COLUMBIA, SC—The regular session of the South Carolina legislature ended Thursday at 5 p.m., with lawmakers passing more road-safety bills just before they adjourned. On Wednesday, they overrode the governor’s veto of a bill to raise the gas tax to pay for road repairs. Late Thursday, they passed a bill to put new regulations on mopeds and another bill to better protect highway workers.
The mopeds bill would require mopeds to be licensed and registered. Mopeds would also have to follow the same traffic laws as all other motor vehicles. The highway worker bill raises the penalties for speeding in a work zone and endangering a highway worker.
The state Chamber of Commerce held a news conference Thursday morning to thank lawmakers for passing the roads bill. “For three years, the business community has been expressing the need to do this,” said Pete Selleck, Michelin North America Chairman and President. He had said three years ago that state roads had gotten so bad that Michelin would not consider expanding in the state unless the state took action to improve road conditions.
“Ultimately, this year was all about one piece of legislation, right? The success or the failure this year was going to be determined on what happened with the roads bill,” says Sen. Shane Massey, R-Edgefield, Senate Majority Leader.
But he said that’s not all lawmakers accomplished. “The first half of the session, on the Senate side, we spent time on helping small businesses, doing more for workforce development.
They’re not the sexiest of issues, but they’re going to be impactful to individuals to help them keep and get better jobs going forward. It’s going to help strengthen our business climate.”
House Speaker Jay Lucas, R-Hartsville, says lawmakers also passed a law shoring up the state pension system, the retirement plan for all state employees as well as teachers and local police officers. He says the House also passed education improvement bills that weren’t passed by the Senate yet. “Our computer initiatives that would start that learning in the early elementary school levels has not come back from the Senate, so we’ll look to get that back. That’s why we have a two-year session,” he says.
A conference committee is also still working on the state budget. They plan to meet next Tuesday. The full House and Senate will be back in Columbia May 23-25 to adopt the budget, consider any vetoes by the governor, and vote on any bills that are in conference committee.
Lawmakers did not pass a bill that would allow anyone who can legally buy a gun to carry it openly without needing any kind of permit. They also did not pass any of several bills to lengthen the time allowed to finish a background check before the purchase of a gun.