Pre-filed bills give
insight into next legislative session
By Andy Brack
S.C. Statehouse Report
DEC. 15, 2002 - - While many of South Carolina's lawmakers run
for office on platforms seeking less government, you wouldn't know
it by their actions.
Even before the 2003 legislative session has started, Republicans
and Democrats have pre-filed more than 300 proposed new laws in
the last two weeks. They're able to submit bills early to help the
chamber prepare for an onslaught of proposed legislation when it
starts in January.
A look at pre-filed bills offers early insight into coming major
debates in the General Assembly. Among the major measures introduced
Cigarette tax hike. At least three bills call for raising
taxes on cigarettes. A hike of 53 cents per pack to the national
average could raise more than $180 million a year. In the coming
tough budget year facing the General Assembly, passage of this measure
appears to be a foregone conclusion.
Unwanted solicitations. Three bills call for bans on unwanted
telephone solicitations. Another calls for a ban on unwanted e-mail
Predatory lending. Two House bills and one Senate bill seek
to stop deceptive lending practices on home loans.
Constitutional officers. Several bills call for the end
of statewide elections for adjutant general, agriculture commissioner,
attorney general, comptroller general, secretary of state, state
superintendent of education and state treasurer. Another calls for
the lieutenant governor to be elected on the same ticket as the
Truth in sentencing. Speaker David Wilkins again introduced
a truth-in-sentencing measure to require criminals to serve 85 percent
of their sentences.
Uniform school start. One bill requires a statewide uniform
school starting date, a version of which was approved Wednesday
by the state Board of Education. Some analysts say such a measure
will have lawmakers scrambling with local bills seeking exceptions.
Lower taxes. Various bills call for lowering of taxes -
- income taxes, corporate taxes, sales taxes and property taxes.
Minibottles. A Senate bill calls for a statewide constitutional
referendum on minibottle alcohol sales.
Gambling cruises. Another would allow local governments
to regulate or permit gambling vessels.
Other major measures expected to be filed in coming weeks include
campaign finance reform, a bill to provide private property owners
with more alternatives if their property is seized, and reform to
the Public Service Commission. Lawmakers also will consider comprehensive
tax reform and conduct a review of how the state funds Medicaid
While the 2003 session already appears to be packed with serious
work, there are other bills that are a little harder to explain:
More toilets. It makes sense for new state buildings to
have twice as many toilets for women. Now there's a legislative
proposal to require it.
Motorcycle clothing. Another proposal would make it illegal
for employers to fire employees who own or operate motorcycles or
wear clothing about owning or operating motorcycles, as long as
it's not obscene.
Body fluids. A House bill would make it illegal for prisoners
to throw body fluids.
Band as P.E. Another would allow students to substitute
band for physical education requirements.
Pro-life measures. Two bills that are sure to get pro-choice
activists riled include a proposal to erect an Unborn Children's
Monument on the Statehouse grounds and a measure that says "life"
starts at fertilization.
Driving to church. A Senate bill would allow some drivers
with restricted licenses to drive to church.
Limiting college enrollment. One Senate measure calls for
colleges with more than 10,000 students to limit out-of-state enrollment
to 20 percent.
Lobbyists. Three proposed measures would ban state agencies
from having lobbyists.
Prostitution forfeiture. A House bill proposes to allow
authorities to seize any cash seized during an arrest for prostitution.