Saturday, June 21, 2014

Kudos South Carolina

Well, it's over.  It's been an agonizing legislative year here in South Carolina.  Yes, there were great comic moments like the debate about the Columbian mammoth and the age of the earth.  And we all appreciate the great effort put into all the new laws reinforcing our gaming and fishing rights.  But we spent much of the past session trying to protect South Carolinians from the woman-hating power-mad religious right, while at the same time fighting to provide our citizens with health care and better than minimally adequate education.  Given all that, I feel the need to do something I rarely do:  brag about our success.

If you look at our neighbors, all those fellow "red states" and even purple and blue states, you'll see that we've all been bombarded with right wing-nuts with pockets full of money who fund all those "conservative" -- i.e. radical -- social issues that get their angry and ignorant constituents out to vote.  But we fought and I am proud to say we did NOT have any crazy personhood, pre-owned, pre-born baby bills pass in South Carolina.

We came so-o-o-o close to bringing our sex education curriculum into the 21st century, only to be stopped at the last second by one narcissistic and rather stupid state senator.

We attempted to pass meaningful marijuana legislation and equality legislation for the LGBT members of our community.  We fought for veterans, seniors, children and parents, the working poor, the unemployed and underemployed, and those who are not protected by unions.  We fended off drug testing legislation and warrantless searches of our electronic devices.  We went up against the bullies in the gun lobby, and while we weren't able to keep them from allowing guns in bars and restaurants, we continue to fight that battle, and we did succeed against crazy open carry legislation -- hey, we could be Georgia, but, I'm proud and relieved to say, we are not.

We, and by this I mean you, worked so hard to get some good bills passed, but we also kept some real stinkers from becoming law.  I was so impressed with the work that so many groups and individuals put into showing up and fighting, day after day and week after week.

Our Truthful Tuesday movement brought much needed civil disobedience back to Columbia, with brave individuals getting arrested for blocking traffic at the State House to protest the attempt to nullify the Affordable Care Act, and to bring attention to the need to accept federal money for Medicaid expansion.  A stupid bill that might have passed into law and would only have been overturned by the courts was kept from wasting our time and resources.  The protests got state and national attention.  Medicaid expansion hasn't happened yet, but it will.  This group is not giving up.

Here's a group whose existence I only recently became aware of:  Tell Them SC is a grassroots advocacy network that works tirelessly towards bringing appropriate and much needed sexual education to our teens as well as fighting for accessible birth control and making information and vaccine available to prevent cervical cancer.  I was amazed at the intensive effort that went into promoting legislation that would provide kids with better health care and better education.  They worked to let us know what was on the table, who to call or email, and when, so that our legislators wouldn't forget we were there.

And our amazing South Carolina ACLU has been there in Columbia, testifying and fighting for our constitutional rights.  Voting rights, reproductive rights, the rights of immigrants and members of our LGBT community.  If you regularly read our newspapers, you will see very frequently commentary by the director of the ACLU.  If you attend legislative hearings you will hear her speak to all those issues and many more.  The ACLU has been an integral part of our effort in beating back bad legislation and promoting bills that guarantee our individual rights.

And, you know, there are others, too many to mention.  We may not be a blue state, but you are all out there fighting to protect us from the uninformed and mean-spirited, who are funded by those with deep pockets and a hunger for more power.  We don't see our national Democratic party supporting us much.  And some of our Democratic elected officials here in South Carolina sometimes are too intimidated to stand up and fight for us.  But we have these amazing people who are here and are not afraid.  They won't compromise away our rights, and they won't let those rights be traded in the night.  They will fight, they will be loud, they will be heard, and they aren't going away.

Thank you all.

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