SC Rep. Brannon holds Town Hall meeting at Landrum Depot:
Published 11:34 pm Tuesday, January 26, 2016
Marijuana oil, fetal tissue sales, firearm waiting periods and gas tax on agenda
By Michael O’Hearn
South Carolina Rep. Doug Brannon held a town hall meeting Jan. 14 at Landrum Depot to talk to residents of District 38 about the 156 bills that have been pre-filed in the state legislature. Among these bills are three Brannon introduced.
The first of three bills Brannon pre-filed has to do with the legalization and distribution of the oils extracted from marijuana.
“These oils are a derivative of marijuana, and I did that because of two people,” Brannon said. “One works as a circuit court judge in Spartanburg, is in her mid-30s and has been suffering with cancer for years. She has bone cancer and there are treatments that would keep it kind of stable, but she is in pain, and when you would walk into her office she would always smile at you but you can see it beneath the smile.”
Brannon said the oils would help her with that pain, but there is no distribution process set in place to get people this medicine although medical marijuana is already legal in South Carolina. Brannon said his bill creates a distribution system for the oil used for medicinal purposes.
The other person Brannon referred to as the inspiration for creating the bill is his mother.
“My mom suffers from rheumatoid arthritis and she’s allergic to all opioid medicines,” Brannon told the audience. “So, when she uses Tylenol, all that does is cause ulcers. I don’t know if she would do it but, by golly if she will, I’ll get it for her.”
The second bill introduced by Brannon regards the prohibition of the sale of fetal tissues.
“I have trouble even saying this, but this bill prohibits the sale of fetal tissues,” Brannon said. “It makes it illegal in South Carolina. I can’t make abortion illegal, I just can’t do that, but we shouldn’t be able to sell dead babies because you can’t tell me that that’s not being used as an arm twist to get somebody or some young lady that’s pregnant and needs money to get her to abort that child.”
The next bill is, as Brannon said, perhaps the most controversial bill he is proposing.
Brannon proposes extending the waiting period an individual has for a criminal background check before he or she can legally buy a firearm from three days to 28 days.
“This bill would prevent someone from buying a gun for up to 28 days until their criminal background is actually back, until it is completed,” Brannon said. “Most of you know that I had a friend who, on June 16, 2015, get shot and killed at a church in Charleston, S.C. His name was Clementa Pinckney. He was almost seven feet tall and was just a huge man and had a voice that sounded like God talking. The man who shot him could not legally possess a firearm.”
Brannon referred to Dylann Roof, the man responsible for Pinckney’s death at Emanuel Baptist Church. Because his criminal background check took longer than three days, according to Brannon, he was able to possess the firearms he used to kill nine people inside the church.
“The gun dealer legally sold him the firearm, and what my bill does is it moves the three day — right now it’s called an instant background check – period, and extends it to 28 days,” Brannon explained. “If you want to know why I picked 28 days, there is one form of criminal check that is an international criminal check that takes 25 days and is a check that is done by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. We have so many people moving into the United States and we need to make sure we can check their backgrounds as well.”
Brannon said he supports raising the tax in South Carolina in regards to fixing the roads in the state.
“For years now, I have supported the idea of raising the gas tax,” Brannon said.
Brannon gave estimates as to how much money needs to be spent to fix the roads in South Carolina.
“Let me give you some estimates, and this comes from the House Ways and Means Committee today, for the primary road system. To preserve it in its current condition costs $11,500 per lane mile. That’s fixing the potholes. To rehabilitate that same one lane mile it is $160,000 and to reconstruct that same individual lane mile is $250,000.”
Brannon estimated that 30 percent of gas sales in South Carolina is to someone not from the state.
“We are giving our gas away at our own expense,” Brannon explained. “The South Carolina Truckers Association is pleading with us to raise the gas tax. They’re the ones who do the most damage to our roads and they are asking us to raise the gas tax.”
Joan Clyborne of Motlow Creek asked a question about this explanation.
“So, when the North Carolina cars come into South Carolina, they pay our gas tax?” she asked, to which Brannon responded that North Carolinians save themselves 30 cents a gallon to come three miles across the state line.
“But they are coming over and paying us?” Clyborne asked.
“Of course, they’re paying the price that is shown at the pumps but if they went and bought the same amount of gallons in Columbus, N.C. it would cost them 30 cents a gallon more,” Brannon responded. “I’m not being critical of people from North Carolina, that’s brilliant, but we can raise the gas tax by 15 cents a gallon and, my goodness, I will do that.”
“They come over here because our tax is lower and if they stay in North Carolina we get nothing,” Clyborne said. “But, because they’re coming over here we get more taxes from people in other states.”
Another audience member asked, “Where has the $700 billion gone if only 25 percent of it has been spent on repairing roads? I just really don’t like that the first thing that happens is that we raise the gas tax.”
“I would question your statistic, first of all,” Brannon responded to the audience member. “The gas tax hasn’t been raised since 1982, so you can’t argue it’s the first thing we’ve done. Two years ago, we passed an act that said that over three years we would use over $325 million on the interstates so, I mean, we have the largest number of state road miles in the country. We are spending over $100 million on repairing our roads. There’s just so many roads that need repairs that you’re seeing it spread out.”
Brannon also made the distinction that more money would be spent in Charleston than in Landrum because it is where the tourist dollars go.
“The money is being spent on roads, it is just not being spent where we live,” Brannon said, to which the audience member responded the need for money should not always mean having to raise the taxes on anything.
Brannon has made two attempts during his four years as a representative to raise the gas tax 10 cents, and Brannon said these attempts have never even been able to exit committee.
“The bill that did pass that does raise the gas tax by 12 cents a gallon over three years is in the Senate waiting for the Senate to consider it,” Brannon said. “Last year, I introduced a bill that would have raised the gas tax, which was able to get some sponsors, 15 cents over five years and it was for anybody that wasn’t a resident of South Carolina or who was a commercial driver.”
Residents of South Carolina who owned a private vehicle would have to visit the clerk at the gas pump and show them their driver’s license to provide proof of residency within the state to be exempt from the tax, according to Brannon. The bill did not get out of the House.
Another audience member suggested the state abandon Landrum Mill Road and give it to Spartanburg County to fix.
“I don’t care how much money is put into the pot,” the audience member explained. “Abandon the road and let Spartanburg County fix it.”
Brannon thanked the audience member for bringing up this point, as there is a bill that has been passed concerning this issue.
“There is a bill out there for cities and counties and gives them the roads that are in their jurisdictions,” Brannon explained. “If you want that road, we’ll give you the money right now, today, to bring it up to state standards. But, it is your road and you’re never going to get another dollar from the state to fix it. This shrinks the number of roads in the state system.”
After touching on the subject of immigration and what Gov. Nikki Haley is doing to make sure immigrants coming to the state are being checked for terrorist ties, Brannon opened the floor to questions from the audience to close the meeting.
At this time, the audience members thanked Brannon for his leadership, especially in the fight against Duke Energy’s plan to bring a transmission line to the Foothills, and commended him for standing up for the people during his four years as District 38 representative.