The 2021-2022 Legislative session yielded RESULTS for South Carolina. I work to slash government red-tape, cut taxes, and make a more efficient government that works for the people -- one that makes South Carolina a better place to work, go to school, own a business, and raise a family.
This session’s highlights include:
The Budget and Tax Cuts:
The House’s budget centered around 4 R’s: increasing reserves, improving our roads and infrastructure, securing raises for teachers and first responders, and over $1 billion in tax relief. Conferees will meet to address differences between the House and Senate budgets. A conference committee is also meeting to address differences with S. 1087, the “Comprehensive Tax Cut Act of 2022”. Legislators will return on June 15th to consider passage of a final version of the budget.
Raising our state general reserve fund was a priority for the House this year, which helps prepare South Carolina in the face of financial uncertainty. A bill that will gradually raise reserves from 5% to 7% and increase capital reserve funds from 2% to 3% passed the House this year and will go to a conference committee to resolve the differences with the Senate.
No Room for Voter Fraud in South Carolina:
Safeguarding our elections has been one of my top priorities after questions were raised about the integrity of votes in 2020. It is of utmost importance that each vote cast in an election is COUNTED and counted only once. The South Carolina House passed legislation to ensure that this will always be the case. Signed by the Governor on May 13, 2022, this bill fortifies our South Carolina election system. This law makes it easier to vote legally and harder to cheat.
Here are a few of the protections in the legislation, many of which affect this year’s Statewide Primary on June 14th:
● Establishes early voting in South Carolina for the two weeks preceding any election
● A county’s size determines the number of early voting locations
● Standardizes and strengthens the absentee vote-by-mail system and requires a verifiable witness signature
● Limits candidates to only one party nomination and listing on any ballot
● Requires affidavits and the last four digits of their social security number to early vote or to vote absentee
● Enhances penalties for violating election laws
WE THE PEOPLE - Convention of States:
I am on the conference committee to work out differences in the House and Senate versions of S. 133, which calls for the US Congress to hold a Convention of the States. A Convention of States’ purpose is to propose new amendments pursuant to Article V of the United States Constitution. It would require balanced federal budgets each year, holding the Federal Government to the same standard as State Government. You and I have to balance our checkbooks and live within our means - why shouldn’t the Federal Government have to do the same? South Carolina would be the 28th state out of the 34 states needed to call for a federal balanced budget amendment.
“Workforce Enhancement and Military Recognition Act”:
We dedicated this legislative session to supporting and bettering the lives of our veterans. All military retirement income is now exempt from South Carolina income taxes. I was proud to reduce the tax burden for our veterans.
Veterans Burial Honor Guard Support Fund:
A conference committee was appointed for S. 968, a bill to establish the “Veterans Service Organization Burial Honor Guard Support Fund.” The fund offsets the costs to provide honor guard burial details at funerals of qualifying South Carolina veterans.
Patriotism in South Carolina Schools:
I was proud to help lead the effort to pass this bill. It requires the display of patriotic emblems (such as flags or mottos) of the United States and South Carolina in our schools. It also requires schools to allow youth patriotic societies, like the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, to participate in public schools. I look forward to bringing American patriotism back to our classrooms.
Minimum Age for Corrections Officers:
The minimum age for detention and correctional officer candidates in South Carolina was lowered to eighteen years old from twenty-one years old. This will help alleviate the shortage of correctional officers.
Volunteer Firefighter Grants:
Keeping our firefighters equipped with the resources and gear they need is crucial to upholding public safely. The Governor signed into law legislation which simplifies the authority of the State Fire Marshal and enhances the Volunteer Strategic Assistance and Fire Equipment (V-SAFE) Program - a program that awards grants to volunteer fire departments.
H. 3050 was ratified [R. 246], which limits non-certified law enforcement officers hired after July 1, 2022 from performing their duties unless they are accompanied by a certified law enforcement officer for one year in order to keep both the officer and our communities safe. It also limits the use of chokeholds, use-of-force continuum, no-knock warrants, and more.
‘Save Women’s Sports Act’:
The Governor signed the ‘Save Women’s Sports Act’, a bill which originated in the House and that I voted for and supported. This bill aims to maintain the competitive advantage for female athletes in sports. The new law requires, by proof of a birth certificate, that those who were designated male at birth solely participate in men’s sports, rather than participate in sports designated for females. This applies to K-12 through college.
Real School Choice for South Carolina:
Giving families in South Carolina real school choice and educational freedom is long overdue. A conference committee will work out the differences between the Senate and the House’s school choice bill. The House bill establishes the “Parental Choice in Education Program”, where five thousand public school students who are financially disadvantaged or part of an active duty military family can qualify for a scholarship of up to $5,000 to attend the school of their choice.
