With inauguration week behind us, the legislative session has officially begun. This year is the first of a two-year session and there were over 700 pre-filed bills that need to be assigned to a committee before they come to the House or Senate floor for debate. Some of those bills are near duplicates of bills that almost made it across the finish line last year.
For example, the Senate this week has been focused on S. 39. This bill aims to provide $6,000 in educational scholarship accounts to IEP (individualized education program) or low-income students for K-12 education. It is essentially a school choice bill for students in poverty. The Senate adjourned Thursday afternoon and will continue debating and amending this bill into next week.
The Senate hopes to focus on amending Certificate of Need (CON) legislation next. A CON is a legal document that is required to construct a new healthcare facility. Its purpose in SC was to promote cost containment, prevent unnecessary duplication of healthcare facilities and services, and to guide facilities where they will best serve a public need. However, some believe that CON’s get in the way of the “free market.” The South Carolina Hospital Association is in favor of amending the legislation but not completely eliminating the CON. To learn more about their position, click here.
The House has been heavy in committee work. When I walked into the lobby on Wednesday, a special committee created by Speaker Murell Smith was holding a press conference. The special committee was tasked with brainstorming ways to make SC more competitive in attracting industry. Out of that brainstorming came H. 3726 Statewide Education and Workforce Development Act. The goal of the bill is to improve workforce participation rates across the state and to better align education with industry needs. By streamlining current programs to eliminate duplications and adding things like an annual industry and educational supply gap analysis, SC will be better positioned to fill open jobs. The bill currently resides in the Committee on Labor, Commerce and Industry.
This would be a big win for the business community and we look forward to working with our State House members to get this across the finish line.
My first two weeks in Columbia have been a great learning experience. The most important lesson: wear comfortable shoes…you will get your steps in! I’m grateful for the opportunity to ensure our region’s business needs continue to be front and center in the minds of our delegation.
Stay tuned for more updates from Columbia. Have a great weekend!