By Paul Gable
This is the final week to get bills passed in one chamber of the SC General Assembly for the other chamber to debate them without a two-thirds vote.
In other words, this is the week bills effectively die for this year.
And with the rush to keep legislation alive, I believe road funding will become a dead issue for this year. H 3579 has passed the House, but includes an approximately $400 million tax increase. The Senate is probably amenable to a tax increase for road maintenance.
But, Gov. Nikki Haley has promised a veto and working through that process at the same time the various no-tax groups raise the volume of the public discussion probably means no roads bill in this legislative year.
If that is the case, getting a meaningful roads bill passed next year with the entire SC General Assembly up for re-election in 2016 is probably not possible.
In other legislation, it seems the Senate is joining the House in shafting the local governments by again agreeing to underfund the Local Government Fund.
Requiring all state and local law enforcement officers to wear body cameras is making its way through both houses of the legislature.
While the Senate had a pre-filed bill (S 47) for body cameras, it lay in committee until the shooting in North Charleston put South Carolina in the national and international headlines. It took that event for the House to even begin working on a compatible bill (H 3997).
But, even if one or the other version passes this year, again becoming more doubtful as the North Charleston shooting fades from the news cycle, it will be several years, at least, before anywhere near all law enforcement officers are wearing body cameras.
There is a nine month period in the Senate bill for local agencies to submit body camera policies and procedures for approval by the Law Enforcement Training Center. Additionally, the Senate bill calls for state funding with the Public Safety Coordinating Council overseeing funding and disbursement of monies for initial purchase, maintenance and replacement of cameras. Just another example of the SC General Assembly needlessly poking its collective nose into local government.
The House bill is even worse, with the LETC charged with establishing a pilot program for three counties and six municipalities to initially be equipped with those agencies charged with reporting back to the legislature in six months after beginning use of body cameras.
The North Charleston shooting initiated a knee jerk reaction for body cameras in the SC General Assembly, but I believe that’s all it is.
And as we have seen through the years from dash cameras in police cars, images of incidents can be altered or lost long before they become evidence in a case.