Like a NASCAR race, the SC General Assembly is rounding the final turn and heading for the finish line in this year’s regular legislative session, which is required to end May 13th. Legislation is moving swiftly to beat-the-clock before that deadline. There will still be plenty of work after the May deadline as we continue to finalize the state budget and work on the once-a-decade redistricting in the fall (the long-delayed census data is many months overdue).
PUSHBACK — CRITICAL VICTORY!
The House Judiciary Committee voted to send the Article V Convention of States Resolution to the House floor. The vote in favor was 14-8. The CoS legislation is on the House calendar for debate. Fifty-four of my colleagues have joined me in sponsoring H.3205, recognizing the critical need for states to come together and PROPOSE amendments to the U.S. Constitution to limit the federal government’s over-reach (think term limits, a balanced budget, etc.) Any proposed amendment would need to be ratified by three-quarters of the states – a very high jump bar.
The Power of Citizens
Without the backing of 42,000 South Carolinians, this week’s critical vote might not have happened. Supporters of the Article V Convention of States filled two overflow rooms at the Statehouse to watch the House Judiciary Committee pass the CoS Resolution. Thank You to CoS’ grassroots army!
COVID Protection for Biz
SC businesses and healthcare providers can breathe easier about being slapped with frivolous lawsuits from people blaming them for being infected with COVID-19. Thursday, the House gave a final vote to priority legislation providing businesses “a safe harbor from liability” as long as they follow public health guidelines in response to the pandemic. The safety protections extend back to the first declaration of a state of emergency on March 13, 2020, and last until 180 days after the state of emergency is lifted in the future. Gov. Henry McMaster is eager to sign the bill saying, “10% of our state’s small businesses have been forced to close permanently. Among those that remain open, 70% of them cite the lack of liability protection as the greatest threat to their future.”
Senate Reins In Santee Cooper
After three days of debate, Senators approved legislation reforming the government-owned utility, Santee Cooper. However, they didn’t seek new bids to sell the utility. Reforms include cutting the terms of board members, jettisoning board members who served when the nuclear project failed and requiring public hearings on rate increases for the first time. The House passed the bill earlier, calling for the sale of Santee Cooper to be considered. Representatives will now have the opportunity to review the Senate’s proposal. Gov. McMaster has repeatedly called for the state needs to get out of the power business. Following the debate, one Senator said, “This general assembly missed an opportunity to offload this albatross.”
My former colleague, Rep. Peter McCoy, who was most recently the U.S. Attorney for SC, was nominated to be Chairman of the Santee Cooper Board of Directors this week by Gov. McMaster.
Back to School!
The House gave final approval to legislation that requires all school districts in SC to provide an option for five days a week, in-person learning by April 26th. Parents can decide what learning format best fits their students. This bill (S.147) also addresses SC’s severe teacher shortage. It suspends the earning limitation for retired teachers, ensuring that retired teachers can return to school without fear of having their retirement benefits suspended. That provision is good for 36 consecutive months. This bill is a necessary step toward getting our students statewide back on a path to having a solid education. Gov. McMaster, who has been pressing for in-classroom instruction, quickly signed the bill.
Election Reform – Confusion Voting
Have you ever seen a candidate’s on a ballot running for office representing more than one political party? Democrats use this tactic to try and get more votes. It’s called fusion candidacy. It is more aptly referred to as “Confusion Voting”. I filed legislation (H.3206) to eliminate this archaic system that was popular in the 19th Century. Only eight states still allow it (and we don’t want to be like NY, CA, & OR). The House panel approved my bill. It now goes to the full Judiciary Committee for consideration.
Voting Integrity Debated
The same Judiciary subcommittee heard testimony on a newly filed bill (H.4150) that would clean up our absentee ballot excuses and tighten the process. To make voting easy and more convenient, the legislation calls for 14 day no-excuse, early voting at various satellite precincts at multiple location across each county. I’m a cosponsor of this bill.
