S.C. lawmakers back in session for 2020; education reform bill and Hands-Free Act up for discussion

S.C. Education Reform Bill

HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) - South Carolina lawmakers head back to session Tuesday for 2020 and some of their topics for the day are the education reform bill and the Hands-Free Act.

The Hands-Free Act is something Sen. Greg Hembree said will help save lives. It’s currently illegal to text and drive in S.C. With this proposed legislation, lawmakers want to make it illegal to use a wireless telecommunications device like a cellphone while driving.

With the bill, lawmakers want to revise the circumstances of when it’s unlawful to use a device, create the offense of distracted driving, and provide penalties.

The bill would increase the fine of texting and driving from $25 to $100, and create a threshold for second and subsequent offenses. Hembree said state leaders passed a first step type of bill a few years ago. Now, they’re hoping to strengthen it and see how it goes.

Another topic up for discussion Tuesday is education reform.

Hembree said a formal report from the Senate Education Committee will come out Tuesday when the session convenes at 12 p.m.

He added one of the primary functions of government is the education of children.

Teachers across the state have pushed to cut back on testing and other demands they say take time away from teaching. They have also demanded a salary increase.

Hembree said the education reform bill will put into statute that new teachers make a minimum of $35,000 annually. According to the senator, however, the bill isn’t just about teacher salaries.

“It eliminates some of the state mandated testing, which teachers have asked for and it accomplishes that goal," Hembree said. "And right now we’re requiring all teachers to take literacy training every few years, just state mandated literacy training. Most of them have to pay for it themselves and this would eliminate that. It would give that responsibility of deciding who has to do that literacy training and how much to the department of education, state department.”

Hembree said the next steps are to try to move the education reform bill into special order to give it priority in the debate status.

He said they plan to take up the debate of the bill Wednesday.

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