Bipartisan group of lawmakers hope South Carolina is the next state to enact a hate crime law

Updated: Nov. 26, 2019 at 6:58 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Last week, members of the South Carolina House of Representatives prefiled more than 90 bills.

One of those pieces of legislation is a bill that would create a state hate crime law. South Carolina is one of four states in the country without a state law.

Representative Beth Bernstein (D-Richland) said she's hopeful her bill will become law in 2020. "I think it's going to be a difficult path."

The proposed legislation would enhance penalties for crimes motivated by hate based on race, faith, ethnicity or sexual orientation. It would increase sentences and monetary penalties to underlying offenses.

"It's very important that we recognize crimes committed on bias because of someone's race religion or gender is wrong," Rep. Bernstein said.

Rep. Bernstein prefiled the legislation with Rep. Wendell Gilliard (D-Charleston), Rep. Weston Newton (R- Beaufort), Rep. Leon Stavrinakis (D-Charleston) and Rep. Gary Clary (R-Pickens).

"It's really important that we have members of both parties supporting this initiative because it's not a political issue," she said.

In 2018, according to new data from the FBI, 111 hate crimes were reported in the state by 52 agencies. In 2017, 87 hate crimes were reported by 46 agencies.

Those opposed to the legislation have told WIS in the past, state mandates are unnecessary since there is already a federal hate crime law.

Rep. Bernstein said the federal law doesn't apply to certain crimes. "I'm glad we have that law on the federal level but it's not as helpful to law enforcement as much as a state bill would be."

Lawmakers will be able to prefile more legislation on December 11th.

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