Even though we are in the first year of a two-year legislative session, the past few weeks before session adjournment typically includes a flurry of activity, primarily of bills that have already passed one of the chambers.
This session was no exception. The Judiciary Committee, at its last regular meeting, debated and advanced legislation to crack down on DUI offenders, promote water safety, ban cell phones in prisons and protect law enforcement and judges’ personal identifying information in online public records.
Additionally, the House passed legislation to repeal CON, improve and expand access to telehealth and telemedicine, and the Governor signed in to law the bill that creates the Education Scholarship Trust Fund.
The expansion of the requirement of an Ignition Interlock Device for individuals with a documented history of driving drunk to prevent them from driving drunk again might be the most important action we took in the last few weeks of the session to protect the public by keeping more drunk drivers off South Carolina roads and saving many innocent lives.
There are more than 360,000 recreational motorboats and personal watercraft registered in South Carolina and the number of boating accidents and fatalities continues to rise steadily. With these concerns in mind, the House passed a Senate bill joining 38 other states that have a boater education requirement. The bill requires anyone born after July 1, 2007, to receive a boater safety certificate to lawfully operate a watercraft in the state.
Similar legislation stalled in the House last year, but with revisions to the legislation both by the Senate and the House including provisions for temporary rental certificates, the bill passed 110-8.
Cell phones in prisons have increasingly become a dangerous and even deadly problem. With anticipated action by the FCC to allow cell phone bans in prisons, if supported by state law, the House approved legislation that would specifically not allow inmates to possess a cell phone, and would create a felony for folks smuggling phones to inmates.
Currently, state laws and regulations require most healthcare providers to obtain government approval before expanding or establishing new healthcare facilities or services. This process is timely, costly, and makes it difficult for hospitals and surgery centers to expand in areas that need it the most.
The House amended and passed S 164, which eliminates the Certificate of Need (CON) requirements for healthcare providers. Repealing CON requirements will increase competition and incentivize health care providers to improve quality and efficiency in order to attract patients, ultimately leading to better access to healthcare, lower costs for patients, and improved outcomes for patients.
The Senate concurred with the House amendments and the bill is now headed to the Governor’s desk for his signature.
Finally, the House unanimously passed the South Carolina Telehealth and Telemedicine Modernization Act that improves access to healthcare services for all South Carolinians, especially those in remote or underserved areas. Telemedicine is a critical tool in today’s digital age, increasing access to quality medical care.
College graduation activities have also kept the Newton house busy in the past few weeks. Our oldest graduated from USC with honors and has accepted a job with Sen. Tim Scott’s office in Washington, D.C. It has been an interesting Covid-interrupted college experience for the class of 2023 and, for this Dad, a four-year period that has flown by at warp speed.
While beaming with pride as her name was called with all of her accomplishments and accolades, I could not hold back a few tears that were mixed with both joy and sadness for the end of this era.
Weston Newton is the representative for District 120 in the State House of Representatives. WestonNewton@schouse.gov