Guns, borrowing among bills up for debate ahead of deadline
by Seanna Adcox | April 4, 2017 5:11 am
Proposals to borrow nearly $500 million for statewide repairs and allow guns to be openly carried without a permit are among those facing the Legislature’s crossover deadline.
The South Carolina House will be busy this week as Republicans who control the chamber try to push bills over to the Senate.
Bills not advanced from one chamber to the other by Friday have little chance of becoming law this year. That’s because they’ll require a two-thirds vote to even be considered by the other chamber for the session scheduled to end next month.
So far this session, little has made it to the governor’s desk.
A top priority for lawmakers this year — fixing the state’s crumbling highways — has again hit a roadblock in the Senate. The House passed legislation last month that would eventually generate an additional $530 million yearly for roadwork by increasing the state’s gas tax and other fees. The Senate Finance Committee amended the bill to raise more. But opponents are blocking debate on the Senate floor. An effort last week to give the bill special debate status failed.
Debate on the state budget will occupy the Senate this week. Here’s a look at bills on the House calendar for potential floor debate:
A bill for borrowing $498 million for a backlog of repairs at South Carolina’s public colleges and other state-owned facilities comes two years after then-Gov. Nikki Haley killed a similar effort.
About half of the borrowing package approved by House Ways and Means would go to colleges. The committee whittled down more than $2 billion worth of requests.
Distributions outside of colleges would include $80 million to the Department of Administration for state building maintenance, $30 million for K-12 school buses, $26 million to renovate rest areas and welcome centers along interstates, and $15 million for National Guard armories.
Chairman Brian White says the package won’t increase the state’s interest payments, since old debt is being paid off.
Legislators have not passed a statewide bond bill since 2001.
Bills to allow adults to carry a gun in South Carolina without a permit have died repeatedly, despite the state’s gun-friendly status.
This year’s bill goes further by proposing people be allowed to carry their handgun openly, rather than keep their weapon hidden in public.
The bill would maintain the state’s concealed weapon permitting process for gun owners who want to carry in other states that already recognize South Carolina’s permit.
A separate bill up for debate would extend reciprocity nationwide, allowing anyone with a valid out-of-state permit to carry a concealed gun in South Carolina.
PRESCRIPTION DRUG ABUSE
A bill to require doctors to consult a statewide database of patients’ medical histories is among a package of proposals introduced in February aimed at combating the opioid abuse epidemic.
Mandating use of the database — voluntary since 2008 — was first recommended in 2013 by Inspector General Patrick Maley. His report described high-prescribers of OxyContin and other opioids as either motivated by money or naively helping “doctor shoppers.”
A law passed in June 2014 required pharmacists to report daily on the controlled substances they sell, to ensure the database is regularly updated. But a clause specified doctors and pharmacists don’t have to actually consult it before prescribing or dispensing medicine.