Happy New Year! As many of you know, the legislative branch of our government creates the laws of this country and of this state. An interesting fact that most don’t know is that in South Carolina, the Legislature has an expansive role with a preeminent position in the South Carolina Constitution as the “dominant” branch of government. With that being said, the Legislature essentially runs South Carolina, but it’s primary function still remains as lawmaker.
This New Year, the Legislature’s previous year’s work comes into effect. Last year’s legislative session was seemingly consumed with Ethics Issues, scandal and controversy. Surprisingly, amongst all the strife, a significant number of initiatives affecting the practice of law were instituted. Below is a non-exhaustive list, bearing some of the more notable bills that become law this New Year.
S. 1007 – Expedited Mortgage Foreclosures (effective date 06/02/14)
This legislation provides for an expedited foreclosure of a mortgage where the real property is considered ‘abandoned’ as defined by the bill. ‘Abandoned property’ is defined as: real property subject to a mortgage that is not occupied and meets at least two of the conditions set out in the bill; or mortgaged property that is vacant and unimproved land in need of maintenance or repair. The legislation provides the process for obtaining the expedited foreclosure including notice requirements and the proper person to rule on a request for an expedited foreclosure.
H. 4673 – Landowners Liability (effective date 06/06/14)
This legislation limits the liability of owners of land where aviation activities occur toward persons granted permission to enter thereon for such purposes. Previously, the law limited liability for landowners who grant permission for people to enter for the purpose of “hunting, fishing, swimming, boating, camping, picnicking, hiking, pleasure driving, nature study, water skiing, summer and winter sports and viewing or enjoying historical, archaeological, scenic, or scientific sites.” This legislation added “aviation activities” to that list, which is defined as “taking off, flying, or landing an airplane or aircraft. Aviation activities do not include airshows or any activity where the general public is invited.”
H. 4348 – Grandparent Visitation (effective date 6/9/2014)
This act removes the requirement in a grandparent visitation case that the grandparent had a parent-child relationship with the child. The other factors for determining if visitation is proper remain, including that the court find, by clear and convincing evidence, compelling circumstances to overcome the presumption that the parental decision is in the child’s best interest.
H. 3014 – Veterans’ Court Treatment Program (effective date 6/10/2014)
This act provides that solicitors may create a diversion program for nonviolent veterans charged with a crime. The solicitors would establish the program and administer it. A solicitor is only required to establish such a diversion program if the solicitor accepts state funding for the program. If no funding is accepted, then a veterans’ court treatment program is optional.
H. 3102 – Jaidon’s Law (effective date 6/10/2014)
This act explicitly lists a conviction of homicide by child abuse as a reason to terminate parental rights if it is in the best interest of the child. Additionally, when the court is determining whether to return the child to the parent’s home, a drug test must be administered to the parent or both parents if the child was initially removed due to drug use. The results of the test must be considered with all other evidence in determining whether the child should be returned to the parent’s care.
S. 137 – Emma’s Law (DUI) (effective date 10/1/2014)
The key changes made by this act are (1) the requirement that an ignition interlock device be installed in the vehicle of a person convicted of first offense DUI if the person blew a 0.15 or higher and (2) the ineligibility of a person for a provisional license if the person is convicted of DUI first and refused to blow. The person who refused to blow and was convicted of DUI first may have the ignition interlock device installed in order to use their vehicle.