By Jessica Brodie
A bill spearheaded by United Methodists and other people of faith to address intergenerational poverty along I-95 in South Carolina has passed the State House and is now being considered by the Senate.
H 4985 would establish an I-95 Corridor Authority, a proposed state agency to provide increased economic opportunities for those living along the I-95 corridor. That stretch of land is known as the “corridor of shame,” a poor, rural region along the interstate long-plagued by economic and education struggles. If established, programs will focus on education, health and economic development, and partnerships will be established with existing organizations working in these areas. In addition, best practices will be introduced from other parts of the country with offices established in Orangeburg and Florence.
However, the bill must pass the Senate by May 12 and then go back to the House to approve the amendments before going before the governor to be signed into law.
It has been introduced and read in the Senate and referred to the Senate Committee on Finance. It passed the House 77 to 27, and amendments were made to add Sumter and Jasper counties to the original list. Also, it was approved that no legislator or their spouse could serve on the board of the I-95 Corridor Authority.
The revised list of counties includes Allendale, Barnwell, Bamberg, Clarendon, Colleton, Darlington, Dillon, Hampton, Jasper, Lee, Marion, Marlboro, Orangeburg, Sumter and Williamsburg counties.
“There’s a lot of time crunch. Unfortunately, there are only a few weeks remaining in this year’s session,” said Dan Ligon, who has been working with retired South Carolina United Methodist pastor the Rev. Marvin Ira Lare, retired social services official Dr. Leo Richardson (a member of Francis Burns UMC, Columbia) and others to champion the legislation. “The rules of the State House make us start all over next year.”
But passage of a bill later in the season isn’t impossible or even unlikely, he said.
Ligon urged anyone in support of the legislation to contact their senator right away and encourage passage, and to call Lare if they personally know a state senator: 803-466-7730.
You can read the legislation in full at https://www.scstatehouse.gov/sess124_2021-2022/bills/4985.htm.
He is hoping United Methodists will pray about this bill, consider participating in public hearings and contact their legislators.
Sen. Brad Hutto of District 40 is the sponsor of the bill in the Senate, and Sen. Kevin Johnson of District 36 has been asked to champion the bill in the Senate Finance Committee.