Legislative Update – Week 5

February is Black History Month. This month, we celebrate the accomplishments and contributions made by Black Americans, who make our country and state a great place to live. Today, we want to highlight the highly respected and loved Representative Gilda Cobb-Hunter. Rep. Cobb-Hunter is the longest serving member of the SC House. 

Representative Chip Huggins District 85 Serving Chapin and Irmo Chairman, Regulations and Administrative Procedures Committee

Important COVID-19 Developments

Thank you to the frontline workers, healthcare professionals, DHEC, the Governor, and all of my colleagues for their hard work and dedication to vaccinating at-risk members of our State. 

Here are some recent updates and developments: 

– As of, February 8, people in SC aged 65+ began receiving the COVID-19 vaccination 

– On February 10, 17 CVS Pharmacies throughout the state began offering over 15,000 COVID-19 vaccinations to eligible individuals. 

– To date, SC has received 970,250 vaccinations from the Federal government; 548,214 have been given (Most recent DHEC data, updated February 10). 

– Right now, we are in Phase 1A of the vaccination process. If you meet any of the following criteria you can make an appointment to get your COVID-19 vaccine:

• Frontline healthcare workers

• Anyone 65+ years 

• State/local government employees who perform COVID-19 vaccinations and testing in SC

• A full list of those qualified can be found here: https://scdhec.gov/covid19/covid-19-vaccine

Fighting for Life

On Tuesday, the Fetal Heartbeat Bill was in the House Full Judiciary Committee. This bill bans abortion in South Carolina after a period of 6-8 weeks, once a heartbeat is detected. During the committee meeting, There was] dialogue and debate over the bill, considering the opinions of both Republicans and Democrats. I voted in favor of the Heartbeat Bill, which passed by a vote of 15-8. Next week, the bill will be on the House floor, where I will vote to send the Heartbeat Bill to the Governor’s office to sign it into law. 

Fortifying Our 2nd Amendment Rights

With recent protests across the nation, calls to defund the police, the unrest of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the uncertainty of a new Democratic presidential administration, gun sales are at an all-time high. Despite this, when it comes to gun rights, South Carolina currently falls in line with states like New York and California. Representative Bobby Cox introduced a bill that would allow for open carry of a firearm once they pass a certification/safety class, bringing South Carolina in line with the gun rights of 45 other states. This bill moved through subcommittee on Wednesday by a vote of 3-1, and I anticipate debate about this on the House floor in the next few weeks. 

Improving South Carolina Schools

Each week, more legislation is introduced to subcommittees in order to further improve our State’s education system. From kindergarten to college, I believe preparing our students to be successful in the workforce is crucial. This week, three education bills made their way through subcommittee and will soon be in full committee:

– H. 3588 – This bill revises the criteria for the South Carolina Life Scholarship, requiring successful completion of certain English and Mathematics, or Computer Science coursework to qualify.  

– H. 3610 – This bill revises accountability measures for public schools and public school districts in our state. 

– H. 3332 – This bill provides integration of critical thinking and media literacy skills in public schools.  

Last week I worked to pass H. 3609, which unfreezes the state salary schedule and retroactively awards $50 million step increases to teachers for the 2020-21 school year.

This week, the Senate sent this bill to the Senate Finance Committee, where it is expected to easily advance. It will be a huge step in raising South Carolina teacher pay above the national average. 

In the News

– SC State Fair now accepting applications for annual Ride of Your Life scholarship”. For more info, visit the website or contact Betsy Cooper at [email protected]rg https://www.scstatefair.org/scholarships

– Pharmacies administering the coronavirus vaccine in South Carolina 

(News 19 – WLTX)

– Exports of South Carolina-made plunged nearly 27 percent to a six-year low of $30.3 billion, according to S.C. Commerce Department  (The Post and Courier)

COVID-19 Resources and Helplines

– DHEC Care Line at 1-855-472-3432 

– COVID-19 Vaccine Information Line 1-866-365-8110

– Find a vaccine location near you here: https://vaxlocator.dhec.sc.gov

– Information about qualifying for SBA loans: https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/loans/coronavirus-relief-options/paycheck-protection-program#section-header-0

– Mental health/substance abuse services related to COVID-19: 1-844-724-6737 

– For other COVID-19 resources, visit the Accelerate SC website: https://accelerate.sc.gov

– To see if you may qualify for unemployment, visit: https://dew.sc.gov

– For updates from the Governor, visit https://governor.sc.gov

For the next few weeks, my focus will be reviewing and restructuring the Governor’s powers, strengthening 2nd amendment rights, laying out a state budget, and most pressing, passing the Heartbeat Bill. 

Thank you for allowing me to serve you in the South Carolina House of Representatives and please feel free to contact me via email at [email protected] or my 24-hour phone line at 803-331-8468.