Legislator Says Upstate Delegation Now Controls the SC Senate
On Monday, January 31st, the Fourth District Republican Club and South Carolina’s State GOP Club held a community-wide legislative forum at the newly renovated Historic Greer Depot in Greer, SC.
The meeting began with Fourth District Republican Club Chairman Nate Leupp and SCGOP Chairman Drew McKissick who gave open remarks and thanked the crowd for the great attendance.
WYFF’s Taggart Houck, WGTK 94.5 The Answer’s Joey Hudson, and First Monday’s Deb Sofield moderated the questions and answer portion of the forum.
US 4th District Congressman William Timmons started the meeting with a quick update of legislation in Washington, DC. Timmons highlighted three issues: high inflation, out-of-control prices of energy felt at the gas pump, and the shameful exit out of Afghanistan. As he points out the great news from the newly elected Virginia Governor, he informs the crowd that Columbia elected their first Republican Mayor in his lifetime. He says the American people are starting to see it and change is coming.
SC State Lt. Governor Pamela Evette from Travelers Rest shared her thoughts on how this is a great time for school choice. She said that parents want control of what is happening in their children’s lives. She included that this is the year to cut taxes. Especially, after South Carolina went into this pandemic with a surplus and came out with a surplus and not many states can say that, so this is the time to do it. If North Carolina and Georgia can lower their taxes, South Carolina can too. Evette said that businesses all over the globe are looking at South Carolina because of how it handled itself during the pandemic. She states that BMW and Michelin had record years through the pandemic and that they credit the good leadership in Columbia.
“We now have the most Conservative State Senate in thirty years.” -
After Moderator Joey Hudson introduced the Senate to speak, State Senator Josh Kimbrell of District 11 in Spartanburg made a promise that even though the State House has been leading the Conservative charge, we now have the most Conservative State Senate in thirty years. He stated that last week the South Carolina Senate decided to take a step forward to make medical freedom a reality, to repeal Certificate of Need (CON), which will end hospital monopolies in South Carolina. Kimbrell pointed out that one thing we have learned during the pandemic is medical freedom is the proxy for freedom, we must defend your freedom.
He said there is a Senate Bill S.811 to defend the medical rights of conscience. He states that you should never have to choose between your principles and a paycheck. The city of Columbia decided that if you are a Christian counselor or therapist and if you told a person under the age of 18 that there are two genders, they will charge you a fine of $500 for every time you say it. He concluded that Senate bill S.811 will put a stop to that and overturn it.
Senator Kimbrell and Senator Dwight Loftis are cosponsoring bill S.900 which is the “Put Parents in Charge Act,” where you don’t have to ask the government to teach your child.
Kimbrell introduced with cosponsors Sen. Ross Turner and Sen. Dwight Loftis the most ambitious tax cut in the history of SC. He wants to take the personal tax rate from 7% to 3.5% and eliminate every single tax on every LLC, S-Corporation, and every corporation in SC which will create tens of thousands of jobs.
After seeing a sign and with a friendly gest with his legislative house cohorts, he stated that he co-sponsored S.531, “Save Women’s Sports Act.” He concluded that SC citizens still believe that our rights come from God, we still believe in the right to keep and bear arms, and we still know what restroom to use with a laughing audience in response.
“Growth is coming, we just need to be smart about it.” -
District 8 Senator Ross Turner from Greenville pointed out that there has been a big shift in the State Senate, not just from the last election, but with the loss of Senator Leatherman who has been Chairman of Finance for approximately 20 years. Harvey Peeler moved from Senate President to fill the chairman vacancy of the Finance Committee. Thomas Alexander left the Labor, Commerce, and Industry Committee and became Senate President. So according to Turner, the Senate is now controlled by the Upstate. And even though some may expect the money to come upstate now, he reminded the upstate crowd in attendance that we are 50% benefactors of the Port of Charleston and that what is good for Charleston is good for Greenville. He illustrated that the cost of the recent I85/I385 Interstate Gateway was $400 million but Charleston needs $4 billion to help get ships further up the river near the Isle of Palms. He pointed out that one project down there could wipe out the money that could be expected up here in the Upstate.
He points out that it is no longer about Charleston against us in the upstate, but it is us against North Carolina, Georgia, and the rest of the world. Turner says, “Growth is coming, we just need to be smart about it.”
