After years of inaction and three weeks of debate, the South Carolina Senate on Wednesday passed a measure that would allow limited medical marijuana use for certain conditions. 

A final procedural vote on Thursday on the bill, dubbed the Compassionate Care Act, sent it for consideration by the House, where some say its future is unclear.  The bill’s chief proponent, state Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, has described the proposal as the most conservative cannabis bill in the country.  It would not allow smokable forms of marijuana to be dispensed or sold.

Gov. Henry McMaster, a former attorney general and longtime Columbia insider, has said it was premature to say whether he would back the bill that has kicked around the back halls of the Statehouse for seven years.

“This is one that’s going to depend on a lot of things,” he said in a television interview, adding that he’ll wait to see the final version before deciding whether he would potentially sign or veto the bill if it were to arrive on his desk. 

In other recent news:

S.C.’s new congressional map challenged as racially discriminatory. A federal complaint filed on behalf of the state’s NAACP chapter alleges the new congressional district map perpetuates a “persistent legacy of discrimination against Black voters.”

State agency to invest $11.5M in tech education programs. The S.C. Department of Education will invest $11.5 million of federal COVID-19 relief funds in technical education for South Carolina students, according to a Feb. 9 announcement by S.C. Education Superintendent Molly Spearman. 

S.C. House panel considers public vouchers for private schools.  The key S.C. House Ways and Means Committee this week took up a new proposal approved by a subcommittee to create a $5,000 voucher for private schools for 5,000 students whose families are eligible for Medicaid or who have parents in the military. The money could only be spent for tuition, fees or books, according to the Associated Press. More: WCSC TVThe StateThe Post and Courier

S.C. House panel mulls bill establishing early voting.  A bill to allow no-excuse early voting in South Carolina is being considered by a panel of the House Judiciary Committee. The bill has earned the backing of nearly 50 Republicans in the House, including House Speaker Jay Lucas. More than 1.3 million South Carolinians cast absentee ballots, both in person and by mail, during the general election in 2020 due to the pandemic, setting a state record for advance voting.

Plutonium settlement spending bill heads to S.C. Senate.  Legislation to divide a $525 million settlement by the federal government with the state over failure to remove plutonium from the Savannah River Site is headed to the Senate floor after a finance panel endorsed the measure.  It calls for a payout that favors the counties that make up the Department of Energy site – Aiken, Barnwell and Allendale counties.  

State lawmakers mull bill giving tax credits for hiring ex-cons. A bill sent Feb. 9 to the House floor on a unanimous committee vote would provide employers a tax break of up to $6,500 per hire over three years if the worker stays on the payroll for the duration of the allowed credit.

Slavery defender’s statue could find new home soon. The statue of segregationist and former U.S. Vice President John C. Calhoun that once towered over a downtown Charleston park is still without a permanent home after being removed from its perch nearly two years ago. A deal, announced Monday, appears to be in the works to move the statue to the State Museum in Columbia even as a lawsuit challenges the statue’s removal from the park. More: AP NewsWCSCWPDE.

Charleston approves racial conciliation commission.  Charleston City Council voted 9-4 Wednesday night to establish a permanent Human Affairs and Racial Conciliation Commission. The action followed months of controversy that almost sideswiped the effort to proactively deal with the remnants of generational racism.  The newly approved commission will seek to promote equity, inclusion and racial conciliation in Charleston through meetings, presentations and research as well as assist in implementing recommendations from Mayor John Tecklenburg and City Council through standing committees, according to one of a number of accepted amendments by Councilman Peter Shahid.  

This story first appeared in Statehouse Report.

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