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Happy New Year and the Upcoming Legislative Session

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

As we begin this new year, I would like to wish you all a safe and prosperous 2020. We are beginning a new decade - possibly the "Roaring 20's". Only time will tell!

In saying goodbye to the last ten years, I have reflected upon what transpired during that time. I experienced many highs and some lows. It started with the loss of my father but ended with the births of my precious niece and nephews - the circle of life. At the beginning of this decade, I also was elected to the SC House of Representatives in 2012, and continue to be extremely grateful to represent my community at the State House.

As we start this new legislative session in this new decade, I am optimistic about the opportunities this session will bring. As always, I will be focusing my energy and attention on improving work-force development and job growth in South Carolina, as well as working on women's issues, children's issues, and issues affecting our aging population. I have prefiled several bills and look forward to working on these important issues as well as other issues, a few of which are outlined below.

1. Hate Crime Legislation

I prefiled a bipartisan bill proposing hate crimes penalty enhancement legislation. This would enhance penalties for crimes which are motivated by hate based on race, faith, ethnicity or sexual orientation. South Carolina is one of just four states in the nation that does not protect its citizens against hate crimes. One hate crime is committed in the U.S. every 90 minutes and recent FBI statistics report an alarming increase in the last several years. We need to act now. These are some of the most heinous crimes committed in a society, because the victims are sought out and targeted based on their beliefs or identification and our community then suffers as a whole.

2. Immediate Action to Reform K-12 Public Education Funding

This past year, the House passed significant education reform measures to support our teachers and public schools in South Carolina. I am hopeful that the Senate will return a workable bill for the House to approve. High-quality public schools is fundamental and necessary for South Carolina’s long-term economic success and work-force development. We need to improve the system, pass meaningful legislation, and guarantee all South Carolina students have the opportunity for a high quality education no matter where they live.

3. Vaping

The US Surgeon General has described the use of vaping products, like JUUL, an epidemic among adolescents. The vaping bills I sponsored last year, which were signed by the Governor and enacted into law, were a good first step in helping combat adolescent's use of these addictive products. This year, I have prefiled, along with several of my colleagues in the House and on the Joint Citizens and Legislative Committee on Children, a bipartisan bill creating a tobacco and e-cigarette retail licensure policy in South Carolina. This will make it harder for teens to purchase these products and ensure that retailers are authorized to sell tobacco products. 4. Background Checks for Gun Purchases - Closing the "Charleston Loophole"

In light of the continual mass shootings in our schools and places of worship, common sense gun safety reform legislation is long overdue. To prevent criminals from purchasing a gun, I filed legislation last session, which would prevent anyone with a criminal background from purchasing a firearm. This bill does not infringe on an individual's right to bear arms but focuses on responsible carry and implements reasonable gun safety measures. It would close what is commonly referred to as the "Charleston Loophole" by extending the current waiting period from three days to five days. I will continue to support this initiative until its passage.

5. Redistricting Reform

When the 2020 Census is completed, the General Assembly will be determining how our Congressional and legislative district lines will be drawn based on those numbers. Last session, I co-sponsored a bipartisan bill which would create an independent redistricting commission to prevent the drawing of lines for purposes of partisan advantage or incumbent protection. I have consistently maintained that politics should be taken out of the process, and voters should choose their elected officials rather than politicians choosing who votes for them.

If you would like to discuss any of these issues or have any questions, please feel free to contact me anytime. Thank you for allowing me to represent you and our community at the State House. Happy New Year!

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