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2023-2024 Legislative Update Week 16: Hard Work Bears Fruit

Updated: May 23, 2023

Overview:

In January of this year, my Republican colleagues and I laid out an ambitious legislative agenda. We have been working tirelessly to accomplish that agenda. And now, with only six legislative days left in this session, our hard work is bearing fruit. This week we saw the passage of several strong bills that create a safer and more prosperous South Carolina. Among the bills passed was a landmark measure that will improve education by providing scholarships for eligible students. We also passed legislation that will protect the welfare and safety of children placed for adoption. Additionally, legislation was passed to protect our children from online criminals who use sexually explicit images or videos to extort their victims. These bills represent a commitment to creating a safer and more secure environment for all South Carolinians, and I was proud to support them.


Providing Choice in Education:

This week, because of the determined work of Republicans and leadership in the House, we passed landmark legislation that will ensure parents have more options and choices about how their children are educated. This school choice bill has been a priority of mine since I was first elected.


S.039, which establishes the Education Scholarship Trust Fund, will provide eligible elementary and secondary students with scholarships to cover their education expenses at the school of their choice–expenses such as tuition and fees, instructional materials, tutoring, computer hardware, assessments, and transportation. ESAs will be funded directly from the state budget, meaning no money is being directly taken from the current K-12 education budget or from existing public schools. While this bill is limited in scope and by eligibility requirements, it lays the groundwork for broader legislation that will fully empower South Carolina parents in making educational choices for their children.


The ESTF is a critical step towards creating a more equitable education system in South Carolina as it recognizes the importance of school choice for families and gives every student an opportunity to succeed. We will continue to work and make progress on this issue until more parents are in control of their children’s education.


Reforming Child Custody:

As your Representative I am committed to advocating for the safety and well-being of all citizens, so I am pleased to report that two bills designed to protect our children were taken up on the House floor this week. H.3217, the Uniform Unregulated Child Custody Transfer Act, strengthens penalties for violators and requires child placement agencies to share specific information with adoptive parents and was passed on Tuesday. H.3220, the Uniform Child Abduction Prevention Act, provides a crucial framework and procedures for preventing child abduction in family law cases and debate will continue on the floor next week. Both bills prioritize the welfare and best interests of children, protecting them from unnecessary trauma and unregulated custody transfers.


Creating Positive Change from Tragedy:

H.3583, a bill that specifically targets the use of sexually explicit images or videos to extort money, sexual favors, or other benefits from a victim, passed the House on Wednesday. South Carolina is now the 19th state to have its own laws against this type of cybercrime, which is an important step in protecting our citizens and deterring potential offenders.

The passing of this bill is particularly meaningful because one of my colleagues, Rep. Brandon Guffey from Rock Hill, recently lost his son to this senseless crime. His tragic loss highlights the urgent need for this legislation, which will provide recourse for victims and send a strong message that sexual exploitation in any form is a serious crime that will not be tolerated. It also provides law enforcement with the tools they need to hold perpetrators accountable and bring justice to victims. I am proud to have fully supported this bill and encourage anyone who wants to learn more about this issue to read the national magazine article highlighting Brandon's efforts.



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