The azaleas are only one of the reminders of how special spring is in the Lowcountry. The beauty and majesty of our community is unmatched, and we are incredibly fortunate to live in this part of the world.
This spring has been exceptionally busy for the Newton family. Our youngest child completed her college visits and decided she would be a Wofford Terrier, and our oldest completed her tenure as the student body president at the University of South Carolina.
Listening to Reedy delivery her State of the Student Body address, I was overwhelmed with a variety of emotions – incredible pride and joy for her success, but doleful with the realization that in a matter of weeks she will be heading out into the business world away from Bluffton, and we will be adjusting to an empty nest.
Thankfully, everyone was home for both Easter and the Heritage, and the nest was brimming with the chaos I will miss.
Activity in the House of Representatives was likewise very busy as we approached “crossover.” Notwithstanding, the fact that we are in the first year of a two-year legislative session, pursuant to the Rules of the House and Senate, no bill from the other body can be considered by the other body unless received by April 10 or two thirds of the respective body’s members present and voting agree to waive the rule.
With that deadline rapidly approaching, the House worked long hours and late into the evenings to push various legislation over the finish line. I was proud to support the passage of bills that promote public safety, streamline the adoption process, provide parental leave to school district employees, put life-saving medication in the hands of more professionals, and prevent ESG (environmental, social and government) influence on our state pension plans.
The Pension Protection Act seeks to ensure the $39 billion in the state’s pension system will be invested to maximize the returns for the 600,000-plus state and local government employees, and not be compromised by ESG objectives. Twenty-five states are currently pushing back on ESG, and this bill codifies South Carolina’s current investing practices to guard against potential changes.
Earlier this session, I highlighted our efforts to combat the opioid epidemic and address fentanyl trafficking. Continuing with those efforts, we passed a handful of bills expanding access and dispensing authority to the life-saving overdose medication Narcan to school nurses, in addition to school resource officers and also to coroners, in the event they encounter overdose victims.
Allowing new parents to take time off to care for their children without impacting income or risking job security is essential to retaining experienced and attracting new teachers. The House bill provides that upon the birth of a child or initial placement of a foster or adopted child, eligible school district employees will be provided paid parental leave to the same extent available to state employees.
The House unanimously passed a handful of adoption-related bills designated to make the process less burdensome while ensuring safety and integrity. The bills encourage family members to become guardians, eliminate the 90-day waiting time to finalize adoption, allow family court judges to waive pre- and post-adoption report requirements, and speed up the adoption process. These reforms mark some of the most significant efforts to improve the adoption process in decades.
Finally, we passed a bill to ban the dangerous low-riding “Carolina squat” vehicle modifications, restricting a vehicle’s back-to-front height differences to four inches.
Additionally, my Judiciary sub-committees held hearings on a boater safety and education bill, a bill to standardize municipal elections, expand the DUI laws to require ignition interlock devices in more circumstances, and limit the number of absentee ballots that any one individual may witness.
It is an honor and privilege to serve in the House of Representatives. Please contact me if I may be of assistance.
Weston Newton is the representative for District 120 in the State House of Representatives. WestonNewton@schouse.gov