Repeat offenders bill rides 'overwhelming support' to SC House

Repeat offenders bill rides 'overwhelming support' to SC House

COLUMBIA, SC (WCSC) - A bill tailored to keep repeat offenders off the streets passed it's third and final reading in the South Carolina Senate Wednesday. The unanimous decision to pass Senate Bill 19 was powered by overwhelming support by senators to get the bill to the House before the cross over deadline on May 1.

Senate Bill 19, which was introduced by state senators Robert Ford and Chip Campsen, aims to stop the revolving door by tacking on a bigger punishment for anyone arrested for a serious crime while out on bond.

Senator Campsen said his fellow senators were 'determined to get it done' and expects the bill to be given it's first reading on the House floor Thursday morning.

After months in limbo, the bill was polled out of a Judiciary committee in mid-April to be amended to garner support before to push senators to pass the bill onto the House.

"This has been a big time issue in Charleston," said senator Paul Thurmond, Tuesday during the bill's second reading.

He explained the re-worded bill now will require a circuit court judge to set bond for people who commit serious crimes while out on bond within 30 days of their arrest.

"If you are reading the original bill it is drastically different," said Thurmond.

Another amendment to the bill struck out an additional jail time punishment for repeat offenders.

Legislator's scratched out the section requiring an additional five years in prison for those re-offending while out on bond. Sen. Campsen says the change was made to get the greatest possible support for the bill now in hopes it will pass this year.

After it's second reading, 42 senators voted to unanimously pass Senate Bill 19 onto it's final reading.

"This bill will make a difference," said Vanessa Halyard, who's son was killed in 1998 by a repeat offender. "Once [repeat offenders] see we mean business then I think it should deter it some but we have to do this one brick at a time."

Halyard said 'this brick' needs to be set as soon as possible.

Her son, William, was 23-years-old and a few months shy of graduating college at South Carolina State University when a man with a long criminal record shot and killed him.

"I miss him so much it's unbelievable," said Halyard, who is still struggling 15 years later. "He was out there long enough to kill my son, another young man and wound three others. If this bill was in effect at that time my child would still be living today."

According to Thurmond, if someone is arrested for a serious or most serious crime while out on bond, that person would have to have their bond set by a circuit judge within 30 days.

"There is a good chance we can pass this by the end of the year," said Sen. Campsen.

The bill will have to survive through three readings in the House before it can become law. There is the possibility the bill may get tied up with additional amendments, however, Campsen says he is confident the repeat offenders bill is passable the way it is now.

Copyright 2013 WCSC. All rights reserved.