Haley’s veto on library trespass bill could stand

Gov. Nikki Haley’s veto of a bill intended to help South Carolina’s public libraries keep disrupters out may stand because of a timing issue.

The bill allows a misdemeanor trespassing charge against people who return to a library before their written warning to stay away expires.

York County Library director Colleen Kaphengst said Tuesday libraries need the legal backing to restrict an increasing number of patrons misbehaving in ways that aren’t criminal but make others uncomfortable or occupy employees’ time. That can include repeatedly shouting obscenities, pulling up pornography on computers, talking to other patrons’ children or following people around, she said.

Haley’s veto said the measure gives library staff and unelected county library boards too much authority in keeping people out. She vetoed it “in the interest of preserving due process and maintaining the spirit of true public use for publicly-funded facilities,” she wrote June 13.

But state Sen. Wes Hayes, R-York, the bill’s main sponsor, said the point is to give libraries a uniform way to deal with an escalating problem. “They have difficulty getting people who are causing problems off the property because it’s public.”

Haley recommended county councils pass local ordinances on what is acceptable conduct in public libraries, tailored to their issues.

The Senate voted 39-3 to override the veto. But the vote occurred June 19, the last day of the extended legislative session, after the House already had gone home. An override requires a two-thirds vote in both chambers.

The House, which approved the bill 89-6 on June 3, could return for a special, one-day session to take up that veto. It was unclear Tuesday whether that might happen, and Hayes acknowledged it is unlikely.

Kaphengst said if the bill dies, library officials will renew the effort next year. “We’re seeing the frequencies and severity of incidents increasing, and that’s a concern.”

Advocates for the poor worried the bill essentially might criminalize homelessness and mental-health issues.

Kaphengst noted schools, courts and colleges are public property too, but they have the legal authority to restrict access. She says the bill is not aimed at the homeless.

“Our regular homeless patrons actually help us police the library,” she said. “If they see others causing disruptions, they'll go and say, `Hey, knock it off.’ ”

The Associated Press

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