The 2021-2022 legislative session came to a close May 12. This close yielded results for our caucus agenda, which aims to slash government red-tape, cut taxes, and make a more efficient government that works for the people – one that makes South Carolina a better place to work, go to school, own a business and raise a family. 

This has been a productive but unusually long “legislative year” for those of us serving on the House or Senate redistricting committees, which started meeting last summer; we have effectively been in “session” for over a year – and the list of accomplishments, including the successful redistricting, is long. 

Another of the highlights, of which I am extremely proud and with which I was deeply involved, is the Election Integrity Legislation – safeguarding our elections after questions were raised about the integrity of votes in 2020. The bill signed into law by Gov. Henry McMaster on May 13 fortifies our South Carolina election system, making it easier to vote but harder to cheat and ensuring that every legal vote is counted and only counted once. 

The significance of this effort is not simply that we passed the law, but that against the backdrop of severe national partisanship we did this in a bipartisan way ultimately with unanimous approval in both the House and Senate and without the negative rancor from the pundits that was part and parcel of Georgia’s election reform effort.  We did it openly, cooperatively, and for the benefit of all the citizens of our great state. 

We will head back to Columbia on June 15 to receive and consider conference reports including, among other things, finalizing the state budget and the income tax cut. As I previously described in this column, the House’s budget centered around 4 R’s: increasing reserves, improving our roads and infrastructure, securing raises for teachers and first responders, and over $1 billion in tax relief. 

The House and Senate conferees have been meeting over the past month to address the differences between the House and Senate’s budgets as well as the differences in the Comprehensive Tax Cut Act of 2022. 

Conference reports, working out differences in legislation that passed both the House and Senate, are also expected with regard to:  raising our state general reserve fund to help prepare South Carolina in the face of financial uncertainty; increasing the number of resident trial court judges, based on population and caseload increases; a petition for an Article V Convention of the States, to propose a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution; establishing a pilot program giving public school students who are financially disadvantaged or part of an active duty military family in South Carolina real school choice and educational freedom, which is long overdue; a bill banning the “Carolina Squat” or “California Lean”;  as well as the Medical Ethics and Diversity Act, which protects the rights of health care professionals, medical students, and health care insurance payers so they can choose not to participate in health care services or pay for them when the procedure violates their ethics or conscience. 

The reserve fund bill that passed the House gradually raises reserves from 5% to 7% and increases capital reserve funds from 2% to 3%.

We are scheduled to be in Columbia June 15-17 and as long as necessary to make sure we get the budget approved in time to send to the governor before the start of the next fiscal year. Thereafter, we will be back in Columbia toward the end of June to take up any budget vetoes of the governor.    

It is an honor to serve you in the state House of Representatives. If I may be of service, please call on me.

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