Category: Constitution

South Carolina House changes rules to advance anti-vaccine mandate bill

From the Greenville News:

Devyani Chhetri

Greenville News
After passing its new voting lines on Thursday, the South Carolina House changed its rules and advanced a bill against the federal vaccine mandate.

On Dec. 9, the House Ways and Means Committee amended House bill H.3126 sponsored by several Upstate lawmakers and led by Rep. Stewart Jones, R-Laurens, to add language that blocks employers in state and local governments and school districts from firing or suspending unvaccinated employees.

The bill, if passed by the Senate and later signed by Gov. Henry McMaster, will make private workers fired or suspended due to their unvaccinated status eligible for unemployment benefits.

It also allocates $10 million to the Department of Health and Environmental Control and the Medical University of South Carolina each to fund COVID-19 testing for private employers.

A previous version of the bill barred private employers from mandating vaccines and firing unvaccinated employees.

The bill would have also made employers liable to be sued by employees who were let go for not following a vaccine requirement. Moreover, employers would have to compensate the fired unvaccinated workers with wages.

That language was struck down after major pushback from the House Democrats and business communities in South Carolina.

Related:Federal court blocks vaccine requirement for federal contractors

Mandate news:Federal judge blocks vaccine mandate for health care workers

More:Circuit Court accepts Gov. Henry McMaster’s argument, stays federal vaccine mandate for businesses

Jones, while introducing the bill to the floor, said that an employer’s move to fire an unvaccinated employee is “discriminatory” in nature. That private businesses and public offices cannot mandate an “unlawful” mandate that violates the individual freedoms of employees.

Minority Leader Rep. Todd Rutherford, D-Richland, implied that a move to control how employers handle vaccine requirements is equivalent to another version of a mandate, but this time passed by the state legislature.

“We’re going to take away the freedom that they [business owners] have to operate their own business,” Rutherford said.

“You don’t have a concern that all of a sudden business owners in this state are going to be told what to do when to do it? And if they don’t do it, that they can get sued? You don’t have a concern about taking that right and creating causes of action against them?” Rutherford asked Jones.

Rep. Russell Ott, D-Calhoun, who is the assistant minority leader, said that the bill came up for discussion rather quickly.

“Like a lot of you, I thought that we were going to be here talking about redistricting. But yet here we are now with a complete assault on our business industry, and our businesses and state of South Carolina,” Ott said.

Ott highlighted the COVID-19 liability protection act passed by the legislature to protect business owners from being sued in the event someone contracted COVID-19. But this bill, he said, would open them up to liability lawsuits.

Major business groups such as the SC Chamber of Commerce, SC Manufacturers Alliance, SC Retail Association as well as regional groups such as the Greenville Chamber of Commerce, OneSpartanburg, Anderson Area Chamber of Commerce have urged the lawmakers to reject the bill for businesses to work “without government overreach” and leave employment decisions up to businesses.

“We ask the General Assembly to support free enterprise and reject this unprecedented step against the internal operations of our state’s job creators,” a letter by the group said.

The SC Trucking Association, in a separate statement, said while the association recognized this to be a result of conflict between federal vaccine mandates and state jurisdiction, this bill created a “no-win” situation for all businesses.

“We oppose the federal mandate, but are not anti-vaccine,” the SCTA’s press statement said. “Our organization generally opposes government mandates. This amended legislation is a mandate of sorts; it’s a mandated prohibition on the rights of free enterprise”

“When it comes to vaccination policies: Some do, some don’t. Some will, some won’t,” the statement continued. “We assert that businesses should be able to keep the right to set their own conditions for employment, and people can choose what’s in their own best interest.”

Ott and Justin Bamberg, D-Bamberg, further questioned the fiscal impact of this bill, though they said it was early to tell just how wide the impact would be.

Right before the end of a six-hour long debate, amendments by Majority Leader Gary Simrill, R-York, Ways and Means Chair Murrell Smith, R-Sumter and David Hiott, R-Pickens struck down the provision related to private employers and refashioned the final language of the bill.

The bill will next go to the Senate, which will reconvene in January when the legislative session begins.

On the House floor, the major opposition to the bill was mounted by House Democrats who said that this was a move by Republican lawmakers to pacify constituents and leverage the issue ahead of next year’s elections.

