Bipartisan committee unveils recommendations on improving SC for its children in 2023

Their work is included in the recently released 2023 Annual Report from the South Carolina Joint Citizens and Legislative Committee on Children.
Published: Mar. 7, 2023 at 9:34 PM EST|Updated: Mar. 7, 2023 at 9:51 PM EST

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - For the last few months, a bipartisan group of lawmakers, state agency heads, and South Carolina citizens has been working to answer an important question: What can they do in the next year to make South Carolina better for its children?

Their work is included in the recently released 2023 Annual Report from the South Carolina Joint Citizens and Legislative Committee on Children, also known as the Children’s Committee.

It comes after the panel heard nearly 13 hours of public testimony during a series of meetings across the state last fall.

“That’s kind of where we’re focused is, what can we do that can make a difference to the greatest majority of our students so that we can see them successfully complete K-12 and even higher education,” Rep. Raye Felder, R-Spartanburg, and the chair of the Children’s Committee, said.

The committee’s 2023 report and recommendations are divided into 11 issues.

They include expanding services to address the youth mental health crisis, removing sales taxes from period products, diapers and formula, providing free school meals to every child in public schools, and passing legislation to keep guns out of kids’ and teens’ hands.

These are issues people told the committee during their hearings this fall that the state needs to address, and they will guide the committee’s work this year.

The Women’s Rights and Empowerment Network, which works to advance the wellbeing of South Carolina women, girls, and families, says it was glad to see expanded parental leave among the focuses.

“Our goal as an organization is to ensure there’s paid leave for all people in the workforce so that you don’t have to make a choice between your paycheck and your health and the health of your family,” WREN Director of Policy & Government Relations Ashley Lidow said.

During last fall’s public hearings, the topic the committee heard about most was community programs and resources, followed by child health and education.

The six legislators on the committee are generally known as lawmakers who work across the aisle, and they are evenly split between the two chambers and the two parties.

“That does help because then we can go back to our respective caucuses and kind of give the background story of how did we come up with this legislation,” Felder said. “‘Let me tell you the story of a family that spoke to us. Let me tell you the story of a fictive kin caregiver that just had hoops and hoops and hoops to jump through.’”

Last year, the Children’s Committee earned some big wins at the State House.

They included passing multiple new laws to expand and strengthen foster care services, as well as legislation to give state employees six weeks of paid parental leave when they welcome a child to their family.