Weston Newton

We were pleased to learn that the Legislative Oversight Committee (LOC), which I chair, was the recipient of its third national award, based upon peer review of its work. The 2020 Certificate of Impact was awarded by the National Legislative Evaluation Society (a division of the National Conference of State Legislatures).

The award was specifically for our study of the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.

We are also pleased that other state legislatures continue to contact us regarding starting their own oversight processes. Fortunately, we built our website to not only be a reporting feature of our process, but also as an aid to any who would care to emulate how we organize the committee and subcommittees.

We are also very explicit in how we maintain transparency, as well as invite the public to participate in our studies.

Given our experience with how the LOC has helped to evolve and clarify the missions of each of the agencies we study and report on, I am hopeful that more governmental entities will begin to give oversight the emphasis it deserves in government.

Upon our return to Columbia toward the end of June, we began to take up the matters we included in our Sine Die Resolution. The primary focus of these session days will be the appropriation of CARES ACT funds related to COVID-19 relief.

Since we are still under pandemic conditions, only House members and staff will be allowed into the House Chamber. We will perform under usual House rules and policies. The Chamber will be cleaned with surfaces sanitized, and hand sanitizer will be placed around the room.

Pages and law clerks will not be returning to work at this time, but the public will have access to the Blatt Building.

Sen. Tom Davis, Rep. Bill Herbkersman and I participated in the June 6 rally and walk around Old Town Bluffton. The event was to promote unity and social justice.

It was truly uplifting to see so many folks, young and old, exercising not only their legs, but their constitutional rights as well, while promoting peaceful dialog.

A part of that dialog had to do with the fact that South Carolina is one of only four states without any Hate Crimes legislation.

Current events have served to place the Hate Crime issue on the front burner at the State House. I mentioned in another column that I had co-sponsored and pre-filed H4680 last fall, along with Rep. Beth Bernstein (D); Rep. Gary Clary (R); Rep. Wendell Gilliard (D); and Rep. John King (D). The bill will enhance penalties for crimes motivated by hate based on race, faith, ethnicity or sexual orientation. The bill is modeled after a Wisconsin statute.

Finally, on a personal note, I want to remind everyone that we are still under pandemic conditions. The lock-down was modified so as to allow our economy to recover, at the risk of allowing COVID-19 to further proliferate. Our hospitalization numbers have since climbed alarmingly.

Please be attentive to proper masking and distancing. We are the variable that will determine when this pandemic is behind us. Please be careful.

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