Friday Report - December 10, 2021

Both chambers met this week to take up their respective redistricting bills, H. 4493 and S. 865. In addition, the Senate elected a new President (Senator Thomas Alexander) after the former President (Senator Harvey Peeler) stepped down to become the chairman of the Finance Committee after the death of Senator Hugh Leatherman. Senator Tom Davis was also elected to chair the Senate Labor, Commerce and Industry Committee. The House made minor changes to H. 4493 and gave the bill second and third readings and sent it to the Senate. The Senate passed S. 865 and incorporated their proposed redistricting language from S. 865 into H. 4493 on Tuesday before giving the bill second reading. H. 4493 received third reading by the Senate on Wednesday and was sent back to the House, which concurred in the Senate amendments. H. 4493 will now be enrolled for ratification. The House referred S. 865 to the Judiciary Committee.

Mask Mandate and Vaccine Mandate Enforcement – H. 3126. As initially drafted, this legislation would prohibit the State and any political subdivision from accepting any federal funds to enforce a federal mask or vaccine mandate. A Ways and Means subcommittee amended the bill, which was adopted by the full Ways and Means Committee. By a special order resolution, the bill was brought to the floor for debate. After much debate, the House agreed on a compromise amendment which now imposes the following conditions:

  1. Provides that any political subdivision, including a school district, may not enact a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for any employee, independent contractor, non-employee vendor, first responder, or student, as a condition of employment or attendance;
  2. If a private employer terminates or suspends an individual because they do not receive a COVID-19 vaccination, that individual is eligible for unemployment benefits.
  3. The General Assembly holds that a federal vaccine mandate is unconstitutional and shall not be enforced by this State; however, if a private employer believes it is subject to the forfeiture of federal funds due to a failure to require employees to receive a COVID-19 vaccination, the private employer may require an unvaccinated employee to undergo weekly COVID-19 testing.
  4. DHEC ($10 million) and MUSC ($10 million) will fund COVID-19 testing from the Contingency Reserve for private employers and shall partner with private employers to provide COVID-19 testing; and
  5. A religious exemption or medical exemption must be honored in regard to any COVID-19 vaccine requirement.
  6. The Act would take effect upon approval by the Governor and the provisions of the Act are repealed on December 31, 2022, unless reauthorized.

All references to mask mandates were removed from the bill as amended. The House gave the bill a second and a third reading this week sent it to the Senate. There is no indication as to whether or not the Senate will come back to address this bill prior to session in January.

If you have questions, comments or concerns about the bill or the amendment, please contact SCAC staff.

Legislative Session: