Last week was the 8th week of the 2021 legislative session. There are 10 legislative weeks remaining before the General Assembly is scheduled to adjourn on May 13, 2021. Here are the highlights from last week in the Senate:
REINFORCING COLLEGE EDUCATION ON AMERICA’S CONSTITUTIONAL HERITAGE (REACH) – The Senate passed S.38 2021-2022 Bill 38: Reinforcing College Education on America’s Constitutional Heritage Act (REACH Act) – South Carolina Legislature Online (scstatehouse.gov), a bill that would require all public high school students to complete a course covering the United States Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, the Emancipation Proclamation, and the Federalist Papers in order to graduate. Additionally, the bill would require all public college and university students to complete at least three credit hours in American history, American government, or an equivalent class that includes the students’ reading of the United State Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, the Emancipation Proclamation, and at least 5 essays from the Federalist Papers. The bill will now go to the House of Representatives.
SCHOOLS OF INNOVATION – The Senate passed H. 3589 South Carolina Legislature Online – Bill Search by Bill Number (scstatehouse.gov), a bill that would allow each school district to create innovative and creative schools within the district to offer education choices outside the traditional public school model. If approved by the state board of education, these schools would have greater flexibility from state statutes and regulations. Three districts have created schools under this framework, and those schools have shown incredible progress. The bill will be returned to the House.
CAPITAL PUNISHMENT – South Carolina law currently allows death row inmates to choose between two methods of execution: lethal injection and electrocution. However, because of significant pressure on drug makers from death penalty opponents, the state has been unable to acquire the necessary drugs to conduct lethal injection executions. Therefore, practically, South Carolina has been unable to carry out death sentences for several years. Last week, the Senate passed S. 200 2021-2022 Bill 200: Executions – South Carolina Legislature Online (scstatehouse.gov), a bill that would authorize the Department of Corrections to use electrocution or a firing squad if it cannot acquire the drugs necessary for lethal injection. The bill will now go to the House.
LIEN ENFORCEMENT – The Senate passed S. 105 2021-2022 Bill 105: Lien enforcement before magistrate court – South Carolina Legislature Online (scstatehouse.gov), a bill that would allow magistrate courts to enforce liens up to the court’s jurisdictional limit, currently $7,500. Current law gives magistrates authority to enforce liens only if the liens are for less than $100. The bill will now go to the House.
CHARTER SCHOOL FUNDING – The Senate passed H. 3608 2021-2022 Bill 3608: Charter School District, funding – South Carolina Legislature Online (scstatehouse.gov), a resolution that sends $9 million to the statewide charter school district to fill a funding gap for this academic year. Charter schools have seen a massive increase in student enrollment this year because charters
have been offering five days of in-person instruction the entire academic year. In fact, there are more than 40,000 children on waiting lists across the state. Despite the significant increase in new students, there was no commensurate increase in funding. This resolution ensures that schools in the statewide charter school district will be able to finish the school year without funding cuts.
SALARY STEP INCREASES FOR TEACHERS – Most teachers receive an annual salary increase of approximately 2%. When the legislature passed the state budget last May, legislators suspended those increases for this academic year because budget writers were unsure if the state would have enough tax revenue to fund those increases. With more reliable revenue forecasts available, the House and Senate have passed H. 3609 2021-2022 Bill 3609: Teacher salaries – South Carolina Legislature Online (scstatehouse.gov), a resolution that would reinstate those step increases for the 2020-2021 school year, retroactive to the beginning of the school year. Teachers will receive the full allotment in one lump-sum payment before June 15.
STATE AIRPLANE – You may have read this article in The State newspaper SC Democrat Rutherford takes new wife on state plane trips | The State, highlighting misuse of the two taxpayer funded state airplanes. Unfortunately, this isn’t the first misuse of the planes. In fact, in 2013 the Senate voted to sell the planes following similar abuse, but the House declined. The 2013 abuses did lead to a renewed effort to ensure proper usage limited to official state business. While those protections worked for a while, they clearly didn’t solve the problem. If we can’t adequately fix the problem and protect taxpayers’ investment, I have proposed that we just sell the planes. SC Senate leader: Sell state planes if aren’t used right (apnews.com). I will keep you updated with what happens.
