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State Senator Mia McLeod Pre-files Bills Ahead of 2021 Session

Columbia, SC - State Senator Mia McLeod (D-Richland) pre-filed several bills today ahead of the upcoming 2021 legislative session. Today is the only day State Senators were able to pre-file legislation this year.

Senator McLeod’s pre-filed bills range in topic, but all reflect critical issues she believes must be addressed at the start of the session including specifically issues related to criminal justice and systemic reform, as well as pandemic relief.

Of her pre-filed bills, 7 address criminal justice reform and 7 address COVID-19 relief. Those bills (which have not yet been assigned bill numbers) are summarized below:

Criminal justice reform:

- The Transparency in Justice Act aims to take on systemic issues in policing by implementing a number of reforms, such as allowing the name, identity, or photo of a juvenile to be released if they publicly make a threat where they identify themselves; requiring private schools to contact law enforcement and parents when a threat is made to the school or a student; and defining hate crimes. The bill would also repeal the current general citizen’s arrest statute, and limit it to when a person breaks into someone else’s home; ban the use of chokeholds and no-knock warrants by police; require de-escalation training and investigation of potential white supremacy ties at the Police Academy; prevents the further militarization of the police; and limits police officers’ qualified immunity in cases involving shootings.

- The CAREN (Caution Against Racially Exploitative NonEmergencies) Act would provide a civil action against anyone who calls 911 and uses a person’s race or other protected status to summon law enforcement for the purpose of unlawfully discriminating against, harassing, humiliating, intimidating, expelling, arresting or otherwise infringing upon the person’s rights or damaging their reputation.

- The third bill, which addresses restoration of voting rights requires the state to give anyone convicted of a felony written notice of their reinstated right to vote after completing their sentence, and instructions on how to register upon their release from prison or completion of their probation/parole.

- The fourth bill would repeal the current state statute which bans certain individuals convicted of a felony from receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. South Carolina is the only state which bans individuals convicted of a felony from receiving these benefits.

- The fifth bill would decriminalize personal use of marijuana, regulate its sale, and impose penalties for violations.

- The sixth bill addresses mental health evaluations for law enforcement, requiring evaluations for law enforcement officers that include implicit bias assessments for candidates seeking certification or officers seeking recertification.

- The seventh bill addresses confidentiality for domestic violence & sexual assault survivors would require nonprofit victim assistance organizations that serve these survivors to protect their confidentiality and privacy.

COVID-19 Relief:

- The Ratepayer Protection Act would require the Public Service Commission (PSC) to temporarily suspend the process by which a public utility seeks to change or increase its rates during a declared State of Emergency; prohibits a public utility from making a rate change until the State of Emergency Declaration has expired; suspends all timelines upon which the PSC may resume the process. The bill also provides that a public utility that requests a rate change prior to a declared State of Emergency cannot increase the request once the Emergency Declaration is lifted, and if a rate change is initiated prior to the Emergency Declaration and granted after the Emergency Declaration is lifted, the new rate cannot go into effect until one year after the Emergency Declaration has expired. This bill has bipartisan support from colleagues in the Senate.

- The second bill would increase South Carolina’s minimum wage by $2.00 above the Federal minimum wage to $9.25 per hour

- The third bill would increase the South Carolina Unemployment Weekly Benefit from the current $326 to $401

- The fourth bill would impose mandatory COVID-19 business and school safety protocols, and require LLR to establish these protocols to help mitigate spread and protect employees. These standards would be required to be implemented by every employer in South Carolina that is under SC OSHA jurisdiction, and a separate bill would require the State Board of Education to develop the same COVID-19 safety protocols and standards for schools.

- The fifth and sixth bills address concerns of educators across South Carolina, with one renewing the state’s National Board Certification for teachers to incentivize them to remain in the profession, and the other allowing teachers to terminate their contracts early without losing their licenses and certifications.

- The final bill would aim to restructure the South Carolina Public Employee Benefit Authority (PEBA) to include at least four licensed physicians, and at least three women. The bill would also require the board to consult with treating physicians and medical professionals when changing or modifying an insured’s health plan, and would prevent the board from overriding a treating physician’s prescribed procedures, treatments, and medications.

Senator McLeod offered the following quote:

“The issues we choose to tackle during this upcoming session are more important than ever. The spread of COVID-19 has put enormous strain on South Carolinians, and in the wake of tragedies across our nation we have a duty to address police brutality and our deeply biased criminal justice system.

“Our time at the State House during the pandemic is too valuable to waste on bills that don’t directly help South Carolinians. Each piece of legislation I filed today represents a critical need for our state. I hope my colleagues understand the urgency of these issues.”


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