With S.C. legislative session now underway, what’s ahead?

South Carolina lawmakers are back at work in Columbia, where their 2023 legislative session opened. Here's a look at some key issues and goals.
Published: Jan. 10, 2023 at 5:58 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) - South Carolina lawmakers are back at work in Columbia, where their 2023 legislative session opened Tuesday.

For the first time since at least Reconstruction, Republicans have a supermajority in the House of Representatives while retaining their majority in the Senate.

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The legislative session starts less than a week after the South Carolina Supreme Court struck down the state’s six-week ban on abortion.

Leaders of both parties at the State House agree abortion is sure to be discussed and debate at some point this year.

“We’re going to evaluate all options that we may have in dealing with that, but you will not see us rush to process, but you will see us find and settle a process that is compliant with the law but also protects life in South Carolina,” said Rep. Murrell Smith, Republican speaker of the House.

Leaders of both parties also share a goal not to let abortion take up time from accomplishing other priorities this year.

“The timing of it, in addition to the substance of the ruling, is going to have an impact. I do not think it’s going to take up the whole session,” said Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey, R-Edgefield.

Rep. Todd Rutherford, House minority leader, said: “I’m worried that we’re going to spend a great deal of time talking about abortion this year.”

Among their other priorities, leaders across the aisle list education at or near the top of their agendas.

“We’re concerned about the salaries that we pay teachers,” said Democratic Minority Leader Sen. Brad Hutto. “We’re concerned about the incentives that we may use to attract more young people into the teaching profession. We’re concerned about classroom size.”

Republicans will try again to establish a voucher program – to give families state dollars to send their children to private school.

“We spent a lot of time on that last year, and we’ll spend some more time on that this year, and hopefully we can get an agreement and get there,” Massey said.

Democrats say they’ll work to ensure public schools have the money and support they need.

“Our children are vastly underrepresented up here. We’ve got to make sure they are not going to be underfunded up here,” Rutherford said.

State House leaders are also hoping to pass legislation cracking down on fentanyl trafficking … reforming catch-and-release bail law … and bolstering economic development – the top priority for Smith.