Sunday, Dec. 24, 2006
season upon us
SC Statehouse Report
24, 2006 - - Some would say that just after the holiday season
is over, the real silly season begins.
Yes, the S.C. General Assembly is scheduled to return to
Columbia on January 9. Already, there's a full slate of business
because almost 400 bills have been prefiled and sent to committees
for work to start.
There are a spate of bills that focus on serious problems
and challenges for South Carolina, such as measures to increase
the minimum wage, restructure government and deal with isolated
wetlands, eminent domain powers, workers' compensation laws,
gang activity, family court reform and child abuse.
Legislation also has already been proposed on hot-button
issues, including measures related to abortion and increasing
taxes on cigarettes and gasoline. There are even proposals
to bring back video poker and allow for riverboat gambling.
Pre-filed bills generally can be split into three categories
- - bills that rehash losing battles of the past that lawmakers
are gearing up to try again; bills that reflect big priorities
of legislative leaders for the coming year; and new ideas
to tweak state laws.
Here are a few observations based on bills filed so far:
Immigration. House members seem fairly obsessed with
immigration legislation. They've authored 11 different bills
that range from toughening enforcement and creating study
committees on the issue to multiple reforms of current immigration
laws. Meanwhile, only one immigration bill was introduced
in the Senate.
Environment. Of the 398 bills filed in both chambers,
just over a dozen dealt with environmental or outdoors issues.
Among the interesting ideas were bills that called for an
electronics recycling program, requirements for state buildings
to shift to using fluorescent bulbs and a proposal that would
require large state buildings to meet green building standards.
Education. In a state at or near the bottom on many
education measures, it is somewhat surprising that less than
10 percent of bills introduced dealt with education. Among
measures already in the hopper are those to end the popular
"TERI" teacher retirement program, establish a statewide
"virtual" charter school, exempt veterans from some
tuition and increase the stipend for Palmetto Fellows who
study science and math.
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Health. Just over two dozen bills highlight health-related
issues. None appear to deal with a big voter concern - - the
rising cost of health care and insurance. One bill does call
for uninsured patients to not be charged more than insured
patients at hospitals. Other health bills include a call to
allow stem cell research in the state, several bills to ban
smoking and a proposal to require restaurants to post whether
they use trans fats.
And then there are bills that might make you raise an eyebrow
- Walkers. A House bill would exempt hospital beds,
walkers and wheelchairs from state sales tax. (Sound like
- Cell phones. A Senate proposal would prohibit school
bus drivers from using cell phones except in emergencies.
(You'd think they had enough on their hands.)
- Consumption. A House bill calls for the Common
Sense Consumption Act to provide that a manufacturer, packer,
distributor, carrier, holder, marketer, seller or association
of one or more of these entities is not subject to civil
liability in cases based on weight gain, obesity or a health
condition associated with obesity in the consumption of
food and nonalcoholic beverages.
- State horse. Another bill would establish the Marsh
Tacky as the official state horse.
- Foreign language printing. A House measure would
prohibit a state or local entity from printing and producing
written material in a foreign language unless required by
federal law and to require a state and local entity to print
and produce written material in English only.
- State voicemail. There's a proposal to ban state
employees from using voicemail to bypass picking up the
phone when they're at their workstations.
And our all-time favorite:
- Curbing happy hours. House Speaker Pro Tem Doug
Smith proposed a measure that essentially would limit happy
hours to one day a week and keep bars from selling drinks
at less than half price.
'Tis the season to be jolly - - at least for awhile on certain
Send your comments to Andy Brack at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His book of commentary, Bugging
the Palmettos, is available for
here for more.
Santa up to speed
Another great cartoon from Bill McLemore:
- 12/13: Cell
phones making her livid, Brenda Sweat, North
- 12/11: Thoughtful
piece on voting by mail, Jay Ragley, Columbia, S.C.
- 12/11: Other
voting ideas, Earl Capps, Summerville
- 12/10: Thoughless
column on voting, Ken Fanning, Florence, S.C.
- 11/19: Dems
shouldn't forget South, Ferrel Guillory, Chapel Hill,
- 11/19: Confusing
issues of the ballot, Bob Logan, Little River, S.C.
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