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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 already:

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 or spam.

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 governor.

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 programs.

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.


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