The 124th session of the South Carolina General Assembly got underway last month with representatives returning to Columbia for two days to take the oath of office and to reorganize the House of Representatives in preparation for the Jan. 12, 2021, starting date. This type of “re-organization” is held every two years following an election to elect the leadership officers, receive committee assignments, and adopt procedural rules for the upcoming two-year session.

Beaufort and Jasper Counties saw the return of our entire delegation and strong committee assignments covering almost every House standing committee. Bill Herbkersman and Shannon Erickson both retained their seats on Ways and Means; Jeff Bradley was assigned to the Labor, Commerce and Industry Committee; Michael Rivers will serve on Education, and Public Works; Shedron Williams will serve on Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Environmental; and I will serve another term on the Judiciary Committee, where I will again be the chairman of the Constitutional Laws Subcommittee.

Additionally, I was re-elected chairman of the Legislative Oversight Committee. These assignments mean that the Lowcountry is well and fully represented in Columbia with seniority and key committee roles. Our delegation is one of the strongest and most influential in the entire state, and will serve our community well over the next two years.

In the 123rd session, 1318 substantive bills were filed, with 187 being enacted (81% originated in the House). That’s a mere 14% passed by both bodies and signed into law. More than 1000 bills have been pre-filed to be considered over the next two years.

As I have previously reported in this space, Speaker Jay Lucas assigned me to the Equitable Justice Ad Hoc Committee, and tasked me as the Chair of the subcommittee dealing with Hate Crimes Legislation. Our committee will be returning to Columbia next week both in person and virtually to present our subcommittee reports on Asset Forfeiture Reform, Hate Crimes, Sentencing Reform and Drug Courts in anticipation of the full committee debating these measures and finalizing legislation to be filed on Jan. 12.

Despite the limitations we have all been enduring, we were blessed to have all of our children home and healthy for the holidays. While extended family visits were modified and some even held virtually, we were still able to spend time with our entire family.

As we all prepare for the New Year and say good riddance to 2020, I would be remiss if I did not recognize the act of kindness of my good friend Catherine Donaldson. When parts of Bluffton lost power on Christmas Eve, Catherine was able to identify the linesmen for the power company that were called away from family to restore power on that chilly night, and raised money from the community as a thank you to the linesmen. These types of acts of kindness are what make our community so strong.

It is a privilege to continue to serve the residents of District 120 in the House. If I can be of service, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Weston Newton is the representative for District 120 in the State House of Representatives. WestonNewton@schouse.gov