Here are the highlights from last week’s Senate action –
Concealed Weapons Permits – The Senate spent most of Tuesday debating S. 308, a bill that would allow Concealed Weapons Permit holders to carry their concealed weapons in restaurants that sell alcohol as long as (1) the restaurant does not prohibit the carrying of weapons and (2) the CWP holder does not consume alcohol while carrying the weapon. It is important to understand that CWP holders have passed background checks, been fingerprinted, and have completed training classes before receiving their permits. CWP holders very rarely cause trouble; they are the good guys.
Nevertheless, many senators were uncomfortable with the idea of carrying in some restaurants, and the debate had stalled by early Tuesday evening. Facing at least 15 hours of debate and votes, I offered a compromise amendment to allow CWP holders to carry in restaurants except between the hours of 12:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. The Senate adopted my amendment and passed the bill. Personally, I do not believe the time limit was necessary because of the other protections in the bill, but it certainly helped move the bill along by making some wavering senators more comfortable. The bill now goes to the House and will have to come back to the Senate before final passage.
Reporting Mental Health Adjudications for Gun Background Checks – When citizens purchase a firearm or apply for a CWP, they first must pass a background check. The check reviews the person’s criminal history and whether the person has any court findings regarding a lack of mental capacity. Although South Carolina does a great job of reporting criminal violations, we do a poor job of reporting when courts have made findings regarding a person’s mental capacity. H. 3560 is an attempt to fix that.
The bill would require courts to notify SLED if they find that a person is a danger to himself, a danger to others, lacks the mental capacity to manage his own affairs, or has been deemed insane. SLED would then ensure that information is reported to the background check database. It’s important to remember this will apply only to court adjudications. SLED will not be looking at medical records or diagnoses; they will use only those findings that a court has made.
I support the bill. I strongly support the rights on law-abiding, responsible gun owners. However, I do not believe criminals or those with mental illness should be allowed to purchase or carry weapons. This bill is not a magic solution, but it will move us in the right direction. The Senate began debating the bill last Thursday. I expect it will receive a vote this week.
Constitutional carry of firearms – Several people have asked me about the status of S. 115, the “Constitutional Carry Act,” that would allow individuals to carry handguns – concealed or unconcealed – without first having to obtain a Concealed Weapons Permit. The bill has been on the Senate Judiciary Committee agenda for the past few weeks, but the sponsor has asked to “carry over” the bill until the next meeting. I expect it will come up at the committee meeting on Tuesday.
Notification of teacher contracts – The House and Senate agreed last week on H.3453, a resolution that requires school districts to offer teacher contracts by May 5, 2013, and allows districts to negotiate salaries with teachers who have returned to work after retiring (excluding those teachers who are working under the TERI program). Governor Haley will likely sign the resolution this week.
Texting while driving – Last week I chaired a subcommittee considering a ban on texting while driving. South Carolina is in the minority of states that have not yet addressed this issue. Although bills have passed the House the past few years, those bills have always stalled in the Senate. I hope we can push a bill through, but I also hope we can address distracted driving in general, a major problem on SC’s roadways. Stay tuned.
State Budget – The Senate Finance Committee will consider the state budget this week. If the committee passes it this week, the full Senate should begin debate on the budget the week of May 13. As part of that debate, the Senate will also consider whether to expand the Medicaid program pursuant to Obamacare. I will keep you updated.
Last Week’s Meetings
- On Tuesday morning, I attended Edgefield County School District’s Business-Community Partnership breakfast at Strom Thurmond High School. There was a great turnout of business and community leaders to support education!
- Following breakfast on Tuesday morning, I visited Saluda Elementary School and spoke with 3rd grade students. I was very impressed with their knowledge of SC history!
- On Wednesday afternoon, I attended the Midstate Chambers of Commerce legislative luncheon. I enjoyed talking with representatives from the Aiken, Edgefield, and Lexington chambers of commerce. Thanks for your hard work to build business!
- On Thursday night, I met with the Edgefield County Election Commission to work on redrawing precinct lines and making voting more convenient in the county.
Town Hall Meetings – Thanks to everyone who came and participated in my town hall meetings this Spring. I held 9 meetings across our 5-county district. In the past 6 years, I’ve held 85 town hall meetings throughout our district, and I really appreciate the hundreds of folks who have participated. These town hall meetings give me a chance to keep you updated about what’s going on in Columbia and, more importantly, allow me to hear what’s on your mind. I will do another round of meetings in the Fall.
Our Senate District – Senate district 25 consists of all of Edgefield County and parts of Aiken, Lexington, McCormick, and Saluda Counties. If you’d like to see the district map, go here.
Speaking with Groups – Several groups, clubs, and classes around our Senate district have invited me to attend their meetings and provide legislative updates. If you would like for me to come speak with your group, please let me know.
Email updates – If you know of people in or around District 25 who do not receive my updates but would like to get them, please email their names and email addresses to me. You can also forward this email to them and encourage them to sign up for the updates at www.senatormassey.com.
P.O. Box 551
Edgefield, SC 29824
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