This week the House of Representatives finished out the second week of special session and the final legislative session of the year. This was the last week for legislation to pass either the House or the Senate until we come back for a new legislative session in January. We worked closely with the Senate and the Governor to ensure necessary Covid relief funds were passed. We also had the opportunity to say goodbye to the Representatives who are retiring and hear about the impacts each of them made on South Carolina. I wish those members the very best and am grateful for their years of dedicated service.
H. 4431 Business License Tax Reform
This long overdue legislation finally passed the House of Representatives Wednesday night with an almost unanimous vote. The Business License Tax Reform Act reforms the way businesses are taxed and allows business owners tax relief while creating a more standardized application process. This legislation also stops the out-of-state contingency fee based private tax collectors from harassing our South Carolina businesses. I am proud to see this legislation pass and know this reform will tremendously help our small businesses.
H. 3780 The Broadband Accessibility Act
We took the first step on Thursday in expanding broadband internet access across the state. This legislation will especially impact our most rural communities and will allow crucial access to virtual school, job training, and telemedicine. This legislation allows the state’s electric cooperatives to construct broadband into areas they serve. I am hopeful that this is just the beginning of expanding internet access across the entire state.
S. 1071 Firefighter Cancer Healthcare Benefit Plan
I was proud to vote for legislation this week that will help cover insurance for firefighters if they are diagnosed with cancer. Before this legislation, South Carolina was one of the few states that does not provide this support to firefighters. The Senate has already approved the bill and now it heads to Governor McMaster’s desk.
CARES Act Funding Passes Final Steps
This week, the House met with the Senate one last time to finalize details for the second portion of CARES Act funding for South Carolina. As stated last week, this funding meets the most urgent needs of our state. We also repurposed unused education funds from the first phase of CARES funding to give schools more PPE, fund Virtual SC, and to provide tutoring for students having difficulties with learning as a result of Covid-19. See below for how we allocated the remaining federal funds.
– DHEC Statewide Testing and Monitoring: $73 M
– MUSC – Statewide Testing: $20.1 M
– Unemployment Trust Fund: $420 M
– Nonprofit Relief Program: $25 M
– Minority and Small Business Relief Program: $40 M
– State Agencies, Higher Education, and Local Government: $115 M
Other Legislative News:
Raffles to Resume Soon: Both the House and Senate passed S. 719 that will allow raffles sponsored by non-profit organizations to resume soon. The original legislation, passed five years ago, expired in June when the legislative session was interrupted by the pandemic. That was fixed last week.
Tax Break: The House voted unanimously in favor of S. 207 so those confined to a nursing home won’t be penalized by having the property tax on their home reassessed and increased. Their home would continue to be assessed at 4%.
Disaster Relief: Both the House and Senate passed S.259 which will enable improvements to the coordination of disaster response and recovery efforts in South Carolina, building on the final report and recommendations from the Governor’s 2019 Floodwater Commission. This legislation creates a State Resilience Office which will provide a clear path for understanding flood hazards and taking action to reduce exposure to flooding across the state.
Back to School Fulltime: State Education Superintendent Molly Spearman is pressuring local school districts to offer traditional, in-person learning for what she says are some of the state’s most vulnerable students. In a letter to school district leaders last week, Spearman encouraged schools to return to face-to-face instruction five days a week for “students who need it the most.”
Election Relief: Governor McMaster has approved $5 million for the S.C. Election Commission to purchase electronic poll books. These devices replace the paper process used to check in voters when they cast their ballot. This funding will help election workers and speed up long voting lines on Election Day.
Almost Win for 2A: We were on the brink of passing a real win for the Second Amendment this week but unfortunately, due to one member of the body wanting to score political points, it did not pass. S.293 would have allowed members of a church who meet in a school to carry a gun with a valid CWP. This really good piece of gun legislation was killed because it was not the perfect piece of legislation in one member’s mind. This is not how democracy works.
This legislative session has been strange and unlike any other. When the pandemic forced session to screech to a halt mid-March, it also stopped much of our legislative agenda from moving forward. This agenda included massive education reform legislation, the fate of Santee Cooper, and of course the 2020-2021 budget that included everything from teachers’ raises to improvements for our correctional facilities. Instead of the agenda we planned for, we were tasked with allocating Covid-19 relief money and legislation to ensure safety amid a pandemic. With the unexpected economic problems that arose this year, we found it best to listen to budget forecasters’ concerns and not spend any new money until we are more certain of the economic future. I am hopeful that come January we will be able to accomplish everything we had to set aside this year. Until then, if you need anything please do not hesitate to get in touch with me.
One last thing…
For the first time since 1996, South Carolina is no longer in the top ten states of women killed by domestic violence. I am proud to say this is in large part due to the reform legislation passed by the General Assembly in recent years. This is great news for South Carolina!