124th South Carolina General Assembly

The American Civil Liberties Union of South Carolina is a non-partisan organization that has worked for more than fifty years to protect the civil liberties guaranteed to all South Carolinians by the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights. We remain steadfastly committed to building on this legacy through our work in the legislature, courts, and communities across our state.

The 124th South Carolina General Assembly convened on January 11, 2022 to begin the second year of its two-year legislative session. Below is a summary of the legislation that the ACLU of South Carolina plans to engage on during this session.

Access to the Ballot

Facilitating Democratic Engagement for People who were Formerly Justice Involved

  • Position: Support
  • Bill Number(s): H.3034 (Rep. Garvin) and H.3048 (Rep. King)
  • Bill Summary: H.3034 requires that the Department of Corrections (DOC) delivers written information to persons leaving DOC custody that their voting rights are restored upon release, provides a voting registration form, and explains the procedures for registration.
  • Why We Support:
    • The right to vote is a fundamental right. South Carolina law should strive to educate people about their right to vote, and help them carry out their suffrage via means that are convenient to them.
    • Mass incarceration disproportionately disenfranchises Black Americans. Providing information about their re-enfranchisement and how to vote will help ensure that more South Carolinians will participate in the electoral process.
    • The voices and votes of those who have been incarcerated is necessary to advocating for reform of a carceral system that systematically destroys underserved communities.
    • Proactively educating and assisting formerly incarcerated persons exercise their right to vote helps welcome them back into society.
  • Bill Status: H.3034 is pending action in the House Judiciary Committee.

Preventing the Politicization of the State Election Commission

  • Position: Oppose
  • Bill Number(s): H. 3444 (Rep. Lucas)
  • Bill Summary: This legislation would reorganize the South Carolina Election Commission (SEC) and provide the legislative branch with the power to make direct appointments. This legislation would also increase the authority of SEC over the county election offices without increasing functional or financial authority, leaving county election offices financially and practically responsible for SEC “orders.”
  • Why we Oppose:
    • This legislation would further politicize the South Carolina Election Commission.
  • Bill Status: H. 3444 passed the House and Senate, but the House has not concurred with the amendments made by the Senate.

Expanding Access to the Vote

  • Position: Support, with Amendment
  • Bill Number(s) H. 3822 (Rep. Cobb Hunter)
  • Bill Summary: This legislation would bring to South Carolina voting provisions that have proven successful in other states, including voting by mail for all registered voters, in-person voting for 30 days prior to election, notice and opportunity to cure absentee ballots with technical defects, same day registration, and timely information about voting access for those disenfranchised because of a criminal conviction.
  • Why we Support:
    • This legislation would make it easier for all voters to exercise their fundamental right to vote.
    • This legislation would provide a process for voters to defend their vote if their signature match is questioned.
    • We seek amendment to the provision that allows for signature matching for absentee ballots because it is an unnecessary hurdle placed in front of people seeking to exercise their fundamental right to vote.
  • Bill Status: H. 3822 remains in the House Judiciary Committee.

Absentee Voter Suppression

  • Position: Oppose
  • Bill Number(s): H. 3372 (Rep. Newton)
  • Bill Summary: H. 3372 severely limits the number of people who have automatic access to absentee ballots. Senior citizens, employees working during polling hours, persons attending the sick or physically disabled, and government employees are just some of the voters who would no longer have guaranteed access to an absentee ballot.
  • Why we Oppose:
    • H. 3372 will make it more difficult or, perhaps impossible, for South Carolinians to exercise their fundamental right to vote.
    • We are still in the midst of a pandemic. Forcing citizens to choose between their (or their charges) physical well-being and exercising their right to vote is an affront to the principles of democracy.
  • Bill Status: H. 3372 is pending action in the House Judiciary Committee.

