LEGISLATIVE REPORT, WEEK ENDING 2/27/2020

Every week the General Assembly is in session, we’re busy on the House floor and attending non-stop committee and sub-committee hearings as well as other meetings. This week was an important one to me personally as much of what moved through the House was legislation related to education. As the Chair of the House’s K-12 Sub-Committee, working on education issues is very important to me. I was certainly glad to see the focus on education issues this week.

The House took a step towards confronting anti-Semitism this week with the introduction of House Bill 5287 . I was among several dozen House members who sponsored this legislation, which establishes the definition of anti-Semitism when the state’s Human Affairs Commission is investigating complaints of religious harassment and discrimination. The bill was sent to the House Judiciary Committee for their review and consideration.

Elsewhere in the House, hearings on the potential sale of the state-owned Santee-Cooper utility company continued. Also work continued on clearing as much legislation from the House’s agenda in advance of the arrival of the state budget the week of March 9. Both of these issues are expected to take up much of the House’s time during the month of March.

Here are some of the bills which saw action in the House this week:

Early Education Testing

House Bill 4761 , which would address needed education reforms related to testing and reading and math skills, received final passage in the House and was sent to the Senate for their consideration:

  • Of the 5 universal early literacy and numeracy tests allowed for K through Grade 3 students, they must be evidence-based to ensure they are effective measures, following a multi-tiered system of supports adopted by the state’s Department of Education.
  • School districts must be able to identify students with dyslexia and other reading disorders as early as possible to ensure they get the learning assistance they need as soon as possible.
  • School districts are authorized - and required - to offer summer reading camps for students that are substantially not proficient in reading earlier than 3rd grade.
  • The state Department of Education will hire reading coaches in the districts that have more than one-third of third grade students scoring at the lowest achievement level on the State English/language arts assessment.

I was one of the sponsors of this legislation. This bill was sent to the Senate’s Education Committee, where it awaits further action.

School Lunches
Two bills passed by the House this week take aim at the growing problems associated with school lunch programs:

  • House Bill 3328 would require school districts to provide the same breakfast and lunch options to students who pay for free or reduced lunches that they offer to those who pay full price.
  • House Bill 4765 would prevent school districts from using debt-collection agencies to collect unpaid breakfast or lunch money owed by students. It would also prevent school districts from charging fees, interest or any other penalties for breakfast or lunch money.

Both bills were passed unanimously and sent to the Senate, where they await hearings in the Senate’s Education Committee.

Business Licenses

The House took a move towards reforming the state’s business license system by passing House Bill 4431 , sending it to the Senate for their consideration. This will greatly benefit the state’s small businesses. The three most notable reforms in this legislation are:

  • A standard form for applying for business licenses anywhere in South Carolina
  • A uniform due date for business licenses so businesses know when fees are due
  • An online application process with no service fee for local governments to use

The bill awaits a hearing from the Senate’s Finance Committee.

What Else Did We Do This Week?

In the Education Committee, we gave a favorable hearing to several bills, most importantly:

  • House Bill 4694, which toughens penalties for drivers who pass a stopped school bus. The bill will now be sent back to the full House for their consideration. I was one of the sponsors of this bill.
  • House Bill 4835, which cracks down on slower drivers in the left-hand “passing” lanes of multi-lane roadways, as well as directs SCDOT to install signs directing slower traffic to move right. The bill will now be sent over to the full House.

On Tuesday, we were honored to celebrate the first South Carolina Military Department Day at the State House, held in recognition of our state's National and State Guard personnel, past and present. Since the days of our state's volunteer militia fighting for our nation's freedom from Great Britain, these volunteers have answered the call of duty in every conflict and countless other times of emergency. As a proud supporter of our veterans and military, I was excited to be part of this event. You can watch the video of the ceremony at the State House: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NkZm--vnkuw

We’ll return on Tuesday. If you have any questions or concerns in the meantime, , if you have any questions or concerns, please don't hesitate to contact me at  RayeFelder@SCHouse.gov .
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