Traditionally, for your first wedding anniversary you give a paper themed gift (obviously); for Mother's Day (it's coming up soon!) you make your mom breakfast in bed (of course); and for Arbor Day you plant a tree (duh).
But what do you give your gal pals this year for legislative crossover week?
Don't worry. The General Assembly took care of it. They got us nothing.
Crossover week is the final week bills can be sent to the other legislative body if they have a chance of being passed this year. The crossover deadline focuses the House and Senate to prioritize which bills will be moved forward in their last month of session.
This year we focused on moving forward three key pieces of legislation and blocking one. Here's where these bills stand at the end of crossover week:
Domestic Violence Reform: At the beginning of session both the House and Senate agreed that domestic violence reform was one of their TOP priorities. The Senate's reform bill, S.3, passed through the Senate, but the House hasn't touched it since it crossed over. In theory S.3 could pass through the House and land on Gov. Haley's desk, but that doesn't seem likely given the House has favored their own domestic violence bill more than the Senate's.
Domestic violence is a critical public health problem with far reaching effects. In addition to physical and emotional abuse, many women suffer the effects of reproductive coercion, which occurs when an abuser seeks to control a woman's fertility and reproductive rights. What's worse, domestic violence is more dangerous in South Carolina than in almost any other state in the country—compared to national averages, women here are twice as likely to be shot to death by their partners.
Bill S.3 is a necessary legal step toward reducing the number of South Carolina deaths caused by domestic violence. If passed, the bill would strengthen criminal domestic violence laws by increasing penalties for perpetrators of violence, It would also deny convicted offenders the legal right to own firearms. Seventy nine percent of South Carolinians are in favor of taking away convicted offenders' guns. Tell Them and our partner SCCDVASA will continue to work with both the House and Senate to find a meaningful compromise that would protect survivors and their families.
Cervical Cancer Prevention Act: This is another one of those bills that in theory could pass in June, but given Senator Lee Bright's recent minority report probably won't make it through this session.
The House version of the bill already passed through the House and through Senate committee--the same committee that passed the Senate version of this bill earlier in the session--but Sen. Bright placed a minority report on the bill, forcing it to the bottom of the Senate's agenda, essentially promising that for the 8th year in a row, this act will be placed on hold.
South Carolina has one of the highest rates of cervical cancer deaths in the country. The HPV vaccine would help with the prevention of this fatal disease, and yet half of South Carolina girls and 8 out of 10 South Carolina boys ages 13-17 have not been vaccinated. We can change this.
If passed, the Cervical Cancer Prevention Act (bills H.3204 and S.278) would allow the Department of Health and Environmental Control to offer the cervical cancer vaccination series to seventh grade students enrolled at any public or private school in the state. The act would also raise awareness of the HPV vaccine, help parents and guardians make informed decisions, and increase accessibility to vaccination.
Medically Accurate Sex Education: Amendments to the Comprehensive Health Education Act (House Bill H.3447 and Senate Bill S.574) would update South Carolina's 27-year old sex education law, requiring students to receive age-appropriate, medically accurate information about pregnancy prevention and STI protection. Although last year's verson of this bill, H.3435 was met with bipartisan support in the House and Senate, one man put his personal political agenda ahead of the health and well-being of our state's young people thwarted the bill's passage.
This year, S.574 made it onto the Senate K-12 Education Subcommittee's agenda. Tell Them advocates made phone calls, sent emails, wrote op-eds, and on the day of the subcommittee hearing traveled from across the state to testify for the need of medically accurate information in classrooms. Unfortunately, the Senators ran out of time and were unable to hear testimony.
Personhood bills: No surprise here that personhood legislation (S.129) was introduced AGAIN this year. And just like years past, we've blocked this bill.
If passed, bill S.129 would grant full legal rights to a fertilized egg by defining "personhood" from the moment of fertilization, before pregnancy has occurred. Thus, anything that puts a fertilized egg at risk (like surplus eggs involved in the IVF process) could be a criminal act. This would force changes to IVF that render the procedure less effective, and ultimately futile to the patient. By defining life at fertilization, this bill would call into question the legality of many fertility treatment methods and restrict doctors' ability to act in their patients' best interests.
What next? The crossover deadline may have passed, but we'll continue to educate and advocate over the break! If you're interested in meeting with your legislator over the break, click here!