Safe and Just Communities

Rein in Policing for Profit

  • Position: Support
  • Bill Number(s): H. 3619 (Rep. Pope)
  • Bill Summary: H. 3619 would eliminate civil asset forfeiture (replacing it with the criminal forfeiture process in all instances), require transparency in the criminal asset forfeiture process, and protect innocent property owners.
  • Why We Support:
    • Civil asset forfeiture disproportionately harms South Carolina’s most vulnerable;
    • Civil asset forfeiture incentivizes the pursuit of profit over the fair administration of justice;
    • Civil asset forfeiture turns the presumption of innocence on its head by forcing property owners to defend their property’s “innocence”
  • Bill Status: H. 3619 had a hearing in the House Judiciary Criminal Laws Subcommittee. Further action on the bill is on hold until the outcome of a South Carolina Supreme Court case on the same issue

Eliminating Inhuman and Counterproductive Punishments

  • Position: Support
  • Bill Number(s): H. 3623 (Rep. Murphy) (Similar to S. 170 (Sen. Allen))
  • Bill Summary: Reduces the percentage of time an incarcerated person who has committed a “no parole offense” must serve from eighty-five to sixty-five percent for certain drug offenses. This bill would also revise the penalties and weight presumptions and eliminate mandatory minimum sentences relating to certain drug offenses.
  • Why We Support:
    • This legislation would reduce sentences for most drug offenses and eliminate mandatory minimum penalties relating to drug offenses, which would represent a positive move towards decarceration.
  • Bill Status: H. 3623 passed through the House and is now in the Senate Corrections and Penology Committee.

Eliminating Inhuman and Counterproductive Punishments

  • Position: Support, with Amendment
  • Bill Number(s): H.3010 (Rep. Weeks)
  • Summary: This legislation would, with limited exceptions, ensure that full credit will be granted against a sentence for time served prior to trial and sentencing, and may be given for any time spent under monitored house arrest or global positioning system (GPS) monitoring
  • Why We Support
    • The legislation would ensure that people were granted credit for time served while on home detention, which allows people to maintain employment, relationships with family, and much more.
    • This legislation should be amended to ensure that indigent people have the same access to GPS monitoring, regardless of ability to pay, thus enabling South Carolina to begin to roll back its two-tiered justice system that deprives people with fewer resources a chance at equal justice under the law.
  • Bill Status: H.3010 remains in the House Judiciary Committee.

Ensuring People are Judged on their Merits, not Mistakes

  • Position: Support
  • Bill Number(s): S.295 (Sen. Climer and Sen. Fanning)
  • Bill Summary: S.295 would ensure that professional regulatory boards or commissions may not deny applications for professional licenses due to prior criminal convictions unless the conviction is directly related to the profession Further, the bill establishes a clear standard for review and criteria for consideration of criminal records by regulatory boards or commissions.
  • Why We Support:
    • Second chances strengthen the safety of our communities.
    • Second chance legislation makes economic sense.
    • Second chance legislation ensures South Carolina may deny a license to those whose criminal conviction is related to the job.
    • The staggering racial bias in the enforcement of our criminal laws means the collateral harms of a criminal conviction fall on Black people.
  • Bill Status: S.295 was carried over to the Senate Labor, Commerce, and Industry Committee.

Reducing the Size, Scope, and Role of Policing

  • Position: Amend
  • Bill Number(s): H.3050 (Rep. Moss)
  • Bill Summary: H.3050 would require non-certified law enforcement officers to be accompanied by a certified law enforcement officer when performing their duties. It would also require a duty to intervene and limit the use of chokeholds under certain circumstances. Finally, it would require the Law Enforcement Training Council to create certain minimum standards, including for: use of force, duty to intervene, body worn cameras, hiring, and firing practices and academy training, vehicle pursuits, and no-knock warrants.
  • Why We Seek Amendments:
    • Real policing reform requires a reduction in the size, scope, and power of police, not just procedural reforms.
    • This legislation does nothing to address the basic fact that our laws are enforced with a staggering racial bias.
    • Law enforcement have ignored previous legislative efforts to hold them accountable.
    • All of the committees, studies, audits, and trainings in the world cannot fix this fundamental problem.
  • Bill Status: H3050 passed the House and was sent to the Senate.

