The 124th session of the South Carolina General Assembly resumed briefly in early December with representatives taking their oaths of office. Now, as we prepare to convene this month for our new two-year session, legislators are busy setting their priorities, and looking at how they will align as new bills are being proposed.
Since my first year as a freshman state representative in 2014, I’ve learned it is exceedingly strenuous and stressful to get bills enacted into law. There is value in seniority, and alliances are all important. Getting laws passed in the S.C. General Assembly has been compared to running a gauntlet. In our most recent session there were 1,318 bills introduced with only 187 (14%) enacted as laws.
Looking forward, it appears that the two-year session ahead may be unlike any before. Scores of new challenges brought on by COVID-19 have been felt by all of us. Because of COVID, our legislative efforts were forced to abruptly pause last Spring just as they were beginning to make dramatic headway, and a variety of important legislative priorities were left incomplete.
Despite the pandemic, however, we all were made intensely aware that time marches on, problems arise and certain situations simply have to be taken care of.
I was very proud of how we all worked together to meet the demands of the moment with a series of special sessions where we passed vital measures to assure the continuation of government, appropriate federal relief funds, and ensure access to safe and secure voting for all South Carolina citizens. As our House leader, Speaker Jay Lucas, pointed out: “It may have looked and felt different, but the House delivered results for the people of South Carolina.”
The leadership of the Speaker is one key reason I’m looking forward to this New Year. Things might be different and difficult as we enter 2021, but I believe there’s a brighter future as we combat the problems caused by COVID with a promising vaccine on our horizon. I’m especially confident because we have an even stronger team on the House floor.
In this new session I will continue to be on the Regulations and Administrative Procedures Committee with its expanded responsibilities in this pandemic era, and I have garnered a measure of seniority to deal with it. I also now serve on the Labor, Commerce and Industry Committee which has considerable responsibilities as we continue to grow our state economy.
There will be numerous priorities arising in this session including redistricting, which is done once every 10 years. It will have consequential importance locally because of our recent population growth.
My top three personal priorities include: (1) continuing to move forward the infrastructure progress made last year with our Highway 278 bridge project and the widening of Interstate I-95 in the Lowcountry region; (2) pursuing additional steps to provide equitable quality public education across our state and; (3) pension reform – a significant topic that I will address in greater detail in future columns.
Jeff Bradley is the representative for District 123 in the State House of Representatives.