SC lawmakers will return to work + Governor tightens measures to combat COVID-19
State (Columbia, SC)
Apr. 3--In case you're just like us and having trouble remembering what day it is -- yes, it's Friday.
Welcome to your weekly South Carolina politics briefing, a newsletter curated by The State's politics and government team.
Our Buzz team is taking the necessary social distancing precautions, curating the newsletters from our homes. This week the newsletter was written from my couch (yes, watching Tiger King), on my bed (yes, still watching Tiger King) and from my kitchen counter (looking at Tiger King memes).
Now the news from the past week.
For one day only, see the Legislature (online)
The South Carolina General Assembly will return to Columbia for one day only next week to pass emergency measures to ensure state government can keep operating into the fall and to set plans for returning later this year.
Senate President Harvey Peeler, R-Cherokee, and House Speaker Jay Lucas, R-Darlington, will gavel in their respective chambers at 1 p.m. Wednesday. Watching remotely online, you should expect to see a lot of social distancing among lawmakers, who have expressed concerns about gathering in such close proximity as the cases of coronavirus climb in the state.
The coronavirus outbreak effectively brought session to a screeching halt last month, leaving debates over education, the state budget and whether to sell the state's public utility, Santee Cooper, hanging in the balance.
Are you essential?
Gov. Henry McMaster issued a new order Tuesday, closing down all nonessential businesses to help stop the virus from spreading.
The order, which started Wednesday and lasts 15 days, applies to thousands of businesses across the state.
Those businesses include gyms, spas, nightclubs, barber shops, hair salons, tattoo parlors, waxing salons, massage centers, fitness centers, bowling alleys, arcades, racetracks, indoor children's play areas, theaters, planetariums, museums and tourist attractions.
But it's not the only new rule McMaster recently put in place.
Friday, he directed the state's Department of Health and Environmental Control to reverse course and publish the number of positive COVID-19 cases associated with each county ZIP code.
The governor also ordered the state's beaches and waterways closed to the public and ordered that travelers coming to South Carolina from New York state and several other hot spots of coronavirus infections must quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.
ICYMI: President Donald Trump on Sunday extended the initial 15-day voluntary national shutdown through April 30 and last week he signed a $2.2 trillion stimulus bill aimed at reviving the economy, which also includes a measure to send Americans checks.
Here's how your U.S. senators and representatives voted.
U.S. Sens. Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott joined McMaster last Friday to explain the bill.
Graham said he didn't agree with everything in the bill, but said that there's "a lot of things in there that are going to save lives."
SC's 2020 calendar concerns
State election officials have asked lawmakers to weigh in on how best to conduct the state's June statewide primary and potentially the November general election. State Election Commission Director Marci Andino asked lawmakers this week to decide what steps need to be taken to protect the upcoming elections as the coronavirus spreads.
All of the options would require changes to current state law, and that requires action by the state Legislature.
But state lawmakers say they have not decided which solution may be best, or if any changes are needed at all.
Why you should stay home
It was once a small gesture to Betti Nix Williams.
Every day when she would visit her husband, Bill, at his Chapin nursing home, she would bring him a small dish of vanilla ice cream from Sonic and sit by his side as he ate, chatting about the day's news, sometimes with the couple's only daughter, Kimberly.
But now those visits have grown much more complicated.
The closest Williams can physically interact with her husband of 53 years is when the two press their hands against the glass -- moments that Williams said make the small things, like bringing a small bowl of ice cream to her husband, seem even bigger.
This week's newsletter photo was taken by our photographer Tracy Glantz.
Questions about coronavirus?
What do I do if I've been laid off?
Is there a new tax deadline extension? What about if I haven't gotten my REAL ID?
Missed Mayor Steve Benjamin's Q&A with us explaining the city's stay-at-home order? Find his answers here in the comments section.
-- Rep. Jim Clyburn says "transparency is my only priority" as the chairman of a new committee with expansive oversight powers -- including subpoena authority -- to police the multi-trillion-dollar federal response to the coronavirus pandemic.
-- SC unemployment claims more than doubled in one week as people feel the financial and health fallout from the coronavirus.
-- Top officials at South Carolina's largest hospital system told lawmakers that the most important thing people can do in the current coronavirus epidemic is to shelter in place.
-- Attorney General Alan Wilson said Monday his office will not sue any town or city that is trying to protect its residents by enacting local stay at home emergency ordinances.
-- Dominion Energy of South Carolina is delaying its request for an expected rate increase, citing the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.
-- An emergency notification sent to South Carolinians' phones Tuesday didn't go as well as some state officials had hoped after it crashed the state's emergency management website.
-- South Carolina has no count of how many health care workers in the state have been infected by the coronavirus.
-- Filing for State House seats closed on Monday, showing more than a dozen Midlands area lawmakers will face challengers in an election cycle that presents an unprecedented challenge. At least one of those candidates has since been arrested.
-- U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham said last week he had tested positive for coronavirus after coming into contact with another member of Congress. The Charleston Democrat who represents the 1st District had been in self-quarantine since March 19. And while he recovered from coronavirus, he joined a handful of S.C. legislators calling on McMaster to issue a stay-at-home order.
-- Closing schools and closing nonessential businesses has had some consequences. Among those is the increased requests for SNAP benefits and a drop in phone calls to the state's child abuse hotline.
-- Two employees in South Carolina'sDepartment of Corrections tested positive for the coronavirus. So far, no inmates have been reported to have contracted COVID-19. A Department of Mental Health employee also tested positive.
-- A Richland County Council committee voted Saturday to put $1.5 million toward responding to the coronavirus. The relief would go toward business relief, public safety and food needs as COVID-19 continues to spread its effects through all levels of Richland County.
-- S.C. inmates are sewing thousands of medical masks and mask covers to help with an ongoing shortage of medical supplies.
-- Republican state Rep. Peter McCoy, a Charleston attorney, took over as interim U.S. Attorney for South Carolina on Monday. McCoy's appointment is the result of a directive late last week by U.S. Attorney General William Barr.
Before we adjourn...
Typically, we've left this section open for things that have made us and you laugh throughout the week.
And certainly, there are a lot of things I could have added here, including all those Tiger King memes.
But I'm looking at the calendar next week and Passover starts Wednesday, a day I would under normal circumstances be sharing with my family and friends. Next Sunday is Easter, a day you share with your family and your friends. And later this month, Muslims will observe the month of Ramadan, another holiday that includes family, community and reflection.
So at a time when we're all stressed, exhausted and digging around for our next binge-worthy show, catch up on your calls.
Check in on your parents. Your siblings. Your extended family. Your friends. And if you can, call your grandparents.
Who pulled together this week's newsletter?
This week it was Maayan Schechter, State House and politics reporter for The State. You can keep up with her reporting via Twitter Maayan Schechter or email her at [email protected].
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