The 125th session (2-year sessions) of the South Carolina Legislature is underway and it’s a great time to live in South Carolina!

We spent the first week getting bills read across the desk and getting subcommittee meetings started. We also had Governor McMaster’s inauguration. It was the fourth one I have attended, and it always amazes me to see the number of foreign countries with representatives in attendance because of their connections to our state.

Last week, we started debate on S 39 – Education Savings Accounts (ESA’s). In addition, the “judicial races” were allowed to start getting commitments before the final vote takes place the first week of February. Some people question the way we elect judges, and I can understand that, but I do prefer it over popular elections. We also had the Certificate of Need (CON) Bill that came out of the Medical Affairs Committee and is on the calendar to address next.

If at some point you are feeling like you read this newsletter last year, it’s because I wrote about these same issues last year when the Senate passed bills for Education Savings Accounts and the repeal of the CON. ESA’s went to a Conference Committee because the Senate and House passed two different versions, but didn’t get passed because of questions on accountability. The repeal of the CON died in the House. Because we were at the end of a two-year session, we are now required to start over (feels like Groundhog Day).

It was also decided in the “off season” that we were going to focus on support for Law Enforcement and strengthening our fentanyl laws. Last week, the Senate Judiciary held a subcommittee meeting on five bills. Four of those deal with new laws and tough sentencing for fentanyl trafficking and fentanyl induced homicide. The fifth bill, S 252 – Law Enforcement Privacy Act, is in the subcommittee.

Melody Bowers is a friend of mine from high school. She and her husband, Ken, lost their son Brandon to a fentanyl overdose they never saw coming. I helped get them set up to testify and tell Brandon’s story at the subcommittee meeting for bill S 1 – Fentanyl Induced Homicide (penalties for the dealer) that I co-sponsored with Senate President Thomas Alexander. Unfortunately, they were not the only ones to testify, as there are many similar stories. My hope is that those bills make it out to the floor by the middle of next month.

As always, thank you for the opportunity to represent District 8 in the SC 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 my assistant, Javell Bynoe, will be happy to help you.