COLUMBIA — Raising the minimum wage, reforming education funding and investing in the state’s transportation system top the list of priorities for House Democrats during this legislative session.
It’s an ambitious list that House Minority Leader Rep. Todd Rutherford, D-Columbia, acknowledged Tuesday that the Democrats don’t have the numbers to set the agenda in either chamber of the South Carolina General Assembly, much less determine what is passed.
But, they could frame the debate, he said, by appealing to voters to pressure Republican lawmakers to support their legislation.
“It takes letting the people know what exactly is going on so that the people are demanding a plan,” Rutherford said during a news conference at the Statehouse setting out the Democrats’ legislative strategy.
He called on Haley to lead the way on fixing the state’s transportation system, while Rep. James Smith, D-Columbia, called on the General Assembly to withdraw its request to the high court to reconsider its ruling in a 21-year-old education lawsuit that took lawmakers and others to task for failing to provide a students in rural districts with a constitutionally mandated basic education.
“For 20 years, Republicans have ignored the issue of education funding in South Carolina,” Smith said. “Instead of fighting the Supreme Court ruling calling on us to address the inequalities in school funding, let’s actually roll up our sleeves and do it. We owe it to the students, parents, and teachers of South Carolina. “
Several other House Democrats took turns in calling on action, including Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, D-Orangeburg, who called on passing a law that establishes a state minimum wage. Rookie lawmaker Rep. Justin Bamberg, D-Bamberg, said it was time for a South Carolina-based alternative to Medicaid expansion.
While pledging support for ethics reform, Rep. Laurie Funderburk, D-Camden, also called for reforming the redistricting process to do away with gerrymandered districts.
“District lines are purposely drawn by legislators in order to create a safer political environment for themselves and their political party,” Funderburk said. “Gerrymandering has created a polarized Legislature that seeks to root out moderates and replace them with politicians who only have to worry about winning their primaries. Reforming our redistricting process is critical to a more functional General Assembly and regaining the trust of the voters.”
Reach Cynthia Roldan at 708-5891.