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Regulatory corruption, sexual misconduct, opioids, and golf carts among measures to be considered in 2018 Statehouse session

Speculative statutes

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The 2018 state legislative session started in Columbia on Tuesday, but it will take much longer than a single meeting for lawmakers to sort through the bills already filed before the start of the year. Here’s a look at some of the pre-filed bills in both the House and the Senate that could make it to Gov. McMaster’s desk.

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Utilities and utility regulators: H. 4376 prevents new rates or charges to be imposed for the purpose of paying for the abandoned construction of two reactors at V.C. Summer, which cost Santee Cooper and SCE&G $9 billion and which ratepayers are footing the bill for. H. 4380 would compel the Public Service Commission to order refunds to ratepayers for money charged in the V.C. Summer construction. S. 754 would require the Public Service Commission to reduce electric rates for SCE&G ratepayers by 18 percent. H. 4378 would create a Utility Oversight Committee. H. 4379 would create the position of Utilities Consumer Advocate in the office of the Attorney General, with subpoena power. H. 4401 is a joint resolution requiring the President Pro Tempore of the Senate and Speaker of the House to retain experts in nuclear energy to figure out how to sell the state's minority ownership of V.C. Summer. S. 772 is a similar bill. S. 771 is a joint resolution to hire an "independent industry expert" to valuate Santee Cooper. H. 4415 and H. 4419 would establish four-year terms for members of the Public Service Commission. H. 4420 prohibits utilities charging ratepayers for abandoned projects from awarding severance packages exceeding the largest package given to an employee or contractor. H. 4421 would establish an "Electric Consumer Bill of Rights Act." H. 4425 would establish a "Public Utility Consumer Protection Act."

Lobbying and campaign finance: H. 4444 would prohibit a person who's made a campaign contribution to an elected official within the past four years from being appointed to public office by that official.
H. 4499 would allow candidates to finance their campaigns with public funds as determined by the General Assembly. H. 4498 would set a pre-determined amount of public funds for the campaigns of candidates for State Attorney or Attorney General who agree to limitations on contributions. H 4501 would prevent members of, and candidates for, the General Assembly or statewide constitutional offices from accepting or soliciting contributions from utilities. S. 831 and S. 839 are similar bills.

Sexual misconduct: H. 4433, dubbed the "Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Harassment Act of 2018," would render pre-dispute arbitration agreements invalid if they require arbitration of a sex discrimination dispute. S. 768, on the other hand, would clarify that parents whose parental rights are terminated based on criminal sexual conduct against another parent during conception would only have their parental rights terminated, rather than be pursued on any charges.

Guns: H. 4424 would prohibit the possession, distribution, or manufacture of a component meant to accelerate the rate of fire of a semi-automatic weapon, such as a bump stock, which was infamously used in the 2017 Las Vegas massacre. S. 769 would allow concealed weapons permit holders to carry on school property leased by a church.

Abortion: H. 4491 would prohibit the Department of Health and Human Services from contracting with entities that perform or promote abortions, "with exceptions."

Health care: H. 4495 would prohibit hospitals from charging uninsured patients more than insured patients would pay for the same services.

Opioid crisis: H. 4487 would eliminate the renewal grace period for registrations to manufacture, distribute, or dispense controlled substances. H. 4488 would authorize coroners, deputy coroners, medical examiners, and deputy medical examiners to have access to data maintained in the prescription monitoring program. H. 4492 would change the dosage limitations for certain prescribed controlled substances. S. 755 would require sheriffs to maintain at least one onsite drop-off box throughout the year for the public to disposal of controlled substances.

Redistricting: H. 4456 would create an independent redistricting commission, with members appointed every 10 years after the year following the decennial U.S. Census.

Monuments: H. 4398 would repeal Section 10-1-165 of the S.C. Code of Laws, which prevents the relocation or removal of monuments of various wars, including the Civil War. H. 4514 and H. 4516 would create the "African American Confederate Veterans Monument Commission."

Gettin' Schooled

Religion in schools: H. 4382 would prevent discrimination based on "a student's voluntary expression of a religious viewpoint on an otherwise permissible subject," and would allow school personnel to voluntarily participate in religious activities initiated by students on school grounds.

Safety: H. 4386 would install metal detectors at the entrances of all public, middle, and high schools in the state beginning in the school year 2018-2019, with necessary training for staff.

Privatizing school buses: H. 4389 would stop the state from buying school buses after July 2022 and begin to phase in private contracts to operate transportation services for school districts. The bill ties in a possible increase in teacher salaries to savings from privatization.

Learning your lines: H. 4385 would compel the state Board of Education to develop a "standard, durable poster" to display national state mottos in all public school classrooms.

Recruiting: S. 827 would prohibit the recruitment of student athletes by public schools, including charter schools.

Law enforcement and corrections

New citations: H. 4480 would create the offense of "driving under the influence of an electronic device."

Prison labor: H. 4482 would prohibit the Department of Corrections from executing or negotiating a contract with a private sector business that pays inmates less than the federal minimum wage. H. 4481 would make it so that an inmate who works and is paid less than the federal minimum wage can't have his or her room and board costs deducted from their wages.

Environment

Pollution: H. 4460 would urge the United States Congress to disallow seismic surveys or acquisitions off the coast of South Carolina to protect the "beautiful beaches and coastline of the state from the invasive pollution of the air and sea if seismic surveys or acquisitions are used."

Renewable energy: H. 4431 would create a tax credit of 30 percent of whatever a taxpayer paid to install solar or wind energy system in his or her home.

Grab Bag

FOIA: H. 4396 would exempt police dash cam footage from Freedom of Information Act requests, a tactic in which Section 30, Chapter 4 of the state Code of Laws is invoked in order to gain access to vital information of public interest. H. 3931 (introduced in the House during the 2017 session, currently in the Ways and Means Committee) would exempt nonprofits funded with public money from disclosing information in the same way.

STEM: H. 4436 would declare March 7, 2018 "STEM Education Day" in South Carolina.

Daylight Savings: H. 4382 would create a statewide referendum during the 2018 general election on whether or not to keep observing daylight savings time. S. 757 proposes a study concerning the "feasibility and economic consequences" of exempting the Palmetto State from DST.

Golf carts: H. 4406 would establish a $25 first-time penalty for illegally driving a golf cart at night. S. 836 requires a permit decal and DMV registration for certain golf carts, and increases the permit fee from $5 to $50.

Weed: S. 811 is a resolution that would urge the federal government to remove barriers to funding research on the use of cannabis to treat medical conditions.

Duties: H. 4524 would give a tax credit to business that install diaper changing stations.

What's a computer?: H. 4514 would expand the prohibition on the exhibition of obscene content and defines the term "digital electronic file."


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