The past 30 days have been a blur, as COVID-19 issues have kept all legislators dealing with both issues at home and issues at the Statehouse. In early May, the Governor called both chambers of the state Legislature back to Columbia to deal with several pressing matters, in particular:
• Keeping the state government funded until a final budget can be passed this fall;
• Setting aside $150 million of surplus money for upcoming COVID-19 response;
• Approving "absentee voting" for our state primary elections June 9.
Our first agenda item was to authorize a continuing resolution to keep the state government funded into the fall at current levels - thereby ensuring that services will continue and tens of thousands of public employees continue to get paid - until legislators return in mid-September to craft a new state budget for the 2020-21 fiscal year. That passed easily.
Beyond preventing a government shutdown, the measure also set aside $150 million of surplus money for a statewide COVID-19 Response Account, which includes, among other items, $15 million to protect poll workers during our 2020 primary and general elections and $25 million to help MUSC with setting up community testing across the state.
I am currently diligently working with Rep. Bill Herbkersman to make our area one of the first testing locations. The key to where the specific location might be is a combination of the size of the testing area and the ease of access for drivers.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Speaker of the House has set up a key task force committee, called the Small Business Regulatory Relief Committee, to help respond to the crisis facing our small businesses across the state. I was honored to be named to head that committee.
Our job is to assess the impact and disruption burdening the state's small business sector, and then make recommendations on how to remove unnecessary barriers that might impede these for-profit and nonprofit businesses from emerging successfully back into the economy.
At the start of this year, there were 379,575 small businesses in our state, representing 96% of all employers in the state.
Already our committee has had three hearings. We have received input and recommendations from both the for-profit and nonprofit sectors as to how they can best move forward. You will hear more about this as we begin implementing solutions.
Another key vote taken during the Columbia session was approval for any registered voter in the state to be given the option to vote by absentee ballot either by mail or in person for the June 9 primary election. The decision was made in hopes of reducing unnecessary crowding and waiting at the polls. However, the short-term law applies only to next week's primary election and not to the November general election.
Jeff Bradley is the representative for District 123 in the State House of Representatives.