Legislative Report—May 8, 2014

Life these last few weeks has been on the fast track. For two weeks the House and the Senate have been working diligently to get their respective bills (legislation) to the other side or else the bills would die for this session and would have to be re-filed in January 2015. This week the Senate worked on the House Budget. We are hoping that the Senate debate will culminate by next week and the budget will be sent back to the House with amendments. If we do receive the budget next week, there is a good chance we will finish the session on time by June 5th.

For the next two weeks the House will concentrate on vetting bills through subcommittees and subsequently full committees in order to get them to the House floor for debate. The last three weeks of session will be concentrated on debating bills that have passed full committee. There will not be any committee meetings during the last three weeks of the session. If a bill has not come out of committee by then, it is “dead” for this session. Nothing will be carried over.

This week in my Transportation Subcommittee the members debated the Senate Bill on “Banning Texting While Driving.” Research has shown that Texting-while-driving (TWD) is more deadly than drunk driving. Distracted driving is the #1 killer of our teenagers. Cities and counties across SC are implementing their own bans which make for a hodgepodge of confusing laws. SC is one of two states that has not passed any laws limiting texting while driving. Over several legislative sessions, the SC Legislature has failed to pass any sort of statewide TWD ban. Last month the House passed a watered-down version that included a mere $25 fine. This week, my Subcommittee reviewed the Senate bill which focused solely on beginning drivers. We amended the Senate bill to make it for all drivers. My hope is that the two approaches will be reconciled in conference committee and will produce a meaningful texting-while-driving ban for South Carolina.

The House will soon consider a revised version of the Ethics Reform Act. We approved this legislation last year. However, after much debate, the Senate sent it back to us in what most consider is a weaker version. This week the House Judiciary Committee revised and advanced H.3945 Ethics Reform Act. It would create a new 12-member commission composed of four members each from the legislative, executive, and judicial branches for the purpose of investigating ethics complaints. This independent commission would look into any complaints against a politician, candidate or state official and determine if enough evidence exists to warrant an investigation. The bipartisan compromise is the latest effort to update our ethics law. We are committed to getting this legislation to the governor’s desk before the end of this session.

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