COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) — After the COVID-19 shortened the legislative session in 2020, South Carolina lawmakers are back at the State House.
Leadership in both chambers said they will have their hands full this session. They plan on tackling the COVID-19 pandemic, a new state budget, the future of state-owned power utility Santee Cooper and redistricting.
Senate Minority Leader Senator Brad Hutto (D-District 40) said many lawmakers have been frustrated by the slow roll out of the COVID-19 vaccine in South Carolina.
“We’re having some real problems with vaccinations and getting those into arms. We have vaccinations but we aren’t getting those done at a fast rate,” Sen. Hutto said.
He said lawmakers will try to figure out if there is anything they can do to help speed that process up. He said education and the budget are some of his priorities in 2021. Lawmakers did not pass a budget in 2020 due to the pandemic.
“We’ve got a fair amount of one time money we have to work with and we need to take a look at our priorities in light of the pandemic,” Hutto said.
Senate Republicans increased their majority in the body. Right now, 30 out of the 46 Senators are Republicans. Majority Leader Sen. Shane Massey (R-District 25) said the pandemic will be a big focus for the Senate.
He said, “It’s important for us to understand what’s going on. Because the public is calling us about those things and we need to communicate those things.”
Massey also predicts education being a much discussed topic. Senate Republicans are also expected to send a fetal heartbeat bill to the floor early in the session. A Senate Medical Affairs subcommittee will be holding a hearing on the legislation Thursday morning.
Over in the House, Minority Leader Representative Todd Rutherford (D-District 74) said he is looking forward to getting to work but wants to make sure lawmakers can serve the people of South Carolina safely.
Rutherford said, “We bring in people from all around the state into these chambers. However, in 2021, we have to make sure we aren’t spreading disease across the state.”
He said he expects Santee Cooper, a potential hate crime bill and police reform to be some of the first things taken up in the House this year.
Due to the Capitol riots, there was increased law enforcement presence inside the State House. SCDNR and SLED agents were in the lobby. Columbia Police also say they will be keeping a close eye on the area surrounding the State House leading up to Inauguration Day.
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