Unencumbered Time for Teachers:
S. 946 was signed by the Governor which requires at least thirty minutes of unencumbered time of each regular school day for full-time teachers between kindergarten and fifth grade.
This House bill would provide that public school districts may hire non-certified teachers if a certified teacher is not available (given certain requirements are met). The Senate amendments to the House bill largely make the program a pilot and only certain districts are eligible. The bill was sent to Conference to work out the differences.
H. 3144, a bill which establishes the South Carolina Workforce Industry Needs Scholarship (SCWINS), was signed into law by the Governor. SCWINS can be awarded to eligible South Carolinians pursuing degrees or certificates from public South Carolina technical colleges. The scholarship is equal to the cost of tuition, fees, or other course-related materials.
Transparency & Integrity in Education:
S. 945 seeks to promote public access to school board meetings by requiring school boards to live stream meetings. S. 945 was read a third time and returned to the Senate with amendments. The committee added language from H. 5183, the Transparency and Integrity in Education Act earlier sent to the Senate, which was not sent back. This language calls for closer scrutiny and say in the curriculum taught to our children.
Evaluating New Teachers:
The Governor signed into law a bill that improves the means for evaluating educator preparation programs by developing and publishing an online report card known as the “South Carolina Teacher Preparation Report Card”. This evaluates the ability of educator preparation programs to train new teachers so as to guide and improve future educator training programs.
Bringing Eye Health to Underprivileged Public Schools:
My bill which authorizes not-for-profit programs to operate mobile optometry units to provide services to students in Title I public schools was signed into law by the Governor. This goes to increase and prioritize eye health for students who might otherwise not have access to optometry services.
Medical Ethics & Diversity:
Also being discussed in conference committee is H. 4776 the ‘Medical Ethics and Diversity Act’.
This bill protects the rights of health care professionals, and medical students so they can choose NOT to participate in health care services when the procedure violates their ethics or conscience. Additionally, it protects them from civil, criminal, or administrative actions that could be taken against them.
“South Carolina Opioid Recovery Act”:
The “South Carolina Opioid Recovery Act” has been ratified. It helps to combat the major opioid crisis facing the United States by establishing the South Carolina Opioid Recovery Fund (and other related entities) which qualify South Carolina to receive resources to combat the opioid crisis.
Parkinson’s Disease Research Collection:
The General Assembly enrolled a bill for ratification which enacts the “South Carolina Parkinson’s Disease Research Collection Act”. This establishes a database for information on Parkinson’s disease to help further advance research to save and better the lives of those who battle the disease.
Sickle Cell Disease Voluntary Patient Registry:
The “Rena Nicole Grant Sickle Cell Disease Voluntary Patient Registry Act” is headed to the Governor for his signature. The bill directs DHEC to develop and maintain the Sickle Cell Disease Voluntary Patient Registry for individuals who have been diagnosed with sickle cell disease to study the nature of sickle cell disease to improve patient care and access to services to those suffering.
Birth Certificates for Adopted Individuals:
H. 5000 allows adopted individuals to access their original birth certificate at the age of 18, provided they have the consent of their biological parent or proof that their biological parent is deceased. This has been ratified as R. 226 by the General Assembly and the Governor signed it into law on May 16.
The ‘Carolina Squat’:
S. 908, a bill banning the “Carolina Squat” or the “California Lean”, has landed in conference committee. Upon passage, driving a car or truck on SC highways that has been altered or ‘squatted’ exceeding specific height requirements will be penalized.
Disabled Employees - Minimum Wage:
The General Assembly enrolled a bill for ratification which prohibits the payment of subminimum wages to individuals with disabilities, to ensure those with disabilities are treated and compensated fairly for their contributions in the workplace.
Cutting Property Taxes:
In the South Carolina House, we are dedicated to reducing the tax burden on South Carolina families. The House made appointments to a conference committee to address its differences with the Senate on S. 233, a bill allowing a real property tax exemption extension. Among other things, the legislation proposes that when a spouse passes away, the surviving spouse could receive a property tax exemption if the surviving spouse owns the house and meets certain qualifications. The legislation also helps support one of our state’s largest industries: the agriculture industry, by establishing a property tax exemption for all farm buildings and agricultural structures owned by a producer in this state.
Tax Credits for Infrastructure Projects:
A bill was signed into law by the Governor that increases utilities’ infrastructure project license tax credits for working on infrastructure and economic development projects. This increases the maximum tax credit that may be claimed by a company from $400k to $600k a year for contributing to these developments, especially in disadvantaged counties of our state.
Economic Development and Jobs
A conference committee was appointed to finalize my bill that directs the Department of Commerce to conduct an ‘Offshore Wind Energy Supply Chain Industries Economic Development Study’. The study will evaluate our state’s economic climate and readiness for attracting offshore wind energy supply chain industries to the state.