The legislature had already set aside a special order session to discuss and pass the redistricting bill that would decide South Carolina’s voting districts, a federal requirement enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.

Already, voting rights advocates and a few House Democrats from minority communities were concerned the new voting lines diluted minority votes by creating artificial lines that shuttered competitiveness and protected incumbents.

But ever since the redistricting vote began, the push for bills to block the federal vaccine mandate has continued to overshadow the redistricting process, even as federal courts in Georgia, Missouri and Louisiana blocked the vaccine mandate on health care workers and businesses.

Devyani Chhetri is the state government watchdog reporter. You can reach her at [email protected] or @ChhetriDevyani on Twitter.

Lakelands Lawmakers Pre-file Legislation for 2021

One Lakelands lawmaker has pre-filed nearly 20 pieces of proposed legislation ahead of next year’s session in the Statehouse.

State Rep. Stewart Jones, who represents parts of Greenwood and Laurens counties, filed 19 bills during the December pre-filing period.

“There is a lot of ideas,” Jones said. “Trying to get the ball rolling.”

While many bills have been filed to adjust the income tax, Jones pre-filed a bill that would fix the state income tax once and for all.

“It eliminates the income tax,” Jones said of the bill.

Jones also pre-filed a bill that would prevent the state from accepting any funds related to enforcing a federal mask mandate or a federal vaccine mandate.

“I’m not telling people to not wear a mask or get the vaccine,” Jones said.

Jones explained that the legislation would prevent the government from mandating the wearing of masks or forcing people to be vaccinated. He said he believes such decisions are ones people should make for themselves.

Another bill he sponsored would prevent the state from using any resource to enforce any federal regulation or executive order that would infringe on the protections of the 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Jones said he filed a similar bill last year in response to red flag laws.

“Our state is not going to take that funding,” Jones said.

He also filed three bills related to the removal of monuments or names of historical figures from public buildings.

“Does it really help anything to remove that?” he asked.

Jones said he is an eighth generation South Carolinian who wants to defend the heritage of the state.

“I think we need to stand up right now,” Jones said.

One of the bills would remove all general fund appropriations for any institution of higher learning that removes the name of a historical figure from a college or building. Another bill would require the state treasurer to withhold any disbursement from the local government fund to any county or municipality that removes a monument or memorial of a historical figure.

One bill even would make voting for the removal of a monument by a local government official guilty of a misdemeanor, accompanied by a $25 million fine.

“I want to make it extremely clear, we need to be protecting history,” Jones said.

Jones also pre-filed several bills related to blockchain technology.

“I’m a technology guy,” Jones said.

One of his bills would create a committee to study using blockchain technology for state voters to verify their votes.

“I’ve been looking at ways to make voting more reliable,” he said.

The way the technology works is a voter would have a blockchain key the voter could use to securely login and see their selections on their ballot, Jones said. It would also allow the state to count the number of votes.

“The idea is to see the total amount of votes,” Jones said.

Jones filed two other bills related to this technology. He said blockchain technology could bring more business to the state.

As for the upcoming session, Jones said two things will most likely dominate legislators’ time.

“The way it looks right now, we will have some tax reforms,” Jones said.

He also said reapportionment will take up a lot of time as legislators look at redrawing political lines after the 2020 census data comes in.

While Jones filed many bills, some legislators filed none. Rep. Craig Gagnon, an Abbeville Republican, and Rep. Anne Parks, a Democrat who represents parts of Greenwood and McCormick counties, had no pre-filed legislation. However, Parks said she was most interested in hate crimes legislation introduced by Rep. Wendell Gilliard, a Charleston Democrat. Parks signed on as a co-sponsor of the legislation.

As previously reported, Greenwood Rep. John McCravy pre-filed the “SC Stands for Life Act,” an omnibus bill that incorporates the S.C. Fetal Heartbeat bill, the dismemberment bill and other elements into one comprehensive legislative bill. He also pre-filed a bill that would make state income tax levels the same for a married couple filing jointly as it does two single individuals.

Sen. Billy Garrett, a newly elected Republican who represents parts of Greenwood, Abbeville, McCormick and Saluda counties, also pre-filed both bills in the state Senate.

