Will Legislators Attempt to Use COVID-19 To Kill Pending Bills in State House

Nicolas Knight

COVID-19 has not only attacked our bodies, our economy but now could attack our pen and ink at a Government Level.  As the COVID-19 virus has taken a toll on several aspects of Government and sessions have been reduced or canceled one must ask the question:  Will Legislators use COVID-19  to kill certain pending bills in the State House?

We took a look at all the Bills still pending in South Carolina and where they were in the legislative process.  And we were somewhat amazed at the number of bills still pending.  This can be seen at Legiscan.com.  As many of these bills are what one could call non-vital, such as naming of street,  some, on the other hand, are very important.  H3295 the Shared Parenting Bill which would guarantee our children’s rights to both parents equally.  H5112 would adjust prisoners time served.   H3391 a Civil Rights Bill prohibiting inequality of Rights based on Gender, and the hundreds of bills on taxes and funding.

Several of these bills have not gone forward since the onset of COVID-19, and have been left to adjournment.  What we also began to notice is the dates some of these bills were filed and how they were passed over for other bills to take precedent.  Some bills were pre-filed in last December and have been bypassed by the committees so as to leave them in their tracks, this is not an uncommon practice in politics to end a potential legislative bill.

Let’s look at an example, H3295 was pre-filed on 12/18/2018 and has 14 sponsors.  The last known action on this that we were made aware of was a letter sent to Rep. Bernstein demanding a hearing be set for this bill.  This was done right before COVID-19.  Rep. Bernstein had openly stated she would not allow this bill to move forward, prior to COVID-19.  Will she use COVID-19 as an opportunity to kill this what, some call a major reform bill to die in it’s legislative tracks?

H3456 is another bill that seems to have been stuck in its legislative tracks.  This bill would allow Constitutional Carry for South Carolina Citizens.  It’s championed by House Representative Johnathan Hill.  The bill was filed on 01/08/2019 and has 26 cosponsors, but has not moved on from it’s initial reference to committee.

H4716 a bill that would prevent children under the age of 18 from undergoing gender altering surgery.  This bill was filed on 11/20/2019 by Rep. Stewart Jones and has not moved in its tracks.

Should bills concerning street names be set aside to deal with more pressing bills such as the ones mentioned above?

Representative Johnathan Hill

Rep. Johnathan Hill had this to say in an email response:

“Times like this definitely provide the political cover to dodge issues that legislative leaders don’t want to address or vote on, such as constitutional carry.
I support reconvening before May 14th to pass the sine die resolution that has been proposed. Under that resolution we would come back in September to finish the budget and potentially vote on any bills still in play that have made the crossover deadline.
If we don’t, it will definitely kill every bill that has not yet been passed and signed into law and we will start over in January.
I’ve long resented the way committee chairmen play favorites. If a bill has been filed and the sponsor asks for a hearing, it should be given as promptly as can be arranged, and the matter voted up or down. Instead, committee chairs obstruct bills they don’t like, or the speaker of the house doesn’t like, for fear of losing their position.
Issues like H.3456 and H.3495 have been blocked exactly this way.”
Perhaps the State would be better served by its Legislators if they stopped creating more roadblocks and actually began doing the job they were elected for, before they find themselves voted out.  As we look at some of the early polls it would seem this is going to be the case in several elections throughout South Carolina this year.
Could we be saying goodbyes to Katrina Shealy, Luke Rankin among others?  Only the Ballots know.

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