South Carolina lawmakers end their regular session on Thursday, June 5th, and head into their final week with some major issues still not finished.
The House and Senate are far apart on a bill to ban texting and driving in the state. South Carolina is one of only 7 states that don't ban texting and driving for all drivers. The House bill would do just that, ban texting and driving for all drivers.
House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford, D-Columbia, says, "I think the House looked at it in terms of taking the approach of saying we're going to do with texting what we did with seat belts. We're going to put a $25 fine on it, won't be reported to your insurance companies. We want to send the message out there that safety is our number one concern."
But the Senate version of the bill would ban texting and driving only for drivers with beginner's or restricted licenses. A conference committee is scheduled to meet Tuesday, when three senators and three House members will try to come up with a version both bodies can agree on.
Another big issue that still hasn't been resolved is finding more money to fix the state's crumbling roads and bridges. A plan is stuck in the Senate that would redirect all of the money from the sales tax on cars and trucks to roads, instead of half of it going to the General Fund now. Some senators are trying to raise even more by raising the driver's license fee or registration fee, since the SCDOT says it needs $29 billion more to bring roads and bridges up to good condition.
Lawmakers also have to finish work on the state budget, but that's expected to go smoothly.
And they have not agreed on an ethics reform bill. Rep. Rutherford says, "The members of the conference committee have been appointed, and they'll work on that probably during the summer. I don't look for any short-term compromise to come out of that."
Even though the session officials ends on Thursday, June 5th, lawmakers have agreed to go back to Columbia on Tuesday, June 17th, and through Thursday the 19th if necessary, to consider any vetoes by the governor or finish any bills that were in conference.