The 2021 legislative session has been moving at a fast pace, and I am eager to update you on bills the state House and Senate are debating.
Before I do, I am happy to share the news our state has reached a huge milestone with more than 1 million South Carolinians vaccinated. Earlier this month, we transitioned into Phase 1b, meaning people 55 and older, teachers, law enforcement, other frontline workers and those who have high-risk medical conditions are now eligible for the vaccine. DHEC’s website (scdhec.gov) has more information about when certain groups qualify, and it also has valuable information about finding appointment locations and times. I encourage you to check it out!
South Carolina’s progress in vaccinating our citizens is due to the hard work of medical professionals, the S.C. National Guard, volunteers and countless others. I certainly am grateful for the work and the sacrifices of those on the front lines.
Going back to the legislative session, I am pleased to share information on several bills we have passed and debated recently.
Teacher step raises
The House and Senate passed a bill and Gov. McMaster signed it into law giving teachers “step raises” for this school year, which are incremental increases based on years of service. The legislature debated this measure in 2020, but we delayed it to see how the economy and tax revenue fared in the pandemic. Thankfully, tax revenues have not fallen significantly.
Step raises for next school year and other possible teacher pay increases will be considered as part of the full state budget. Evaluating teacher pay is important, because S.C. is experiencing a teacher shortage. I support anything the General Assembly can do to attract and retain great teachers. These steps will benefit not only educators, but also all South Carolina students.
Along with addressing teacher pay, the House has passed several bills and sent them to the Senate for debate, including:
The House passed a bill designed to maintain the integrity of every vote cast and to ensure elections are run consistently across the state. It would give the State Election Commission oversight responsibilities.
Religious services essential
We passed a measure to reinforce our First Amendment right to worship during states of emergency.
Open carry with training
The House also passed H.3094, protecting citizens’ Second Amendment rights to carry a firearm if they have sufficient training and appropriate certifications.
Opportunities for all students
We passed a measure that would allow homeschooled students to participate in public school interscholastic activities, such as sports.
Military special license plates
We saw strong support for a bill permitting special military license plates, including one recognizing “Wartime Disabled Veterans.” I see these plates as a small way we can honor veterans’ tremendous sacrifices.
‘Move over’ law
To promote roadway safety, the House unanimously passed a commonsense bill to mandate slower traffic move to the right lane while driving on a two-lane street (where both lanes are moving in the same direction).
Helping small businesses
This year has been challenging for many, but especially for small businesses. To help, the House passed bills reducing taxes businesses pay on marked-down wholesale items and allowing for creative growth, such as developing mobile barber shops.
Next month, I will update you as these bills progress in the Senate. I also will be sharing information on the state budget and the hate crimes bill, both moving through the House and Senate. I invite you to read that column to learn more about those two important issues.
To end, I want to share the good news that unclaimed money might be waiting for you. Millions of dollars are transferred to the state’s Unclaimed Property program each year by companies that cannot find the rightful owners. Earlier this month, the state treasurer’s office announced more than 600,000 new “properties” have been added, including money in dormant bank accounts, uncashed checks and forgotten deposits. You can search for unclaimed property at https://treasurer.sc.gov/what-we-do/for-citizens/unclaimed-property-program/.
Thank you for the honor of representing you! My door is always open!
Bill Sandifer represents Oconee County’s District 2 in the South Carolina House. Sandifer can be reached at (864) 885-2240 or [email protected] You also can connect with him on Facebook.