The South Carolina State Senate returned to Columbia this week to convene the first week of regular session of the 124th General Assembly. Highlights of the week included the swearing-in of six newly elected Senators, adoption of the governing Senate Rules, the Governor’s State of the State Address, and a Medical Affairs subcommittee on Senate Bill 1.
At the start of a new legislative session, the Senate, in tradition, meets on day one to organize for a new session. One of the first acts of the organizational session is to elect the Senate President, who convenes and leads the Senate. The full Senate body votes on a Senate President to which Harvey Peeler (R-Gaffney) was unanimously elected to continue in serving as the Senate President.
In his first address to the new Senate, President Peeler said, “It’s a great honor to have the opportunity to lead this body for the next four years. I don’t take your faith in me lightly, and I hope I have proved that to you. The last two years were challenging and unpredictable. It’s not what I imagined when you first elected me president but I took on the challenge because difficult challenges is when we learn the most as leaders. We need direction when times are tough…this session will be unlike any other. You chose me to be your leader and I look forward to working with each one of year to ensure this year is healthy and successful.”
Following the November 2020 General Elections, six new Senators were elected to the body: Brian Adams (R-Berkeley), Billy Garrett (R-Greenwood), Penry Gustafson (R-Kershaw), Michael Johnson (R-York), Josh Kimbrell (R-Spartanburg) and Vernon Stephens (D-Orangeburg). Republicans will start the new legislative session with 30 of the 46 members – the largest Republican control of the State Senate in more than 150 years. We welcome our new members of the Senate Republican Caucus!
MAJORITY LEADER ELECTION
Pursuant to the Senate Rules, the Majority and Minority Caucuses are required to hold election for leader at the start of the four-year terms. The Senate Republican Caucus unanimously elected Shane Massey (R-Edgefield) to continue serving as the Senate Majority leader. Senator Massey was first elected Majority Leader in 2016.
In a statement to the press, Senator Massey said, “I am grateful to my Senate colleagues for their confidence in allowing me to continue to lead the Senate Republicans into the next legislative session. We have a great team, the people of South Carolina have seen that, and have empowered us to continue to lead on the most important of issues that affect their daily lives: continuing to combat COVID-19, reducing burdensome regulations that choke success and block high-paying jobs, making state government more accountable, and protecting the rights enumerated in the constitution. We were entrusted to lead, and we intend to work hard to better South Carolina for all its citizens.”
SENATE RULES PACKAGE
The Senate additionally approved a rules package on the first day of session. The Senate rules will govern debate and procedure for the Senate until the next legislative session. Included in this year’s rules package was an improvement to the Rule 15, “Fixing a time certain to vote,” or commonly referred to as cloture. The provision offered in the Senate Republican package would reduce unnecessary delay when debating legislation important to South Carolina citizens, while respecting the Senate’s critical role to provide careful consideration of any proposed law and ensuring that every Senator’s voice is heard when representing their constituents. It strikes the right balance.
Also included in the package was a requirement that Senators disclosure earmark requests, identify which projects for which they seek tax dollars, and publish the cost of the project, and if the project was funded. This important rule addition provides improved transparency project in the budget so that you can see where your hard-earned money is spent.
STATE OF THE STATE ADDRESS
Keeping with tradition of a new session, Governor Henry McMaster gave his State of the State Address to lawmakers on Wednesday, January 13th. The full speech is available to watch HERE.
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