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Palmetto Family Council Legislative Report
April 18, 2005

1. H.3133. / Defense of Marriage Act.
Description/Action: The House passed the H.3133 on March 1 by a vote of 96-3. The Senate passed the bill April 13, by a vote of 42-1. The bill now returns to the House for concurrence of non-concurrence with the Senate Amendments. The Senate language strengthens the bill by tightening the language in terms of federal constitutionality and non-discrimination and the right of private parties to engage in contracts. Approval by the House is expected within a few legislative days, putting the bill before the voters in November, 2006.

2. H.3588. / Common Law Marriage.
Description/Action: After receiving favorable hearings in subcommittee and the full House Judiciary Committee, H.3588 is now #3 on the Statewide Uncontested Calendar (House floor). Even with the visit of the President today, the bill should have no trouble crossing the lobby to the Senate by the May 1 deadline. This bipartisan, biracial bill which has picked up support from the probate judges association and the association of counties, is another opportunity to restore respect to marriage in South Carolina law. No state that respects marriage should allow couples who merely cohabit for a period of time to be considered married in the eyes of the law. According to the bill, no common law marriages would be recognized after December 31, 2005.

3. H.3213. / Right to Life Act of South Carolina.
Description/Action: On April 13, the House passed the bill by a vote of 95-18 that would make pre-birth human beings "persons" at fertilization.  Because of the Supremacy Clause in the U.S. Constitution that makes Roe v. Wade the law of the land, the bill won't affect abortions unless Roe is overturned. However, Attorney General Henry McMaster and national legal scholars agree that the law would allow the state to charge a perpetrator with murder if during an assault on a pregnant woman an unborn baby were injured or killed. The bill was weakened considerably by a House floor amendment that would allow a woman who was raped to receive a "morning after" pill. The Senate version (S.111) remains in the Judiciary Committee.

Note: A key time in the life of this bill was consideration before the Judiciary Committee. Rep. Fletcher Smith, an African-American Democrat from Greenville, made a passionate speech to his colleagues about Terri Schiavo and the need to protect life when given the chance. His side prevailed 15-5.

The eighteen House members who voted against the bill on the floor were:

Paul Agnew, Abbeville [Freshman]
Karl Allen, Greenville
Carl Anderson, Georgetown [Freshman]
Floyd Breeland, Charleston
Robert Brown, Charleston
Gilda Cobb-Hunter, Orangeburg
Bill Cotty, (R) Richland [Only Republican]
Laurie Slade Funderburk, Kershaw [Freshman] 
Kenneth Kennedy, Williamsburg
Brenda Lee, Spartanburg
David Mack, Charleston
Walton McLeod, Newberry
Bessie Moody-Lawrence, York
Joe Neal, Richland
Anne Parks, Greenwood
Todd Rutherford, Richland
James E. Smith, Richland
Seth Whipper, Charleston

4. S.148. / South Carolina Released Time Credit Act.
Description/Action: This bill allows a school district to award high school credit for completing released time religious instruction.  The bill remains in the Senate Education Committee, where it has been since December 15, 2004. No hearings have been scheduled.

5. S.590. / Human Cloning Prohibition Act.
Description/Action: This bill prevents human cloning and provides penalties. The bill has been in the Senate Judiciary Committee since March 3, 2005. No hearings have been scheduled. 

6. S.615. / Gambling Vessels
Description/Action: This bill delegates to cities and counties the authority to ban "cruises to nowhere." It passed a Senate subcommittee and on March 31 passed the full Judiciary Committee. It is currently on the Senate Calendar (floor) with Senator Robert Ford's objection recorded. Legislation banning the boats outright has passed the House three times but has failed in the Senate due to objections and inaction. This bill has garnered the support of opponents to an outright ban and has a good chance of passing in 2006 if not 2005. 

7. S.638. / Equal Access to Interscholastic Activities Act
Description/Action: This bill would allow home school students to participate in interscholastic activities under certain conditions. It is scheduled to be taken up by a subcommittee of the Senate Education committee tomorrow, April 19, 2005.

8. S.479. / Unborn Victims Act
Description/Action: This bill would create a civil cause of action if in the act of harming a pregnant woman the unborn child is harmed. "Child" would be defined as a fetus at every stage from conception until live birth. The bill was introduced in the Senate on February 10. A subcommittee is expected to be appointed soon. Last year, this bill passed the House and a Senate committee but died on the floor of the Senate. To keep it constitutional, the bill contains language explaining that it in no way restricts a woman's Roe rights.

9. S.109 / H.3817 / H.3015. / Ten Commandments Posting
Description/Action: This bill would authorize an object containing the Ten Commandments to be placed on property owned by the state along with other documents that have influenced the American legal and governmental system. The Senate bill passed the Finance Committee but when it hit the floor on February 3, it was sent to the Judiciary Committee for further review. The House bill passed the House 97-2 on April 6, but that version was also recalled from Finance and sent to Judiciary on April 12.  The Judiciary Committee is anticipating a June, 2005 decision from the U.S. Supreme Court as to the law of the land on Ten Commandments displays. Oral arguments were made there on March 2 by Matt Staver of Liberty Counsel.

10. H.3652. / Putting Parents in Charge
Description/Action: After clearing a subcommittee of the Ways & Means Committee, this bill was taken up today by the full Ways & Means Committee. As of this writing (5:25 pm Monday), our man on the scene reports that Rep. McGee has just offered an amendment converting the tax credit into a voucher. This is considered by many supporters a poison pill as South Carolinians are not supportive of vouchers. The meeting is expected to go late. I'll brief you again in the morning.

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