The General Assembly is ON A ROLL!
The question to be answered is – what was accomplished? While not every bill we passed is listed, hopefully, this topline briefing will help you make that judgment. Regardless of my brevity on each topic, there’s a lot of ground to cover. So, buckle up and read on.
I begin with items on the Pushback Agenda that I introduced in February 2021. Various Representatives sponsored the Pushback legislation.
ULTIMATE PUSHBACK – Article V Convention of States (H.2305): Washington, We’re Coming to Fix You! After running the legislative gauntlet for nine years, the General Assembly finally voted to join the movement to call for a Convention of States to propose amendments to the U.S. Constitution limiting the federal government’s powers over our lives. S.C. is the 19th State to pass this Resolution; 34 states are needed to call the convention.
PUSHBACK – BBA (S.133): S.C. will become the 27th State to call for a Balanced Budget Amendment for the federal government through a separate call for an Article V Convention of States focused solely on spending. (Awaiting report from Conference Committee.)
PUSHBACK – Saved Women’s Sports (H.4608): This legislation requires student-athletes in the State to compete in sports based on their gender assigned at birth. It was signed into law by Gov. McMaster.
PUSHBACK – Vaccination Status (H.3126): Palmetto State citizens will not be discriminated against based on their decision to receive a vaccine or not to do so. The new law prevents State and local governments and school districts from requiring employees, first responders, or students to take the COVID-19 vaccine.
PUSHBACK – Medical Freedom (H.4776): South Carolinians will have more access to care, and more medical professionals will be able to practice at the entire level of their training after a conference committee agrees on a final version.
PUSHBACK – Freedom of Religion Act (H.3105): This law designates churches as essential services and prohibits the government from shutting them down in another pandemic or other emergency.
PUSHBACK – S.C. Heartbeat Bill (S.1): We believe in the sanctity of life. Passage of The Heartbeat Bill was a top priority of Republicans in the General Assembly as the two-year session began. The law is being challenged in court.
PUSHBACK – 2nd Amendment Protected (H.3094): This is huge! S.C. is now a ‘Second Amendment Sanctuary State.’ That means the federal government cannot compel S.C. law enforcement to enforce federal laws that limit citizens’ rights to keep and bear arms. Given our current times, this is a significant fortification of the 2A in the Palmetto State.
PUSHBACK – Open Carry Approved (H.3094): Pushing back on Washington’s gun-grabbing politicians, the 2nd Amendment Sanctuary State law includes OPEN CARRY of a weapon for those with a Concealed Weapons Permit. It’s a step forward to Constitutional Carry.
PUSHBACK – Teaching America’s Foundation (S.38): After years of battling the resistance from S.C.’s universities and colleges, we created the REACH ACT, which requires our public universities to teach the U.S. founding documents as a graduation requirement.
PUSHBACK – Pandemic Schooling: With the pandemic nearing an end, many school districts continued to shut out students, refusing to bring them back to the classroom. The legislature stepped in and required all school districts to provide an option for five days a week of in-person learning. The Governor immediately signed the bill.
Easier to Vote, Harder to Cheat
Election Integrity (S.108): A top priority, South Carolina now has one of the strongest election laws in the nation, solving a host of problems and settling potential issues with election integrity. For the first time, S.C. has in-person early voting for the two weeks preceding an election and stricter requirements for absentee ballots.
Tax Cuts Coming: South Carolina’s highest personal income tax rate is on the chopping block. While it is still being debated in conference committee, your tax rate will inevitably be cut significantly. The competing budgets created by the House and Senate are being ironed out in the next couple of weeks. The House version includes a $1 billion cut in income taxes.
Property Tax Exemption for Surviving Spouse (S.233): Following the death of a spouse, the surviving spouse may apply for a property tax exemption on the owner-occupied home.
Saving For Tough Times: The State will set aside a more significant percentage of funds into contingency or “rainy day” accounts to provide a larger cushion against hard times.
Teacher’s Pay Boost: Budget conferees are resolving the size of pay raises for public school teachers. The House budget proposal increases the minimum salary by $4,000 ($36,000 to $40,000).
Parental Choice (S.935): When finalized by a conference committee, Education Scholarship Accounts (ESAs) will be available for some of South Carolina’s most vulnerable students. This legislation will allow students who had no options beyond their zip code-assigned public schools to choose public or private schools.
Give Teachers a Break (S.946): It took an act of the General Assembly to ensure elementary school teachers receive ‘unencumbered’ time during their workday. Essentially, this is duty-free time to eat lunch and have some downtime to regroup before returning to educate our children.
Evaluating New Teachers (H.3591): The Governor has signed a bill to improve the means for evaluating educator preparation programs by publishing the “South Carolina Teacher Preparation Report Card” online. This evaluates the ability of educator preparation programs to train new teachers to guide and improve future educator training programs.
