Legislative Report: May 13

By the time this article prints (May 13), the 1st regular session of the 124th SC General Assembly will have adjourned sine die. What does that mean? We are basically “done for the year” except for a few more days we will be called back.

Nathan Ballentine

Those days are between May 13 and June 8. That’s when Rep Huggins and I will be called back to work on “Budget 2.0” (see NathansNews for more details). Then the full House will be called back June 8-10 to vote on the budget. After that, we should return at the end of June to vote on any budget items the Governor may veto. After that, staff will be busy this fall working on redistricting – a process we take every 10 years where we look at census numbers and redraw House and Senate lines to reflect growth in our communities. We don’t have the exact number yet, but it looks like each House member will represent approximately 45,000 citizens once lines are redrawn. That number will reflect the new estimate of more than 5,000,000 citizens in SC based off the 2020 census.

Quickly, here are some items of mention from last week – week 16 – in Columbia.

SC Returns to Pre-Pandemic Unemployment Program 

In order to address ongoing workforce shortages throughout South Carolina, Governor Henry McMaster directed the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce to discontinue South Carolina’s participation in all federal, pandemic-related unemployment benefit programs. This takes effect June 30, 2021. There are currently 81,684 open positions in the state of South Carolina. With this, I am hopeful South Carolinians will be encouraged to get back to work. I get it. Some people will say “but people need that money”. I understand many have been hit hard during the pandemic; however, government should not incentivize people who are able to work. What has happened is able body individuals have been earning more income by NOT working than by working. Yes, I understand many may be concerned about Covid; but we need to get back to work and back to as much normal as we can. In life there is always risk and the risk from Covid has greatly dropped since this time last year.

Cheers. Gallo Wine Comes to SC

Wine connoisseurs and business communities alike are saying ‘cheers.’ This week, as we passed S. 619. This bill alters our state’s archaic liquor laws and will allow for standalone tasting rooms and fewer regulations on micro-distilleries in SC. A huge success for SC, this bill ushers in a major, international economic player and world-wide wine brand to South Carolina. E & J Gallo Winery will invest over half a billion dollars and 500 jobs in Chester County, SC where they plan to build their winery. I look forward to seeing how our state and local economies will grow because of this new law.

The Death Penalty

Under current law, those convicted of a heinous crime and sentenced to death, are likely to spend the rest of their life waiting on death row due to the lack of availability of lethal injection materials Currently, our state can only use lethal injection and there are no drugs available to administer their sentence. Not only is justice not being served for the victims and their families, but also State resources are being wasted. This week, the House passed S. 200, a bill that allows electrocution when lethal injection is not available. Much attention has been given to the firing squad being added into the bill. You probably may be surprised to learn Senator Harpootlian (Democrat) put that amendment in and he told me, having sent Pee Wee Gaskins to the electric chair, he believed a more humane approach is needed. After hours of debate, the House approved and the bill now goes to the Governor to sign.

Santee Cooper

The issue of reforming Santee Cooper has been ongoing for years, and this week, the House passed amendments on a bill that outlines reform, governance, and a sale process. While our area was negatively impacted by SCE&G/Dominion, others were negatively impacted by Santee Cooper. The bill ensures that there is transparency and accountability in the agency — ensuring that every ‘i’ is dotted and each ‘t’ is crossed. This bill prescribes a process for how the agency should operate, allowing for oversight from the government and transparency for ratepayers. Although there is no offer on the table from a buyer right now, it is important that we do not tie our hands and limit future possibilities, which is why there is also a sale amendment that outlines how that process might work. We passed this on Tuesday, but our amendments were rejected by the Senate. The bill will now go to a conference committee, where members of the House and Senate will meet to find compromise on the issue. 

Other Legislative News

S. 231 Suicide Prevention Hotline – We passed a bill that ensures the National Suicide Hotline is printed on school issued student ID cards in public schools and public and private colleges in South Carolina. 

S. 689 Income Tax Filing Deadline –  On Wednesday, the House passed a joint resolution to extend the income tax filing due date until the same date as federal returns and payments are due.

Weekly COVID-19 Update

– South Carolina is in Phase 1C of the vaccination process. Under these guidelines, anyone 16+ is eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine with an appointment. 

– Visit https://scdhec.gov/covid19/covid-19-vaccine/covid19-vaccine-appointments to make a vaccination appointment at a provider near you.

– 42.6 percent of South Carolina citizens have started the vaccination process. 32.9 percent of SC citizens are fully vaccinated. 2,998,076 vaccines have been given to South Carolina residents to date.

– Want to see how our area is doing in the fight against COVID-19? Visit the interactive ‘Vaccination Dashboard’ by following this link, https://scdhec.gov/covid19/covid-19-vaccination-dashboard.

– For other FAQs regarding the COVID-19, use the DHEC issued fact sheet here: https://scdhec.gov/sites/default/files/Library/CR-012857.pdf

*Numbers updated May 6. 

I’m at your service.

It is my honor to be of service to you and to serve the Ballentine, Chapin, Dutch Fork, Irmo community.  If you need assistance navigating through the flow of information on COVID-19, navigating state government, or have any thoughts or concerns about what we are doing, please do not hesitate to contact me. You can email me at the State House: [email protected], or call me there at 803-734-2969. You can also contact me through www.NathansNews.com, or call me at home 803-834-4613. Of course, when you see me around town, flag me down and I’m happy to talk.