Politics & Government

Golf carts get more range under bill

COLUMBIA,SC,2/17/10 Speaker of the House Bobby Harrell, Jr., dons a Summerville High cap after the school's state championship cheerleaders were honored. In the foreground are Rep. Patsy Knight, D-Dorchester, left, Rep. Jenny Horne, R-Dorchester, center, and Rep. Annette Young, R-Dorchester, right, who led the delegation who honored them. 
Photo by TIM DOMINICK/tdominick@thestate.com,©The State Media Co.
COLUMBIA,SC,2/17/10 Speaker of the House Bobby Harrell, Jr., dons a Summerville High cap after the school's state championship cheerleaders were honored. In the foreground are Rep. Patsy Knight, D-Dorchester, left, Rep. Jenny Horne, R-Dorchester, center, and Rep. Annette Young, R-Dorchester, right, who led the delegation who honored them. Photo by TIM DOMINICK/tdominick@thestate.com,©The State Media Co. The State

Golf carts could be a more common sight on South Carolina's roads with legislation a House panel approved Wednesday, despite concerns from the state's top public safety official.

The legislation expands the range for golf carts from a person's home or business to five miles from two. The state has allowed carts on the state's secondary roads for 23 years. They can cross, but not be driven on, primary highways.

With "the rising cost of gasoline, there are lot of people that are looking for alternative means of transportation along the secondary roads," said state Rep. Tom Young, the bill's sponsor.

But Department of Public Safety Director Mark Keel and others were worried about expanding even that use. Unless posted, secondary roads can have speed limits of 55 mph.

And Keel doesn't see any way to make golf carts more safe on the state's highways when they might be involved in collisions with heavier vehicles.

"I think it's just the physics of it," Keel said. "I just think the risks end up increasing. The risks are there regardless."

Keel said it would be up to legislators to decide whether to limit use of golf cars to roads with slower speed limits. Industry standards for golf carts limit their speeds to 15 mph on a flat surface, according to the National Golf Car Manufacturers Association in Atlanta.

BILL TARGETING TEEN DATING VIOLENCE OK'D

A South Carolina bill meant to curb abuse among dating teens in a state with one of the nation's worst domestic violence rates advanced Wednesday.

The bill includes a controversial provision that defines dating relationships in strictly heterosexual terms. A bid to include gay relationships failed on a 3-2 vote.

The bill approved by a Senate Education subcommittee would require school districts to adopt dating violence policies and discipline guidelines for students in grades six through 12.

Its sponsor, Rep. Joan Brady, said the measure would bring awareness to a growing, dangerous problem.

A STUDY OF THE STUDY COMMITTEE

Legislators love study committees as a way of doing something about issues that they're not willing to take on without - well - more study.

Now a legislator has proposed a study committee of all those study committees.

Rep. Michael Thompson, R-Anderson, said his tongue-in-cheek bill pokes fun at doozies: a study committee on obesity and studying why furniture is flammable.

While the panels are intended to seek solutions to serious issues, Thompson said the underlying problems are easy enough to understand.

"People are fat because they eat too much and don't exercise. There. There's your study committee done in five seconds," Thompson said. As for furniture, "well, it's made out of wood and fabric. Hello."

Thompson's bill was to be discussed in committee meeting Wednesday, but that meeting was canceled.

AMBULANCE BILL AIRED TODAY

A Senate panel will take up a bill today that would open up Emergency Medical Services records to the public but could potentially keep secret the names of EMS responders.

A bill intended to bring transparency to how EMS operates could be amended to keep the names of those working accident scenes a secret.

An state law passed years ago at the request of the state Department of Health and Environmental Control makes almost all information about EMS inaccessible to the public.

The EMS Association argues EMS responders should be treated like nurses and not police officers.

But the S.C. Press Association argues the actions of first responders should not be shielded from public view.

CHRISTMAS LIQUOR BAN PROPOSED

South Carolina lawmakers want to make holiday family gatherings more sobering.

A bill sponsored by two dozen House members would ban alcohol sales on Christmas Day and Thanksgiving Day.

Legislators were to debate the bill Wednesday afternoon, but the meeting was canceled.

The measure expands the state's ban on Sunday and election day alcohol sales. Punishment could climb to a $2,000 fine or two years in prison for violators.

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CAMPAIGN TRAIL

Notes from election 2010.

Wilson, Miller make appearances

U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, R-Lexington, will continue his jobs tour of his district today. And Wilson's presumed challenger Rob Miller, a Beaufort Democrat, will be appearing close to Wilson's home at a Democratic meeting in Lexington.

Wilson and Miller are locked in what is already the most expensive congressional race in S.C. history and is challenging to become the richest in the nation this election cycle.

The two have a combined $3 million to spend - Wilson has $2.3 million and Miller has $1.6 million. The bulk of the fundraising came after Wilson yelled "You lie" to President Obama during a nationally televised joint session of Congress.

Wilson will have breakfast with business and civic leaders in Ridgeland, discuss job creation at an Allendale recycling plant and end his day at a business expo in Hilton Head.

Miller appear at Zorba's restaurant at 6 p.m. at 6169 St. Andrews Road.

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