Despite being outgunned, Dems had victories for women, environment in State House

By Erica Edmondson

The early close of the legislative session this year – May 10th instead of early June – had many concerned that a shorter session would accomplish less. Nonetheless, there were several successes during the latest session.

Strongly supported by the Women’s Rights and Empowerment Network, the South Carolina Pregnancy Accommodations Act passed both houses and was signed into law in May with strong bipartisan support. According to The State, “South Carolina has made history by becoming the first Southern state to pass a law that supports the dignity, rights and freedom of women and growing families by preventing discrimination against pregnant workers.”

The bill ensures pregnant women and new mothers “have access to reasonable workplace accommodations” such as allowing more frequent bathroom or food breaks, permitting coworkers to assist with heavy lifting, providing a stool to sit on rather than standing for hours at a time. Since women make up so much of the workforce, this could make a huge impact.

Another important legislation introduced was H. 3809, a bill requiring “insurance plans to cover a 12-month supply of prescribed self-administered contraceptives – such as the ring, the patch and oral contraceptives – at one time” (WREN article 2). Supporters of this bill came from both sides of the aisle and included Kit Spires, Neal Collins, James Smith and Dr. Robert Ridgeway. This would be a big win for women by making birth control significantly more accessible, limiting the number of unintended pregnancies, and in turn limiting the number of abortions. It’s a win-win. By the end of the legislative session, this bill had passed the House and was referred to the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee.

The Conservation Voters of South Carolina use a Legislative Scorecard to detail which legislators voted on issues most important to conservation efforts. Sorting the scorecard to show 2017 – 2018 scores from highest to lowest for the House showed some interesting results. James Smith, Representative for District 72 and current candidate for governor, had the winning score. He had 16 stars, one for each bill he sponsored to protect our air, land, water, or energy. He received a lifetime score of 101 percent and a 2017-18 score of 125 percent. His running mate, Mandy Powers Norrell, also scored high on this list with a 112 percent for 2017-18 and a lifetime score of 92 percent. Great news for South Carolina Democrats!

Representing Greenville on the House side was Chandra Dillard, representative of District 23, who received a lifetime score of 97 percent and 108 percent for 2017-18. Similarly, running the same search for the Senate showed Senator Karl Allen, District 7, with a high lifetime score of 95 percent and 83 percent for 2017-18. (CVSC Scorecard) Yeah, THAT Greenville!

The session ended with a last-minute surprise. “The Senate voted to put a question on the November ballot about letting the governor appoint the superintendent of education.” This could be a game-changer by giving the governor more direct impact on public education in the state. Worth watching how this plays into the gubernatorial race.

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