SC House has Santee Cooper; Senate has abortion on calendars

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Supporters of a bill that would ban almost all abortions in South Carolina listen during a Senate subcommittee hearing on Jan. 14, 2021, in Columbia, S.C. The heartbeat abortion bill has stalled in recent years, but appears to have a good chance of passing in 2021.(AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Both the South Carolina House and Senate have long awaited and likely contentious bills on their calendars this week.

The Senate could debate a bill that would ban almost all abortions in the state, while on the House calendar is a bill to let a special committee of lawmakers seek new bids to buy state-owned utility Santee Cooper.

While the bills could be debated this week, lawmakers can also delay considering them.

The Senate abortion bill would require doctors to ultrasound to check for a heartbeat in a fetus and prohibit an abortion if one is detected unless the pregnant woman’s life is in danger.

The Senate has failed to pass similar bills in recent years because they cannot get enough votes to overcome a procedural hurdle. Three seats flipping from Democrats to Republicans in 2020 leaves abortion opponents hopeful they can pass the bill this year.

The Santee Cooper bill up for debate in the House would allow a committee of three senators and three House members to set up a system to accept bids to buy some or all of the utility and its assets.

Lawmakers weren’t happy with a bid selected last year from NextEra Energy of Florida. They have been considering the sale since construction halted in 2017 on a pair of nuclear reactors. Santee Cooper was a minority partner in the project and ended up with billons of dollars of debt.

The bill would also remove all Santee Cooper board members and give state regulators more power over the utility’s rates.

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