For the first session in our new legislative series, ACCESS, we were joined by a number of state elected officials to discuss their progress thus far in this year’s legislative session as well as their hopes for the remaining time.
We heard from Representative Sylleste Davis, Senator Larry Grooms, Representative Marvin Pendarvis and Representative Mark Smith.
Representatives Davis and Pendarvis shared how this year has been different past years as a result of the pandemic. Because of restrictions on social interaction and gatherings, they were really able to focus on the work. Also because of COVID, the House transformed from a visionary body to a reactionary one. While this had its downsides, Representative Davis shared that she has been able, more than ever before, to directly interact with and help her constituents. Representative Smith is serving his first term, but shared that the other representatives’ transparency and willingness to help have been valuable as he learns the ropes.
In addition to recognizing how this year has been different from past ones, the legislators also noted that we have made it through the worst of COVID, and with vaccination rates on the rise, we are close to the other side. They encouraged their constituents to stay the course and to stay prepared.
One of the big milestones that recently passed for the House was budget week. The Representatives shared that the budget was based on revenue estimates from the Board of Economic Advisors, but as revenue from state income tax begins coming in, we will know more about how much funds are available going forward. The conservative budget focused on ensuring that we are prepared for the year to come; it also increased reserves in a number of areas, including unemployment, scholarships and disaster relief. There are a number of priorities that the House will be able to address when they revisit the budget in June, depending on where the revenue is and how it can be used.
In addition to the budget, our panelists discussed relief for the hospitality and tourism industry and the pending hate crimes bill.
They shared that hopefully there will be an opportunity to look at additional funding opportunities and support for the hospitality and tourism industry when the budget is revisited in June. All of the elected officials agreed on the importance of spending time listening to businesses statewide and determining what help is most needed.
Regarding the hate crimes bill, all three State House Representatives felt the hate crimes bill would come out of the House and Senator Grooms predicted that we would have a law by the end of the legislative session. We are so grateful to these legislators for taking the time to provide updates and answer questions, giving Chamber members direct access to real time updates on what’s happening in Columbia.