June 26, 2024

It has been a busy legislative week, with members in primary runoffs facing off on Tuesday and members of the General Assembly returning to Columbia today to finalize their work on the budget and outstanding conference reports before adjourning Sine Die.  It is uncertain if the legislature will return to address any potential budget vetoes issued by Governor McMaster.


Primary Runoff Election Results

Primary runoffs were held across the state on Tuesday and were characterized by low voter turnout with overall turnout only at 5.84%.  In the biggest shakeup of the day, Senate Family and Veteran Services Committee Chairlady Katrina Shealy was defeated by attorney Carlisle Kennedy 62.47% to 37.53% for the Senate District 23 seat that covers Lexington county.  Shealy, who has served in the Senate since 2012, is known for her work for children, veterans, women, and the state’s disabled community.  With Shealy’s loss, the Senate will only have two Democratic females serving in the upper chamber, down from the six women who served this year.


A list of runoff election results is below:


In US House District 3, Sheri Biggs defeated Mark Burns.  Biggs faces Democrat Bryon Best in the general election.


In Senate District 6 (Greenville) Representative Jason Elliott defeated Ben Carper.  Elliott will face no opposition in the general election.


In Senate District 10 (Greenwood, Saluda & Lexington) incumbent Senator Billy Garrett defeated Charles Bumgardner.  Senator Garrett faces Democrat Francie Kleckley in the general election.


In Senate District 12 (Greenville & Spartanburg), former Senator Lee Bright  was defeated by Representative Roger Nutt.  Representative Nutt faces Democrat Octavia Amaechi in the general election.


In Senate District 22 (Richland), Richland County Councilman Overture Walker defeated Representative Ivory Thigpen.  Walker faces Workers Party candidate Gary Votour in the general election.


In Senate District 23 (Lexington) Senator Katrina Shealy was defeated by Carlisle Kennedy.  Kennedy will face no opposition in the general election.


In Senate District 26 (Calhoun, Lexington, Richland) Republican Chris Smith was defeated by  Jason Guerry.  Guerry will face Democrat Representative Russell Ott in the general election.


In Senate District 35 (Richland, Kershaw, Lee, Sumter), Jeffrey Graham defeated Austin Floyd in the Democratic primary by twenty-four votes, triggering an automatic recount.  In the Republican primary, Lindsay Agostini was defeated by Mike Jones .  Graham and Jones will face off in November, should the Democratic runoff results hold in the recount.


In House District 9 (Anderson) Blake Sanders defeated James Galyean. Sanders will face no opposition in the general election.


In House District 28 (Greenville) Chris Huff defeated Kerri Smith.  Huff will face Democrat Fritz Wiebel in the general election.


In House District 34 (Spartanburg) JoAnne LaBounty was defeated by Sarita Edgerton. Edgerton will face no opposition in the general election.


In House District 93 (Calhoun, Orangeburg, Lexington) former Representative Jerry Govan defeated Johnny Felder.  Govan will face Republican Krista Hassell in the general election.


Budget Deal Reached

Members of the budget conference committee reached a deal on the state’s 2024-25 $13B spending plate late Friday afternoon, and adopted the budget conference report in both chambers earlier today.  Highlights of the state budget include: $77M for tuition mitigation across the state’s higher education institutions; a pay raise of $1,125 for state employees making under $50K and a 2.25% raise for all other state employes; $18M for the state’s Conservation Bank and $3M for working agricultural farmland preservation; and $200M for bride repair.  Budget writers continued the state’s investment in education, sending $201M in state aid to classrooms, raising the starting salary for teachers to $47,000 and extending the teacher salary schedule from twenty-four to twenty-eight years.  The conference report also includes $100M for a new medical school at the University of South Carolina and funding for a veterinary school at Clemson University. The state also plans to accelerate the planned income tax cut phase-in, reducing the rate from 6.4% to 6.2% next year.  House Ways and Means Chairman Bruce Bannister (R-Greenville) stated on Friday that “this is a budget that is good for taxpayers and good for the state” while Senator Nikki Setzler (D-Lexington) echoed his sentiments, stating “I think this is a budget we can all be proud of.”


Judicial Reform Headed to Governor

Members of the House and Senate reached a deal on judicial reform legislation late Wednesday afternoon, sending the bill to Governor McMaster for his consideration prior to adjourning.  Under the compromise agreement, there will be twelve members of the Judicial Merit Selection Commission which screens judicial candidates, with four members selected by the Speaker of the House, two by the President of the Senate, two by the Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman, and four selected by the Governor.  Terms for members of the JMSC would be two years and members would be limited to two consecutive terms.  Members of the JMSC would be required to resign from their position on the committee should a family member be a judicial candidate; and the cap on candidates to be considered by the full General Assembly would be six, an increase from the current cap of three.  Should the Governor sign the legislation, it will take effect July 1, 2025.