Education Funding: The perennial claim from many public education advocates is that schools are underfunded in S.C. They cite a funding formula set by the legislature in the 70s. That antiquated funding formula doesn’t consider the many funding streams that have been added over the decades resulting in mounds of money being sent to public schools with little to no improvement in student achievement. The budget conference committee is working to simplify the funding formula to provide more transparency, making it simpler and more accountable, so there is a better understanding of where tax dollars are going.
Expanded Palmetto Fellow Scholarships (H.3017): We must expand every opportunity to seek more education. The General Assembly passed a bill allowing Palmetto Fellow Scholarship recipients to use their scholarship at a Technical College, which is currently not allowed.
SC-WINS Scholarships (H.3144): This legislation establishes the S.C. Workforce Industry Needs Scholarship to address workforce shortages in South Carolina by providing scholarships for specific programs at our technical colleges.
The American Way (S.969): Gov. McMaster signed a bill that requires the display of the United States and South Carolina flag and mottos in public schools. Additionally, public schools will allow representatives of youth patriotic societies to speak to student gatherings about civic involvement.
Protecting Kids (S.1103): With a unanimous vote of the House and Senate, and the Governor’s signature, this new law allows parents to request kits for in-home fingerprint and DNA identification of their children.
Recruiting & Retaining State Employees
Paid Leave for State Employees (S.11): Signed into law is a bill that provides for six weeks of paid parental leave for state employees due to the birth, adoption, or foster care of a child.
Salary & Benefit Increases: State employees are sure to get at least a 3% pay raise in the budget being debated in conference committee. An 18% increase in employee health insurance is being absorbed in the budget at $100 million.
Honoring Our Military
Military Retirement Income Tax Deduction (H.3247): S.C. is a Vet Friendly State! Legislation signed into law allows military retirement income to be deducted from S.C.’s taxable income.
Property Tax Exemption for Disabled Veterans (S.233): Disabled veterans will be exempt disabled veterans from property taxes for the year the disability occurs, helping them get back on their feet. (In Conference Committee.)
Veteran Employment Incentive (S.901): This legislation, still in conference committee, gives S.C. employers a tax credit for hiring veterans or formerly incarcerated non-violent individuals.
Extending Military Tuition Rates (S.241): We passed legislation that eliminates the requirement that a veteran or dependent enrolls in a public institution of higher education within three years of their discharge to be eligible for financial assistance.
Roe v. Wade: In addition to passing the Heartbeat Bill this session, the General Assembly has given itself the ability to return to the Statehouse during the off session to debate changing S.C.’s abortion law. Speaker Smith has already formed an Ad Hoc Committee to study the issue. That would likely make abortions more restrictive should the U.S. Supreme Court overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling.
Unwanted Pregnancies (S.628): Legislation allows women over 18 to get birth control pills or other hormonal contraceptives from a pharmacist without a doctor’s prescription. Gov. McMaster quickly signed the bill into law.
Law & Order
Police Reform (H.3050): This law establishes standards for all law enforcement and centralizes reporting of officer misconduct. It also sets standards for the use of force and vehicle pursuits for the State’s law enforcement officers.
Better Pay: S.C.’s state law enforcement officers are woefully underpaid. That’s why we are losing troopers to local police departments or causing them to find higher-paying jobs. One version of the state budget being discussed calls for a 17% increase for state law enforcement officers.
Back to Work: A budget proviso in conference committee will allow retired police officers to return to work if they desire while still maintaining their monthly retirement allowance. We welcome their experience in keeping us safe.
Minimum Age for Corrections Officers: S.1092 addresses the shortage of correctional officers in S.C. by reducing the eligible age of a correctional officer candidate to eighteen years old, rather than the former minimum age of twenty-one years old.
Sex Offenders Registry Fixed (S.4075): We updated and improved S.C.’s sex offender registry. Last year, the State Supreme Court ordered the legislature to change the registry’s rules to allow ex-convicts to be removed if they aren’t likely to be re-offenders. Currently, they are registered for life.
Crackdown on Carolina Squats (S.908): Legislation in conference Committee places restrictions on trucks referred to as “Carolina Squats” because their front end is raised so high that they become a danger to other motorists.
Move Over (H.3011): Also known as the “Slower Traffic Move Right Bill,” it’s now the law in S.C. that the left lane and a controlled-access highway are for passing (not lollygagging). The fine is $25.
Volunteer Firefighter Grants (S.480): Keeping our firefighters prepped and ready with the resources and gear they need is crucial to upholding public safety. The Governor signed into law legislation that enhances the Volunteer Strategic Assistance and Fire Equipment (V-SAFE) Program – a program that awards grants to volunteer fire departments.
Boosting Rural Broadband: One good result of the pandemic is that it shined a light on the lack of Internet broadband service in rural S.C. The legislature is investing more than $500 million from several pots of money to bring broadband service to Internet Deserts areas.
Fair Wages (S.533): We voted to end the practice of paying subminimum wages to people with disabilities. Approximately 1,000 South Carolinians, developmentally, physically, or mentally impaired, are paid below the federal minimum wage. Their new wages provide fairer compensation.
