Dear Friends and Neighbors:
This is my Legislative Update for April. Although we were furloughed for 2 weeks this month, we were able to work on important legislation. We unanimously passed Emma’s Law, which requires that interlock devices be installed on vehicles operated by someone convicted of a DUI. Here are all of the highlights from the month.
As always, I am interested in hearing your thoughts and concerns on the issues.
HOUSE WEEK IN REVIEW
April 1, 2014
The House of Representatives returned S.137 to the Senate with amendments. The bill enacts provisions, designated as “EMMA’S LAW”, to combat drunk driving through a MORE EXPANSIVE USE OF IGNITION INTERLOCK DEVICES INSTALLED ON THE VEHICLES OF DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE OFFENDERS that are designed to prevent a vehicle from being started and operated by someone who has consumed alcohol. The legislation revises current requirements for ignition interlock devices to be installed on the vehicles of repeat DUI offenders and establishes a new requirement for installing an ignition interlock device on the vehicle of someone convicted of a first offense DUI violation who had a breath test that registered an alcohol concentration of 0.15 or higher. Those who refused a breath test and were subsequently convicted of a first offense DUI violation are subject to requirements for enrolling in the Ignition Interlock Device Program in order to be eligible to drive. The legislation imposes new ignition interlock requirements that apply following the release from prison of someone convicted of a DUI offense involving great bodily injury or death of another. Ignition interlock requirements are established for those found guilty of an offense involving the operation of a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicants with at least one passenger younger than sixteen. The legislation enhances penalties for those who fail to comply with ignition interlock device requirements.
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4803, a bill addressing ACCESS TO CANNABIDIOL, A SUBSTANCE DERIVED FROM MARIJUANA, FOR TREATMENT OF SEVERE FORMS OF EPILEPSY. The legislation enacts “JULIAN’S LAW” to provide authorization for the state’s academic medical centers to conduct expanded access clinical trials approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to investigate the value of cannabidiol as a treatment for patients suffering from severe forms of epilepsy that are not adequately treated by traditional medical therapies. The legislation establishes certain exemptions for cannabidiol under the definition of “marijuana” in the state laws governing narcotics and controlled substances. An exemption for cannabidiol is established that applies to a person, or the persons’ parents, legal guardians, or other caretakers, who has received a written certification from a South Carolina-licensed physician that the person has been medically diagnosed as having Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome, Dravet Syndrome, also known as ‘severe myoclonic epilepsy of infancy’, or any other severe form of epilepsy that is not adequately treated by traditional medical therapies. A physician is not subject to detrimental action, including arrest, prosecution, penalty, denial of a right or privilege, civil penalty, or disciplinary action by a professional licensing board, for providing this written certification for the medical use of cannabidiol to a patient.
The House approved and sent the Senate H.4650, legislation requiring the State Board of Education to establish before August 1, 2014, a PROFICIENCY-BASED SYSTEM AS AN ALTERNATIVE TO TRADITIONAL SEAT-TIME REQUIREMENTS for children not exempt from compulsory school attendance requirements. The system must be optional for school districts. The legislation defines proficiency as the demonstration of competency or advancement, based upon mastery of South Carolina State Subject Standards in any subject without the necessity of satisfying a seat-time requirement. Proficiency course credits may be earned through distance learning, online learning, project and inquiry-based learning, independent study, or a combination of these methodologies.
The House approved and sent the Senate H.4527, legislation designating the Friday after Thanksgiving as “A Day of Recognition for Veterans’ Spouses and Families” to acknowledge the invaluable support and sacrifice of veteran’s family members.
The House approved and sent the Senate H.4499, a bill providing for the REMOVAL OF THE ONE DOLLAR FEE CHARGED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF MOTOR VEHICLES FOR THE PLACEMENT OF A VETERAN DESIGNATION ON A DRIVER’S LICENSE.
