Bills protecting sex trafficking victims, expanding the daycare workforce could soon be law • SC Daily Gazette

COLUMBIA — Bills protecting sex trafficking victims from being prosecuted for minor crimes they were coerced to commit and allowing disabled workers without a diploma to work in child care were among a flurry of compromises passed by South Carolina legislators Wednesday.

The House and Senate returned to the Statehouse this week to pass a $14.5 billion budget funding state government through July 1, 2025. Legislators also struck deals, hammering out differences between the two chambers on legislative debate from the regular session that ended last month.

That list included a bill allowing daycares in South Carolina to hire people without a high school diploma to supervise children. Under the compromise, inexperienced workers will need to complete 15 hours of health and safety training within 30 days of starting their new job. Until they do, a supervisor must monitor them to make sure they're meeting health and safety standards.

Bill would let SC daycares hire people with disabilities who lack a diploma

Previously, applicants needed at least six months of experience to be hired as a “caregiver,” which state law defines as employees who directly supervise or care for children. Or they had to job shadow for six months. Those requirements made it more difficult for applicants to find a job and for daycares to get fully staffed, legislators said.

The bill also opened the door for people with disabilities who can work but lack a diploma to get jobs, said its chief sponsor, Sen. Katrina Shealy.

The Lexington Republican said the deal struck will help “bring down barriers to hiring childcare workers and improve this critically stressed industry in our state.”

In a second compromise, one supported by the state attorney general, the state will not charge victims of sex trafficking with misdemeanors or certain nonviolent felonies.

SC law could soon exempt sex trafficking victims from prosecution on minor offenses

Any victim of trafficking under age 18 cannot be prosecuted for crimes such as prostitution, credit card theft, minor in possession of alcohol, or drug possession.

“Basically, we want to treat the victims of trafficking as victims and not as criminals,” Senate Minority Leader Brad Hutto, D-Orangeburg, previously told the SC Daily Gazette. “But a lot of times, the victims are engaged in some small-level criminal activity.”

The House and Senate also reached a compromise on a bill allowing companies to claim income tax credits on employees working remotely in South Carolina, as well as in neighboring Georgia and North Carolina, and making it easier for companies to qualify for tax credits granted to recycling facilities or corporate headquarters.

The legislation had been held up over a Senate provision that would have put a pause on tax deals with data centers in the state. That language was ultimately struck, allowing the bill to go through.

Other legislation approved Thursday and sent to Gov. Henry McMaster would:

  • Make changes to how legislators screen and elect judges.
  • Expand income tax breaks for medical personnel who volunteer their time to oversee clinical students.
  • Clear the way for businesses to provide food and drink service from certain commercial decks or marinas in the Lowcountry.
  • Allow pharmacy technicians to administer vaccines and COVID tests.
  • Raise the cost of turkey hunting tags and adjust the state's turkey hunting season.
  • Relax the bureaucratic approval process for building projects at colleges and universities and allow athletics programs to take on more debt, more than doubling the current limit.
  • Add licensed paramedics with three years of experience to those qualified to run for coroner.
  • Put limits on commercial blue crab fishing as the popular crustaceans' population declines.

McMaster could sign, veto or let the legislation become law without his signature. So far this year, he's vetoed only three bills. The Legislature overruled one of those vetoes Wednesday.

Related Articles

Back to top button