"You wanna fight?"

Turtles??

Martial Arts??

We’re not talking about a teenage movie; we’re talking bills your state leaders approved today after the debate on the much discussed “Voter ID” bill (H.3418).

In a day filled with emotions, a colleague speaking from the podium asked another member “You wanna fight?” The comment actually broke the tension that had built up in the room after almost TEN HOURS of debate today on a variety of issues, mainly the voting process in our state.

It also capped a day where we passed a Mixed Martial Arts bill (H.3042) and a bill to limit the number of turtles that can be transported out of state (H3121).

On what is usually a light day, this Thursday started with the usual 115+ members in attendance but ended up with less than 70 representatives voting on a handful of bills. That number of representatives (less than 70) is dangerously close to not meeting the required “quorum” needed for us to conduct business.

It takes 63 members present to conduct business in our body and it’s debatable if we dipped below that during some parts of the evening…especially during some early evening quorum calls (something I have never seen in 5 years). Quorum calls are usually only done when we return from lunch every day and are really just formalities. Tonight? It wasn’t formalities; it was one of the only remaining strategies the minority party had left to use.

In fact, before one of the tallies on quorum call, the Speaker reminded the body that if a quorum wasn’t present, House Rule 3.9 would be invoked. What’s that? It’s commonly referred to as “lock down” and it requires the Sergeant of Arms to close the State House building and bring all the Representatives that are not presently in the chamber back to Columbia. (By the way, it’s never been used in my 5 years but the mere threat does get people’s attention).

How’d we get to that point?

Well, the day started off on the right foot with some lunchtime “bipartisanship”. The House Republican and Democrat Caucuses provided Chickfila sandwiches for all members since we were going to “work through lunch” but after lunch, it was all downhill, fast.

“Fast” is relative in politics but I can tell you it did “speed up” when cloture was invoked on the Voter ID debate. Cloture is when debate is limited on the bill. No more amendments can be put up on the desk after cloture is invoked. Those amendments that are on the desk are also only allowed to be debated 3 minutes for and 3 minutes against. Then, after all amendments, the entire body shares up to 1 hour for and 1 hour against the bill.

That cloture vote didn’t go over well in the chamber. By now, you’ve read about the walkout of several members near the end of the Voter ID debate. That walkout left only 79 representatives (out of 124) to decide the bill’s fate (of course, many would agree the fate was never in doubt). In the end the bill passed (65-14) and now voters will need a SC photo ID, passport, or military ID when they go to the polls.

After the Voter ID bill, we pushed on to clear the calendar and took up “Fusion Voting” (H3067). Long story short, with a vote of 61-7, candidates will no longer be listed on the ballot by more than one party. An amendment to the bill also passed that will remove the “straight party” voting option at the ballot box. It’s still unsure what party this helps or hurts, but I supported it because I believe in the idea of voting for the person; not the party. Also, since school board elections are non-partisan, voters who have pulled “straight ticket” have not participated in those non-partisan elections.

So if you’re keeping score at home ….today we changed voting laws, helped bring mixed-martial arts to our state, and protected turtles from leaving.

Weren’t those the items you’ve been telling your representative will move our state forward?