Law Enforcement Integrity Act

  • Position: Support, with Amendment
  • Bill Number(s): H.3049 (Rep. McKnight)
  • Bill Summary: This legislation is designed to hold police officers accountable and eliminate certain police conduct.
  • Why We Support:
    • Requiring officers to use body-worn and dash cameras will ensure any potential misconduct is recorded. If a law enforcement agency receives a complaint alleging officer misconduct, they must release any video or audio footage to the public within 21 days of receiving the complaint.
    • The legislation prohibits certain uses of officer force at protests or demonstrations.
    • The bill requires the State Law Enforcement Division to publish data on officers’ use of force.
    • This legislation should be amended to allow for systematic civilian review of officer misconduct. Law enforcement led disciplinary/review processes have historically protected officer misconduct.
  • Bill Status: Pending in the House Judiciary Committee.

Human-Centered Police Training

  • Position: Support, with Amendment
  • Bill Number(s): H. 4593 (Rep. Gilliard)
  • Bill Summary: H. 4593 requires that police officers receive annual training on proper use of tasers. It also mandates that this training includes instruction on de-escalation strategies.
  • Why We Support:
    • Officer training should emphasize that use of force is a last resort, only to be used in the rarest of circumstances.
    • Building officer competency in de-escalation techniques will allow them to dissolve situations peacefully.
    • This legislation requires officer training in responding to crisis situations. People in the midst of a mental health or addictive disorder crisis deserve a response that acknowledges the circumstances and treats them with dignity. Officers lacking such training are more likely to misjudge the situation, and resort to use of force.
    • This legislation should be amended to require that a trained mental health professional be among the first responders on the scene in cases where the call likely indicates someone is experiencing a mental health or addictive crisis. If, upon arriving at the scene, there is no evidence that the person poses a risk of physical harm to themselves or others, the police officers should defer to the mental health professional in addressing the person in crisis.
  • Bill Status: H. 4593 was referred to the House Judiciary Committee

Children Are Different

  • Position: Support
  • Bill Number(s): H. 3212 (Rep. Bernstein)
  • Bill Summary: H. 3212, in acknowledging that a child’s still developing brain contributes to the commission of impulsive and short-sighted actions, creates structural protections for children found guilty of crimes. These protections include eliminating life without parole sentences and eliminating solitary confinement for children. 
  • Why We Support:
    • Children undergo cognitive development throughout, and often beyond, the years of adolescence. Imposing draconian punishments for childish impulsivity or inability to foresee consequences ignores modern scientific understanding of the youthful brain.
    •  The conditions at Department of Juvenile Justice and South Carolina Department of Correction facilities are dangerous and dehumanizing. They are an impediment to healthy brain development and rehabilitation.
    • Solitary confinement is almost universally condemned as a cruel and unusual practice. It is an enormous obstacle to healthy cognitive development.
  • Bill Status: H. 3212 was referred to the House Judiciary Committee.

Juvenile Justice Reform Act

  • Position: Support
  • Bill Number(s): S. 53 (Sen. Malloy and Sen. Shealy)
  • Bill Summary: S. 53 aims to reduce the number of children sent to Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) facilities and improve the conditions therein. It prevents children from being sent to DJJ facilities until they are deemed to be delinquent. The act prohibits placing children in solitary confinement. It expands access to diversionary program, and allows for children leaving DJJ custody to return to public, rather than alternative, schools.
  • Why We Support:
    • The conditions at DJJ facilities pose a threat to children’s physical and psychological well-being. S. 53 allows children to spend the stressful days between their behavior and adjudication with family and friends rather than amidst inhumane DJJ conditions.
    • The psychological ill effects of solitary confinement on the developing mind are well-documented by national and international authorities.
    • Allowing children leaving custody to return to public schools allows for smoother reentry and more meaningful educational opportunities.
  • Bill Status: S. 53 was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Free Speech

