Cindi Ross Scoppe

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

tglantz@thestate.com

MOST OF THE 556 bills that our legislators prefiled in advance of today’s opening of the 2017 General Assembly won’t become law. They shouldn’t — just as most of the hundreds more that will be filed before lawmakers go home in May shouldn’t.

Here are 11 that should:

H.3103 by Rep. Mike Ryhal would require any nonprofit that receives state funding to first provide “an accounting of the manner in which the funds will be spent, a copy of the organization's adopted budget for the year in which the funds are accepted, and a copy of the organization’s most recent operating financial statement.” It would be smart for state agencies — and local governments — to require this even if the bill doesn’t pass, so they don’t find themselves making six-figure payments to organizations that shouldn’t receive tax money even if it turned out that they do what they claim to do.

Related: Richland group’s mission, funding raise questions

H.3110 by Rep. Mac Toole would strip colleges of state funding equal to any expense reimbursements their trustees receive in excess of standard state limits, regardless of the source. The bill is in response to reimbursements MUSC trustees received from a nonprofit doctors’ group for lavish hotel stays and restaurant meals, including $160 bottles of wine, when they were in Charleston for board meetings.

H.3147 by Rep. Laurie Funderburk would end our state’s practice of encouraging irresponsible voting, by requiring people to vote in each individual race, rather than selecting a straight-party option with one stroke.

Related: How South Carolina encourages voters to turn off their brains

H.3150, also by Rep. Funderburk, would put a stop to no-election elections, by requiring municipalities to hold elections even when there’s only one candidate seeking a particular office. Yes, state law really does cancel the elections in those cases — almost certainly violating the state constitution and clearly undermining a fundamental principle of free societies.

Related: Election called due to lack of interest? In South Carolina, it’s all too common

H.3217 by Rep. Seth Whipper would require people to report the loss or theft of firearms, so police might be able to catch the thieves before they use them to commit more crimes. (If the bill passes the House, it will face a name change: A smart new Senate rule prohibits naming laws after an individual — usually a victim — as this bill proposes to do.)

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A lot of these bills deal address problems I’ve written about since the Legislature adjourned in June. Here are a few more ideas I’ve suggested in lawmakers’ absence:

Our legislators’ special pension perk

Latest flag flareup highlights problems with Heritage Act

Grand jury law needs a rewrite — this time by the Legislature

5 things SC Legislature can do this week to restore public trust

The secret to cutting our high highway death rate

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H.3218 by House Speaker Jay Lucas would impose extremely modest requirements on owners of dams that could endanger people and property downstream: inspect them annually, and provide the state with contact information. Two smart ideas that should be folded into it come from H.3340 by Rep. Russell Ott, which sets a deadline for dam owners to decide whether to repair broken dams with public roads atop them; and S.5 by Sen. Katrina Shealy, which would require DHEC to inspect all dams with public roads atop them, even if they’re too small to normally fall under state jurisdiction.

Related: Why we need a new dam law (it’s not the reason you think)

H.3358 by Reps. Mark Willis and Rita Allison and S.201 by Sen. Thomas McElveen would require South Carolina to comply with the the anti-terrorism Real ID Act and issue driver’s licenses that South Carolinians can use to enter military bases and other federal buildings and board commercial flights. A 2007 state law actually prohibits that too.

Related: No passport? No military ID? You could soon be grounded

S. 97 by Sen. Tom Young would require all political candidates and campaign committees to file campaign bank account statements with their quarterly reports, as the Senate Ethics Committee already requires. This makes it exponentially more difficult for candidates to hide illegal campaign contributions and expenditures.

S.131 by Sens. Mia McLeod and Brad Hutto would rein in the “disturbing schools law,” by applying it only to non-students, as originally intended, and by replacing the too-broad prohibition on “act(ing) in an obnoxious manner” with specific illegal actions, such as trespassing, loitering and being loud after being instructed not to be.

Related: Why we shouldn’t arrest kids, or adults, for cursing or being obnoxious

H.3032 by Reps. Heather Crawford and Russell Fry is a good idea that could use some improvement on implementation. It would prohibit more than one school district per county; but rather than setting a uniform governance structure, it would rely on single-county laws to spell out the governance of the new countywide districts. (An alternative approach by Sen. Young, S.36, would prohibit multiple school districts in one county unless they have at least 2,500 students each. That would eliminate a half-dozen or so of the smallest districts and would be a good start — but only a start.)

S.180 by Sen. John Scott would let the governor hire and fire the director of the state Department of Disabilities and Special Needs, rather than relying on a part-time governing board. It’s a rare acknowledgment that the sheer number of agencies controlled by part-time boards makes it nearly impossible for governors to effectively control them.

Related: The board that didn’t want to be recorded — and shouldn’t exist

Finally, an honorable mention: S. 110 by Sen. John Courson would let county legislative delegations turn control of their recreation commissions over to their county councils. Goodness knows we need to fix the Richland County commission, but the state Supreme Court likely would declare this approach an unconstitutional delegation of authority.

Related: Rogue agencies need reform? The power is in the purse

As much as it pains me to say this, he’d probably have better luck with a single-county bill; we don’t know about our current justices, but the last two chief justices gave their blessings to that approach for undoing pre-Home Rule laws.

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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