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. As we enter a new decade, 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 12, 2021 to begin the first year of its two-year legislative session. The General Assembly concluded its regular session on May 13, 2021.The General Assembly will return in June for matters including the budget, conference committee reports and Governor vetoes, and a few additional matters. In addition, the General Assembly will return in the fall to take up redistricting, which occurs following each census.Below is a summary of thelegislation that the ACLU of South Carolina engaged on during this session.
Below are the ACLU of SC’s key legislative priorities during the 2021 session.
Safe and Just Communities
To build safe and just communities, South Carolina must build a public safety system that ensures and protects the basic rights of all and recognizes and addresses the harms created by its racist and exploitative history – harms that continue to this day.
- Eliminate Inhuman and Counterproductive Punishments - Legislators must focus on non-carceral approaches to public safety, diverting more people from entering our jails and prisons. During this global pandemic, it is even more imperative that lawmakers greatly expand opportunities for incarcerated people to be released earlier, both through a substantially re-vamped parole system and through measures that reward all incarcerated individuals who have demonstrated exemplary behavior and are deemed to pose no threat to public safety.
- Rein in Policing for Profit - Legislators must eliminate civil asset forfeiture, a law that permits law enforcement to take and keep your property without even charging you with a crime.
- Ensure People are Judged by their Merit, not their Mistakes - Legislators must 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.
- Rein in Abusive Policing - Lawmakers have introduced legislation to "reform" policing through the implementation of new procedural changes to policing practices. This legislation is insufficient. To truly address the problem of police violence, legislators must drastically reduce the size, scope, and role of police in South Carolina.
- Stop Tinkering with a Death Penalty System that is Broken Beyond Repair - Legislators are considering legislation that would make the electric chair the default method of execution in South Carolina. This legislation misses the underlying problem. South Carolina has a capital punishment system that is unreliable and arbitrary. It is unconscionable that legislators are debating methods of execution when South Carolina’s death penalty system is unreliable and arbitrary.
We must ensure that every pregnant person can make the best decision for themself and their family about whether and when to have a child without undue political interference.
- Prevent the Government from Controlling Private Healthcare Decisions - Legislators must oppose efforts to prohibit abortions after any embryonic cardiac activity is detected, which is usually at six weeks. Make no mistake, this is intended to ban abortion in South Carolina.
We must build a South Carolina where LGBTQ people can live openly without discrimination and enjoy equal rights, personal autonomy, and freedom of expression and association. LGBTQ people belong everywhere.
- Support Trans Athletes - Legislators must oppose efforts to ban young trans athletes from participating in athletic activities consistent with their gender.
Access to the Ballot
We must ensure the right to vote, which is the cornerstone of our democracy and the fundamental right upon which all our civil liberties rest.
We must ensure that laws and governmental practices neither promote religion nor interfere with its free exercise.
- Do not grant religious organizations a “get out of jail free” card for nearly any violation of any law at any time - Legislators must oppose legislation that 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.