Unlike the United States Congress, our 125th session of the South Carolina General Assembly got off to a really quick start two weeks ago.

On the first day, our new Speaker G. Murrell Smith, Jr. gaveled in the session, and we were off to work. I’m hoping to set in motion a great many positive solutions for our state during the next four months.

Among the first issues on the House agenda was to expedite Gov. Henry McMaster’s promise to accelerate an infrastructure bill (H-3209) that will advance economic development across the entire state.

This bill encompasses widening interstate highways, including the stretch of I-95 that runs from the Georgia border 33 miles northbound to where U.S. 17 branches off toward Charleston at Point South. 

The initial phase of this project (the eight miles from Georgia’s border to Hwy. 278 – at Exit 8 to Hardeeville and Hilton Head Island) will start within 12 months. The engineering and design are already underway. This will be an enormous benefit for those of us who need to reach the Savannah Airport on a regular basis. The entire 33-mile highway stretch is estimated to cost $360 million.

During the session’s first week there were more than 700 bills allocated to their proper committees for review. Every legislator began working within their committees and/or subcommittees to discuss, and either dismiss or send these bills to the House floor for debate.

I was the prime sponsor of three House bills, including H-3547 which, if approved, will “amend the South Carolina Code of Laws by prohibiting the collection of personal information from children by operators of websites and online services.” It is my strong belief that without this prohibition, online predators will continue to target minors to risks of cyberbullying, identity theft, exposure to graphic content, plus ideological persuasion and other insidious entrapment.

In an overwhelming 101-14 bipartisan vote, I joined my House colleagues to support a bill that will allocate our state’s portion of the American Rescue Plan to fund key infrastructure investments that will update and construct new water and sewer facilities for towns in rural areas. Additionally, we built into the legislation increased transparency and accountability measures that will ensure that no member of the General Assembly will be able to personally benefit from the distribution of these funds.

Also among the very first issues taken up during the first two weeks was how best to fight against the dangerous rise of fentanyl trafficking. Such trafficking has resulted in record fentanyl-related deaths over the past two years in our state. An overwhelming number of affected family members along with law enforcement representatives showed up in Columbia to testify to the House Judiciary Criminal Laws Subcommittee about what has been happening in their local communities. A new bill to significantly increase penalties for fentanyl trafficking is the objective. I strongly support it.

Jeff Bradley is the representative for District 123 in the State House of Representatives.