To put the update into perspective, there are two very important dates to keep in mind that will impact what actually gets accomplished this session.
March 15: Filing Opens
For those who are interested in running for office in 2022. Every constitutional officer and the entire House of Representatives is up for election this year. Whether incumbents will face a primary challenge can impact what goes on in legislative action.
April 11: Crossover Day
One month before the end of session, all bills that originate in one chamber must be voted out and sent to the other chamber for debate if they are going to have the possibility of passing. The Senate essentially has four weeks to clear major pieces of its agenda off its calendar, but with the House debating the budget next week and taking furlough the following, the lower chamber essentially has two weeks to address some major legislative items when they return.
The House and Senate have both passed major tax reform packages. The Senate version – introduced by Senate Finance Chair Harvey Peeler, Senate President Thomas Alexander, and Senator Josh Kimbrell – is a $2 Billion package that would reduce state income taxes by nearly 2% from the current maximum rate of 7%. This significantly impacts every South Carolinian making more than $12,500 per year. Since a version of a tax cut plan has passed both chambers, expect this to be a priority item that will make it to the Governor’s desk before the end of session.
The House of Representatives unanimously passed a bipartisan bill that brings real election reform to South Carolina. Standardized two-week early voting, putting county election commissions under the oversight of the State Election Commission, and requiring accountability safeguards for absentee voting by mail, the bill is now in the Senate where committee hearings are expected in the coming weeks.
The House of Representatives has had several hearings on educational transparency. Front and center is critical race theory and whether it is impacting our K-12 classrooms. While discussions move forward on possible legislation, the House has not brought a final bill to the floor for debate.
The Education Savings Account legislation originating in the House has hit a speed bump. Both sides of the issues are negotiating just how far they’re willing to expand a program that would open up school choice opportunities for children across the state. Meanwhile, the House has moved forward on changes in the funding formula for K-12 education that would streamline education funding — the state’s single largest annual expense.
The growing “War on Women” has taken an ironic hit from the political left. As we near the 50th anniversary of the passage of Title IX that created equal educational and athletic opportunity for women, the push for transgender rights has created a new rift between the traditional feminist movement and the woke left. H.4608 has passed in the House of Representatives. In fact, a Senate subcommittee will take testimony on its version of the legislation on Tuesday, March 15th at 10:00am. Palmetto Family stood with our partners with Alliance Defending Freedom on March 10th at a press conference supporting Saving Women’s Sports. Check out the full press conference on our Facebook page.
Two different versions of this legislation that would protect medical and counseling professionals' rights of religious conscience are being debated in the Senate and the House and each are expected to make it out of either chamber before Crossover Day. Expect compromise language between the two different versions to come up for debate before the session concludes.
Under pressure from various big business and chamber of commerce groups across the state, the House of Representatives passed a weakened version of Hate Crimes legislation last year. That bill is now sitting in the Senate where conservative senators are coordinating efforts to stall it. The major issue that stems from the legislation is the inclusion of protected class status for sexual orientation and gender identity into the SC Code of Laws. Adding this language to the Code would allow its application in future legislation that could impact rights of conscience and increase the possibility of discrimination claims against people and entities that stand on a Biblical worldview of sexuality.
The pandemic clearly demonstrated in other states how crisis can be used as an opportunity to restrict religious freedoms. While that was not necessarily the case in South Carolina, this legislation, which began in the House and has also passed in the Senate, would protect churches from being restricted from actively participating the First Amendment right of Freedom of Religion. Governor Henry McMaster is expected to sign it into law very soon.
The Senate spent three weeks debating and passing a scaled-down version of Medical Marijuana legislation. While the changes provided some limitations to the originally proposed legislation, the question is now whether the House of Representatives will make additional changes that restrict the program or if they will kill the bill before the session comes to a close.
Several pieces of pro-life legislation are making their way through both chambers at the State House. The Abortion Pill Reversal bill has been met with some stiff opposition from the medical left. The bill would require doctors who prescribe the two-pill prescription for a chemically-induced abortion to notify women that there is a pill that could reverse the effect of the first pill, which statistically saves about 2 in 3 pregnancies from this abortion procedure. Planned Parenthood has presented stiff opposition to the bill in both chambers claiming that the reversal pill is ineffective. Keep in mind that 67% of all abortions performed in South Carolina last year were done through this two-pill chemical abortion procedure.
The House of Representatives is looking at two pieces of legislation that could impact the early stages of the human sex trafficking that is happening right under our noses. The first would require smart phone companies to sell their products with pornography guards automatically initiated, instead of their current practice of having those guards turned off. The second bill would address “revenge porn” — the online placement of self-produced pornographic material for the purposes of revenge or malice against a party involved. These two pieces of legislation begin to chip away at the cultural undertones that are driving the sex trafficking industry around the world.
All of the mentioned items matter, but mostly the life and religion issues. Without those, nothing else matters anyway. Thank you for keeping us informed. This is a wonderful way to know what is happening in the State House. Your efforts are so much appreciated.