Wednesday’s editorial is the first of a five-part series this
week on our legislative goals as the S.C. General Assembly reconvenes. The
first installment features social justice and public safety issues.
Wednesday’s editorial is the first of a five-part series this week on our legislative goals as the S.C. General Assembly reconvenes. The first installment features social justice and public safety issues.
OPEN ADMISSION | Among the greatest injustices enshrined in S.C. law is the state's relatively new practice of prohibiting bright young students from attending public colleges based on their citizenship.
Until two years ago, a handful of
That all changed in 2008, when South Carolina's immigration reform package made citizenship a requirement for entry into college – the only state in the nation to do so. After the bill passed, state Rep. Thad Viers (a key negotiator on the bill's final version) visited the MBHS class and – deeming the students there exactly the type of smart, engaged immigrants that the country needs – pronounced their exclusion from college an unintended consequence that he planned to remedy.
The 2009 legislative session passed, sadly, without Viers fulfilling that promise. Because this law is senselessly cruel – dashing the college dreams of young people who have done nothing wrong while keeping money out of the state educational system – we hope 2010 will be the year Viers makes good on his word.
PAYDAY LENDING | In 2009, the S.C. legislature passed its first restrictions on the predatory practice of payday lending, the notorious 400 percent loans on small amounts that entrap the poor. State Rep. Alan Clemmons, a champion of the reforms, described the bill (which only limits the number of loans a consumer could take, not the amount of interest payments that can accrue) as watered down and really only a start. We agree and continue to support a 36 percent cap on interest that both Clemmons (H. 3048, still technically alive) and the national Center for Responsible Lending advocate.
DISTRACTED DRIVING | Among the major public safety concerns of the telecommunications age, texting while driving is perhaps the most egregious wireless misbehavior. Common sense and looking out for one's personal safety (not to mention the safety of others) should preclude the practice, though common sense seems to take leave of all too many people as they slide under the steering wheel.
At least five bills pending in the second session of the General Assembly would ban texting, and some include the use of any hand-held wireless communications device while driving. These include House bills 4189, 4259, 4190 and Senate bills 954 (by area senators Luke Rankin and Dick Elliott) and 970. Both Senate bills, unfortunately, specify that violations may not be the sole or primary reason for law enforcement officers to stop a vehicle. The practice is demonstrably dangerous enough that a state trooper seeing a motorist texting ought to be able to stop the vehicle and ticket the driver.
SMOKING | Also pending are bills to prohibit smoking inside public
places, such as S. 38 and H. 3113. S. 31 would ban smoking “in outdoor areas of
public schools and preschools.” Other measures pending are H. 3091 and 3523. A
statewide ban, similar to the new N.C. law, would be much more fair than the
local bans (such as
HELMETS | Likewise, Myrtle Beach's helmet law is a good public-safety concept that should be repeated statewide, rather than limited to one locality where it has an overly punitive feel.