SC lawmakers return to Columbia for 2020 legislative session

State - Regional

COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA)- Tuesday was a big day in Columbia for South Carolina lawmakers as the 2020 legislative session got underway.

Hundreds of bills were filed before lawmakers returned to the state house and dozens more are expected to come as they continue to meet for the next five months.

For members of the South Carolina House, Tuesday was a refresher. Little action was taken, but state representatives still have their minds centered around education.

“The Speaker Jay Lucas and Representative Rita Allison with the Education and Public Works Committee have a series of bills trying to refine some of the things we did last year,” said Rep. Gary Clary, from Pickens.

Last year, the SC House passed a massive education bill to reform the state’s current system. The legislation addresses everything from teacher pay to standardized testing.

Tuesday in the Senate, that bill was the topic of discussion. Lawmakers quickly took action on the bill placing it on the senate calendar for Wednesday.

“I don’t know if it will pass or not pass or what it will look but there’s an interest in education in South Carolina,” explained Senator Greg Hembree, the chair of the Senate Education Committee. Senators voted 40-4 to place the bill on special order.

Lawmakers are hoping other areas of interest are also taken up in chambers this year, despite a focus on education.

“I have a bill to increase the penalties for hazing. We see it often on TV, in the newspaper, on the internet,” added Rep. Clary.

Senator Margie Bright Matthews is pushing for an equal rights bill. The bill would promote equal pay for women and provide protection from job discrimination.

Another area where lawmakers will have to invest their time and energy is Santee Cooper and deciding what to do with the state owned utility.

“Santee Cooper is certainly one of the biggest decisions we will make involving energy in South Carolina probably for the next 50 years,” Senator Hembree continued .

“The ripple effect effects power for many South Carolinians. I read somewhere 2 million or more so it’s very impactful because the cops have long term agreements with Santee Cooper,” added Rep. Clary.

The fetal heartbeat bill was supposed to be another area where state senators were expected to focus their energy; however, Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey said the votes are not there to put that bill on rush order to the senate calendar.

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