Opinion Columns & Blogs

11 of our lawmakers’ worst ideas for 2017

tdominick@thestate.com

ON TUESDAY I wrote about 11 of this year’s 556 prefiled bills that need to become law. Today’s task was much more difficult: Winnow down the list of awful bills to an equal 11. But here goes:

▪ H.3016 by Rep. Steve Moss would “reaffirm” “In God We Trust” as the motto of the United States and “support and encourage the display of the motto in homes, houses of worship, and in all public buildings and public schools, and other governmental institutions.”

Do people who trust in God really need the encouragement of the Legislature to keep doing so? If you really trust in God and you want to do something besides just shamelessly pandering, how about encouraging people to act like they trust in God? That might be useful.

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We could use these 11 bills; most others, not so much

6 steps for South Carolina

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▪ Like a lot of people, Rep. John McCravy saw a problem when he looked at our list of 110 or so exemptions from the state sales tax (the exact number depends on how you count them). Unlike a lot of people, the problem he saw was that the list wasn’t generous enough.

Specifically, he objected to the fact that portable toilets only get a 70 percent tax exemption. H.3095 would provide a 100 percent exemption.

Could tax reform finally be for real?

▪ Apparently it’s not bad enough that the state of South Carolina is a bookie. Rep. Todd Rutherford’s H. 3102 would amend the state constitution to allow wide-open gambling: on horse racing, professional sports, casinos, video gambling. The last time we allowed private gambling, the poker barons took out a governor who opposed them.

The danger of video gambling isn’t the gambling

▪ Like most of you, I learned as a child to stay away from dangerous places. Like a lot of our legislators, Reps. Bill Chumley, Mike Burns and Steven Long held their fingers in their ears and yelled “la, la, la, la, la” while their mothers were giving out that advice. So they propose H.3239, which says if you have a concealed weapons permit and you see a strip club or a tattoo parlor or some other business with a “no concealed weapons allowed” sign, and you go in anyway, and an armed bandit shoots you, the owner of the business “is civilly liable to compensate the permit holder treble damages for injuries that are sustained and all attorney fees and costs incurred in any action the permit holder files against the owner.”

Because, you know, you certainly would have gunned down the gunner if only you’d had your pistol packed in your pants. Here’s a better idea: If you don’t feel safe going in without your gun, go somewhere else.

Armed, untrained and cruising the bars

▪ H.3280 by Rep. Rutherford prohibits police from pulling over drivers merely because their license plate frame “obscures the license plate’s letters or numbers.” In other words, it encourages drivers to make it impossible for police to run a records check on them.

▪ H.3354 by indicted and suspended accused wife beater Rep. Chris Corley enacts the “Gamecock Preservation Act,” which allows the “testing” of gamecocks in “tournaments.” That’s obfuscating language for legalizing cockfighting. The last Aiken County House member who tried to sneak through a change like that was convicted of extortion for shaking down the cockfighting underworld.

Editorial: SC needs serious penalties for cockfighting, a gateway to violent crime

▪ H.3360 by Rep. Rutherford (who really has outdone himself, and everyone else, this year) would lift the ban on people younger than 21 drinking beer or wine. It would still be illegal for 20-year-olds to purchase or possess beer or wine — but an 11-year-old who was falling-down drunk couldn’t be arrested. Seriously.

▪ Students in Townville Elementary School suffered tremendously after a gunman burst into the school this fall and shot three students and a teacher, killing 6-year-old Jacob Hall. Our lawmakers seem determined to extend their suffering.

I’m not talking about Sen. Kevin Bryant’s S.85, which insultingly attempts to arm school employers in Jacob’s name. (The law his family wants named for him would put actual trained police officers in schools.)

I’m talking about Sen. Bryant’s S.42, which would cheat the students out of part of their education, by exempting them from making up the day they missed because of the shootings. State law requires schools to build make-up days into their calendars; they need to use them.

So much for valuing education; vacation matters more

▪ The good thing about S.73 by Sen. Danny Verdin is that it implicitly acknowledges that there are ways to protect yourself besides arming yourself to the teeth. The bad thing is that it does this via yet another sales tax exemption. It would turn the tax-free “Second Amendment Weekend” into the “Second Amendment and Home Protection Weekend,” and extend the gun tax breaks to home surveillance systems and equipment.

A better idea: Eliminate that whole “holiday.” And get rid of the back-to-school tax “holiday” while you’re at it.

This ‘holiday’ deserves a big, fat ‘Bah! Humbug!’

▪ H.3306 by Rep. Leon Stavrinakis would force voters to select the director of the state Insurance Department. We need to reduce the ridiculous number of agency directors we force to become politicians instead of professionals, not increase it.

A fresh new face

▪ State law requires county coroners to meet one of a variety of minimal requirements such as three years experience in death investigations, two years experience as a police officer, a nursing degree or a forensic science certificate. H.3019, yet another bad idea from Rep. Rutherford, would eliminate the experience/education requirement. The way we need to change the coroner law is by eliminating elections, not eliminating qualifications.

Ms. Scoppe writes editorials and columns for The State. Reach her at cscoppe@thestate.com or (803) 771-8571 or follow her on Twitter or like her on Facebook @CindiScoppe.

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