Fellow Warriors for Justice,
It is with great pleasure that I send this report tonight. Late this afternoon, the Senate passed our registry reform bill by a vote of 42 to 0! While the bill certainly isn’t perfect, it is a great step forward, and for the first time, will offer registrants a possible path off the registry. I was astounded at how smoothly it went, particularly after enduring almost two hours of debate on a bill prohibiting transgender students from participation in athletic leagues for their adopted gender. Kudos to Sen. Brad Hutto from Orangeburg for his excellent presentation of the bill, as well as his efforts to bring it to fruition.
In the end, the two original bills that had been introduced got dropped, but the contents were incorporated by amendment into another bill that had already passed the House and made it to the Senate. Now the bill must go back to the House for acceptance of the amendment. With only four days left for processing bills in the legislative session, that should now happen the beginning of next week, unless they add it to the House calendar during their floor session tomorrow.
Barring any significant amendment in the House, which probably can’t happen at this point, here is what the bill contains. First, it codifies the definitions of the registry tiers, assigning each registrable offense to a tier. In formulating these assignments, several offenses are moving down one tier from the current assignments that are being used by SLED. It is likely that several thousand people will move to a lower tier once these are implemented. Now, no one under 12 years old can be placed on the registry and any 13 or 14 year-old will be put on only if the Family Court judge handling their case determines that they pose a significant risk. I haven’t seen the text of the amendment yet, but I believe that we finally achieved the long sought-after judicial discretion on registration of any juvenile processed by the Family Court.
Now, the part that many of you have been waiting for – everyone has the possibility of being removed from the registry after a tier-dependent time period if they meet the following conditions: offense-free for the duration of the time, completed any sentence and supervision successfully, completed any required treatment program successfully. For Tier 1 registrants, the time period is 15 years, for Tier II, 20 years, and for Tier III, 30 years. For Tier I and Tier II, SLED will trigger the removal process automatically, but they will notify any victims and the Solicitor of the convicting county, who can oppose the de-registration with cause. That will cause the matter to become a court petition, and both sides will be able to present any evidence for or against removal. The judge will determine, by the preponderance of the evidence, whether the person is of a high enough risk to warrant continued registration. All Tier III registrants will have to go through the court process.
So, the bill to watch is H 4075. I expect the House to add it to their calendar early in tomorrow’s session, which starts at 10 a.m. In addition to tomorrow’s session, I expect them to meet Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday next week. That’s the end, without some special modifications of the rules. If you want to watch the House in action, you can find their video broadcasts at https://scstatehouse.gov. Click on the “House” link in the Chamber Video box at the upper left part of the page. And by all means, call and/or email your own representatives ASAP, to ask for their support for H 4075! Let’s hope and pray that the path through the House is as smooth as it was in the Senate today.
Thank you for your interest and support.
NARSOL State Advocate
SCRSOL Legislative Director