30 Jan A New Governor, DJJ Issues, Moped and Locksmith Bills
Last week it came as no surprise to my Republican colleagues and me to see the US Senate confirm former Governor Nikki Haley to serve as Ambassador to the United Nations in New York, NY. Upon her resignation, Governor Henry McMaster was sworn in at approximately 6:30 PM this past Tuesday evening, making him the 117th Governor of South Carolina. SC Senators elected former Sen. Kevin Bryant (R-Anderson) to become Lieutenant Governor; he replaces Gov. McMaster in this role. Since the state constitution requires the Senate President Pro Tempore move into the vacant lieutenant governor’s position, senators temporarily elected Bryant president pro tem so he could take the office. Senators then reelected 85-year-old Sen. Hugh Leatherman as President Pro Tempore.
Less than a day after a blistering audit revealed inadequacies at the SC Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) the director of that agency resigned and Gov. McMaster announced a replacement. The Legislative Audit Council report found the agency, which runs the state’s juvenile prisons, to have undertrained staff and is ineffective in responding to violent incidents at the state’s main youth prison. There was one major riot at the main DJJ facility and there have been two deaths in their system. Last Thursday, DJJ officials appeared before our House Oversight Committee. During the grilling of the DJJ staff, legislators were clearly appalled at the extent of problems inside the agency and called for immediate changes.
Taking another stab at moped legislation, the Senate unanimously passed Sen. Greg Hembree’s bill that would charge drunken moped drivers with DUI. A quirk in state law does not treat mopeds as vehicles, meaning drivers are not violating state DUI laws when they operate while intoxicated. Moped drivers are also able to continue using mopeds after their driver’s license is suspended for DUI. Last year the bill narrowly missed passage.
Over the weekend, I attended the South Carolina Locksmith Association’s Quarterly Board Meeting and Business Meeting to explain how my proposed locksmith bill will raise the bar for their profession and increase public safety for their customers. I was impressed with their program – the group is committed to a code of ethics and are consummate professionals – and their interest in the bill, seeing the playing field leveled to assure that trained, liscensed locksmiths (all of whom have undergone national background checks) are performing the work we entrust to them.
As is typical in January, much was done in our House committees. Once a bill is introduced, it must go through legislative committees before arriving on the House floor for an up or down vote. Thank you for the privilege of serving you in Columbia. If I can ever be of assistance to you, or if you have ideas on issues you want me to share with the rest of the General Assembly, please don’t hesitate to contact me.