COLUMBIA, SC (TUSEN) — South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster vowed Wednesday to continue efforts to further restrict abortion in the state.
The Republican governor announced he would petition next week for a rehearsal in his State of the State speech, less than three weeks after the South Carolina Supreme Court overturned the state’s ban as an invasion of privacy.
“I remain optimistic that we will prevail in our historic struggle to protect and defend the right and sanctity of life,” McMaster said.
McMaster also used the address to pass an overhaul of the state’s judge-selection system that would give him more control over the process. South Carolina is one of two states where the legislature selects members of the judiciary – all the way up to Supreme Court justices. McMaster called for governor nominations “with the advice and consent of the Senate” in a manner that would resemble the model of the federal government.
A pending decision from the state Supreme Court also received attention. As judges weighed whether the electric chair or firing squad are legal methods of execution, McMaster directed the General Assembly to pass a shield law to protect the identities of companies that supply lethal injection drugs. McMaster said this would give the companies the freedom to replenish the state’s depleted supply without fear of public pressure from anti-death penalty activists.
Other developments gave the governor cause for celebration. McMaster praised the state’s record budget surplus of more than $3.5 billion and historic capital expenditures of more than $10 billion.
The governor also took time in his speech to recognize guests in the crowd, including businessmen from RedWood Materials and BMW. The companies’ respective announcements of new electric vehicles and battery plants both broke the previous record for the state’s largest capital investment project.
Still, McMaster criticized President Joe Biden’s administration for “runaway federal spending,” which he said has threatened states with a possible recession in the coming year.
The governor delivered the annual remarks to a joint session of the General Assembly. With the state legislators present, McMaster pushed for the audience to achieve several policy goals.
The speech included support for education scholarship bills. The Senate spent the first few weeks of session debating the program, which would provide public tax dollars for lower-income students so they can pay private schools more easily with $6,000 vouchers. McMaster noted that his budget proposal would earmark $25 million for the program.
Democrats — the minority party in both legislative chambers — said they were giving credit where it was due. While enthusiastic about McMaster’s projects to expand broadband and improve state infrastructure, Williamsburg state senator Ronnie Sabb said those investments were made possible by the federal bipartisan infrastructure bill signed by Biden.
Sabb delivered the Democratic response to the state of the state and set his party’s agenda. As the state’s economy booms amid record investment, Sabb said the minimum wage — currently $7.25 an hour — should rise. He also pushed for hate crime legislation after an attempt to make South Carolina the 49th state to have such a law stalled last year.
Sabb criticized the Republican priorities mentioned by McMaster. In the wake of renewed calls for an abortion ban, Sabb called for a ballot referendum that would allow South Carolinians to decide the issue. He said the proposed scholarship bills amount to an unconstitutional scheme to give taxpayers’ money to for-profit private schools.
“Both issues challenge how we currently view personal rights in our state,” Sabb said. “But again, we are seeing a renewed effort by factions of Republican legislators to actually take away your freedoms.”
James Pollard serves on the Corps for the The US Express News/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a non-profit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercover issues