Texting ban, legal raffles among SC bills likely dead as the end of session nears

By Seanna Adcox, AP
Thursday, June 3, 2010

Texting ban among SC bills likely dead this year

COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina efforts to ban texting while driving, legalize charity raffles, and yank driving privileges from teen dropouts are among bills likely dead for the year as the legislative session drew to a close Thursday.

Nearly every bill that wasn’t headed to the governor by 5 p.m. will end up in the trash can and would have to be reintroduced next year.

Sen. Jake Knotts said he hasn’t given up on barring drivers from texting and talking on a hand-held phone. He has tried to attach the proposal to other measures, and having no success, but he pledged to talk about it all day, regardless.

“This is the day you can get things done you couldn’t get done before,” said Knotts, R-West Columbia, a retired law enforcement officer. “The people of this state deserve to be on the highway safe.”

Lawmakers offered numerous proposals to prohibit texting, talking on a hand-held phone, or both, but in a state that relishes personal freedoms, the idea was a hard sell. Lawmakers in the GOP-controlled Legislature have long balked at telling people what they can hold in their hands while in their vehicles. While the House pushed through a limited texting ban in March, with a $25 fine that put no points on licenses, the effort stalled in the Senate.

Efforts to allow charities to hold raffles essentially died a month ago, as gambling opponents in the House derailed several attempts to move the legislation to the Senate by the crossover deadline. The only legal raffle in South Carolina remains the state lottery. Legalizing charitable raffles would require voters’ approval, and a proposed amendment couldn’t go on the ballot again until 2012. So the measures’ failure means any school raffle or church cake walk will remain illegal until at least 2013.

Separate bills to decriminalize friendly in-home games of poker and other games with dice and cards — such as Bunko or Bridge — were never even debated on either chamber’s floor. Opponents said they fear the bills will lead to outright gambling, and recalled that a previous change in the law ushered in video poker, which took 10 years to get rid of.

Bills now being hashed out in conference committees of House and Senate members have a little more time. Legislators have until mid-June to compromise on bills that would require voters to show ID at the polls and require women to wait 24 hours to get an abortion.

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