McCravy pre-filed legislation to create a “Fallen First Responder Survivor Advocate” to help the families of fallen first responders after their relative dies.

Sen. Mike Gambrell, a Republican representing parts of Anderson, Abbeville and Greenwood counties, pre-filed two bills. One bill would create a civil penalty for the owner of a motor vehicle who is caught by photograph or video unlawfully passing a school bus.

Gambrell’s second bill would amend the code of laws regulating the licensure of physical therapists to require a criminal background check be completed prior to the department issuing a license.

The General Assembly will convene Jan. 12.

Originally appeared in the Index Journal

South Carolina Bill Would Set Foundation to Block Unconstitutional National Guard Deployments

COLUMBIA, S.C. (Dec. 22, 2020) – A bill prefiled in the South Carolina House would prohibit unconstitutional foreign deployments of the state’s National Guard troops. Passage into law would take a step toward restoring the founders’ constitutional framework for a state-federal balance regarding the state militia.

Rep. Stewart Jones (R-Laurens) filed House Bill 3528 (H3528) on Dec. 16. The legislation would prohibit placing South Carolina National Guard troops under federal control unless the governor determines they are being deployed in a manner consistent with the U.S. Constitution. The proposed law would require the governor to “examine, consider, and review” every federal order, including all existing orders, that call, transfer, or place the South Carolina National Guard on federal active duty.

Notwithstanding another provision of law, upon completion of the legal review required pursuant to this article, the Governor immediately shall withhold, withdraw, or revoke, or cause to be withheld, withdrawn, or revoked all state approvals, authorizations, or orders relating to the call, transfer, or placement of the South Carolina National Guard, or any of its subordinate commands, units, or personnel on federal active duty or under federal control in the absence of:

(1)    a military invasion of the United States;

(2)    an insurrection; or

(3)    a calling forth of the South Carolina National Guard by the federal government in a manner provided for by the U.S. Congress to execute the laws of the United States, provided that these laws were made pursuant to powers delegated to the United States by the U.S. Constitution.


National Guard troops have played significant roles in all modern overseas conflicts, with over 650,000 deployed since 2001. reports that “Guard and Reserve units made up about 45 percent of the total force sent to Iraq and Afghanistan, and received about 18.4 percent of the casualties.” More specifically, South Carolina National Guard troops have participated in missions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Kuwait, Kosovo and elsewhere.

Since none of these missions fall under the three criteria constitutionally necessary to call up the militia, the South Carolina Defend the Guard Act would have prohibited those deployments.


Article I, Section 8, Clauses 15 and 16 make up the “militia clauses” of the Constitution. Clause 16 authorizes Congress to “provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia.” Through the Dick Act of 1903, Congress organized the militia into today’s National Guard, limiting the part of the militia that could be called into federal service rather than the “entire body of people,” which makes up the totality of the “militia.” Thus, today’s National Guard is governed by the “militia clauses” of the Constitution, and this view is confirmed by the National Guard itself.

Clause 15 delegates to the Congress the power to provide for “calling forth the militia” in three situations only: 1) to execute the laws of the union, 2) to suppress insurrections, and 3) to repel invasions.

During state ratifying conventions, proponents of the Constitution, including James Madison and Edmund Randolph, repeatedly assured the people that this power to call forth the militia into federal service would be limited to those very specific situations, and not for general purposes, like helping victims of a disease outbreak or engaging in “kinetic military actions.”


The founding generation was careful to ensure the president wouldn’t have the power to drag the United States into endless wars. James Madison made this clear in a letter to Thomas Jefferson.

The constitution supposes, what the History of all Governments demonstrates, that the Executive is the branch of power most interested in war, & most prone to it. It has accordingly with studied care, vested the question of war in the Legislature.

Congress has abrogated its responsibility and allowed the president to exercise almost complete discretion when it comes to war. Passage of Defend the Guard legislation would pressure Congress to do its constitutional duty.

West Virginia Rep. Pat McGeehan served as an Air Force intelligence officer in Afghanistan and has sponsored similar legislation in his state.

“For decades, the power of war has long been abused by this supreme executive, and unfortunately our men and women in uniform have been sent off into harm’s way over and over,” he said. “If the U.S. Congress is unwilling to reclaim its constitutional obligation, then the states themselves must act to correct the erosion of constitutional law.”

