With the start of each year comes the promise of a new legislative session full of hope and potential. As our state lawmakers return to Columbia, bright-eyed and eager to exchange stories about what they did over break, they also face the daunting task of introducing legislation to right the many wrongs that they encountered during their time away. Some elected officials aim to make a lasting change for the betterment of all South Carolinians — and some just want to make a point. Either way, here's a look at a few of the bills and resolutions set to hit the floor in 2016.
With House Bill H. 4543, State Rep. Mia McLeod takes a hard stance on reproductive health by proposing that men seeking medication for erectile dysfunction undergo a rigorous application process similar to the state's requirements for women to receive abortions.
In order to gain a prescription for Viagra, Cialis, or the like, the bill would require men to "obtain a notarized affidavit in which at least one of the patient's sexual partners affirms that the patient has experienced symptoms of erectile dysfunction" in the past 90 days, visit a "sexual therapist licensed by the State Board of Examiners in Psychology for an assessment of the possible causes of the patient's symptoms, obtain a written report in which the therapist concludes that the patient's symptoms are not attributable solely to one or more psychological conditions," and "attend three sessions of outpatient counseling within a period of not less than six months after the drug is prescribed."
On her Facebook page, McLeod says her erectile dysfunction bill isn't really about erectile dysfunction. Her true goal is to draw attention to "the tremendous amount of time and tax dollars we expend each legislative session to debate and attempt to diminish (legal) abortion rights in our state."
While the lawmaker doesn't expect her bill to hold up in the male-dominated legislature, McLeod hopes at the very least she can "enlighten" her colleagues about how the state's laws affect women.
State Rep. Stephen Goldfinch intends to clear a few archaic laws from the books with a bill that would, among other things, make it legal for minors in the state of South Carolina to play pinball. Long considered a gateway to other more-addictive, coin-operated vices such as Frogger and Pac-Man, pinball in recent years has become socially acceptable for recreational use.
Goldfinch's bill would also remove the state's ban on "fornication" between unmarried men and women, which currently comes with a possible $500 fine and one year in jail, and make it lawful for "public dance halls" to operate on Sundays.
Goldfinch told the Savannah Morning News that the bill isn't intended to promote any of these activities by lifting their ban, saying his intentions are to get things moving with the General Assembly in hopes that the abolishment of a few unenforced laws will lead to the repeal of things that are "truly burdensome to society in general."
Making good on his promises from this summer, state Rep. Justin Bamberg, has prefiled two bills aimed at prohibiting the use of quota systems by law enforcement agencies throughout the state. Bamberg, who provided legal representation for the family of Walter Scott, first announced his plans for the bills following news of the possible use of mandatory quotas by the North Charleston Police Department, which may have contributed to the traffic stop that resulted in Scott's death during an altercation with an officer.
The first bill introduced by Bamberg would make it illegal for counties or municipalities to adopt a budget in which total projected revenue includes funds attributable to traffic violations. The second bill would prohibit law enforcement agencies from requiring officers to issue a specific number of citations during a designated period of time or evaluating an officer's job performance by the number of citations issued.
Not to be outdone, state Rep. Wendell Gilliard prefiled a number of bills touching on everything from Charleston's pedestrian traffic to memorials and drones.
Gilliard's first goal is to direct the Department of Transportation to construct a pedestrian overpass at the intersection of Septima Clark Parkway and Coming Street. He also hopes to declare June 17 as "Mother Emanuel Nine Day" and create a committee to plan a permanent memorial in Charleston for those who lost their lives in this summer's tragic shooting. After focusing on Charleston, the lawmaker's sights then turn skyward.
Gilliard has prefiled two bills that would require owners of remotely piloted aerial vehicles to register with the Aeronautics Commission and make it illegal to arm such vehicles with weapons. Showing that he isn't completely against the idea of airborne assistance, Gilliard also put forth a resolution to create a committee tasked with studying the use of drones as a "law enforcement crime fighting tool." This year, North Dakota became the first state to authorize the use of armed drones by law enforcement. According to NPR, the original bill proposed by North Dakota state Rep. Rick Becker restricted the use of drones to evidence gathering, but a compromise was made to allow law enforcement agencies to outfit drones with non-lethal weapons such as tear gas, pepper spray, and Tasers. With that in mind, Gilliard also prefiled a bill that would require all law enforcement officers to undergo a mental health evaluation conducted under the direction of the Law Enforcement Training Council.
Following the horrific acts of gun violence that occurred in Charleston this year, it's no surprise that state officials representing the Holy City have stepped forward with comprehensive gun reform packages.
In addition to his efforts to establish a minimum wage in South Carolina that would reach $15 an hour by 2020, state Sen. Marlon Kimpson also prefiled bills to ban assault weapons, strengthen the background check process, and require any person who owns a firearm to register with the State Law Enforcement Division.
Kimpson's bill defines assault weapons as semi-automatic firearms with a large magazine of ammunition that are designed and configured for rapid fire and combat use and does not apply to firearms used for sport or hunting. The senator also intends to make it unlawful to sell, exchange, or transfer a firearm before completion of a background check through the National Instant Background Check System and require the State Law Enforcement Division to maintain a list of serial numbers for registered weapons.
"The time has come for us as a state to address a very important issue that continues to impact our communities across South Carolina, and that is gun control," said Kimpson in a statement released earlier this month. "We cannot afford another tragedy to happen before we take the needed and necessary steps to address the issue."