SC politicians end 2-year legislative session with more work to do

Updated: May. 11, 2018 at 7:02 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - When politicians pulled out of the capitol on the last day of the regular session on Thursday, they left behind successes and failures. There are bills passed, bills waiting on a governor's signature before becoming official, and then those that never stood a chance.

Aside from debate over nuclear bills and the state budget, things are finished until January 2019.

New laws include a prison drone ban, a Child Advocate, the appointment by Governor of the Superintendent of Education, a joint ticket for election of Governor and Lieutenant Governor, and several measures to curb the deadly opioid epidemic.

Drones will be forbidden to fly above state prisons. A Child Advocate is created to fight for family and children's issues with state agencies. It will be up to the Governor to choose the Superintendent of Education as part of the cabinet, instead of voters electing the top educator. The Governor running for office will be on the ticket with the Lieutenant Governor pick, instead of them running separately.

Bills that fell short and are now dead for the year include prison sentencing reform, and a texting and driving crackdown.

Sentencing reform would have allowed things like incentives certain inmates to be released early. DUI-E (Driving Under the Influence of an Electronic) would ban holding a phone or electronic device while driving.

However, teachers and state employees still have a chance to be paid more. In the state budget, there's a measure to raise teacher salaries by $2,000.

"It would mean a little bit of less anxiety or less stress, and meeting the needs or addressing the needs of their families, because expenses are going up," SC Education Association President and math teacher Bernadette Hampton said.

There's also a proviso in the budget for next year to give state employees who make below $50,000 a one-time $500 bonus.

"I raised two sons and put them through college, but it wasn't easy, and we had to sacrifice other things. We made due. I'm a state employee. We know how to get the job done, and I'm very proud of my state service." Department of Mental Health employee Frances Feagin said.

It's also possible retired teachers and employees have the cap of what they can earn for coming back to work out of retirement, a maximum of $10,000, lifted so they can earn a full salary plus retirement benefits.

"What you would have would be seasoned employees who can continue to work and help the citizens of South Carolina along with training new employees that may be hired," Department of Social Services retiree Carl James said.

Teachers and state employees are planning to rally at the State House on May 19, to push for the higher salary and employee bonuses, among other issues. Lawmakers return on May 23 and 24 to work on the budget.

There is also more work and discussion planned for three nuclear bills; the bill to lower SCE&G rates temporarily by either 18% or 13% will be discussed, and so will the bills to repeal the Base Load Review Act and to create a Consumer Advocate.

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