Last Friday, I had the opportunity to give a Senate legislative update at a Greenville Chamber of Commerce event. As I was going through my last newsletters and summaries, I was reminded of everything we have passed so far this year.

As the House members are fond of saying, “We used to send stuff to the Senate knowing it would die there.” That’s not the case now. But as I reminded the Chamber folks, just because we passed it … doesn’t mean it becomes law. So if you see a bill you favor in the summary below that has an “S” in front of it, please let me know and I will put you in touch with your House Representative.

As I have mentioned before, we are in the second year of a two-year session. Last Thursday was our “crossover” deadline – meaning that Senate bills had to be out of the Senate and House bills needed to be out of the House if the bills are to receive consideration this session. (I have found that a really good idea with support of both chambers can be passed after the crossover, but it must be a REALLY good idea.)

The biggest portion of time over the last few weeks dealt with the debate on Education Savings Accounts, also referred to as school choice, vouchers, and plenty of other names depending on who you are talking to. As I mentioned in an earlier newsletter, one of the positive things about the pandemic is that most parents became more involved in their child’s education. Some parents in South Carolina didn’t like what they saw and wanted more choices.

In a place like Greenville County, it’s hard sometimes to understand the statewide issues with school choice in regard to public school (including charter schools, magnet programs etc.) and private school.

We passed the school choice bill, and it is my understanding that the House will take it up before the end of session. The bill will likely end up in a Conference Committee that will produce the final bill to be voted on again. (A Conference Committee is comprised of 3 Senators and 3 Representatives.)

Some of the key highlights currently include:

*A child must be Medicaid eligible (Note: over 60% of school age children in South Carolina are Medicaid eligible), or must have an IEP (Individualized Education Plan)
*A child must be enrolled in a public school the immediate semester preceding making an application
*The bill offers up to $6,000 per child with a maximum participation of 5,000 kids the first year. (In a similar program in Florida, less than 1% of students are using it.)
*Also, the bill allows you to use that money to change public school districts that charge an “outside” fee.

While researching school choice, I came across a one minute Condoleezza Rice video and she said something that stuck with me. Rice said, “We have always had school choice. It was for the families that could afford to move to the right neighborhood, were zoned for the best school, or that made the financial choice to send their kids to private school.” Hopefully, this bill will help some parents have choices for their kids that they otherwise would never have.

Today starts “Budget Week” in the Finance Committee, and we hope to have the Senate Budget out by the end of this week. It is required to be published for a week before we can begin debate on it.

After that, we will have a very short two weeks before finishing out the session on May 12. We still have several big issues to finish. The biggest issue in my mind will be shoring up our Election laws, which will be done between now and Sine Die.

As always, I want to thank you again for the opportunity to represent District 8 in the South Carolina Senate. It is an honor and a privilege that I do not take lightly.

If there is anything I can do to help you navigate state government or if you just want to share your thoughts and concerns, please call my Columbia office at (803) 212-6148 and either I, or my assistant, Ja’Vell Bynoe, will be happy to help you.

The Weeks In Review: Third Readings

For more details on the bills mentioned above and the activity of the State Senate, click below:

March 21-25, 2022

March 28-April 1, 2022

April 4-8, 2022