The nation’s culture wars have been on public display in the South Carolina House of Representatives. Just look at the 225 bills filed in the chamber since Nov. 10.
Once you subtract the 100 congratulatory or memorial resolutions for organizations or people across the state who have done something laudable or died, you’re left with 125 new House bills. Only a few would qualify as serious policy proposals to seek bipartisan support, such as ways to redistrict the state’s election districts or change the tax code.
What you’re left with are dozens of bills designed to appease or inflame those generally on the edges of political debate. For example, there are at least 10 bills seeking to regulate use of face masks, treatment of COVID-19, use of vaccinations or something else that’s headline-grabbing related to the pandemic. There are several proposals for tax exemptions for special interests. There are a handful of ideas on how to “fix” election laws that feed conspiracy theories about election fairness.
And then there are individual bills that range from how to keep some flags out of schools, stop social media censorship, prohibit removal of porn filters, keep cars from being jacked up or down, require divorce cases involving kids to have jury trials, get rid of college tenure and keep “ideological indoctrination” (critical race theory) out of schools. Additionally, there are more ideas on dealing with abortion and guns.
It’s not only conservatives with far-out proposals. For example, there’s one bill, H. 4610, that wants to keep the scent of marijuana from being probable cause for a police officer (wait for it) to probe whether illegal marijuana might be in the vicinity.
At this point in time, the S.C. House seems to be a Wild West of legislation heading into an election year where many Republicans apparently are worried they may not look like they support former President Trump enough. So to seem tough and decisive, they propose legislation to keep somebody even more on the right from running against them.
“Some of them want to be crazy enough to prove nobody should run against them,” said one key legislative leader who asked not to be identified. And the political dynamic reportedly has House leaders struggling to keep the GOP caucus together.
A frustrated state lobbyist observed, “We should just revise the legislative process. It wouldn’t take much change at this point. The House could recognize sports teams and hold parties for culture warriors. The Senate could write and pass legislation.”
A House insider (no one seemed to want to talk on the record about this subject) added there seemed to be a lot of “tail wagging the dog” in the House: “With the GOP gains last year, they have been emboldened to pass things like the fetal heartbeat bill and open carry. Things that were quietly killed this year (like critical race theory or the anti-trans ‘Save Women’s Sports Act’) are sure to come back in 2022 . … I usually try not to put too much stock into pre-filed bills, but based on what I’m seeing, they are a clear indication of what is to come.”