Senate Tackles State Budget
The Senate will spend next week debating the state budget – and they have a lot more money to spend. The House budget plan passed in March was austere at $9.6 billion. But since then, state revenue forecasters modified expected tax revenues that now totals $11.4 billion for the state’s General Fund.
Fetal Heartbeat Bill Honored
This morning, I was honored to present a framed copy of The South Carolina Fetal Heartbeat Bill to Life Choices Pregnancy Care Center, Aiken. Kathryn Wade, the Center’s Executive Director, said the framed legislation will proudly be displayed at the Center which serves as a safe place for women and families facing an unplanned pregnancy. Their caring staff strives to provide a professional and safe environment for those seeking pregnancy counseling.
In the absence of official guidance from the NCAA or Congress, states are racing to pass legislation to allow collegiate athletes to be compensated for Name, Image, Likeness (NIL) contracts. The House Education Committee voted to send S.685 to the full House. It provides guidelines and safeguards to protect student athletes and college athletics programs from misuse or abuse of the NIL contracts.
Enhancing Veteran Education Opportunities
The Education Committee approved legislation (S.241) that removes the time limit for which a veteran or their beneficiary must use their “GI Bills” in order to get in-state tuition in SC, regardless of their residency.
The House Education Committee approved a bill that removes state summative assessments for social studies and United States History. If adopted, H.3592 aligns summative assessments in grades three through eight and high school with the mandates of the federal ‘Every Student Succeeds Act’. Students will still have to pass United States History to earn a diploma.
Safe Haven for Infants
This bill (H.4019) allows infants up to one year old to be surrendered to a safe haven location without criminal prosecution of the parent. This extends the definition of an infant from the previous 60-days-old definition, providing more protections for more children for a longer period of time.
Insulin for Students
On Tuesday, H. 3336 passed the SC House, allowing volunteers in schools who have been fully trained by a registered nurse to administer glucagon, insulin, or both to students who may need it. Ensuring that the students who require medicine receive it safely is a huge priority, especially under the current high-stress COVID-19 circumstances.
To receive due process (as enumerated in the U.S. Constitution), a defendant must reach a level of mental competency to stand trial. Previously, the evaluation period for mental competency to stand trial was a mere 60 days. This week, the House unanimously passed a bill that extends the evaluation period to 180 days.
JOBS! JOBS! JOBS!
Governor McMaster and House Speaker Jay Lucas joined the South Carolina Manufacturers Alliance this week to release an “Economic Impact of South Carolina” study and discussed the vast role that manufacturing plays in South Carolina’s economy. Here are some highlights from the report:
- 30% of jobs in SC are tied to manufacturing
- 38% of the state’s general fund revenues comes from manufacturing
- Manufacturing has a $206B impact each year in SC
- 16% of SC’s GDP is associated with manufacturing
- For every 10 manufacturing jobs created, another 14 other jobs are created elsewhere in SC
SC is in Phase 1C of the vaccination process. Anyone 16+ is eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine with an appointment. 40.0% of South Carolina citizens have started the vaccination process. 27.7% of SC citizens are fully vaccinated. 2,687,160 vaccines have been given to SC residents to date.
- Visit https://scdhec.gov/covid19/covid-19-vaccine/covid-19-vaccine-appointments to make a vaccination appointment at a provider near you.
PHOTO OF THE WEEK
Congratulations to my colleague, Rep. Bill Clyburn, who was named the Aiken Chamber of Commerce’s ‘Man of the Year’ at tonight’s Chamber gala at USCA. Bill was described as a man of strong faith, a giver, an achiever, an educator – a person whose life proves his love of helping others.
I’m Available and AT YOUR SERVICE
It is my honor to be of service. If you need assistance during these trying times, navigating though the flow of information on COVID-19, navigating state government or have any thoughts or concerns about what the legislature, please do not hesitate to contact me.
In Your Service,
South Carolina General Assembly
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