By Jeremy Borden
COLUMBIA – An 1800s-era South Carolina law that led to state police cracking down on a retirement community’s card and dice games may see a change under a bill that passed a Senate panel on Tuesday.
The S.C. Senate Judiciary Committee also passed a bill that would crack down on unruly library patrons.
Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, said his email was flooded after state police told the community manager at Sun City Hilton Head that bridge, Mahjong and other games were illegal and needed to be stopped. The committee agreed in a 21-0 vote that the law needed an update and wasn’t aimed at social gatherings among retirees.
Davis said that the Supreme Court has asked the Legislature to update the law, which prohibits all forms of gambling – even non-betting games.
The bill, S. 779, does not allow any gambling. Davis said that sometimes retirees in Sun City, a large age-restricted community, like to bet a few dollars on a game. That will remain illegal, Davis said.
“We’ll have to come up with some other way of keeping score,” Davis said.
The panel also moved along a bill aimed at discouraging unruly library patrons. The public library trespass bill, S. 813, passed by a 19-0 vote. Under the bill, certain library officials can eject unruly patrons and police can charge those who cause major problems with a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine up to $200 and 30 days in jail.
Library officials around the state had pushed for stiffer penalties because of problem patrons who continued to return to the library even if they were asked to leave.
But Sen. Marlon Kimpson, D-Charleston, said he was concerned that any staffer could eject patrons for perceived slights. The library director or the branch manager would have to make the decision under an amendment authored by Kimpson.
A police officer would also have to be present and the patron would have to receive the notice in writing. He or she could also appeal the ejection or alleged crime.
Kimpson said he wanted library employees to use the ability to eject patrons and charge them with a crime sparingly. “To allow a rank and file employee the ability to make a subjective decisions kicking someone out of the library is counter to public policy,” Kimpson said.
Both bills are expected to be taken up by the full Senate in the coming weeks.