What are the top issues for the legislature as the session starts on Tuesday? In South.
COLUMBIA - A coalition of progressive groups intends to welcome lawmakers on Tuesday with a rally calling for the state to expand Medicaid, among other issues.
National Association of Social Workers (SC)
SC Christian Action Council
SC Progressive Network
The SC Education Association
The rally, called "Enough is Enough," is being held by the Truthful Tuesday Coalition at noon in front of the Statehouse. Organizers say they are tired of political posturing and lawmakers who refuse to approve anything with President Barack Obama's name attached to it.
"The state is being held hostage," said Brett Bursey, director of the S.C. Progressive Network. "I think that the reality of refusing to provide health care to a quarter of a million people was the last straw."
Several groups form the Truthful Tuesday Coalition, which is similar to North Carolina's "Moral Mondays," a rally triggered by those who opposed laws made by that state's Republican-led General Assembly during the 2013 session.
Bursey said turning down federal money for the expansion of Medicaid simply sends the money elsewhere.
George Hopkins, coordinator for the progressive network's Charleston chapter, said the Medicaid expansion in South Carolina is vital to prevent deaths and keep people from becoming severely ill.
"It seems to me it's in our state's best interest to have everyone have health coverage," Hopkins said. "We want to really put pressure on the legislature for the state of South Carolina to expand Medicaid."
But Rep. Chip Limehouse, R-Charleston, said funding Medicaid in its current state is a challenge every year; funding an expansion of the program would be an even larger struggle.
"We've got more government than we can afford right now," Limehouse said. "We're going to live within our means."
Protesters do have some lawmakers on their side, such as Rep. David Mack, D-North Charleston. "I think it's a horrible thing that we did not take that money," he said. "We are part of the United States. We're not the Confederacy anymore. I think that the group is right on point and I support them 100 percent."
Though the state declined to expand Medicaid, more than 32,000 Medicaid applications were submitted in South Carolina in October, compared with an average of 27,000 in previous months, according to a federal report. The increase was attributed to the state's first-ever online application process.
The group also wants to see changes to how the state funds K-12 and higher education.