Last week was “Budget Week”, and it went as smooth as I have seen it in my eleven years in the Senate. I think it was primarily due to two reasons.

The first reason is due to the transparency that Chairman Harvey Peeler (Gaffney) insists on in the process and the second is because of the rule we passed for ourselves three years ago that requires your name be published by any “earmarks” that are included in the budget at your request.

We still have a ways to go until a final budget is signed by the Governor, but we have a budget that raises teacher base pay, raises all state employees pay ($2,500 if under $50,000 and 5% if over $50,000), raises law enforcement pay, provides $27 million for additional school resource officers, and gives more money to mental health initiatives (including funding for the 988 Suicide Call Hotline). For the second year, we committed General Funds recurring money to get a Federal Match and double down on our commitment to roads.

Because the past two weeks were really spent on the Budget, the last week in March was our “crossover” deadline. This means if a Senate bill didn’t get out by then, it has no chance to get passed this year, and vice versa for the House. Click here for a list of all the bills the Senate has adopted since my last newsletter.

Of note, we did pass a House Bill on Bond Reform that was sponsored by Speaker of the House Murrell Smith. The bill cracks down on criminal defendants who commit violent crimes while out on bond by revoking their initial bond, and requires judges to consider the prior charges and bond status of the defendant in future hearings. Too often, dangerous criminals are arrested, booked, and released on bond, only to be stopped again for committing another violent crime. I would expect the Governor to sign this bill soon.

As always, thank you for the opportunity to represent District 8 in the SC Senate. It is an honor and 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 my assistant, Ja’vell Bynoe, will be happy to help you.