The current session of the S.C. General Assembly was extremely active with numerous bills moved forward in its first two weeks. Many of these bills pushed ahead COVID-19 vaccination measures and school initiatives, and pushed against newly enacted and potential Presidential Executive Orders that conflict with the more conservative positions of most South Carolinians. Most are still in committee.
As this legislative session continues, I will be bringing to your attention matters I believe are of most concern to Hilton Head Island and Daufuskie residents. Currently these are:
• Vaccination efforts: South Carolina continues to be among the nation’s leaders in getting vaccinations into the arms of its residents as vaccines become available. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Data Tracker, our state has been among the most efficient at getting vaccines administered once the vaccines have been received.
At mid-month we ranked 17th among the 50 states, ahead of our neighbors North Carolina (19th) and Georgia (40th) .
The CDC’s Data Tracker compiles data from healthcare facilities and public health authorities and updates the data daily. It is available for anyone to view online.
• School aid to combat COVID-19: South Carolina public and private schools will receive an additional boost of $886 million from the latest federal aid package related to COVID-19. Public schools will receive $846 million and private schools $40 million. This funding can be used to make schools safer for students, teachers and staff as School Superintendent Molly Spearman pushes to reopen all schools across the state.
• Open Carry Bill: Early last month the House advanced a new bill (HB-3094) that would allow trained and certified residents – those who hold a concealable weapons permit – the right to carry a hand gun in any manner they choose. South Carolina is currently one of just five states in the U.S. that does not explicitly allow trained, certified and permitted hand gun owners not to carry their weapon in plain view. The others are New York, Illinois, Florida and California.
• Fetal Heartbeat Bill: On Feb. 17 our Republican majority House passed the Fetal Heartbeat and Protection from Abortion Act bill, which was then forwarded to Gov. Henry McMaster for his signature. The proposal had passed the State Senate two weeks earlier.
This new legislation requires doctors to perform ultrasounds to check for a heartbeat in a fetus. Once the heartbeat is detected, an abortion can be performed only if a pregnancy was caused by rape or incest, or if the mother’s life is in danger.
Approximately a dozen other states have passed similar or more restrictive abortion bans in recent years. However, such laws can take effect only if the U.S. Supreme Court were to overturn a 1973 court decision supporting abortion rights.
Abortion rights advocates have sued in those other states and promise to do the same here in South Carolina. If they do it will keep the law from going into effect in our state as well.
Jeff Bradley is the representative for District 123 in the State House of Representatives.