2021-22 State Budget
This week, the House Ways and Means Committee worked diligently crafting our state’s budget. The Committee unanimously passed a conservative bill that will likely hit the floor the week of March 22nd for debate. We took into account the recommendations made in Governor McMaster’s executive budget that focuses on COVID-19 relief, pay raises for law enforcement and rebuilding our state’s reserve fund. I plan to be on the House floor for the debate on this bill working to ensure our state’s resources are allocated wisely and efficiently.
This year’s budget recognizes the uncertainties caused by the pandemic. It also invests millions of dollars in K-12 education and our state’s struggling hospitality industry to recover from devastating COVID-19 impacts.
Here are some of this year’s budget highlights:
– $500M Fund for pandemic stabilization
– Relief fund allocating $50M in the case of a devastating natural disaster
– 30% expansion of the state’s 4K program
– Funding for a school nurse in EVERY South Carolina school
– Step Increase Pay Raises for Law Enforcement Officers
– PTSD treatment for Law Enforcement and Firefighters
– $30M to expand broadband internet access in rural and underserved areas
– Grants for Tourism Marketing following COVID-19 pandemic’s hit on tourism industry
Open Carry with Training Act
This week, the Open Carry with Training Act (H. 3094) passed the full House Judiciary Committee. This bill, introduced by Rep. Bobby Cox, protects the right of citizens to openly carry a firearm given sufficient training and appropriate certifications. This necessary bill serves to protect our Second Amendment rights and will likely move to the House floor next week, where I will vote to pass the bill.
Teachers & Law Enforcement to be Vaccinated Beginning Monday
This week, the Governor announced the great news that South Carolina is moving into Phase 1b of the COVID-19 vaccination plan. Additionally, we have seen many more vaccination sites opening around the state and with this week’s approval of the Johnson & Johnson vaccination, we are finally arriving on the other side of the pandemic. Here is what we know:
Starting March 8th, the following groups may schedule an appointment to receive their vaccine:
– Anyone over the age of 55
– People 16 and over who have a high-risk medical condition
– Teachers, store clerks, law enforcement and other frontline jobs that put an individual within 6ft of other people for more than 15 minutes
As of March 4th, over 995,309 doses of the COVID-19 vaccination have been given in South Carolina. This is due to the hard work and sacrifice made by volunteers, medical professionals, the National Guard, and many other folks in our State. I am proud and thankful for the progress we continue to make and the fellowship our state has shown during these tough times.
COVID-19 NEWS: On Friday, Governor Henry McMaster modified his COVID-19 emergency orders, returning remaining state employees back to the workplace full-time. Additionally, the face-covering requirement in state government building and offices has been dissolved to a recommendation. For more info, https://sc.gov.
Other Legislative News
– Military Special License Plates: On Thursday, I voted to pass a bill that allows for special military license plates to be issued, including those to recognize “Wartime Disabled Veterans.” This bill is a small way that we can honor the huge sacrifices made by our military personnel.
– “Move Over” Law: I voted yes on a bill that ensures slower traffic must move to the right lane while driving on a two-lane street (where both lanes are moving in the same direction.) This promotes safety and efficiency on our roadways, and it unanimously passed by a vote of 108-0.
– Helping Small Businesses:This year has been challenging for all of us, but it has been an especially challenging year for small businesses. I voted in favor of a bill by Rep. Jay West (H. 3726) that reduces certain sales taxes that businesses have to pay. Currently, businesses are having to pay taxes on income they have not earned when buying marked-down wholesale items. This bill relieves businesses from this tax burden.
– Prescribing Naloxone (H. 3366): This bill sponsored by Rep. Russell Fry requires medical professionals to offer a prescription for the opioid overdose treatment drug Naloxone (commonly referred to as Narcan) under certain necessary circumstances. This bill advanced through subcommittee this week.
Resources and Helplines:
– DHEC Care Line: 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/page/coronavirus-covid-19-small-business-guidance-loan-resources
– 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
It is an honor and a privilege to serve you in Columbia. If you need help navigating state government, or have any thoughts or concerns about what we are doing, please do not hesitate to contact me.