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Methodists push legislation to remedy poverty along I-95

By Jessica Brodie

United Methodists and others concerned about a long-term solution to persistent, intergenerational poverty in South Carolina are trying to pass a bill in the South Carolina General Assembly this term.

The bill would establish an I-95 Corridor Authority to remedy the problem, building heavily on the 10-20-30 Provisions of the Congressional Research Service, a public policy research institute of the United States Congress.

Legislation has been filed in both the State House and State Senate.

The House bill (H4985) has been referred to the Committee on Ways and Means and is waiting to be assigned to a subcommittee. Rep. Lonnie Hosey (D-Barnwell) is the sponsor along with Reps. Pat Henegan, Bill Clyburn, Michael Rivers, Deon Tedder, Robert Williams, Kimberly Johnson, Ivory Torrey Thigpen, Justin Bamberg, Roger Kirby, Jerry Govan Jr., Gilda Cobb-Hunter, Shedron Williams, Jermaine Johnson, Terry Alexander and Cezar McKnight.

The Senate bill (S1174) is identical. It has been referred to the Committee on Finance and also is waiting to be assigned to subcommittee. Sponsors are Sen. Brad Hutto (D-Orangeburg) along with Sens. Kevin Johnson, Kent Williams and Vernon Stephens.

“It’s very late in the session, but we’re trying to get it through,” said Marvin Ira Lare, a retired South Carolina United Methodist pastor and long-time champion of equity and justice issues. Lare penned “Champions of Civil and Human Rights in South Carolina,” a five-volume anthology spanning 1930 to 1980 with oral history interviews of key activists and leaders of the civil rights movement in this state. And he has long felt passionate that something must be done to remedy what has come to be referred to as the “corridor of shame,” a poor, rural region along Interstate 95 in South Carolina long-plagued by economic and education struggles.

Joined by Dan Ligon and others deeply concerned about this, Lare is hoping to pass the bill. Similar legislation was introduced and passed the House and Senate in 2011, but then-Gov. Nikki Haley vetoed it.

“We can’t just let this die,” Lare said. “It’s important for our Methodist constituency to be aware of this, not only in those districts but the whole state.

The bill would create the I-95 Corridor Authority, a proposed state agency that will provide increased economic opportunities for those living along the I-95 Corridor.

Programs will focus on three areas: education, health and economic development. Partnerships will be established with existing organizations working in these areas. In addition, best practices will be introduced from other parts of the country. Offices will be established in Orangeburg and Florence.

You can read the legislation in full at https://www.scstatehouse.gov. The Senate bill is at https://www.scstatehouse.gov/sess124_2021-2022/bills/1174.htm and the House bill is at https://www.scstatehouse.gov/sess124_2021-2022/bills/4985.htm.

Lare said the state is sitting on a huge amount of funds from the closing of the nuclear plant, as well as federal COVID relief funds and surplus revenue from a boom in the state economy as it recovers from COVID, that it can assign to various programs and projects. The total surplus available exceeds $5 billion, and he believes this would be a project worth those funds.

“A very significant part of our state is like a third-world country,” Lare said, between education, health, job concerns and economic development. “Besides the humanitarian and Christian concern of the people in those areas, this would afford them the opportunity to improve their lives and what they would receive from society and contribute to it.”

He is hoping United Methodists will pray about this bill, consider participating in public hearings and contact their legislators.

The legislature’s crossover deadline is April 10.

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