The SC House met for the organizational session this week and, in the process, welcomed 27 new members to the chamber, one of the largest freshman classes in history.
In total, the House consists of 124 members (88 Republicans and 36 Democrats). With Republicans holding more than two-thirds of the seats, hypothetically, they can pass any legislation without Democratic support. However, that statement is solely based on mathematics – not politics. Compromise will continue to be as crucial as ever.
Speaker Murrell Smith (R-Sumter) was unanimously elected to preside over the chamber. In addition, Rep. Tommy Pope (R-York) was reelected to serve as speaker pro tempore.
Party Leadership positions were also solidified. Rep. Davey Hiott (R-Pickens) was reelected by his Republican colleagues to serve as Majority Leader, and Democrats reelected Rep. Todd Rutherford (D-Richland) to serve as Minority Leader.
Representatives Jay West (R-Anderson) and Roger Kirby (D-Florence) were elected as Assistant Majority and Minority Leaders, respectively.
The role of the Speaker is not one to be taken lightly, but it is clear that Speaker Smith is ready to get to work in the upcoming session and will be placing emphasis on the committee process. As Speaker, he is tasked with assigning House members to committees.
There was a bit of shuffling among the committee rosters, and there will be several new Chairs of key committees, including Ways & Means, Judiciary, and Education & Public Works.
Rep. Bruce Bannister (R-Greenville) was elected to chair the powerful Ways & Means Committee, which deals with all revenue issues – including the all-important state budget. Nearly half of the committee members are new to the group this year. View the roster here.
Rep. Weston Newton (R-Beaufort) was elected to chair the House Judiciary Committee. He succeeds state Rep. Chris Murphy (R-Dorchester), who was moved to the Ways and Means Committee. View the Judiciary Committee roster here.
Rep. Shannon Erickson (R-Beaufort) was elected to chair the House Education & Public Works Committee (EPW). She succeeds long-serving Chairwoman Rep. Rita Allison (R-Spartanburg), who was defeated in the June primaries.
The EPW Committee is tasked with vetting legislation dealing with education, highways, railroads, and aviation. While Chairwoman Erickson placed a lot of emphasis on education during the organizational committee meeting this week, keep in mind, she moved from Ways & Means, where she chaired the Transportation & Regulatory Budget Subcommittee. So she is very familiar with the operations and finances of the agencies under EPW’s jurisdiction. View the EPW roster here.
The Republican supermajority also flipped the only Democratic chaired Committee to Republican control. Rep. Leon Howard (D-Richland) moved from being the Chairman of the Medical, Military, Public and Municipal Affairs Committee (3-M) to a spot on the Ways and Means Committee. The new chairwoman of 3M is Rep. Sylleste Davis (R-Berkeley).
For a list of all House committees, click here. The legislative session begins Tuesday, January 10, 2023.