(Published by the Office of Research of the House of Representatives)

February 8, 2013

The House of Representatives approved and sent the Senate Joint Resolution H.3340 , a PROPOSED CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT ON SHORTENING THE LEGISLATIVE SESSION. The joint resolution proposes to amend provisions of the South Carolina Constitution that define the sessions of the General Assembly so that the legislative session would begin one month later each year and end one month earlier. Under the revised timeline, annual sessions of the General Assembly would begin on the second Tuesday in February rather than the second Tuesday in January of each year. Even though the Senate and House of Representatives would no longer meet in statewide session during the first weeks of the calendar year, authorization is included that would allow legislators to hold committee meetings and conduct hearings beginning with the second Tuesday of January each year. The legislation proposes to include in the constitution a requirement that each annual session of the General Assembly adjourn sine die no later than the first Thursday in May. The constitutional requirement would replace current statutory requirements for the legislature to adjourn for the year in early June. Upon passage of this legislation by the General Assembly, the proposed constitutional amendment must be submitted to the state’s voters in the form of a ballot question at the next general election.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3247 , a bill relating to the ADMINISTRATIVE CONTROL OF THE GENERAL SESSIONS COURT DOCKET. The legislation addresses a recent State Supreme Court decision that statutory provisions assigning circuit solicitors exclusive control over when criminal cases are to be brought to trial violate the South Carolina Constitution’s separation of powers provisions by assigning a judicial responsibility to members of the executive branch of government. Under the legislation’s revisions to the statutory provisions assigning circuit solicitors control over the general sessions court docket, these prosecutors, who bear the burden of proof at trial, would continue to exercise their discretion in choosing when cases are ready to be tried in general sessions court, but this authority over scheduling cases would no longer be designated as exclusive. The legislation provides that the circuit solicitor’s ability to administer the general sessions court docket shall not interfere with the court’s ability to safeguard a litigant’s rights including the South Carolina Constitution’s guarantee that any person charged with an offense shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury. The legislation establishes a new protocol to address concerns about the accused undergoing extensive periods of confinement in jail while awaiting trial. These new requirements provide that if an arrest warrant is not presented to the county grand jury within ninety days after the solicitor receives the warrant from the clerk of court, upon motion by the defendant, the chief administrative judge must hold a hearing for the purpose of determining whether the state should be compelled to have the case presented to the grand jury during its next term. If the state fails to comply with the court’s instructions to present the case to the grand jury, the court may issue any remedy it considers appropriate. If a case has not otherwise been scheduled for trial within one hundred eighty days after indictment, then upon motion by the defendant, the chief administrative judge shall hold a hearing for the purpose of establishing a scheduling order in the case.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.3191 , a bill relating to the CLASSIFICATION OF MOPEDS. The legislation revises provisions of the state’s Uniform Act Regulating Traffic on Highways by including mopeds under the definition of “motor vehicle” and excluding mopeds from the definition of “motorcycle” so that the state’s driving under the influence (DUI) laws apply in the operation of mopeds.

The House approved and sent the Senate H.3453 , a joint resolution affording temporary FLEXIBILITY PROVISIONS FOR SCHOOL DISTRICTS. The legislation provides for a delay in this year’s deadlines for notifying teachers of school district employment decisions so that districts might have a better knowledge of what funds may be available for them through state appropriations before making their personnel decisions. The legislation also provides that school districts uniformly may negotiate salaries below the district salary schedule for the 2013 2014 school year for retired teachers who are not participants in the Teacher and Employee Retention Incentive (TERI) program.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3087 , a bill revising CHARTER SCHOOL ENROLLMENT PREFERENCE AND PRIORITY provisions. The legislation requires a public charter school to give enrollment preference to students enrolled in the public charter school the previous school year which excludes these returning students from entering into a lottery. This legislation authorizes a charter school located on a federal military installation or base to give enrollment priority, not to exceed fifty percent of the charter school’s total enrollment, to otherwise eligible students who are dependents of military personnel living in military housing on the base or installation or who are currently stationed at the base or installation.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3033 , a bill authorizing SPECIAL LICENSE PLATES FOR RECIPIENTS OF THE DISTINGUISHED FLYING CROSS.

The House amended, approved, and sent the Senate H.3225 , a bill authorizing “SC RIVERKEEPERS” SPECIAL LICENSE PLATES.