Critical Race Theory Instruction Prohibition

  • Position: Oppose
  • Bill Number(s): H.4325 (Rep. Long)
  • Bill Summary: This legislation prohibits the teaching of “Critical Race Theory” and related instruction.
  • Why We Oppose:
    • The language of the bill is unconstitutionally vague. It fails to define what it would mean for a teacher to “compel students to personally affirm, adopt, or adhere to the tenets of Critical Race Theory.” Teachers need to be provided a clear sense of what the bill truly seeks to prohibit.
    • This legislation is a political attempt to control the classroom. There are protocols in place to address such issues at the local level. This is governmental overreach.
  • Bill Status: H.4325 is pending action in the House Education and Public Works Committee.

Prohibition of 1619 as a Curricular Resource

  • Position: Oppose
  • Bill Number(s): H.4343 (Rep. Taylor)
  • Bill Summary: H.4343 prohibits public school teachers from teaching or providing the both the 1619 Project and any claim, view or opinion contained therein. The legislation also prohibits any instruction that may cause a student discomfort on account of their race or sex. It also bans mandatory teacher/administrator participation in gender or sexual diversity training.
  • Why We Oppose:
    • To ban every viewpoint contained within a nearly 30,000-word compilation of essays is overbroad to a point our Constitution does not permit.
    • A teacher cannot reasonably be expected to know what may cause each student “discomfort” or “psychological distress.”
    • Gender and sexual diversity trainings are designed to help school officials recognize when a student is going through an identity crisis. Allowing teachers to opt out of such trainings means that schools, which should be a safe haven for students who come from homes that deny their lived existence, will become systematically less safe and supportive for students in need of support.
  • Bill Status: H.4343 is pending in the House Education and Public Works Committee.

Expansive Censorship

  • Position: Oppose
  • Bill Number(s): H.4605 (Rep. Bennett)
  • Bill Summary: H.4605 would censor discussion at all “state-funded entities.” This includes any entity that receives state funds, benefits from state tax exemptions or nonprofit status. This legislation prevents conversations that may cause discomfort based on heritage, culture, or political belief, in addition to race, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, and religion. It also creates a barrier, if not an outright prohibition, to students receiving counseling on sexual lifestyles and gender identity. H. 4605 also states that an individual cannot be “compelled to affirm, accept, adopt or adhere to” the idea of gender fluidity, an individual’s choice to use nonbinary pronouns, the existence of implicit bias, and the idea that race and sex are social constructs. The bill establishes a hotline that allows citizens to report violations of this bill to the Attorney General. Entities found in violation of the bill’s provisions must lose its stand funding, tax exemption status, and any other state-provided accommodation or privilege until it demonstrates with compliance with the bill.
  • Why We Oppose:
    • Prohibiting all conversations that may cause an individual “discomfort” based on their race, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, heritage, culture or political belief is unconstitutionally vague restraint on freedom of speech. While these conversations may be challenging to navigate and contentious, they are essential to people with different beliefs from understanding each other.
    • H.4605 codifies that a minor’s right to access gender identity or sexual lifestyle counseling is a parental choice. This severely limits these students’ ability to access potentially life-saving counseling if their parents’ ideologies prevent them from acknowledging their child’s humanity.
    • LGBTQ students and adults to deserve to have their lived humanity acknowledged.
  • Bill Status: Pending in House Education and Public Works Committee

LGBTQ+ Equality

Preventing Attacks on Trans Athletes

  • Position: Oppose
  • Bill Number(s): S.531 (Sen. Cash), H.4153 (Rep. Trantham) & H.3477 (Rep. Trantham)
  • Bill Summary: This legislation would exclude transgender youth from participating in athletics consistent with their gender identity.
  • Why We Oppose:
    • This is unconstitutional and a violation of Title IX.
    • This legislation put South Carolina at risk of losing hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding.
    • This legislation would target, harm, and dehumanize transgender youth, and all to solve a problem that plainly does not exist.
  • Bill Status: S.531 carried over to Senate Education Subcommittee. H.4153 was rejected by the House Judiciary Committee. H.3477 was tabled in the House Judiciary Committee.

