The below message was sent to members of the House from Speaker Jay Lucas today, concerning the limited session on Wednesday April 8, 2020:
I have struggled with the correct course of action for the State of South Carolina and the members of the House. Ideally, the House would not return to Columbia until the danger posed by the COVID-19 virus had passed or at least abated to a degree that some normalcy had returned to our daily lives. However, we are not experiencing an ideal set of circumstances which force extremely difficult choices for all of us. I do not take lightly what I am asking each of you to do, and I am very cognizant of the realities of this virus.
I have taken every opportunity over the past weeks to be in contact with public health experts- both in the public and private sector. My question to each of them has been whether it would be safer to have the House gather sooner or later. Each expert’s answer to me has been that if the House must convene, the safest course of action is to meet as soon as possible since the risk from COVID-19 is likely to rise significantly over the course of the next 45-60 days across our State.
There are certain realities that we cannot escape. One is that it is our responsibility to ensure that state government continues to operate. Never has that reality been more significant than today. South Carolina does not have the ability to continue governmental operations in the absence of an appropriations action. The public health and economic damage which we would experience from even a slight interruption to the operation of state government is an unacceptable risk and forces us to act.
To that end, leadership from several committees and both sides of the aisle have been working with their counterparts in the Senate to ensure that our time in Columbia on Wednesday is as brief as possible. We will address only those matters that cannot wait. I anticipate asking the House to take a single vote on a sine die resolution, a single vote on a continuing resolution and then to adjourn. My hope is that both matters would be so straightforward that extended debate would not be required. However, I will not artificially limit debate since every member of the House is entitled to debate matters before it.
I also plan to take as many measures as possible to ensure the safety of members while in the chamber. I am going to encourage members to go directly to the State House Chamber on Wednesday and not to go to the Blatt Building. I will ask that any member that feels at all unwell or has a particular vulnerability to the virus to alert me, and they will be granted leave for the day. The chamber will be thoroughly disinfected, with every surface being treated prior to the membership’s return. Staff in the chamber will be severely curtailed, with only those that are absolutely essential being allowed into the chamber.
Also, I anticipate making allowances for the maximum amount of social distancing which can be accomplished in the chamber. We are required to conduct our business inside the chamber, but we will utilize the entirety of the available space to allow for distance between members. I would encourage only one member to a desk and that other members choose to sit in seats that will be placed along the sides of the chamber or in the balcony. I anticipate all roll call votes being taken by voice so that members do not have to be at their desk to cast their votes.
While I hope for the absolute health and safety of each and every member of this House, I believe our return is essential. There absolutely is risk involved in returning to Columbia. No one can deny that. I wish we faced a different set of circumstances, but the responsibility falls to each of us to do what is best for the state as a whole. I am convinced that this course of action is the only course that provides for the health, safety, welfare of the people of South Carolina. The potential alternatives are simply unacceptable.
I remain available to each of you.