Here's an update on some recent happenings at the State House. I hope you find it useful and informative. And thank you to everyone who has reached out to share your views, concerns and advice. Please keep the feedback coming. Your input allows me to do the best job possible serving you.
On behalf of the entire McCabe family, I wish you a wonderful Easter!
Hidden earmarks: a symptom of a bigger problem
Every year, S.C. lawmakers secretly fund tens of millions of dollars in pet projects via hidden earmarks – budget items with deliberately vague descriptions which are laundered through agency budgets to evade scrutiny. This is a problem because it keeps taxpayers in the dark, and because it’s ripe for abuse: As you may have read (click here or here) a number of state lawmakers have been using hidden earmarks to steer millions to groups to which they have ties.
But the problem is bigger than earmarks; it’s our anti-reform Legislature. You see, lawmakers have been pledging to end hidden earmarks for over a decade. The fact that this still happens is a symptom of a system that resists reform.
I recently voted “no” on the state budget largely due to the Legislature’s refusal to address secret earmarks. We need to ban them for once and all. But more fundamental, conservative reforms are in order. It’s high time to get serious about fixing our shamelessly unaccountable, anti-reform, good ol’ boy government.
The S.C. House and Senate are deliberating on a $31.1 billion spending plan for the fiscal year beginning July 1. The general fund budget would be $9.8 billion. The full budget proposal is posted online here.
The House recently voted 112-6 to approve the plan. I voted against it due to concerns about earmarks, frivolous spending, and abortion funding. The bill awaits Senate approval.
Protecting businesses from COVID-19 lawsuits
A House committee has given preliminary approval to a Senate-passed bill to shield businesses from liability over claims of exposure to COVID-19. It does not cover reckless or intentional conduct.
The legislation, called the COVID-19 Liability Immunity Act, will soon come before the full House. It aims to encourage businesses to stay open during the pandemic, rather than closing out of fear of lawsuits.
Upholding the Second Amendment
The House has passed "open carry" legislation – of which I am a sponsor -- to allow trained concealed weapons permit holders to carry those guns openly in most places. The bill, called the “Open Carry with Training Act,” is now pending approval from the Senate Judiciary Committee. If passed by the Senate and signed by the Governor, it would bring South Carolina in line with 46 other states that have some kind of open carry law. It’s a modest but necessary step to protect South Carolinians’ constitutional right to self-defense.
Protecting the freedom to worship
Despite opposition from Democrats, a bill to protect South Carolinians’ freedom to worship – of which I am a sponsor -- has passed the S.C. House. The legislation would amend the state’s “Religious Freedom Act” to prevent governmental entities from restricting religious gatherings during times of emergency. It’s a response to efforts in more liberal states, like California and New York, to ban religious gatherings due to COVID-19.
The bill now awaits consideration by the Senate Judiciary Committee. I hope and believe it will be passed into law. The right to worship freely should never be abridged -- especially during times when it’s needed most.
Maintaining the integrity of our elections
The S.C. House has passed legislation to improve the way elections are run in the state. The bill would standardize election procedures and give the S.C. Election Commission power to ensure local election agencies comply with the law.
Elections are currently managed by each county's election office, and the process can vary from county to county. The bill, which is now before the Senate Judiciary Committee, aims to prevent election-related problems and bolster public confidence in our elections.
Follow the S.C. House online
Elected officials are at their best when they know people are watching. That's why I'm reminding people that they can watch meetings of the S.C. House of Representatives online. They’re streamed live via scstatehouse.gov. I encourage you to tune in if you get a chance.
The more eyes on state government, the better.
(Meetings of the S.C. Senate are also streamed at scstatehouse.gov.)