S.C. Opioid Recovery Act (H.5182): The legislation helps combat the major opioid crisis facing the United States by establishing the S.C. Opioid Recovery Fund (and other related entities) that qualify South Carolina to receive resources to combat the opioid crisis.
Reforming Santee Cooper (H.3194, H.3349, H.4062): Some called Santee Cooper a rouge, out-of-control state agency following the financial debacle that lost $4 billion of its ratepayers’ money while failing to construct the V.C. Summer nuclear power. We implemented significant reforms aimed at helping the agency remain solvent and ensuring accountability, transparency, and oversight.
Successful Redistricting (S.685): Even though the federal government was many months late in providing states with new census data, the legislature swiftly and thoughtfully redrew political boundaries for the Statehouse and Congressional districts. Some states failed and have had to postpone scheduled elections.
NOTE: Want to know more about a particular bill? Type the 3-or4-digit bill number into Quick Search on the S.C. Legislative WebSite.
More News, but First, a Few Pictures
This past weekend Americans remembered those who sacrificed their lives for our freedom. We are humbled and grateful for their service. Throngs of folks lined Aiken’s downtown streets for the annual Memorial Day Parade which was an hour in length. Aiken hosts one of the very few Memorial Day parades in South Carolina. Riding with me in the parade to honor the fallen was Major Eric Foreman (USAF 1969-2005), a constituent and resident of Cedar Creek.
Sharing my Glenn Beck moment. I recently traveled to Texas to attend a small legislative workshop. We gathered at Glenn Beck’s American Journey Experience-History Museum adjacent to his studio. Glenn popped into our work sessions, and I reminded him of the December 2013 shout-out he gave me on his radio & TV programs after being the first legislator in the nation to file the Article V COS Resolution.
While I’m not on the June Primary ballot and I’m unopposed in the November General Election, I believe it is vitally important to be available to speak with constituents, hear their concerns and answer their questions. I spoke to the Cedar Creek GOP precinct. They wanted to learn more about the Article V Convention of States process. I also had the opportunity to speak at the Republican ‘Rally in the Alley’ in downtown Aiken. A sizeable crowd is heard from more than 20 statewide and local candidates.
Critical Race Theory Passes House TWICE; Fails in Senate: Republican Representatives fought hard to outlaw Critical Race Theory indoctrination from being taught in our classrooms and give parents more insight into what their children are being taught. I sponsored legislation that was incorporated into the CRT bill. Unfortunately, our original House bill never made it out of the Senate, so our original language was incorporated into a different Senate bill and sent back for approval. Senate Democrats blocked it. I assure you that passage of CRT legislation will be a top priority next session.
Hands-Free – Put the Phone Down & Drive: I have championed this common-sense legislation since I first filed it in 2017. Citizens see distracted driving every day, and a vast majority want this legislation. Sen. Tom Young filed a companion bill in the Senate. He successfully won passage in the Senate, but the House Judiciary Committee never considered it. We’ll try again in the next session.
Medical Marijuana: The “Compassionate Care Act,” which would allow for the use of medical marijuana, passed the Senate but ran into stiff opposition in House debate. The bill was ruled out of order because it calls for a tax, and tax bills must originate in the House. It’s up for a do-over in 2023.
DHEC Break Up: DHEC is BIG – Real BIG! Reform legislation passed by the Senate would split DHEC into two separate agencies – one for health and the other for the environment. The bill stalled in the House late in the session.
Hate Crime: The House passed Hate Crime legislation last year, but it was blocked in the Senate.
Certificate of Need: Some call it the “Certificate of Greed.” It’s a restrictive law that governs where hospitals can build, move, or add beds or expensive equipment. It allows competitors to appeal projected appeals and tie them up for years. All this makes your healthcare more costly and restrictive. The Senate-passed bill died in a House Committee.
USC Board Reform. Time ran out while Senators debated a bill that would have significantly reformed the University of South Carolina Board of Trustees. This legislation will likely be reintroduced next session.
PHOTO OF THE WEEK
It was a privilege to honor Colonel Maxie Joye (USA-R) during the Honors and Awards Ceremony for students at Wagener-Salley High School. I surprised Col. Joye with a Resolution from the S.C. House of Representatives recognizing his years of service to the military and to the high school. Col. Joye is retiring after leading the WSHS JROTC program for seventeen years. He is much revered by students, faculty, and parents for his leadership in touching the lives of so many students over the years at WSHS.
Want to Know More?
Do you want to learn more about me, my positions, bill sponsorships, voting record, and past writings? Here are some handy links:
- About Me: https://taylorschouse.com/about-2/
- My Positions: https://taylorschouse.com/issues/
- Sponsored Bill & Voting Record: http://tiny.cc/b1pouz
- Recent Newsletters: https://taylorschouse.com/category/newsletter/
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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