Passage of Defend the Guard would also force the federal government to only use the Guard for the three expressly-delegated purposes in the Constitution, and at other times to remain where the Guard belongs, at home, supporting and protecting their home state.

While getting this bill passed won’t be easy and will face fierce opposition from the establishment, it certainly is, as Daniel Webster once noted, “one of the reasons state governments even exist.”

Webster made this observation in an 1814 speech on the floor of Congress where he urged actions similar to the Oklahoma Defend the Guard Act. He said, “The operation of measures thus unconstitutional and illegal ought to be prevented by a resort to other measures which are both constitutional and legal. It will be the solemn duty of the State governments to protect their own authority over their own militia, and to interpose between their citizens and arbitrary power. These are among the objects for which the State governments exist.”


H3528 will be officially introduced and referred to the House Judiciary Committee when the regular session convenes on Jan. 12, 2021.

States Must Take the Lead to Keep America First

Why state legislators should follow the example set by South Carolina’s Defend the Guard Act

While President Trump was negotiating yet another peace agreement this week — this time between Israel and Morocco — his enemies beat the drums of war in their ongoing effort to overthrow the America First foreign policy.

It’s sad that throughout the entirety of Mr. Trump’s presidency, the swamp has worked around the clock to dismantle his efforts toward peace. Even worse, with the passage of the disastrous, $740.5 billion 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), it appears the neocons and pro-war left will soon regain the levers of federal power, plunging America into another four years of stupid, pointless, endless wars abroad.

With America’s armed forces soon to fall under the control of a Congress that will, in all likelihood, do everything they can to keep our troops overseas, it’s time for the states to step up. This is why I will soon be filing the Defend the Guard Act in South Carolina, a bill that would allow the governor to withhold national guard troops from being brought under federal control.

Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican, was one of the precious few voices of reason in the congressional vote on the NDAA. In his speech before the Senate, he said, “They believe that a president has the power to go to war anywhere anytime, but when a president tries to remove troops, they say ‘Oh no no. What we really want are 535 generals in Congress to tell him he can’t leave a war.’” Rep. Thomas Massie, Kentucky Republican, also took to Twitter to criticize the bill, writing, “This NDAA bill contains specific language to make it harder for the president to bring our troops home from Afghanistan.”

But heroes of liberty like Mr. Paul and Mr. Massie cannot fight this issue alone. Without reinforcements from elected officials across the board and a powerful grassroots movement to end America’s military expeditionalism, our efforts will never amount to anything beyond empty rhetoric.

In 1950, my grandfather was drafted into the Korean conflict. I grew up hearing stories of courage and sacrifice. The problem with American involvement in Korea was that it didn’t follow a declaration of war, but a U.N. decision to get the U.S. to intervene.

Undeclared war — something with which our country has become painfully familiar over the last half-century — plunges our country into foreign quagmires based on the whims of politicians, rather than American interests.

In Article I of the United States Constitution, Congress is given the authority to declare war; history shows that this check on war is critical to the survival of our republic. The Founders repeatedly warned of the dangers of excessive foreign intervention, having studied the fall of countless republics into entangled empires. 

In Thomas Jefferson’s 1801 address to Congress, he said that the key to preserving our republic was “peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations — entangling alliances with none.” In 1795, James Madison said that “of all enemies to public liberty war, is perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other.” Mr. Trump has tried to follow this advice and our country has seen the benefits of peace and commerce in recent years.

The pressure needed to apply to Washington if we are to see this objective through will not generate itself; it will have to emanate from leaders from across the country who are sick of seeing brave American service men and women shipped overseas with no objective, no plan, and no exit strategy. As I file the Defend the Guard Act in South Carolina, I call on state legislators elsewhere to do the same in their legislatures.

• Stewart Jones is a member of the South Carolina House of Representatives.

Originally appeared in the Washington Times.

South Carolina Bills Would Take Steps Toward Treating Gold and Silver as Money

COLUMBIA, S.C. (Dec. 16, 2019) – Two bills prefiled in the South Carolina House would take important steps toward treating gold and silver as money instead of commodities and could undermine the Federal Reserves monopoly on money.

Rep. Stewart Jones (R-Laurens) filed both bills.

