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– By Tiffani Ireland –
Two bills which The Advertiser has been following in the SC Legislature have both been slowly moving forward in the legislative process, but their ends may soon be in sight. Senate bill S115, commonly referred to as the Open Carry Bill, is set to come before the full Judiciary Committee this week. Simply put, this bill seeks to essentially do away with concealed weapon permits by allowing citizens the right to openly carry firearms. This hotly contested issue has faced the opposition of many legislators as well as the law enforcement community. It was offered as an amendment to Bill S308, which deals with rights of concealed weapon permit holders (see our related story on this bill), but that idea was rejected as the two bills deal with such varying matters. Reports are that this bill is losing support and may not go any further in the legislative process.
The second bill, House Bill H3290 (also known as S203 in the Senate), deals with solid waste disposal. Called the Freedom to Choose Act, this bill has been opposed by several municipalities, including Edgefield County, whose Council recently issued a resolution against the measure. While most agree it is good in theory, unintended consequences, one of which being the voiding of contracts, including Edgefield County’s, with Three Rivers Landfill, had caused some initial supporters of the bill to change their stance on the measure. However, the bill did pass the House in an 89-28 vote on Jan. 30. It was then sent to the Senate where it went to the Medical Affairs Committee. It has come out of that committee but has thus far stalled on the Senate floor as it does not have enough votes to bring it to the floor for debate.
As previously reported, Sen. Shane Massey had opposed this measure. In speaking to The Advertiser on Friday, Apr. 26, regarding this bill, Sen. Massey said his stance has not changed. “I’ve got to be convinced people who live in the counties I represent are not going to be left with a huge bill,” Sen. Massey stated. “So far, I am not convinced.”
Rep. Bill Hixon, who is one of the sponsors of this bill, had voted in its favor on Jan. 30, but that was prior to the unintended consequences that subsequently came to light. He stated in an interview with The Advertiser on our initial coverage of this issue, that, in light of the negative consequences to many counties, including Aiken and Edgefield, he had decided not to support this measure if it came back to the House in its original form. However, he had expected amendments to resolve these issues to added in the Senate.
In speaking with The Advertiser on Monday, Apr. 29, Rep. Hixon said as the bill has not yet come back to the House from the Senate in any form, he can not, at this point, tell if he will support the measure further or not. He did, however, reiterate that he does not want to see any negative effects to his counties of representation saying, “I don’t want to do anything to hurt Edgefield County or Aiken County.” Rep. Hixon did say he does support the theory behind the bill; a free market. He stated the part he does not like about the current law is the fact that some counties, particularly Horrey County, whose business practices first spurred this bill, are acting as businesses using tax payer dollars to compete against regular businessmen. Rep. Hixon said he wants a “fair playing field” and said, “if you have a free market you get better prices.”
On the bill’s future, Rep. Hixon predicted the measure “will die a slow death in the Senate.” But just because the bill may seem dead, do not be fooled. As Rep. Hixon pointed out, since the bill is part of a two-year cycle, it could “stay on life-support” and be revived again in 2014. However, if the bill does not pass in 2014, it would then be considered dead.
The Advertiser will continue to follow each of these bills and report updates as warranted. To view the full bills, their history, and voting records on these measures, visit www.scstatehouse.gov.