Did you know? On Wednesday, Governor Henry McMaster proclaimed April 2021 as the Month of the Military Child.
The days are getting longer and warmer, and Spring is in full swing. We are 13 weeks into the 2021-2022 Session but we are not slowing down. This week was ‘crossover week’, meaning we spent the week pushing to get as many important bills passed out of the House as possible. This deadline is important as it makes the bills passed by our chamber more likely to be considered by the Senate this session. Some of the issues we honed in on this week were advancing our gun rights, establishing tax conformity, enhancing penalties for heinous crimes, and improving education.
Just a few weeks ago, we took a first step in expanding our firearm laws with H. 3094, a bill that allows open carry with training. On Wednesday, the House voted in favor of an additional Second Amendment bill. This bill, H. 3096, allows permitless open carry in South Carolina without requiring any training. Because of the lack of any training requirement I could not support this bill, however this bill passed by a vote of 69-47 and now moves over to the Senate along with the Open Carry with Training bill H. 3094. It is my hope that the Senate will take up these bills this year.
Clementa C. Pinckney Hate Crimes Act
By a vote of 79-29, the House passed the Clementa C. Pinckney Hate Crimes Act on Wednesday. This bill does not criminalize anything that is not already a felony but increases the penalty for a felony found to be motivated by a person’s discrimination against another’s race or gender. This motivation must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, and a jury decides (not a judge). This does not criminalize acts against property or crimes committed by minors who may not know better. I supported this bill on Tuesday because it allows the people of South Carolina (as jury members) to decide when a hate crime has been committed and protects our state from the most heinous of criminals.
Rep Weston Newton (District 120) captured the issue well when he said, “Protecting against violent criminal acts motivated by proven hatred is not a liberal or conservative issue. It is not a Republican or Democrat issue, it is not a white or Black issue, and it is not a gay or straight issue.”
Each year, the House passes a tax conformity bill that puts the State and Federal tax codes in line. This is an important bill to ensure when you go to file your taxes, our State rules match those of the Federal Government. This year we had a very large amount of people file for unemployment in SC due to the pandemic conditions and shut-down. This bill exempts the first $10,000 of benefits these folks received from State tax income, ensuring that these people are not penalized for the hardships they involuntarily faced. This bill, H. 4017, of which I was a co-sponsor, unanimously passed the House.
Life Scholarships (H. 3588)– This bill amends the criteria for Life Scholarships, requiring certain English, Mathematics, and Computer Science coursework to be completed for eligibility. This completion takes place during a student’s senior year to better prepare them for college. I was in favor of this bill, which passed Thursday.
Non-Certified Teachers in the Classroom (H. 3590)– I voted in favor of this bill, which allows public school districts to hire noncertified teachers (such as those who are retired or switched careers) for any school, career, and or technology center that have open teaching positions up until 5 days before the school year. Although these teachers may not comprise more than 25% of the staff and must have certain experience/academic requirements, this ensures that students have a teacher in the classroom no matter what. This passed by a vote of 99-17.
SC WINS (H. 3144)– I voted in favor of establishing the SC Workforce Industry Needs Scholarship (SC WINS). This means that certain students attending a two-year technical school are eligible for a scholarship upon meeting certain criteria and requirements. This passed the House on Wednesday by a vote of 105-1.
Other Legislative News
Training Firefighters (H. 3466)– This makes it more affordable for rural fire departments in South Carolina to operate. When a fire department trains a firefighter, they will be reimbursed for the costs of training if another fire department hires the trainee within a certain time. The reimbursement will come from the new employer of the firefighter. This protects the smaller departments that lose firefighters to larger, more desirable departments. This passed by a vote of 108-2.
COVID-19 Rent Assistance (H. 3770)– This gives access to millions of dollars in federal rent assistance and relief. It authorizes distribution and provides a manner for distribution. It gives aid to those who have experienced hardships during COVID-19, are at risk for experiencing homelessness, make less than 80% of the area’s median income, etc. This passed the House and Senate with amendments. It came back to the House this week, where it passed the General Assembly and moves to the Governor’s desk. For more information, https://www.thestate.com/news/state/south-carolina/article250447431.html
Weekly COVID-19 Update
*Numbers updated April 8th.
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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.