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SC Legislative Session Ends

An Update on the Bills We’ve Followed 

 –  By Tiffani Ireland –

With the end of the 2012-2013 SC Legislative session, The Advertiser looks back at three bills we have followed closely during this term.

The first, S308, is a bill that was introduced to the Senate seeking to extend the rights of concealed weapons permit holders.  If passed, this bill would allow permit holders to carry their weapons into establishments that serve alcohol as long as the permit holders do not consume any alcohol.  This bill did pass the Senate in a 35-4 vote on Apr. 23 and was then sent to the House of Representatives where it passed in an amended form in a 100-13 vote June 5.  Amending it, the House removed the midnight curfew and the prohibition from sitting at a bar area that the Senate’s version had imposed.  It also tacked on language from another bill with the intent to speed up the permit issuing process in an effort to relieve a SLED backlog.  In coming back to the Senate amended, Senators essentially had three choices: agree with the House’s version and pass the amended bill, amend the bill to their liking and send it back to the House, or send the bill to a conference committee where the differences between the Senate and House could be worked out.  Alas, this bill, due to its amendments, met with opposition in the Senate and was held up on the last day of session as it fell victim to a filibuster.  However, since this bill is part of a two-year cycle, it is not considered dead.  In fact, Senator Shane Massey, who is a co-sponsor of this bill, said in speaking to The Advertiser that he feels this will be one of the first issues dealt with by the legislators when they return in January.  Senator Massey said he definitely continues to support this bill and stated, “It’s a responsible measure for responsible gun owners.”

Another bill The Advertiser has been covering that also deals with firearms is S115, commonly referred to as the Open Carry Bill.  This bill would essentially do away with concealed weapons permits and allow citizens the right to openly carry firearms.  Introduced to the Senate in January, this bill has faced staunch opposition from many lawmakers as well as members of the law enforcement community.  Since its introduction, this measure has steadily lost support and is described by Sen. Massey, who does not support the bill, as being “on life support.”  Sen. Massey went on to say that although this measure, too, may come up again in the next session, he feels it is “very unlikely its going to pass.”

The final bill The Advertiser has watched closely this legislative term is S203 (H3290).  This bill, known as the Freedom to Choose Act, deals with solid waste disposal and has been described by some as a good idea in theory.  However, unintended consequences of the measure has garnered the opposition of several municipalities including Edgefield County, who issued a resolution against its passage earlier this year.  One such consequence would be the voiding of contracts, Edgefield County’s included, with Three Rivers Landfill.  This bill did ultimately pass the House in an 89-28 vote.  It was then sent the Senate where opposition bogged the measure down.  According to Sen. Massey, nothing has happened with this bill in several months.  He said that unless there are significant changes to this measure, he does not feel it will pass in its current form.  Rep. Bill Hixon, who is a co-sponsor of the bill, told The Advertiser he, along with other supporters of the measure, is “trying to get everyone to come to the table” to reconcile their differences before session starts again in January.  Rep. Hixon said the felt concerns raised by the opposition had been addressed by amendments added to the bill, but those amendments have still not satisfied.  However, he said just what concerns the opposition at this point is unclear.  “I want to do what’s right for Edgefield and Aiken County…but [you] can’t fix something if nobody tells you what’s broke,” Rep. Hixon said.  Rep. Hixon also said he is not aware of anything in the bill’s current form that would hurt Edgefield or Aiken County, but if there is, he would like it to be pointed out to him.  Of the bill’s future, Rep. Hixon said he plans to “hit the ground running” in January.  “We’re going to go in there and try to pass something.”

The Advertiser will continue to follow the future of these bills when the legislature reconvenes in January.  To learn more about these bills and to see our previous coverage of these issues, please visit our website at www.edgefieldadvertiser.com.