The regular session of the South Carolina legislature is over, but lawmakers still have work to do.
Legislators passed 62 bills in the first four months of the session, which started Jan. 9, and dozens of measures during the three days they met this week.
The most recent bills include banning drones from flying near prisons, increasing penalties for human trafficking and allowing school districts to award a physical education credit for participating in marching band.
Key legislation remains unresolved, however, including whether some utility customers will receive temporary rate cuts on their bills after paying $2 billion over a decade for two nuclear plants that were abandoned before ever generating power.
The fundamental difference between the House and Senate is how much of a cut to give South Carolina Electric and Gas Co. ratepayers until the Public Service Commission sets permanent rates in December. The House wants to cut the entire 18 percent charge, while the Senate wants a 13 percent cut.
Republican Rep. Peter McCoy, who was put in charge of a House committee studying the issue since the reactors were mothballed last summer, said lawmakers need to pass the rate cut — even if it only lasts for months — to send a message to regulators at the PSC.
"While the PSC is an independent body, they're going to get a feeling from us about what we do as a body," the Charleston legislator said.
The House and Senate also passed different versions of a bill appointing a consumer advocate to work on behalf of ratepayers, and to repeal a measure that allowed South Carolina Electric and Gas Co.'s parent company SCANA Corp. and state-owned Santee Cooper to increase rates for customers to pay for their joint nuclear project.
Special sessions have already been scheduled for May 24-25 and June 27-28 to finalize the state's $8 billion budget and deal with the nuclear bills.
Legislators failed to pass any gun laws this session. A bill to extend background checks from three to five days for gun purchasers barely made it out of a Senate committee. Other notable bills that lawmakers failed to advance by the deadline include a proposal to stop local governments from banning plastic bags and allowing the medical use of marijuana .
Some key bills that passed this session:
SOUTH CAROLINA CONSERVATION BANK
A bill enforcing stricter regulations on the bank is heading to Gov. Henry McMaster's desk. The bank, which buys land to conserve and sustain the South Carolina landscape, could not buy land worth more than $1 million without the approval of the State Fiscal Accountability Authority. The proposal also prohibits the bank from providing grants or loans if the money is not already in its trust fund.
SUPERINTENDENT OF EDUCATION
One of the last bills passed puts a referendum on November's general election ballot asking voters to decide whether they should continue to elect the state's superintendent of education or if that person should be appointed by the governor.
The House and Senate agreed on stricter penalties for offenders convicted of trafficking minors and set a minimum prison sentence of 45 years.
A bill banning drones from areas near prisons without written consent from the Department of Corrections director or prison warden passed less than a month after seven prisoners were killed in a riot that authorities said started over gang territory and contraband. Another bill banning drones from flying near military institutions failed to make the cut.
PHYSICAL EDUCATION CREDIT
A bill allowing students to receive a physical education credit for participating in the marching band is on its way to McMaster's desk. Some physical education teachers who opposed the legislation told lawmakers during a subcommittee hearing that band programs may not meet the physical education standards they are teaching. School districts will have to submit confirmation to the Department of Education that physical requirements are being met.