Turner jokes about how the State House is now scared because they used to send bills to the Senate so that the bills would die in the Senate, but now they are scared, if the House passes them, the Senate will too.
After having shifted the meeting from the State Senators over to the Spartanburg House Reps, State Representative Josiah Magnuson from District 38, shared what his plans are for this year’s legislation. Magnuson stressed how he led the fight to stop the vaccine mandates. Back in December, where they went from 14 votes the first day to 43 votes the next day and finally got the bill through the House with 67 votes. He stressed that now, we need the State Senate to vote on one of the two bills to protect both public and private employees from having to have vaccinations.
Magnuson says they are working on election integrity with the REIN Act (H.4550), tax reform, and education transparency. He pushed his main sponsorship of the Personhood Act which sets life at conception and would end abortion, per se, in South Carolina. He admits there is criticism of the personhood issue, that it doesn’t have teeth, it doesn’t have a way of enforcement. But he concluded that there are three bills (H.4046, H.4829, S.988) in legislation that would functionally end abortion and would have the teeth to do so.
“Our state education needs to focus on history and not theory or opinion.” -
Spartanburg State District 36 Representative Rita Allison, who serves as Chair of the House Education and Public Works Committee, shared how it is an honor to be the first Republican woman to serve as a Chair in the State House of Representatives. She stressed that this year is about integrity and transparency in our children’s education. She said that in her committee, they have what they call the Critical Race Theory. Five bills are being considered and on February 8th, they will begin hearings where teachers, parents, students, and activists will have a say. She also said that our state education needs to focus on history and not theory or opinion. We need to learn from history, learn from our mistakes: its good, its bad, and its indifference so it will not have to happen again.
Allison added that we are looking at choices for our education, we have the education scholarship for all children. She will continue to lend support to charter schools and find ways to encourage younger people to teach whether it be public or private.
She also wanted to remind those with the signs in the crowd that they too are looking at saving our women’s rights, not only through K-12 but also with collegian.
Spartanburg District 37 State Representative Steven Long introduced his legislative emphasis to life as he points out the success of the Heartbeat Bill last year. He then goes into his rapid-fire of a list, starting with medical freedom and certificate of need. He pointed out his support for State Sen. Kimbrell’s bird dog efforts on medical freedom. It is a barrier to free medicine and competition in the marketplace. It basically rises in cost and makes it more difficult to get medical care.
“We need to be funding students and not systems.” -
He stated that medical freedom also relates to the vaccine mandates. Even though the Supreme Court ruling was favorable, we can take that to the next step at the state level. He believes with the changes in the State Senate, there will be more Conservative support for school choice and educational freedom. Long stated we need to be funding students and not systems. He said that we have an opportunity to secure financial freedom with tax cuts. Lastly, he believes that election integrity in South Carolina starts by overhauling the absentee balloting process. There is no verification for the witnessing of the absentee ballots. The voter rolls are not being cleared up the way they should be.
As the first Greenville Congressman to speak, District 27 State Representative Garry Smith begins by speaking about election reform. He informed the crowd about a vote that just happened that no one may be aware of. It has to do with the Legislative Audit Council which was created in the 1970s by SC’s Legislative body to be an oversight body that conducts independent, objective performance audits of state agencies and programs. It was requested by SC General Assembly and mandated by law. The purpose of this oversight role is to provide information that will assist the General Assembly and the public in determining whether state agencies are efficiently, effectively, and lawfully managing public resources. And making sure that agency programs are meeting their intended objectives.
“People do what you inspect not what you necessarily expect.”
Smith expressed that he is honored to represent the SC Ways and Mean Committee on this council. Sen. Wes Climer from York County represents the Senate side on this council. We wanted to put together a request for an audit of our Election Commission and some of our county election offices. If you look at the way our election process was set up, it was done in 1895 with the Constitution. The major decisions that are made about how you run your elections in the state of SC are not done at the state level, but at the county level. And it was done intentionally that way. Because at that time the Legislative Delegation controlled the counties in the state, including the election commission. We still have the system in place today. People do what you inspect not what you necessarily expect. This is an important issue.
“We still have more people voting in Lee County consistently than those who are of the voting-age population in Lee County.”
