New bill to crack down on handicapped spaces sitting on Sanford's desk

By Matt Horton bio | email

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - A new bill sitting on the governor's desk has Lowcountry roots. A Summerville woman actually helped write the bill that will punish people who park in handicapped parking spaces but who aren't really handicapped.

"I have multiple sclerosis and I lead a multiple sclerosis support group. I have so many in my group who use a cane and a walker. They had talked about this being a problem and I knew it was problem for me also."

From the comfort of her home, Elizabeth Peterson is helping to make laws and change lives.

From her living room, she makes calls to the governor's office and to the state house. "I would like to speak with someone concerning the handicap parking reform act that Governor Sanford will be signing. It's Senate 126. They've labeled it the handi-cap-parking-reform-bill," said Peterson over the phone, trying to track progress of the bill.

Peterson has a high level of involvement with the bill because it's legislation she helped write and amend with Senators Vincent Sheheen and Dick Elliot. The idea came from watching able-bodied people do something she called very annoying and very illegal.

"We're so hoping that this will discourage people just to pick up someone's placard for the convenience of getting a close up [space]," said Peterson. "We wanted pictures to be put on the placards."

According to Peterson, her bill will increase the fines for illegally parking in a handicapped space to $500 and the maximum will be $1,000. Also, having a placard will come with an identification card that has to be carried at all times.

People who use the cards also need to prove they cannot walk 100 continuous feet and provide doctors' notes verifying disabilites will be individually tailored.

So far, progress on the bill has been good. "It did pass the Senate and it did pass the House."

All that's keeping this bill from becoming law is a signature from South Carolina's chief executive. The public has until May 27 to make their voices heard. "Call the governor's office in the next five days and let him know that this is so important to have for people who need these parks."

If Gov. Sanford signs off on this legislation, Peterson will have a permanent place in South Carolina's legal history, but she's not after the glory. "I feel that I've done something to help other people. Not me, but other people."

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