PICKENS COUNTY — Sen. Larry Martin said 2015 was a year of ups and downs for the state Legislature in South Carolina.
“It was a study in contrasts during the last legislative session. We had some successes but we also had some setbacks on some key items which should have been addressed,” Martin said. “The passage of a new criminal domestic violence (CDV) bill, the state’s response following the Charleston shooting incident, and the way the state pulled together during and following the flooding in the midlands and low country.”
Senate Bill 3, penned and sponsored by Martin, passed, strengthening the CDV laws in South Carolina and also potentially removed handguns from the possession of the offender.
“We set out to reduce the death rate in South Carolina as the state is consistently in the top two or three in the country and not in a good way,” Martin said. “It was time to focus on that and I feel that’s what we did. I sponsored this bill and it had to overcome a lot of hurdles with a lot of debate but remained mostly intact.”
One portion of the bill that received criticism and fueled debate on 2nd Amendment rights was the gun provision of Martin’s bill. Martin cited that “statistics bear out guns are the weapon of choice” when violence escalates in a domestic environment.
“The gun provision was included to address those offenders who display a demonstrated threat of real violence. Under those circumstances their gun rights would be taken away, at least temporarily,” he stated. “In order to address the death rate this was a step that needed to be taken. In my opinion, cowards don’t have that right.”
Martin was to the point when addressing areas he felt were of importance yet did not see new legislation. Ethics reform, campaign finance reform, and highway funding were areas he cited.
Martin was disappointed the Senate was unable to pass a bill for ethics reform and to his perspective the outlook of the chamber’s members may have some influence on the lack of progress even after a bill was brought to debate but unable to be passed and forwarded to the House.
“I am disappointed the Senate didn’t come to terms on how to investigate complaints against its members. There seems to be a thought in the Senate we are different from other elected officials,” Martin said. “When it comes to criminal law we are no different from anyone else but other members seem to be mixing apples and oranges. Complaints should be investigated by an outside ethics commission, not internally. I’m convinced we don’t need members sitting in judgment on other members.”
South Carolina is one of the remaining states where the financing of state level campaign ads are not required to disclose where the funds originated, unlike on the national level where the party responsible must be disclosed. Martin was hopeful to see a change in the state’s guidelines.
“The public has no idea who to believe anymore when it comes to political campaigning in this state and there is no accountability for some of the organizations which purchase ads without disclosing where the funds came from,” Martin said. “It’s like the wild west where campaigns are concerned including libel and defamation but who do you sue or who is held accountable when you have no idea who they are. The voters need to make an informed judgment and they can only do that when they know who is paying, then you can judge what’s being presented for yourself.”
With South Carolina’s roads falling further into disrepair there had been a push for both new legislation and reform concerning the state’s roads. Martin is unsure any headway was made despite the passage of a spending bill and is opposed to any gas tax which does not bring a direct benefit to his district.
“The confidence of the public in how the money is being spent is almost nonexistent at this point. There was an attempt to make changes to engender confidence and lessen the control of the Department of Transportation (DOT) commission,” Martin said. “We won’t be able to make any meaningful funding for our roads until the commission is removed and the only way I will vote for an increase in the gas tax is if the DOT commission has no say how the money is spent and that it goes directly to maintenance. I can’t stomach the thought of raising a gas tax that won’t benefit Pickens County or the upstate’s road maintenance.”
Martin is convinced progress can be made on these issues in time but said there will have to be compromise to achieve it.
Reach D. C. Moody at 864-855-0355.