S.C. Legislature tries to meet quickly as COVID-19 spreads


COLUMBIA (AP) — South Carolina's Legislature is trying to meet as quickly and safely as possible Wednesday to assure they can come back after the peak of the coronavirus and figure out the state budget, education and anything else they consider important.

In a state where the governor recently made it illegal for three or more people to gather outside of families or essential businesses, leaders of the South Carolina House and Senate said they had little choice but to call the 46 senators and 124 House members into session now or abandon their power because they are scheduled to adjourn May 14.

Only two items have been mentioned for discussion and voting Wednesday. One is a resolution to allow for a special session and the topics lawmakers can take up. The other is a proposal to let the state keep spending at current levels when the budget ends June 30 because the virus will likely wreck the $10 billion budget passed by the House last month and a new spending plan must be written.

There will also likely be discussion about altering rules so lawmakers can join remotely or meet in a larger location., although leadership hasn't indicated any support in changing the rules.

Other items that will likely merit future discussion are changes in education requirements and whether the June 9 primaries continue on that date and whether changes should be made in how people vote.

Health officials warned there is a distinct possibility that this is the safest week to meet at the Statehouse before the May 14 adjournment because COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the state.

Both chambers will be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected before lawmakers arrive at 1 p.m. Wednesday.

Not all lawmakers will be there. At least two Democratic senators have said they are staying home to protect their families.

Democrats also suggested meeting at a larger place, checking everyone's temperature before entering the Statehouse and quarantining lawmakers for 14 days after Wednesday's meeting.