Virus Numbers – South Carolina’s infection rate has been declining. You can see the daily numbers here.
Please wear a mask, avoid large crowds, and wash our hands frequently. We can all help this process if we take these steps.
Testing Sites – You can find COVID testing locations near you here.
Vaccine eligibility – As of Monday, March 8, South Carolina has opened Phase 1B of the vaccine distribution. Here’s who’s eligible to receive the vaccine under Phase 1B:
Anyone aged 55 and up
People aged 16-54 with increased risk for severe COVID-19 disease, such as Cancer (current, not a history of cancer), chronic kidney disease (any stage), chronic lung disease, diabetes (Type 1 and Type 2), Down syndrome, heart disease (congestive heart disease, coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathy, pulmonary hypertension), HIV/AIDS, solid organ transplant, obesity (BMI > 30), pregnancy, sickle cell disease.
Frontline workers with increased occupational risk, such as school staff and daycare workers, criminal justice staff, government employees, manufacturing workers, grocery store workers, and law enforcement officers.
Individuals at increased risk in settings where people are living and working in close contact
All workers in healthcare and community health settings who have routine, direct patient contact and were not vaccinated in Phase 1a
You can read more information about the phases and eligibility here.
WHAT IF I’M NOT ELIGIBLE UNDER PHASE 1B? – DHEC estimates that Phase 1c eligibility will begin the week of April 12 and Phase 2 will begin the week of May 3. You can see more information about phases and eligibility here.
How do I get the vaccine? – DHEC has updated its list of vaccine locations here.
In addition to the locations identified on the map, in our area you can request vaccines through the following local hospital websites:
Aiken Regional Medical Centers – COVID-19 Vaccine | Aiken Regional Medical Centers
Lexington Medical Center – COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Vaccine | Lexington Medical Center (lexmed.com)
Self Regional Healthcare – Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information, Prevention and Preparedness – Self Regional Healthcare | Greenwood, SC
For those who do not have internet access, DHEC launched a new phone number – 866-365-8110 – that is staffed with 240 operators to answer calls 7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. and help schedule vaccine appointments.
Appointments should be scheduled because walk ins may not be able to receive the vaccine.
How is South Carolina doing in the administration of the vaccine? – As of Sunday, March 7, South Carolina had received 1,611,518 doses (408,108 more than last Sunday) and has administered 1,231,359 doses (301,784 more than last Sunday). You can keep up with how many doses we have received and administered here. This site is updated daily.
SCDOT ROAD PROJECTS – SCDOT has an interactive map to allow citizens to see the road and bridge projects going on around the state. You can see that map here.
How is the gas tax being used? – SCDOT’s website allows you to view a detailed revenue statement and project list that is funded by the Infrastructure Maintenance Trust Fund (IMTF). SCDOT updates this site monthly as the revenue comes in. You can see that report here.
WANT TO SEE THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY IN ACTION? – The Senate meets in statewide session on Tuesdays at 12:00, Wednesdays at 1:00, and Thursdays at 11:00. Committees and subcommittees meet Wednesday mornings and Thursday mornings. You can watch live coverage of the Senate, House of Representatives, and committees here.
OUR SENATE DISTRICT – Senate district 25 consists of all of Edgefield County and parts of Aiken, Lexington, McCormick, and Saluda Counties. If you’d like to see the district map, go here.
SPEAKING WITH GROUPS – Several groups, clubs, and classes around our Senate district have invited me to attend their meetings and provide legislative updates. If you would like for me to come speak with your group, please let me know.
EMAIL UPDATES – If you know of people in or around District 25 who do not receive my updates but would like to get them, please email their names and email addresses to me. You can also forward this email to them and encourage them to sign up for the updates at www.senatormassey.com.
P.O. Box 551
Edgefield, SC 29824
Cell Phone: (803) 480-0419