The laws that we have passed over the last several years have reformed our election system in the state, but we still have more people voting in Lee County consistently than those who are of the voting-age population in Lee County. We can only address that by bringing it out and doing it in a manner where you have the evidence and the information to move forward for prosecution.
This past Wednesday the request we put together for that audit was passed and approved by the Legislative Audit Council. We already have a team of auditors set aside to get started with this process this week.
Next, Northern Greenville’s District 17 State Representative Mike Burns shared his list of priorities. He stated that his first agenda is to get the Motto Bill (H.3064) out of committee and passed. Our National Motto “In God, We Trust” should be on the wall of every school in SC. It failed to get out of the House Committee on Education and Public Works last year, but he plans to get it out this year.
“If you own a company and force your employees to take the vaccine, then you will also take ownership of the liability if something goes wrong.”
He admitted that a lot of unsuccessful bills have been submitted on vaccine mandates. But recently, he filed the H.4848 bill where it will make it a misdemeanor with a $14,000 fine if you enquire about one’s vaccination status. He said he got the idea of $14,000 from President Joe Biden. So, if it is good for him, it is good for us. There is another bill that has been filed, that if you own a company and force your employees to take the vaccine, then you will also take ownership of the liability if something goes wrong.
He also brought up his support for the “Right to Try” Bill, which allows terminally ill patients access to experimental therapies (drugs, biologics, devices) that have completed Phase I testing but have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
He supports Garry’s talk about election integrity. Burns pre-filed a bill back in December that requires the need to clean up the voter roll every two years. He says we need to consider going back to paper ballots for a while until we figure out that we are not hooked up to the Chinese or whomever.
“It is foolish to have an extra $2 billion surplus every year and not give it back to the people.”
As he closed, he threw his support to Sen. Kimbrell’s tax cut from 7% to 3.5% by filing an exact copy of Kimbrell’s Senate bill in the House. He says it is foolish to have an extra $2 billion surplus every year and not give it back to the people.
Greenville District 21 State Congressman Bobby Cox shared the fact that the Spartanburg and Greenville Legislative Delegations are going to work as a team on all these issues mentioned. But he wanted to share two things that are priorities for him. As a veteran himself, he says it is long overdue for looking at how we tax military retirement. He says he believes that thirty-four states do not tax it. He says this is the year for legislation that will bring and keep the military here and fill those jobs.
As an employee of a gun company, he also expressed his support for the Second Amendment. We did a very good job on the “Open Carry Training Act,” and we have Constitutional Carry over at the Senate and we need to continue to push that.
State District 20 Representative Adam Morgan spoke on how his goal in being in Columbia is to change the culture of the State House. His main goal is to get more Conservatives elected, keep the ones we have, and organize and move Conservative legislation. He stated that he did not want to come across as if passing anything Conservative is going to be easy. We are getting so much better, thanks to a lot of work from the Legislators in the Upstate. The fiscal issues in this State are serious. South Carolina has a spending and taxing problem. We are focused on fiscal responsibilities, pushing tax reform, and cutting spending.
When it comes to education, Morgan stated that he will be pushing school choice. He talked about how hard it was to pass Open Carry in the House last Legislation, where he gave credit to Bobby Cox for his involvement. He told of a story where he was sitting by an older colleague who told him that he was so mad that he got drugged into the Open and Constitutional Carry legislation. This colleague expressed how a debacle it was and said this is not the way things were done back in the old days. Morgan concluded that apparently, he is accomplishing his job and his purpose in Columbia.
“It is time, the pandemic showed us that parents must be involved in education, and they know what is best for their children.”
District 22 State Representative Jason Elliot kept his comments short by adding that there is a $5 million allotment of tax credit for parents of special-needs children. Last year, we did great things by passing the biggest advancement on the Second Amendment in South Carolina. He said that we passed the best Pro-life legislation ever. He expressed his desire to protect women in sports. He also said that they are going to move on school choice. It is time, the pandemic showed us that parents must be involved in education, and they know what is best for their children. It is about the students and not the system. He requested everyone in the audience to encourage their House members and all over the state to pass school choice bills in both House and Senate.
After hearing from each representative present, the meeting moved to the question-and-answer session where Moderator Joey Hudson turned over the first question to Deb Sofield.
