After ten years of dormancy, the role of a joint citizen-legislative panel to study and advocate for South Carolina’s children’s issues has been revived and empowered.
That’s according to committee member, Sen. Mike Fair (R-Greenville), who says a bill by Sen. Darrell Jackson (D-Richland) enabled the Joint Legislative Children’s Committee to work directly with agency heads and in partnership with the University of South Carolina Children’s Law Center.
“All those disciplines working together have produced an incredible staff…one that is now known as the ‘go to’ support for children’s issues,” says Fair.
The committee is made up of three legislators each from the House and Senate, three governor-appointed citizens and five state agency heads, who serve as ex-officio members. They meet once a quarter. They use unanimous consent before adopting a bill as a “Children’s’ Committee” bill.
“Then we throw our full legislative and staff support behind those bills, ” says Fair. One of those this year was one that put stricter regulations on children’s use of all-terrain vehicles (ATV’s). Committee member Brad Hutto (D- Orangeburg) moved the bill through the legislature quicker, because of the support of his Children’s Committee peers and their community network of support, says Fair.
“We have to earn the respect so that when we say this is a Children’s Committee bill, it means something,” he says. “We’re on the way to doing that.”
He attributes that to the committee’s two-person staff, funded in this and last year’s budget, along with their partnership with the USC Children’s Law Center and its director Harry Davis.
In the reviewing the thirty or more bills each year that apply to the welfare of children, the committee must avoid redundancy–if it is not needed.
Fair says, ” All of us need to know what the other is doing. If (the committee) is taxpayer-funded, what better place?”