Legislative Update: Special Session Week 2
September 28, 2020
Legislative Update: Week 2, 2021
January 26, 2021
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Legislative Update: Week 1, 2021

Legislative Update: Week 1, 2021

Overview of the week:

This week, we began the 1st regular session of the 124th General Assembly. I was ready to be back in our state capital and am hopeful for a productive 2021! After the rollercoaster ride of 2020, this year is the perfect year for reform, transparency, and accountability. This week, we hit the ground running. So far, over 900 bills have been prefiled and many were introduced this week. Although there is a lot of excellent conservative legislation this session, I am most excited about the items below, which help further our Conservative Republican agenda, particularly education and law enforcement.

  1. Teacher Pay and Education Savings Accounts. When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, the education overhaul that began last year was put on hold. This session, there is a huge emphasis on improving conditions for teachers and students in South Carolina. My colleagues and I are dedicated to raising our teacher pay above the national average. H. 3609 would ensure teachers a step-increase pay raise from surplus funds in the Governor’s budget. It passed in committee this week and will now move to the House floor. This bill is only possible because of responsible fiscal conservatism in our state. Another goal for the state is to create Education Savings Accounts for eligible students. With an ESA, parents can direct the state’s education funding for their child into school tuition, books, and services of their choice. 
  2. Open Carry with Training Act. We have a right to bear arms protected under the Constitution of the United States and I will always oppose legislation that undermines that right. South Carolina is still one of only five states that does not allow open carry with a permit. H. 3094 ensures South Carolinians have the right to open carry with a permit, given they have received proper training. 
  3. South Carolina Stands for Life Act. This bill, H. 3163, also popularly known as the ‘Heartbeat Bill’, will make abortions illegal in South Carolina. We passed this bill in the House last year, but it never made it out of the Senate. We are hopeful that this year it will pass both the House and Senate. The Governor has promised to sign this into law. 
  4. Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology Program. H. 3146, also known as the GREAT program, aims to extend broadband access to the rural and underdeveloped areas of South Carolina. The importance of this has grown in the past year, as many classrooms and jobs have been brought home. 
  5. Emergency Powers Modifications. As our state felt the pain of the COVID-19 pandemic, weather emergencies, and statewide struggles, it became clear to my colleagues, citizens of South Carolina, and the Governor that we need to modernize and modify the Governors executive authority. Currently, the code is broad, and leaves open questions regarding the constitutional authority for the government to restrict certain freedoms. 
  6. Santee Cooper. On Tuesday, the House Ways and Means Committee laid out legislation that will affect Santee Cooper, South Carolina’s state-owned utility company. This bill created a mechanism for such a sale and outlines reform requirements for the company. It is unclear at this time what the fate will be for Santee Cooper however, one thing is certain: Santee Cooper must not continue operating in its current form. 
  7. Law Enforcement. It is crucial that South Carolina’s law enforcement is properly equipped to do their job. This not only means having appropriate protective gear, but also means they receive proper training and mental health resources are available to them. I will vote in favor of legislation that protects and supports our law enforcement. 

COVID-19 Adjustments and Virtual Committee Meetings:

Our aim is to run the government like a business. This means we want to protect our employees while still getting our job done efficiently to improve the state of South Carolina. We will be flexible and take whatever steps necessary to keep our colleagues, staff, and everyone else involved in the legislative process safe. By a vote of 104-2, the House has passed a rule change to allow committees to meet virtually in extraordinary circumstances, such as during a pandemic. Although this is not ideal, this will ultimately save resources and ensure all members are kept healthy and safe. 

Governor McMaster’s State of the State Address:

On Wednesday night, Governor Henry McMaster gave his annual State of the State address. I joined him in praying for and honoring the members of law enforcement that we have lost this year and thanking the many frontline workers who have made huge sacrifices during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our state experienced tough times during the pandemic. South Carolina had to slow down but never stopped; we never completely shut down. Since, we have regained over 80% of jobs lost due to the pandemic. McMaster broke down several aspects of his conservative Executive Budget, which included even more COVID-19 relief for our state. Governor McMaster addressed other important goals, such as education. He aims to have students back in the classroom 5 days a week, in which there would be a nurse, school resource officer, and mental health counselor always readily available to them. He emphasized the importance of parents having the choice to send their child to whatever school they feel is best. Until then, he emphasized the importance of expanding broadband internet to rural areas of South Carolina, so students and parents can effectively work from home. Other agenda items I am particularly glad he mentioned included the Heartbeat Bill to outlaw abortions in SC, funding and proving better mental health resources to law enforcement, and putting an end to the corruption behind Santee Cooper. Finally, he shared his goal to restructure DHEC to make it more accountable to the people of South Carolina. After all we have gone through as a state in the past year, he reminds us that this year is a good year for reform, transparency, efficiency, and accountability. We have seen violence, lawlessness, and rage, but the Governor reminds us that we are all on the same team, working towards the same goal of making South Carolina a better place to live.

COVID-19 Resources:

– Gov. Henry McMaster and DHEC announced that beginning Wednesday, Jan. 13, any South Carolina resident aged 70 or older, regardless of health status or preexisting conditions, can begin scheduling their appointment to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Vaccines can ONLY be administered by appointment. Use scdhec.gov/vaxlocator to see locations accepting appointments for COVID-19 vaccine. Pick a location and call the phone number listed to make an appointment. Visit https://scdhec.govfor more information.

 – SBA loans are available to qualifying businesses and help businesses keep their workforce employed during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis. Visit this website for more information about how your business can qualify: https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/loans/coronavirus-relief-options/paycheck-protection-program#section-header-0 

-For other helpful COVID-19 resources, visit the Accelerate SC website: https://accelerate.sc.gov 

Other Important Links:

-For updates from the Governor, visit: https://governor.sc.gov 

-To track a bill, live stream session or meetings, and other information, visit the State Legislature website: https://www.scstatehouse.gov/index.php

-To download the SC Legislature Mobile app for iOS and Android devices, search “SC Legislature” on the App Store/Google Play.

It is an honor and a privilege to serve you in Columbia. If you need help navigating state government, or have any thoughts or concerns about what we are doing, please do not hesitate to contact me.

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