As South Carolina lawmakers return to the state capital in Columbia for the first day of an “emergency” extended session of the S.C. General Assembly this week, their primary focus is passing a new piece of pro-life legislation.
An amended version of S. 474 – which cleared the State Senate back in February – is up for debate in the House of Representatives on Tuesday. Our special projects director Dylan Nolan will be at the State House to track the first day of what is expected to be a lengthy debate on this issue.
Before House members get to this bill, though, they must determine their course of action on S. 96 – a piece of boater safety legislation that has already overwhelmingly cleared both chambers but is awaiting final approval in the House after being amended in the Senate.
Supporters are trying to get a final vote on the bill in the House, but powerful minority leader Todd Rutherford of Columbia, S.C. is blocking their efforts – with support from Republican lawmaker Phillip Lowe of Florence, S.C.
Readers may remember a recent guest column in support of this legislation by Randall Smith. They will also likely recall the impassioned efforts of Morgan Kiser, who appeared in our studios last February to tell the harrowing tale of what her family endured.
To recap: Shortly before 9:00 p.m. EDT on September 21, 2019, Kiser and her parents – Stanley Kiser and Shawn Kiser – were headed home in Stanley’s new pontoon boat near Susie Ebert Island in Lake Murray just northwest of Columbia, S.C. when a Baja boat driven by Tracy L. Gordon of Elgin, S.C. slammed into them.
The crash killed Stanley Kiser and severely injured his wife. In fact, Shawn Kiser’s leg was amputated as a result of injuries she sustained in the collision.
Gordon was charged with reckless homicide in connection with Stanley Kiser’s death. He is free on bond as he awaits trial.
Since that fateful evening, Morgan Kiser has made the passage of new boater safety legislation her raison d’être. In pursuit of that goal, she has become a fixture at the S.C. State House and at political events across the Palmetto State. She has also made numerous media appearances – including two interviews with us. Through her organization, ‘Safe The Lake,’ she has been educating elected officials on the importance of boater safety and pushing legislation that would require watercraft operators born after July 1, 2007 to complete a training course administered by the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR).
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Kiser has attracted plenty of attention in her new role – including from those eager to “kill” her preferred legislation.
In a post made last spring on the SCDucks.com website, representative Lowe – writing under the name “Duck Tape” – offered some interesting commentary on Kiser and her advocacy.
“When cute young ladies come to the legislature with a tragic story about a loved one who died in a boat accident, the lawmakers fall right in place,” he wrote.
Wait … what?
Take a look …
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Notwithstanding his commentary on Kiser, Lowe actually makes some decent points regarding this legislation – which according to him requires watercraft operators “to have permission from the government to run your boat.”
On the other hand, though, he acknowledged its potential efficacy – noting “there are some studies that show it’s helpful in some states with boating accidents.”
In an interview with this news outlet on Monday afternoon, Lowe told me he opposed the legislation on constitutional grounds – arguing it imposed an undue burden on the rights of those who fish in South Carolina rivers and lakes.
“People who hunt and fish have not been the problem,” Lowe added. “They deserve unrestricted access to public water without asking government for permission. Hunting and fishing are protected by a constitutional amendment.”
Lowe also took issue with the bill’s “phase-in” language, which according to him is evidence of political calculation on the part of its sponsors.
“If the problems are so bad (and) if this is going to solve it, let’s have everybody do it,” he said. “But they know that is not popular. They know that sportsmen of the state don’t want it.”
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As for his description of Kiser, Lowe told me he merely referred to her as “an attractive young lady who had a tragic loss of her father and a severe injury to her mother.”
“I don’t think there’s anything derogatory about saying something nice about a cute young woman who is telling a tragic story,” Lowe said. “I mean, that’s not derogatory. Why would you even interpret that as derogatory?”
“They’re not all cute young women,” Lowe added, referring to boater safety advocates, “but the one that was the most aggressive about going to the meetings was cute. She was young, she had a severe tragedy in her family.”
Lowe told me he wasn’t trying to diminish Kiser or what she was going through, only to caution his colleagues against rushing to support a piece of legislation based on an emotional appeal.
“I thought was a very nice way to say that these folks when they come to you and they’re telling you about a tragedy, it’s hard for your heart not to go out,” Lowe said. “And you know – if you don’t think clearly about it before you know it you’re going, ‘yeah, well, yeah, I’ll support you’ and you haven’t thought it out.”
What do you think of Lowe’s remark? Vote in our poll and post your thoughts in our always engaging comments section below …
Do you think Phillip Lowe's comment about "cute young ladies" pushing boater safety reform was appropriate?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children.
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