Bills to help region have gained approval

S.C. legislature and Gov. Nikki Haley have approved several bills that will improve our area.

newsroom@islandpacket.comJune 5, 2014 

As the legislative session winds down, it's good that several worthy bills survived the vetting process and were signed into law by Gov. Nikki Haley.

These new laws, most of which go into effect July 1, include:

  • The wind insurance reform bill. Authored and pushed through by Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, the law requires the state Insurance Department to provide residents with easy-to-understand data about coastal property-insurance rates, including a website that shows cost comparisons among companies. This should allow residents to comparison shop for insurance.

  • The new law also directs the state insurance director to create a new model on which insurance rates are based. The model must accurately reflect South Carolina's hurricane risk -- which some believe is less than those of other coastal states. Any insurance company seeking to raise rates must justify the hike in the new model.

    We're still waiting to see if a final piece of the bill will survive. The provision in question would increase a $1.5 million pot of state money to $3 million. It would be available to help people weatherize their property -- and thereby lower their insurance premiums. Lawmakers are still working out the final version of the state budget that includes the money. Only people with homes valued at $300,000 or less would be eligible.

    The new state law, paired with the passage of a federal law that scales back flood-insurance rate hikes, should help current homeowners stay in their homes and increase the likelihood that potential home buyers will sign on the dotted line.

  • The CBD oil bill. This allows S.C. doctors to prescribe a potentially life-saving marijuana extract to those with seizure disorders. Efforts to get the bill passed got a boost thanks to 6-year-old Mary Louise Swing, who suffers from intractable epilepsy. This brave little girl put a face on the issue and helped lawmakers realize the bill was about improving quality of life, not getting high.

  • But there's more work to be done to help Mary Louise and others who suffer from seizures. The federal government considers CBD oil a controlled substance, meaning it is illegal to cross state lines with it. Davis is working to form a committee to study in-state cultivation of CBD oil. The committee would report to the legislature in March 2015 on the possibilities of cultivating marijuana plants that are low in THC, the psychoactive part of the plant, and high in CBD in South Carolina.

    We're intrigued to see what the committee comes back with. The plants could potentially be a cash crop for a state already known for agricultural excellence.

  • A bill to prevent those with criminal histories of mental illness from purchasing firearms.

  • The measure, signed into law last year, will hopefully prevent a repeat of a 2013 incident when a Lady's Island woman purchased a handgun despite a court-documented history of mental illness. Alice Boland took the gun to a Charleston school and repeatedly pulled the trigger in the direction of a school official, according to a police report. Students were also in the area. Luckily, the gun did not fire.

    We believe the new law is one of the most important pieces of legislation passed during the two-year session that is winding down. The law required the creation of a database of South Carolinians judged to be mentally ill, such as those involuntarily sent to mental institutions. Those on the list are now included in a federal database that gun shops must check before selling a firearm to anyone.

    These new requirements will make our state safer -- unlike a new law sponsored by Davis that allows guns in bars and restaurants.

  • A bill legalizing games involving dice, cards and tiles in homes and clubhouses. Sun City residents brought the issue to light after learning their games of canasta, bridge and mahjong were illegal. An antiquated state law on the books since 1802 bans the games. Davis, who sponsored the bill, said he received more emails about the outdated ban than any other issue in his six years as a senator.

  • Just as important as passing new laws is eliminating those that have outlived their usefulness. This one certainly fits the bill.

    There's much more lawmakers must do before the session ends, including finishing work to overhaul the state's outdated ethics laws. But in today's cynical world, it's important to take note when lawmakers get some things right. This list shows it does happen.

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