Last week was the 15th week of the 2021 legislative session. There are 3 legislative weeks remaining before the General Assembly is scheduled to adjourn on May 13, 2021. Here are the highlights from last week’s floor action in the Senate:
CATALYTIC CONVERTER THIEVERY – The Senate passed H. 3991 2021-2022 Bill 3991: Nonferrous Metals – Catalytic Converters – South Carolina Legislature Online (scstatehouse.gov), a bill that would make it a crime to purchase, sale, or possess a detached catalytic converter unless the person has a permit. This bill is an effort to combat a rash of catalytic converter thefts. The House of Representatives will now consider Senate changes.
STUDENT SUICIDE PREVENTION – The Senate passed. S. 231 2021-2022 Bill 231: Student Identification Card Suicide Prevention Act – South Carolina Legislature Online (scstatehouse.gov), a bill that would require that schools and universities print the telephone number for the National Suicide Prevention Hotline on all student identification cards. The bill will now go to the House.
OVER-THE-COUNTER CONTRACEPTIVES – The Senate passed S. 628 2021-2022 Bill 628: Pharmacy Access Act – South Carolina Legislature Online (scstatehouse.gov), a bill that would allow women to purchase birth control without a doctor’s prescription. The bill will now go to the House of Representatives.
RETURN TO SCHOOL AND RETIRED TEACHERS – The Senate and House agreed on language to S.704 2021-2022 Bill 704: SCRS, earning limitations – South Carolina Legislature Online (scstatehouse.gov), a resolution that requires all school districts to offer five-day, in-person instruction no later than April 12, 2021, and for the entire 2021-2022 school year. The resolution would create a temporary, 3-year program to allow retired teachers who have been retired for at least two years to return to the classroom and earn up to $50,000/year while still collecting their state retirement benefits. Governor McMaster signed the resolution into law last week.
REINFORCING COLLEGE EDUCATION ON AMERICA’S CONSTITUTIONAL HERITAGE (REACH) – The Senate passed and House agreed on language to 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 requires 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
requires 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, at least 5 essays from the Federalist Papers, and documents that are foundational to the African American freedom struggle. I expect Governor McMaster to sign the bill into law this week.
SCHOOLS OF INNOVATION – The Senate and House agreed to changes to H. 3589 South Carolina Legislature Online – Bill Search by Bill Number (scstatehouse.gov), a bill that allows 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. Governor McMaster signed the bill into law last week.
PALMETTO FELLOWSHIP SCHOLARSHIPS AT TECHNICAL COLLEGES – The Senate passed H. 3107 2021-2022 Bill 3017: Palmetto Fellows Scholarship – South Carolina Legislature Online (scstatehouse.gov), a bill that would allow students who earn the prestigious Palmetto Fellowship scholarships to use those scholarships at technical colleges and four-year universities. Since those scholarships were created, their use has been limited to four-year schools only. The House will now consider Senate changes.
DIRECTOR OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES – The Senate confirmed the nomination of Robbie Kerr to serve as Director of the Department of Health and Human Services, the state agency charged with handling the Medicaid program. Mr. Kerr served as director during Governor Sanford’s first term and is credited with making a number of positive changes.
SANTEE COOPER – The Senate spent most of the week debating and ultimately passed H. 3194 2021-2022 Bill 3194: Assets – South Carolina Legislature Online (scstatehouse.gov), a resolution that would impose meaningful accountability and oversight of Santee Cooper. An amendment to allow for a process to sell the embattled state-owned utility failed. The resolution would make the following changes:
– Board members – all board members who served during VC Summer debacle would be removed from the board over the next 3 ½ years and would be prohibited from being reappointed. This would affect all but one of the existing members. Future board members’ terms would be reduced from 7 years to 4 years, and those board members would be limited to no more than 3 terms.
– Rates – Santee Cooper would have to publish its pricing principles, notify customers of rate increase requests, and allow customers to comment at public hearings. The Office of Regulatory Staff would also be involved in reviewing and commenting on rates. Customers or ORS could appeal rate increases to the South Carolina Supreme Court.
– Office of Regulatory Staff – the resolution would authorize ORS to investigate, inspect, and review all Santee Cooper operations. ORS would have subpoena power to ensure Santee Cooper compliance. This is a significant accountability measure.
– Integrated Resource Plans – Santee Cooper would have to submit its IRP, a 10-year plan for future activities, the Public Service Commission for review and approval. A plan would have to be approved every 3 years with annual reports. This was a major win for accountability and oversight by treating Santee Cooper like Dominion and Duke for long-range planning.
– Siting – Santee Cooper would have to get Public Service Commission approval for the construction of all new generation facilities, just like Dominion and Duke. This is a significant reform.
– Debt review – Santee Cooper would have to get approval from the Joint Bond Review Committee for all borrowing. This will have a major impact on Santee Cooper’s future debt load.
The bill will now go back to the House for consideration of Senate amendments.
2021-2022 STATE BUDGET – The Senate will debate the budget this week. I will update you next week on the details.
OPEN CARRY – A Senate subcommittee will meet on Tuesday to consider H.3094 2021-2022 Bill 3094: Open Carry with Training Act – South Carolina Legislature Online (scstatehouse.gov), a bill that would allow Concealed Weapons Permit holders to carry their weapons concealed or openly. I will update you next week.
Testing Sites – You can find COVID testing locations near you 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:
Abbeville Area Medical Center – Important Coronavirus Information | Abbeville Area Medical Center (abbevilleareamc.com)
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.
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