House Bill 4786 (H4786) would effectively exempt gold, silver and platinum bullion from state capital gains taxes. Passage of this legislation would eliminate a significant barrier to using gold and silver in everyday transactions, a foundational step for people to undermine the Federal Reserve’s monopoly on money.


With the passage of H4786, South Carolina would take a step toward treating gold, silver and platinum as money instead of a commodity. As Sound Money Defense League policy director Jp Cortez testified during a committee hearing on a similar bill in Wyoming in 2018, charging taxes on money itself is beyond the pale.

“In effect, states that collect taxes on purchases of precious metals are inherently saying gold and silver are not money at all.”

Imagine if you asked a grocery clerk to break a $5 bill and he charged you a 35 cent tax. Silly, right? After all, you were only exchanging one form of money for another. But that’s essentially what South Carolina’s capital gains tax on gold and silver bullion does. By eliminating this tax on the exchange of gold and silver, South Carolina would treat specie as money instead of a commodity. This represents a small step toward reestablishing gold and silver as legal tender and breaking down the Fed’s monopoly on money.

“We ought not to tax money – and that’s a good idea. It makes no sense to tax money,” former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul said during testimony in support an Arizona bill that repealed capital gains taxes on gold and silver in that state. “Paper is not money, it’s fraud,” he continued.


Stewart also prefiled House Bill 4787 (H4787). This joint resolution would create a study committee to determine the feasibility and efficacy of the establishment of a bullion repository in this state to store gold, silver, and other metals for the state’s reserves and for investments. The committee would be required to issue a report of its findings to the General Assembly by January 15, 2021.

South Carolina has a model it could follow. In the summer of 2015, Texas Gov. Doug Abbot signed a law creating a state gold bullion and precious metal depository in his state. The depository received its first deposits in the summer of 2018. The facility will not only provide a secure place for individuals, businesses, cities, counties, government agencies and even other countries to store gold and other precious metals, the law also creates a mechanism to facilitate the everyday use of gold and silver in transactions. In short, a person will eventually be able to deposit gold or silver – and pay other people through electronic means or checks – in sound money.

A state gold repository also creates an avenue toward financial independence. Countries around the world, including China, Russia and Turkey, have been buying gold to limit their dependence on the U.S. dollar. University of Houston political science professor Brandon Rottinghaus said a state depository can serve a similar function for Texas.

“This is another in a long line of ways to make Texas more self-reliant and less tethered to the federal government. The financial impact is small but the political impact is telling, Many conservatives are interested in returning to the gold standard and circumvent the Federal reserve in whatever small way they can.”

The Tennessee legislature passed a resolution declaring support for the creation of a gold bullion depository in the Volunteer State back in 2016, but never followed up with any legislation. If South Carolina does create a study committee, it would be imperative to follow up with further legislation to actually establish a repository once the report is issued.

Stewart has also prefiled a bill that would make gold and silver coins legal tender in the state.

Repealing taxes on gold and silver, and creating institutions that facilitate the use of sound money creates the possibility of currency competition and could ultimately undermine the Federal Reserve’s monopoly on money. Constitutional tender expert Professor William Greene wrote that when people in multiple states actually start using gold and silver instead of Federal Reserve Notes, it could create a “reverse Gresham’s effect,” drive out bad money, effectively nullify the Federal Reserve, and end the federal government’s monopoly on money.

“Over time, as residents of the state use both Federal Reserve notes and silver and gold coins, the fact that the coins hold their value more than Federal Reserve notes do will lead to a “reverse Gresham’s Law” effect, where good money (gold and silver coins) will drive out bad money (Federal Reserve notes). As this happens, a cascade of events can begin to occur, including the flow of real wealth toward the state’s treasury, an influx of banking business from outside of the state – as people in other states carry out their desire to bank with sound money – and an eventual outcry against the use of Federal Reserve notes for any transactions.”

Once things get to that point, Federal Reserve notes would become largely unwanted and irrelevant for ordinary people. Nullifying the Fed on a state by state level is what will get us there.


H4786 and 4787 will be officially introduced and referred to the House  Committee on Ways and Means when the regular session adjourns on Jan. 13, 2020. They will have to pass committee by a majority vote before moving forward in the legislative process.

Originally appeared in Tenth Amendment Center.