With the end of the year quickly approaching, the politicos of South Carolina are already gearing up for the 2020 session. Not only is the upcoming legislative session filled with hot-button, contentious issues as the political landscape of South Carolina changes, but it’s also an election year for the U.S. presidency, Lindsey Graham’s U.S. Senate seat and the entire South Carolina legislature.
Take a look at these issues that we’ll likely see being debated in the S.C. House and Senate this coming January:
The fight for medical marijuana is nothing new in the South Carolina Statehouse. For the past five years, Senator Tom Davis of Beaufort has authored and championed the S.C. Compassionate Care Act, which would legalize marijuana for medicinal use. With Davis’ passion for the bill rooted in compassion for those who could benefit, he faces strong opposition from prominent figures such as SLED Chief Mark Keel who believes a bill of this nature is laying the path for recreational bills down the road.
Legislative committees in both the House and the Senate passed nearly identical “compassionate care” bills in the 2019 session, but neither were debated on the floor of either chamber. A poll taken this year, from Benchmark Research, showed 72 percent of South Carolinians support legalizing medical marijuana. Be sure to follow along as the bills aiming to legalize the medical use of the drug are set to hit the floor of both the House and the Senate in the upcoming legislative session.
Check out the highlights of the bill here.
Santee Cooper, the state-owned utility has been in the spotlight for some time after the abandoned nuclear project, V.C. Summer left the agency with over $7 billion of debt in total. As the Department of Administration handles the bidding process, lawmakers will vote in the 2020 session on what to do with the utility whether it be a process to sell the agency, hire an outside firm to manage the agency or reform internally.
Earlier this month, Santee Cooper announced its new plan to transition the company towards solar and natural gas and away from coal-based energy solutions. They also plan to cut jobs in order to save customers money. Additionally, a five-year rate freeze was included in the plan, but many South Carolinians are questioning how this would be possible and if rates will be higher in five years to continue paying down the additional $4 billion in debt the failed nuclear project incurred.
South Carolina lawmakers look to find a solution early in the session and move onto other important legislative matters. Top offers are expected to be presented to state lawmakers as early as January 15.
As of 2017, South Carolina ranked 38th in teacher pay, falling behind regional and national averages. Teacher pay has gotten so low that many teachers take on second jobs to stay afloat.
This was one of the main reasons thousands of teachers walked out of classrooms on May 1st of this year to protest in the state capital.
Lawmakers are looking to overhaul the education system with a sweeping bill that would shape how schools are run across the state. Earlier this year, the 80-page bill was passed in the South Carolina House, but not in the Senate. A small group of state senators has been meeting to work out differences and is seeking to get the bill through the full Senate Education Committee before year’s end so it can be discussed on the floor when the legislature resumes in January.
Alcohol Blue Laws
Current South Carolina law only allows liquor to be sold by the drink and solely by restaurants, bars and hotel lounges on Sundays. Liquor stores can only sell a bottle of liquor from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., Mondays through Saturdays. In January 2019, a South Carolina House Judiciary Committee panel passed a proposal that would allow Sunday liquor bottle sales in 10 tourist heavy counties around the state. The proposal was sent back to the subcommittee a month later after being debated on the House floor as lawmakers felt their energy could be used elsewhere.
The 2020 legislative session could see Sunday alcohol laws appear again as lawmakers have been told that tourists who travel to the Palmetto State over the weekend are surprised to learn they can’t buy a bottle of liquor. A lift on Sunday liquor sales faces stark opposition from many, as some lawmakers feel it will make the state less family-friendly and lead to 24-hour liquor sales.
What do you think is the most important issue for the upcoming legislative session?