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S.C. legislative session ends, but lawmakers will need to return

The South Carolina Senate meets at the State House in Columbia on May 12, 2022
The South Carolina Senate meets at the State House in Columbia on May 12, 2022(Gray)
Published: May. 13, 2022 at 10:04 AM EDT|Updated: May. 13, 2022 at 4:49 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Medical marijuana, election reform, hate crimes and major tax cuts.

Those were among the higher-profile bills that South Carolina lawmakers have been considering, debating and negotiating for the last few months.

The last week of this legislative session wrapped up with a flurry of bills being read, debated, passed and killed.

A final-week compromise to expand early, in-person voting and restrict mail-in voting made it through both chambers – after an earlier disagreement had threatened the entire bill.

Gov. McMaster just signed it into law Friday.

“We’ve got a strong election package that we were able to pass,” said Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey, R-Edgefield. “I’m pleased with that.”

Other bills now headed to the governor’s desk include the transgender sports bill, the “Save Women’s Sports Act,” and a bill to allow women to obtain birth control without a doctor’s prescription.

Both the House and the Senate also passed bills to settle a state Supreme Court ruling regarding the sex offender registry – and to create a school-voucher-like program.

But they’ll need to negotiate a final version of those bills to send to the governor.

Both chambers also agreed to substantial income tax cuts – but the details on just how large of cuts and if they’ll include any direct rebates to tax filers – will be worked out in the coming weeks.

On the flip side – bills that didn’t make it across the finish line would need to refiled and start the legislative process over at the beginning of next year.

This week, last-minute efforts fell short to legalize medical marijuana, as did efforts increase the penalties for violent hate crimes.

The clock also ran out before the Senate could come to an agreement on a bill to restructure the University of South Carolina board of trustees.

What’s next?

Lawmakers will need to return to Columbia for a special session on some outstanding business. They also could be called back for other matters, including potential abortion legislation.

Before putting a close on the legislative session, lawmakers agreed to a sine die resolution, which outlines the reasons for which they can come back to Columbia once the regular session is over.

While this year’s agreement contained usual inclusions, such as finalizing the upcoming state budget and considering gubernatorial vetoes, it also stipulates lawmakers could be called back to take up abortion legislation, allowing for a potentially more restrictive bill to be debated if the U.S. Supreme Court opens the door for one.

Massey said he was hopeful the ultimate Supreme Court ruling was along similar lines as the leaked draft opinion suggesting Roe v. Wade would be struck down, but noted it was still a leaked draft and not a final opinion.

However, he said leadership in both chambers felt it was important to have the ability to respond to a ruling in the agreement.

“We wanted to make sure that we had time for people to be heard and make sure we got it right and we have time to digest whatever the opinion is, and then we’ll do it the right way. I think that’s something that everybody, especially on our side, is interested in dealing with,” Massey told reporters Thursday.

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