Sofield asked what are we going to do with medical marijuana in South Carolina? What will Conservative legislators do? Is it for health or is it a gateway? Before taking that question to the legislators, Hudson asked if Greenville Sheriff Hobart Lewis would like to address it from a law enforcement viewpoint.
“So if you get medical marijuana, call it for what it is. Go to a doctor and get a prescription, go to the pharmacy, and get it filled.” -
Sheriff Lewis, who was glad to have a complete legislative audience, stated that the South Carolina Sheriffs Association did a press conference and expressed that they are against the 58–59-page bill. When you talk about medical marijuana and the Compassion Care Act, nobody is against something that can medically help you in some way. But read the bill, he said. Sheriff Lewis is hoping for changes and amendments to the bill. The bill includes THC-infused gummies and THC-infused baked cartridges. They are bad, bad, bad for middle school-age children. He shared that the Sheriff Department seizes just a little over 100lbs of THC-infused gummies every month, and that is just what they catch through the mail – not counting what is going on out in the streets. The Sheriff expressed that we do not need a pathway to legalize marijuana in South Carolina.
He realizes thirty-six other states have that, and South Carolina is one of those that don’t. Let’s just be different and don’t. He expressed that State Senator Tom Davis’ Bill, which has been around for 7 years and includes dispensaries where Greenville is allotted for two, is no good according to the Sheriff. He concluded, “So if you get medical marijuana, call it for what it is. Go to a doctor and get a prescription, go to the pharmacy, and get it filled.”
In response to the Sheriff, State Rep. Jason Elliott stated that he was encouraged today that there appears to be an amendment to have it prescribed and available only at a pharmacy. He believes that will help move it in the right direction.
Rep. Josiah Magnuson added that he would take a little different tact from the Sheriff. He supports medical cannabis in concept but does not support the bill as it stands. We need to get it right. A couple of reasons, first, it is medical to certain illnesses such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's where there are medical benefits. He supports Elliott’s comments that it should only be dispensed at the pharmacy. This does not include smoking it. South Carolina can learn from other states’ mistakes and come up with the most Conservative legislation in the country. Make it strict and strictly for patients that need it.
He further points out that there are opioids and other plant-based medicines out on the market that are far worse than cannabis. To this, he got some thumbs down from members of the audience.
“North Carolina, which has a Democrat governor, and yet they are cutting taxes. South Carolina has a supermajority. It is time to do it.”
Rep. Smith warns that trying to legalize something that is against the federal law is not good. Right now, the federal government is just ignoring it. But that does not mean they will always do that. He asked, why does it make sense to pass a law that we know violates federal law? This will put our state and its economy in jeopardy. He stressed that we have a process for putting out medicine for people who need it. It has worked for many years. This process will be circumvented by this law, a process that was meant to protect our citizens from bad medicine.
WYFF’s Taggart Houck shifted the meeting by stating that some have proposed tax cuts from 7% to 3.5% as Sen. Kimbrell did this evening, others proposed 7% to 4%, and SC Governor Henry McMaster recommends 6%. He asked if there was room for compromise with the personal tax and does it have to go with the business? He concluded that he just wanted to see if there are any ideas on how to best move forward with cutting the income tax.
Rep. Garry Smith responded that we have fallen behind our neighbors and most of the country on this issue and we must fix it. We are losing businesses and companies to other states and other parts of the country. We got to put our Department of Commerce in a position where they can compete with the rest of the country and the rest of the world.
Another legislator chimed in and said that North Carolina, which has a Democrat governor, and yet they are cutting taxes. South Carolina has a supermajority. It is time to do it.
Rep. Allison added that the income tax does need to be worked out. We need to do that for businesses, but at the same time, we need to look at the entire tax structure of the state. She gets more calls about local property tax than anything. Seventy percent of property taxes go to schools. Maybe we need to look at how to fund our schools and other entities so people can feel like they own their properties.
“Trying to legalize something that is against the federal law is not good.”
