The Senate Judiciary Committee approved two key measures on its docket in a Tuesday afternoon session, moving them both to a full senate vote.
The first item was S.308, which would allow persons with a Concealed Weapons Permit to possess a firearm in establishments that sell alcohol, specifically bars and restaurants. See the full bill here. It passed 15-7.
Sen. Shane Massey (R - Edgefield), one of the sponsors of the bill, said the biggest stumbling block was the gray area between what is considered a bar and what is considered a restaurant. Establishments such as Applebee's or Wild Wing Cafe were not cut and dry as either bars or restaurants. "The bill needs to have language that makes it clear to everyone," Massey said during the hearing.
Katrina Shealy, (R - Lexington), the only woman on the committee and also a sponsor, said that as a CWP holder she would like to be able to protect herself when she has to walk to and from establishments. "It would be a nice option to have," Shealy said.
Opponents of the measure were concerned about the mix of alcohol and firearms. But, Committee Chair Larry Martin (R - Pickens) said there had been concerns the last time CWP rights were expanded and none of those came to fruition.
Shealy said she has received 862 emails from constituents--only one of which was against the measure. Martin told Patch that he had also been contacted by numerous CWP holders in support of the law. He said he believes that there was an organized effort by interest groups to get the bill passed, but was unable to determine which ones were involved.
Martin said that he did not believe the intense interest was a result of the national discussion taking place regarding gun safety, since a very similar bill was presented last year.
The other key item the Committee passed was a measure (S.53, viewable HERE) to remove the Superintendent of Education from ballots and into the cabinet. If passed, the new law would allow the Governor to appoint the Superintendent of Education. The legislation was approved 15-6.
Opponents of the measure--all Democrats--said the reorgnization would give the governor too much power. Sen. Gerald Malloy (D - Darlington) said that in light of the recent problems at the Department of Revenue and the Department of Employment and Workforce, the timing was not right.
Sen. Ross Turner (R - Greenville), used a sports analogy to express his support. "We ought to let the head coach pick his own staff," Turner said.
Since the bill would amend the state's constitution, it requires a two-thirds vote in the full Senate. Martin told Patch he's confident the votes are there for it to pass.
Gov. Nikki Haley described the change as "critical" in her State of the State Address last month.