This week we reconvened in Columbia after a week of virtual meetings. I am glad to report much progress was made this week for our state, from improving the expediency and transparency behind the COVID-19 vaccination process, resolving the issue of Santee Cooper, to improvements in education and teacher pay, and more.
Although South Carolina now ranks 10th in the country in vaccines administered per capita, we still can and must do better. This week, I voted in favor a $208 million COVID-19 relief bill, appropriating $63 million to DHEC, $45 million to MUSC and $100 million to establish the COVID-19 Vaccine Reserve account to offset the costs associated with administering the vaccine. This bill directs DHEC to allocate limited vaccine supplies on a per capita basis, requiring it to take into account factors such as a region’s rural, underserved, and impoverished areas, and elderly. This passed by a vote of 116-1. Additionally, I voted in favor of another COVID-19 related bill, proposed by Representative West Cox. This was created to grant authority to administer vaccines to qualified personnel such as South Carolina-licensed Advanced Practice Registered Nurses, Physician Assistants, and Registered Nurses. It passed unanimously on the House floor and I am hopeful that with these two pieces of important legislation, South Carolina citizens will receive more vaccinations.
Santee Cooper is South Carolina’s state-owned electric and water utility, the state’s largest power provider, and one of the nation’s largest public power utilities. After learning about deep corruption in the agency, my colleagues and I are ready to hold Santee Cooper accountable for their wrongdoings to taxpayers and stakeholders. Last year, we reviewed some sale and reform options for this entity, but COVID-19 brought this to a halt. On Tuesday, we revisited this through bill H. 3194, which creates a special committee to explore what the best option is for our state…and while exploring, allow Santee Cooper to begin some of their reform efforts and to provide some of the necessary oversights. After hours of dialogue and debate, I chose to support further exploration of sale and reform options.
This week, which happens to be National School Choice Week, we made incredible progress for South Carolina schools and teachers. On Wednesday I proudly supported H. 3608, a bill to appropriate $9 million in one-time, surplus funds to address some of the funding shortfalls being experienced by the State’s public charter schools due to increased enrollment in 2020-21. Additionally, I supported and helped pass legislation to address Early Literacy, Numeracy Screening Assessments, Computer Science Education, and Schools of Innovation (H.3613, H. 3612, H.3589). These bills will be back for a 3rd reading next week before they move to the Senate. Finally, this week l voted to restore Teacher Step Increases. This unfreezes the state salary schedule and retroactively awards $50 million step increases for 2020-21 school year– a significant step in the right direction as we work to raise our teacher pay above the national average. I proudly supported this bill, and it unanimously passed in the House.
Remembering Joyce Hearn
On January 20th, we learned of the passing of Joyce Hearn. Representative Hearn represented District 76, which is part of Richland County, from 1975 to 1990. During this, she sometimes served as the only woman in the Legislature. Despite this, she led the way, introducing and sponsoring legislation focused on the rights of crime victims, reforming workers compensation and the rights of the disabled. She will be remembered as a trailblazer for Republican women in South Carolina, and women everywhere.
Remembering Dalton Sheppard, Jr.
On January 24, 2021, Dalton Sheppard, Jr. passed away. Dalton was a visionary and saw the future of automated credit reporting. As an industry leader, he served on many state and national committees. His passion for politics and recognition of the need for effective government led him to pursue service in public office. He served two terms in the SC House of Representatives and was a leader in the Republican Party. During his active time, Dalton had the distinct honor of personally meeting four US Presidents. Dalton was a man of great faith, character, and integrity. His profession of faith in Jesus Christ transcended every area of his life.
COVID-19 Information and Resources:
• South Carolina is in Phase 1A of the vaccination process.
• As of today, over 668,450 doses have been received in South Carolina; 328,801 have been administered.
• Use scdhec.gov/vaxlocator to see locations accepting appointments for COVID-19 vaccine. Pick a location and call the phone number listed to make an appointment. For more information, visit: https://scdhec.gov
• SBA loans are available to qualifying businesses and help businesses keep their workforce employed during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis. Visit this website for more information about how your business can qualify: https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/loans/coronavirus-relief-options/paycheck-protection-program#section-header-0
• For other helpful COVID-19 resources, visit the Accelerate SC website: https://accelerate.sc.gov
In the News
• “Education by the numbers in Columbia, South Carolina” https://colatoday.6amcity.com/education-by-the-numbers-columbia-south-carolina/
• “SC Senate Oks initial vote to ban most abortions” https://www.wyff4.com/article/sc-senate-adds-an-exception-for-rape-and-incest-to-fetal-heartbeat-bill/35334486#