Mike Burns wanted to reemphasize that every time we got to the place where we had a good plan to actually cut taxes, the “preacher” rose up and said that it has to be revenue-neutral. This means that if the Legislators cut it here, they will get it over there so we can still have it. When you talk about a $2 billion surplus, year after year, you are overtaxing the taxpayer, it could be spent by the consumer. If that $2 billion were fixing bridges and highways, it wouldn’t give much heartburn, but we are not doing that. He reemphasized that we have got to get the words “revenue-neutral” out of our minds and give back the people’s money.
Moderator Joey Hudson mentioned that the South Carolina Federation of Republican Women passed a resolution this past week, Saving Women’s Sports. He asked, “What is your position on legislation before the statehouse now on saving women’s sports.”
Jason Elliott responded that there is a bill in his committee, in Allison’s committee, and the Judiciary Committee. Women have fought too long and too hard for equality in sports to roll that back. We are going to ensure that women are not at a competitive disadvantage from men playing on women’s teams in high school. After an audience member chimed in, the legislators agreed also in the colleges as well.
Deb Sofield quoted a question via the text line which asked, “Why are we not hearing more outcry about the systematic deployment of illegal aliens throughout the country by our current administration, and is there anything that can be done on the state level?”
After clarification was made on the question, the Lt. Governor responded that the problem is that we are not getting an honest answer from the current Biden administration. They are denying that they are sending planes and are clearly lying. Our Governor is doing his best to keep informed but it is hard with this dishonest administration.
WYFF’s Taggart Houck asked the next question about infrastructure. He asked if there was a particular area in which you would like to see improvement across the state. After a long pause, one legislator said road issues and sewer issues. Another legislator said broadband internet is another issue that needs to be looked at.
Moderator Joey Hudson asked about the Certificate of Need which has been passed in the Senate and now it is over in the House. He asked if Rep. Mike Burns would speak to this subject. Burns replied that Certificate of Need is a problem. Larger hospitals protect anything that comes into their neighborhood so they can build as they wish to build. Mandate as they wish to mandate without the competition. We all know that competition is a great thing.
“Give our citizens more healthcare availability because the certificate of deed is down the tank.” -
He stated that Greenville Councilman Joe Dill, Sen. Tom Corbin, Sen. Dwight Loftis, and along with himself, have been fighting in unity over the situation in Northern Greenville County. When Covid-19 came in April 2020, we lost the emergency room in Travelers Rest for the northern end of the county. We got 350-400 square miles. If you get sick up where we live, most of the time you will have to wait 45 minutes for an ambulance. If there is no ER in Travelers Rest, you will have to come all the way down to Greenville downtown which will take another 30 minutes. Time is critical when you have a serious event going on.
He adds that as Covid-19 went along, we were promised three different times that they will open it back up as soon as this subsides. It did not get opened back up, and then I learn on WYFF, that the sign was being removed and the emergency room was gone and that they turned in their Certificate of Need without advising anyone, without going to the public or talking with anybody. They left us without any emergency services. We went and met with four different major hospitals to invite them in to get healthcare for our citizens. When you have the cumbersome certificate of need which requires a lot to bring in, it takes a lot and if you want to invest in doing that, you got to go up against the big hospital systems to fight. And if you do, you can spend up to $5 - $10 million in legal fees and ten years in time to get to that point.
He stated that the statehouse has passed this before, but we are so thrilled that the Senate has taken this up, and hopefully we will be able to pass it again and open the free marketplace up for healthcare and reduce cost and give our citizens more healthcare availability because the certificate of deed is down the tank.
Burns also shared that our former Governor Nikki Haley just took a stroke of a pen one time and said enough is enough. She just wrote it out. And then our state Supreme Court immediately decided after a year or so, you can’t do that. So, they put it back and we are now stuck with it until we can legislate it back out.
Rep. Allison added that because of the certificate of need, so many of our smaller hospitals across the state had to close. A lot of our wide areas do not have doctors or hospitals.
Another legislator agreed and added that he believes if we get to vote, it will pass in the House.
So from this legislative forum, it looks like the upstate legislators are ready to fight and take on the responsibility of leading the charge to get these legislative bills to pass in this new legislative session. They admit they have more power now and that it will not be easy. The battle cry has been made in this very informative meeting. Let’s see if they got the fortitude to follow through. According to Lt. Governor Evette, every House Representative that was present for the forum is up for reelection this year.
James Spurck is the Owner and Publisher of The Times Examiner in Upstate, SC.