Medical marijuana, state budget, broadband expansion and learning loss to be addressed in upcoming General Assembly

South Carolina News

HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WBTW) – The South Carolina General Assembly returns next week.

News13 spoke with Grand Strand and Pee Dee lawmakers to learn what the House and Senate plan to prioritize. Senate Education Committee Chairman, Greg Hembree says much of this session will involve the state budget.

“We have about $2.5 billion dollars in American Rescue Plan money,” Hembree said. “We have infrastructure money that is starting to flow down from Washington. We have a billion dollars in surplus this year that we will be appropriating that is just regular surplus money. We’ve got $550 million dollars as part of a Savannah River site lawsuit settlement. So, there will be a lot of time spent trying to figure out how to best appropriate that money.”

As the Chairman of Education, much of his time is spent working in that sector. Hembree says the big takeaways from the pandemic and efforts he wants to see money allocated to is broadband expansion and catching kids up from pandemic learning loss.

“The remote learning just didn’t work as well as we had hoped,” he said. “It was a tremendous effort put forth by educators and schools all across the state, but the kids aren’t trained to learn that way. Teachers are not trained to teach that way and parents are not trained to manage that.”

Hembree says another focus will be on road infrastructure.

“I am going to be focusing on getting money for Highway 90,” he said. “We’ve got money appropriated for 501 and some other big projects, but we don’t have money set aside for Highway 90 and that’s become just a tremendous problem. It’s at 85% capacity now and houses are being built as fast as they can go up. We are going to be making a pitch to set aside $100 million dollars.”

Senator Stephen Goldfinch who represents Charleston, Georgetown and Horry Counties believes the first two bills brought up for discussion will be the legalization of medical marijuana and amending the State’s Certificate of Need process regarding hospitals.

“To get a medical facility open in South Carolina you have to apply for and receive a certificate of need,” Hembree said. “So, there is a screening process, and it is rather cumbersome. What happens is a hospital wants to do a big addition and the competing hospital fights it. You can understand why, but it is not really very efficient. We are going to reevaluate that certificate of need program and that will affect our folks at home because we have so many people here that are in their retirement years, such a high population that make a lot of use of our medical facilities.”

The upcoming session begins on Wednesday January 12th.

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