Attention legislative watchers – buckle up for what promises to be a significant and productive legislative session. The 2022 session of the SC General Assembly kicked off this past week, and we immediately focused on critical issues.
Curbing Distracted Driving
I have championed the ‘Hands-Free’ legislation to curb the distracted driving epidemic since I filed the first bill in SC in 2017. Opponents thwarted my efforts in the House, so I teamed with Sen. Tom Young (R-Aiken), who filed identical legislation in the Senate. On the second day of this session, a Senate subcommittee took a giant step toward making SC’s roads safer. Senators voted in favor of sending the ‘SC Hands-Free & Distracted Driving Act’ (S.248) to the full committee. This bill calls for a fine of $100 for holding a phone while driving. Second and subsequent offenses would bring a $300 fine.
Eyes Up, Phone Down!
Everyone sees distracted drivers peering into their cell phone screens while driving blind and polling shows 85% of SC voters believe texting while driving is a major contributing factor to the rise in auto accidents. Motorcyclists are more keenly aware of these drivers because of their vulnerability of being run over by that carelessness. SC’s ABATE members greeted legislators on their first morning back at the Statehouse, waving bright yellow signs. I spoke to their Statehouse rally and thanked these motorcyclists for being the warriors fighting for safer driving on our roads.
Every decade following the national census, state legislators are required to redraw political boundary lines to accommodate for population shifts and ensure that everyone in our state is being fairly represented. In December, we approved redistricting plans for state House and Senate districts. The House debated and approved a Congressional plan during our first week back. The districts for SC’s seven members of Congress closely resemble the current districts in place for the past decade. (Check out the map)
SC is one of 35 states that requires a Certificate of Need (CON) if health care providers want to expand services. CON overregulates healthcare, hurts competition, and has caused healthcare to be more expensive. Getting approval from the state is one of the biggest hurdles blocking providers from adding new beds, building new hospitals or nursing homes, or purchasing new, expensive healthcare equipment. Eliminating the CON laws has been a priority of many legislators for a decade (I’m the primary sponsor of H.3161). The good news is the Senate placed their CON legislation (S.290) on special order meaning it is the first bill they considered. Senators debated the bill last week, and passage could come this week.
What’s Ahead in 2022?
During the recent holidays, I wrote about legislative priorities for this session. In case you missed it, here is my best thinking on top agenda items:
- Money tops the agenda. For the counties adjacent to the Savannah River Site, decisions will be made on the disbursement of the $525 million from the legal settlement with the federal government for failing to remove plutonium from SRS as agreed. The Aiken legislative delegation is pressing hard for all the money spent on meaningful projects in our area.
- Also high on the money agenda is how best to spend more than $2 billion from the federal government’s American Rescue Plan. A sizeable portion of that funding must be used to bring high-speed broadband to rural South Carolina. I am committed to using this money wisely, prioritizing conservative budgeting and spending while giving South Carolina’s roads, highways, water, sewer a much-needed facelift and expansion.
- Pushing back on the over-reaching federal government will come in many ways. After the House passed the Article V Convention of States bill (3205) last May, the bill was sent to the Senate, where leadership has promised to move it to a vote. The House passed the bill to pushback on federal vaccine mandates in early December and await Senate approval. Other bills have been filed this session pushing back on Washington.
- Bills to increase election integrity are also top agenda items. SC was recently ranked #8 among states with high election integrity. Still, more needs to be done to pass common-sense reforms to ensure our elections are fair and secure.
- Legislation that would add real choice for parents to determine the best course for their children’s education has significant support among legislators. 2022 could likely be the year SC joins other states in offering parents Education Saving Accounts (ESA’s) to aid them in their quest to best educate their child. (3976)
- Critical Race Theory is a flashpoint in public education nationwide. While SC school districts deny they teach those Marxist-based theories, the legislation I sponsored (4343) will be a step forward in forbidding the use of CRT in our schools. That legislation is a priority and will be heard early in the session.
- Cutting Taxes: I believe in basic Republican principles, which means keeping taxes low. This year, as we prepare and finalize our state budget, I will vote to cut income taxes for the hard-working people of South Carolina.
A Bittersweet Farewell
The House of Representatives honored Lil Hayes on her retirement after 28 years of service to state government. Lil has been an exceptional legislative expert. Special to me was my six years working with Lil in my role as Chairman of the Higher Education Subcommittee.
Best wishes, Lil!
Aiken County News
GOOD NEWS! SCDOT reports it’s on schedule to open the Hwy. 302 bridge over the Edisto River in the middle of February (weather permitting). The 90-year-old bridge was closed in late 2020 when deemed unsafe. This closing and resulting detours, while necessary, have been highly inconvenient to many folks living and traveling in eastern Aiken County. The alternate routes have torn up other roads which need immediate attention.
Firefighter Family. It was a delight to join the Monetta Voluntary Fire Department “Family” for their annual meeting Saturday evening. Awards were presented for outstanding service, and they modeled their new jackets in these photos.
PHOTO OF THE WEEK
No better place to enjoy lunch than on the sunny steps of SC Statehouse! I joined students from Aiken’s St. Mary’s School during their lunch break after touring the Capitol on this first day of the 2022 legislative session.
I’m Available and AT YOUR SERVICE
It is my honor to be of service. If you need assistance during these trying times, navigating state government, or have any thoughts or concerns about the legislature, please do not hesitate to contact me.
In Your Service,
South Carolina General Assembly
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