After the fast and furious week of meeting the crossover deadline, the House got back to work in committees and subcommittees over the last couple of weeks with several key issues moving quickly through the committee process. Over the next three weeks, we will spend more time on the House floor trying to pass all necessary legislation before the sine die (meaning the day of adjournment) on May 13.

Bills dealing with voting integrity, supporting law enforcement, an Article V Convention of States,  assisting our judicial system regarding the death penalty, and giving parity to local distilleries will be on the table these final few weeks.

Last week the House passed the COVID Liability Safe Harbor Act, which is headed to the Governor’s desk. This legislation creates liability protections (retroactive to March 13, 2020) for health care providers and businesses that follow public health guidance in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This bill is a huge push to help ensure we make a complete economic recovery in our state.

The legislature also passed a bill which the Governor has signed requiring all school districts in the state to give an option for five-day in person learning by April 26, allowing parents to decide what learning format is the best fit for their students.

This law also suspended the earning limitation for retired teachers, ensuring that they come back to school without fear of too little pay.

This is a great step in giving parents the freedom to choose and getting our students back on track for a solid education.

The legislature also passed the REACH Act – or Reinforcing College Education on America’s Constitutional Heritage Act – which ensures that our students, both in high school and in college, learn about our Constitution, the Federalist Papers, the Declaration of Independence, and other important American documents.

Finally,  I am pleased to report that the House overwhelming passed the Hate Crimes bill I discussed last month. This legislation protects each and every one of us from violent criminal acts motivated by proven hatred, avoids the slippery slope of any sort of thought police, and includes specific protections that there must be a separate finding of guilt of an underlying violent crime before this law has application.

The bill is not a Republican or Democrat, Black or white, Christian or Jewish, gay or straight issue; it is a penalty enhancement bill which does not create any new criminal offenses, does not restrict free speech or religious liberties, but protects each and every one of us from heinous violent criminal hate-based acts.

South Carolina often finds itself at the top of the lists (domestic violence) where we should be last and near the bottom (education) where we should be first. Only three states don’t have some type of hate crimes law, and our business community has been persistent in making sure we understand that this distinction can and does affect our competitiveness to attract business to the state.

As I closed my presentation of the bill to the House, I reminded my colleagues of  the words of Sen. Tim Scott regarding his Federal Hate Crimes Bill: It is important that we send a signal to those with hate in their hearts that we will not tolerate these heinous actions in South Carolina.

Weston Newton is the representative for District 120 in the State House of Representatives.