Antisemitism and 'sanctuary cities' bill inserted into South Carolina state budget

South Carolina senators used the state's $8 billion budget Thursday to give new life to two stalled bills that define anti-Semitism and require the state to certify local governments are enforcing federal immigration laws and not creating so-called sanctuary cities.

Inserting the language into the budget gives them a second chance at becoming law — although, technically just for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

A proposal inserted by Sen. William Timmons, R-Greenville, requires the State Law Enforcement Division to collect information on every local government's immigration enforcement practices.

A House committee advanced a bill with the same wording last month, despite criticism from Democrats and several Republicans who called it a political stunt to help Gov. Henry McMaster in his Republican primary race.

That legislation effectively died when the full House failed to vote on it in time for Tuesday's deadline for bills crossing from one chamber to the other.

The immigration law, supporters argue, is needed to ensure South Carolina local governments don't become "sanctuary cities," meaning they don't assist the federal government in detaining undocumented immigrants.

"I talked to the governor's office and this was something they were passionate about," Timmons said, adding the legislation will stop "rogue law enforcement agencies" from ignoring the law.

McMaster and Timmons admit there are no such cities in South Carolina, and a law passed in 2011 already allows residents to file a civil lawsuit if their local government isn't cooperating with federal immigration officials.

McMaster celebrated Timmons' change to the budget.

"Thanks to Sen. William Timmons and the rest of the Senate for sending a loud and clear message to the world that criminals won’t find sanctuary here," McMaster's wrote on Twitter.

A bipartisan bill defining anti-Semitism for South Carolina’s colleges stalled last year after receiving overwhelming approval in the House and tentative approval in the Senate.

Sen. Larry Grooms, R-Charleston, got it into the budget on his second attempt.

Supporters say it's needed to curb a national rise of anti-Jewish bigotry on campuses. Its sponsor, Rep. Alan Clemmons, R-Myrtle Beach, said Jewish students are disproportionately the victims of anti-religious discrimination, but cases aren't made due to the lack of a definition.

The proposal would require colleges to apply the definition when deciding whether an incident or speech violates anti-discrimination policies. Penalties would depend on each college's policies.

Opponents have argued it could limit First Amendment rights to criticize Israel.

Also on Thursday, GOP Sens. Richard Cash and Shane Martin tried several times, unsuccessfully, to defund abortion clinics in South Carolina by barring them from receiving any money for the non-abortion services they provide, such as women’s annual exams, mammograms and birth control. Doing so would have required rejecting $34 million in federal Medicaid money and replacing it with state money.

Lt. Gov. Kevin Bryant, who’s running for governor, praised senators who voted for the proposals.

"Unfortunately, the Senate chose to continue sending taxpayer dollars to an organization that kills unborn children,” he said.

Senators approved one dollar-figure change to the budget Thursday, voting 31-10 to give state employees who make less than $50,000 a one-time, $500 bonus.

Sen. Darrell Jackson, D-Columbia, said more than 75 percent of workers will benefit.

Attempts in both the House and Senate to give across-the-board raises have failed.

The budget now goes to a joint House and Senate committee to hash out the differences in their plans.

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