(Published in the Daily Journal)

By Bill Sandifer

I don’t have to tell you that this is a great time of year to live in South Carolina.  As the school year ends, and summer nears, it brings so many opportunities to reconnect with friends and family, enjoy the outdoors and discover new ways to appreciate the natural beauty of our community and state.

As summer quickly approaches, it also means that this year’s legislation session is wrapping up and we are working hard to pass important legislation before we adjourn later this month.

To become law, a bill must pass both houses and then make it to the governor’s desk. During May and June, the House is debating bills that already have passed the Senate and the Senate is debating bills that already have passed the House. The pace is fast and we are committed to passing as much of the important legislation as possible.

One important bill we are debating in the House is the Distributed Energy Resource bill, which would open the door for the increased use of solar-generated power in our state. What this means is businesses and consumers would be able to lease solar systems from independent solar companies and potentially lower their energy costs. The exciting part is that this bill would give consumers the opportunity to shop for more cost-efficient energy solutions.

Another bill we currently are debating in the House is “Jaidon’s Law.” This is a critical piece of legislation when it comes to the safety of many children in our state. Jaidon was a 22-month-old boy who died of a drug overdose after being removed from a foster home and given back to his drug-using biological parents. Unfortunately, this type of thing is far too common in our legal system, and many who work hard to safeguard these kids feel powerless to prevent this type of tragedy. Jaidon’s Law will require, DSS, the state’s child-welfare agency and judges to consider whether the parents continue to use drugs before placing children back in a home. It will, hopefully, be a further protection for many of our state’s precious and most vulnerable citizens.

I also want to report that the “Merry Christmas” bill passed the House and has moved to the Senate for consideration. As one of the primary sponsors of this bill, I am especially gratified that the House recognized the value of protecting South Carolinians’ rights to acknowledge traditional winter holidays on school grounds. The bill allows school district employees and students to exchange traditional holiday greetings such as “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Hanukkah” without fear of punishment or legal action. Schools will be allowed to display seasonal decorations like nativity scenes, Christmas trees or menorahs, so long as the displays include more than one religion or have an equal number of religious and secular symbols. I believe this is a real victory in protecting individual citizens’ rights to freedom of speech and freedom of religion, while maintaining a healthy respect for cultural and religious diversity.

The beginning of summer this year also means that the statewide primary election is around the corner on June 10. This year, for the first time, the State Elections Committee has very helpfully posted sample ballots online. Now, before you go to the polls, you can see the ballot sample at www.scvotes.org, and prepare to participate. I encourage you to make plans to get out to vote, remembering the great privilege we have in our nation of being able to elect our leaders.

I continue to count it an honor to work on your behalf in our state government. Thank you for the opportunity to represent you. As always, I welcome any questions and would love to know about any concerns you have. My door is always open and I would love to hear from you.