HOUSE WEEK IN REVIEW
April 8, 2014
The House of Representatives amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3994, the “SOUTH CAROLINA READ TO SUCCEED ACT” which establishes a comprehensive K-12 initiative for promoting reading proficiency in order to ensure that the state’s public school students are reading at grade level or better. The legislation creates a creates a South Carolina Read to Succeed Office within the State Department of Education to coordinate the initiative, requires implementation of comprehensive reading proficiency plans for prekindergarten through twelfth grade, requires school districts to engage the families of students as partners in promoting reading and writing habits and skills, and encourages districts to create family school community partnerships that focus on increasing the volume of reading.
The House concurred in Senate amendments to H.3919, legislation which provides for the ELIMINATION OF THE HIGH SCHOOL EXIT EXAM AND THE ESTABLISHMENT OF COLLEGE AND CAREER READINESS ASSESSMENTS. The legislation discontinues the administration of the Highs School Assessment Program (HSAP) tests and eliminates the provisions that require a public high school student to pass these exit examinations in order to graduate and be awarded a high school diploma. The legislation establishes a window of opportunity, through 2015, during which time those who previously failed to receive a high school diploma or were denied graduation solely for failing to pass the high school exit exams may petition their local school boards to receive a high school diploma. Beginning in school year 2014-2015, all students entering the eleventh grade for the first time must be administered a college and career readiness assessment as required by the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act and by Title 1 of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act and that is from a provider secured by the State Department of Education.
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3905, the “BACK TO BASICS IN EDUCATION ACT OF 2014”. This legislation adds cursive writing and memorization of multiplication tables to the required subjects of instruction in public schools and requires students to demonstrate competence in each subject before completion of the fifth grade.
The House amended, approved and sent the Senate H.4386, which establishes a PROHIBITION ON TEXTING WHILE DRIVING. The legislation provides that it is unlawful for a person to use a wireless electronic communication device to compose, send, or read a text-based communication while operating a motor vehicle on the public streets and highways of this state. This prohibition does not apply to someone who is: (1) lawfully parked or stopped; (2) using a hands-free wireless electronic communication device; (3) summoning emergency assistance; (4) transmitting or receiving data as part of a digital dispatch system; (5) a public safety official while in the performance of their official duties; or (6) using a global positioning system device or an internal global positioning system feature or function of a wireless electronic communication device for the purpose of navigation or obtaining related traffic and road condition information. A violator must be fined not more than twenty-five dollars, no part of which may be suspended. A violator must not be fined more than fifty dollars for any one incident of one or more violations and no court costs, assessments, or surcharges may be assessed against a violator.
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.4859, the “MILITARY FAMILY QUALITY OF LIFE ENHANCEMENT ACT OF 2014”. The legislation includes several initiatives that are geared towards benefitting military service members and their families.
This legislation allows members of the Armed Forces and Merchant Marines, their spouses, and dependents residing with them to vote by absentee ballot in all elections, whether or not they are absent in their county of residence on election day.
The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3112, the “SOUTH CAROLINA GIVING BACK TO OUR VETERANS ACT” which authorizes a state individual income tax deduction for all military retirement benefits attributable to active duty service in the United States armed forces. These tax relief provisions are phased in under a three year schedule, with the full deduction available after 2015.
The House approved and sent the Senate H.4348, a bill addressing court-ordered GRANDPARENT VISITATION of minor children. The legislation enhances the authority of the state’s family courts to order visitation for grandparents of minor children in instances where the parents are divorced, deceased, or living separate and apart in different habitats by eliminating the current prerequisite for visitation orders that the grandparent must have maintained a relationship with the minor child that is similar to a parent-child relationship.
April 15, 2014
HOUSE WEEK IN REVIEW – FURLOUGH
HOUSE WEEK IN REVIEW – FURLOUGH
April 21, 2014
If you would like any additional information on these bills, or any other legislation under consideration by the General Assembly, feel free to visit our website at www.scstatehouse.gov. If you have a comment or opinion concerning the matters discussed in this report, or if I may be of assistance to you at any time, please feel free to call my legislative office (803-212-6940); my business at (803-799-7900); or write 1019 Assembly Street, Columbia, SC 29201.