COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) – The South Carolina House of Representatives has passed a bill to allow all voters in the fall to cast absentee ballots due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The House started a two-week special session Tuesday by debating a bill already passed by the Senate earlier this month to expand voting access. The legislature gaveled in following calls by two separate groups on statehouse grounds that morning: advocates pushing for greater voting protections, and conservative grassroots groups urging leaders to fully reopen the state. The proposed changes to voting rules fall short of recommendations made by the head of the state Election Commission to legislative leaders in July. The bill now heads to Gov. McMaster’s desk.
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) – The South Carolina Senate has passed changes to the state budget that would provide a small raise to most teachers and a hazard pay bonus for some lower-paid state workers. Now attention turns to the House, where leaders may prefer not to change the budget at all with worries that COVID-19 could continue to hobble the economy and cut state revenues. Lawmakers have already agreed to keep spending levels for the budget year that started in July at the same levels as the year before. The Senate’s plan also sets aside $500 million saved over the past two budgets in case revenue projections dip more.
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) – South Carolina environmental officials are urging owners and operators of reservoirs across the state to be ready to handle potentially heavy rainfall in the coming days as Hurricane Sally makes landfall and drenches inland areas. The Department of Health and Environmental Control on Tuesday said the agency had performed “pre-hurricane season assessments of all dams of concern.” In issuing guidance, Jill Stewart, director of DHEC’s Dam Safety and Stormwater Permitting Division, said owners should also notify anyone operating a dam downstream of their property if they are lowering water levels, and also clear trash and debris from spillways.
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) – Six months after shutting down the state’s court system in an effort to stem the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, South Carolina’s top jurist now says courts may resume in-person operations with considerations for trying to contain COVID-19. Supreme Court Chief Justice Don Beatty wrote in an order Monday that courts may return to normal scheduling, docket management and in-person hearings as of Sept. 21. But the top judge noted that it is still up to judges to determine whether to conduct remote hearings. Consent is not required by involved parties or their attorneys. Beatty shut down court operations in mid-March.