RETHINKING BUDGET PROVISO: Democrats in South Carolina call for special session

COLUMBIA, SC (WOLO) — State senator John Scott is one of many lawmakers asking for the general assembly to hold a special session to repeal the budget proviso.

At the current moment, the budget proviso prohibits mask mandates in schools, or at least as most interpret it.

“That’s the state law. The general assembly would have to come back into session but I don’t think it’s necessary,” said Gov. Henry McMaster. “I think we should do the things that we know work. The thing that works the best is the vaccine.”

Democrat lawamkers in the state believe a mask mandate is necessary in schools including college but especially for those who are unable to get the vaccine yet.

“Science tells us we are still in the middle of a pandemic,” said Rep. Pat Henegan from Bennettsville. “We should wear masks and social distance as much as possible.”

Some school districts have already gone back to class. Both Pickens and Kershaw Counties have seen numerous COVID cases among their student bodies.

Richland One vice chairwoman Cheryl Harris wants to avoid this in Columbia and across the state.

“Do your job so we can do our job and protect the children of South Carolina,” said Commissioner Harris. “That is the oath we took and right now, we’re being roadblocked.”

The Richland One school district is prepared to require masks after Mayor Steve Benjamin announced a mask mandate for elementary and middle schools. The mandate is something that Attorney General Alan Wilson has said goes against state law.

“The state of South Carolina cannot sue every school district,” said Sen. John Scott. “It does not make sense.”

The mayor of Columbia stated previously that he is prepared to defend the mask mandate in court.

Some lawmakers believe that might be the next step.

“I think it’s very clear that if we are not called back in, this is going to land in courts for them to make a decision,” said Rep. Russell Ott from St. Matthews. “All we’re simply saying is that’s not necessary.”

The governor continues to say that mask in school are not necessary. He admits that they work to prevent COVID transmission but believes they do more harm than good.

“We want to protect them but we do not want to do anything with good intentions that has negative consequences,” McMaster said. “There are parents who have very strong feelings about their children being required by the government to wear masks to go to school. They have their reasons.”

“The governor is wrong, plain and simple. He’s just wrong,” said Rep. Wendy Brawley from Sumter. “This is not political. This is not a parental choice. This does not infringe on anyone’s rights. This is about saving lives.”

There seems to be only one thing both sides agree on.

“We don’t want sick children,” the governor said. “We do not want sick children.”

While Richland One is set to enforce a mask mandate, Richland Two School District is still exploring that possibility. 

On the other hand, Lexington-Richland School District 5 is not enforcing a mask mandate going into the school year.

Categories: Calhoun, Kershaw, Lexington, Local News, Orangeburg, Richland, Sumter