Preventing Restrictions on Medical Care for Transgender Youth

  • Position: Oppose
  • Bill Number(s): H.4047 (Rep. McKnight)
  • Bill Summary: This legislation would prohibit transgender people under 18 from receiving essential medical care. Medical professionals would face prison time for providing necessary medical care for their patients. In effect, the bill would also require school staff to “out” transgender students to their parents, potentially before they are ready to share.
  • Why We Oppose:
    • This legislation would interfere with the ability of medical professionals and school staff to do their job.
    • Affirming a young person’s gender through social transition gender affirming care – including medical care – saves lives.
    • Transgender youth whose families support their gender identity have a decrease in suicidal thoughts, a decrease in suicide attempts, and significant increases in self-esteem and general health.
    • Passage of such a policy could also negative impact recruitment and retention of highly qualified medical professionals who want to live and work in a state that prohibits necessary medical care.
  • Bill Status: H.4047 was referred to House Judiciary without additional action.

Religious Liberty

Preventing Unprecedented Legal Immunity for Religious Groups to Discriminate

  • Position: Oppose
  • Bill Number(s): H.3105 (Rep. Yow)
  • Bill Summary: This legislation would forbid the government, including courts, from imposing any “monetary fine, fee, penalty, damage award, or injunction” against a religious organization in connection with the organization’s religious activities.
  • Why We Oppose:
    • This legislation would provide extreme religious exemptions under the guise of allowing worship services.
    • This legislation would give religious groups blanket immunity from the law harming others.
    • This legislation ignores the fact that South Carolina law already provides strong protections for religious exercise.
  • Bill Status: H.3105 passed the House. It was assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Discriminatory Barriers to Healthcare

  • Position: Oppose
  • Bill Number(s): S. 811 (Sen. Kimbrell)
  • Bill Summary: S. 811 grants medical providers authority to rely on their conscience or moral or religious convictions in choosing whether to care for patients. This bill allows doctors, nurses, receptionists, and even non-medically trained personnel to refuse to admit or offer services to patients in need of care in non-emergency situations.
  • Why We Oppose:
    • No one should face discrimination because of who they are or who they love.
    • Under this bill, even insurance companies could dictate patients’ access to needed medical care. A transgender patient could have a doctor oversee their transition related care but be unable to afford their services due to an insurance company’s rejection of the claim.
    • This bill would be especially dangerous in rural areas where access to healthcare is already limited. If the lone provider in a rural area refuses to care for a patient, the patient might have to travel hundreds of miles to access care. This is not a feasible option for South Carolinians who cannot afford to miss days of work.
  • Bill Status: S. 811 is pending action in the Senate Committee on Medical Affairs.

Reproductive Justice

  • Position: Oppose
  • Bill Number(s): S. 988 (Sen. Cash)
  • Bill Summary: S. 988 prohibits any person from performing or inducing, or attempting to perform or induce, an abortion. A person who is convicted or pleads guilty to performing or inducing an abortion must serve a minimum prison sentence of thirty years to life; the prosecutor could also seek to impose the death penalty. A person found guilty of attempting to perform or an induce an abortion must be imprisoned for not more than 30 years; the sentence may not be suspended, nor may probation be granted.
  • Why We Oppose:
    • Forced pregnancy is taking away a person’s constitutional and human right to control their bodies.
    • Mothers who are denied a wanted abortion are more likely to suffer life-threating complications.
    • No state interest described by fetal rights advocates has enough force to override a woman’s fundamental rights of privacy, bodily integrity, and self-determination.
    • The ACLU believes the death penalty inherently violates the constitutional ban against cruel and unusual punishment.
  • Bill Status: S. 988 is pending action in the Senate Medical Affairs Committee. This bill cannot pass without federal action.