You are the owner of this article.
You have permission to edit this article.
top story

SC Legislature sets century-old record, plus how no one was happy during COVID crackdowns

  • Updated
SC Unfinished Business

Personal bottles of hand sanitizer sit on the desk of each South Carolina House member ahead of a special one-day legislative session on  April 8, 2020, in Columbia. File/Meg Kinnard/AP

The coronavirus cut short the S.C. legislative session — really short.

The House and Senate usually meet about 55 active-session days a year from January through May (or some times into June). Sessions have been canceled for a day or two because of bad storms, but nothing like the pandemic that put a halt to regular state business in March.

The Legislature has met for 29 active business days this year. That is the fewest session days in more than a century.

The last time the General Assembly met so little was 1918 in a session shortened by World War I, said Eric Emerson, director of the S.C. Department of Archives and History. (The infamous flu pandemic would not strike until after that session ended in February 1918.)  

The House met for 24 days that year, while the Senate met for 23 days, according to legislative journals Emerson researched.

Lawmakers will reconvene next month for a few days to take up COVID-19 funding.

Even with the extra sessions, the 2020 term will likely even be shorter than in World War II, when lawmakers met for less than 40 days in 1942 in the months after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Nobody was happy during the shutdown: When South Carolina was still under its most severe coronavirus restrictions, including a stay-at-home order and a ban on eating in restaurants, a slim majority of residents were unhappy with the national and state response to the COVID-19 outbreak, according to a poll from Clemson University.

And most South Carolinians also believed President Donald Trump acted too slowly to the deadly virus.

The online poll taken April 21-29 and released last week showed deep racial and political divisions in opinions over handling of the virus that sickened over 9,000 South Carolinians and killed over 400. 

Three out of four South Carolinians say they were at least moderately concerned about the COVID-19 outbreak, though they were split over being worried if they would get infected.

Nearly 70 percent of African Americans, who comprise a disproportionate number of COVID-19 patients, said they were extremely concerned about the outbreak.

A little under 30 percent of white respondents said they were extremely concerned.

Meanwhile, more than 90 percent of Democrats said they were at least moderately concerned about the virus versus less than half of Republicans.

The political split was obvious in opinions about how state and federal governments run by Republican leaders responded to the outbreak.

Nearly 70 percent of Republicans approved of the federal government response versus 7 percent of Democrats.

Democrats felt a little better about the state response as of last month, with 17 percent approval compared to 63 percent of Republicans.

Sign up for updates!

Get the latest political news from The Post and Courier in your inbox.

Trump's approval in handling the crisis was stark: 87 percent from Republicans and 3 percent from Democrats. Men, white and older respondents and those without a bachelor's degree gave the president higher marks.

But the opinion that Trump reacted to the outbreak was pretty universal, with roughly half of almost all demographics in the poll saying he was too slow.

The main exceptions were African Americans and Democrats, more than 90 percent of each said he was too slow, and Republicans, with less than one in five saying Trump failed to react quickly.

Absentee absolutely: Jordan Pace, a Republican running for a Charleston-area state House seat, sent a recent campaign mailer with the headline, "I will NEVER support universal vote-by-mail."

Then the mailer proceeds to show voters how to cast absentee ballots: "Sometimes conservatives have legitimate reasons to vote absentee."

That earned a few national social media chuckles in an apparent bit of contradiction.

But Pace said there's a big hair to split between his messages.

Universal vote-by-mail, pushed by Democrats, does not have the level of scrutiny required by absentee voting that requires a signature and a witness, he said.

Pace wanted voters to know they could vote absentee amid the COVID-19 outbreak, but he that did not support all-mail elections.

Also interesting about Pace's mailer was that it suggested voters could get an absentee ballot from a third-party website.  

After voters fill out information including their name, address, phone number and political preference, the website says it sends a message to the S.C. Election Commission to send a request for an absentee ballot. Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham has a similar site as do Democratic groups. 

There's nothing wrong with someone else helping voters request an absentee ballot, state election officials said, but voters are giving their information to a political group or candidate by using those sites.

Voters can go directly to the state election site to request a ballot at

Political pageantry: Davia Bunch, the 2018 Miss South Carolina, made news this week for her legal fight against the University of South Carolina to recover tuition for mandated online classes that she considered inferior. 

She's picked a career filled with some confrontation.

Bunch started working this month for Speak Strategic, the Charleston political consulting firm run by Charleston Democratic U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham's chief campaign strategist, Tyler Jones. 

The recent USC grad and class-action lawsuit plaintiff is the firm's finance manager, Jones said, helping clients (though not Cunningham) with fundraising.

Follow Andy Shain on Facebook and Twitter

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.


Breaking News

Free Times Breaking News