Legislative Session Gives Three Victories for S.C. Children

South Carolina General Assembly ended the first regular part of its 2013-2014 legislative session on June 6. While the FY 2013- 2014 budget has not been finalized and is currently under veto consideration by the Governor, the House and Senate have worked through numerous pieces of legislation introduced when the session began in January.  More than 2,000 bills were introduced during the last six months and far less made it through the legislative process and into the hands of the Governor to sign into law. Children’s Trust celebrates three wins for children in this legislative session.

  1. Student Athlete Concussions. Conservatively estimated, concussions account for 9 percent of all high school athletic injuries.  However, it is likely that the number is number is probably much higher. H. 3061, sponsored by Rep. Peter McCoy, R-Charleston, was created to protect middle and high school student athletes from the dangers of repeat concussions. Signed by Governor Haley on June 7th, the law requires that the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control make available (on its website) to school districts model policies that keep kids safe when suspected of concussion. This law is critical for four reasons: it creates consistent school policies across districts, it educates athletes, parents and coaches on concussion symptoms, it requires removal of students with suspected concussion from play and necessitates medical clearance before they are allowed to return to play.  This was an critically important piece of legislation on our agenda and an important step to keep South Carolina children safe.
  2. EpiPen Use in Schools. Children who suffer from life threatening allergies are often unaware of them. These allergies, often to stinging invests, can cause anaphylaxis (swelling and difficulty breathing) which can lead to death. H. 3725, sponsored by Rep. Joshua Putnam, R-Anderson, is also known as Safe Access to Vital Epinephrine Act.  Signed on June 7, this law allows schools to obtain, store and use an epinephrin auto-injectors, or EpiPens, to administers epinephrine to a student who is having an adverse reaction. When given in a timely manner, an EpiPen can treat life-threatening symptoms until medical attention can be provided.
  3. Emerson Rose Act.  Congenital heart defects are structural abnormalities of the heart present at birth. They are also the leading cause of infant death among birth defects. S. 341, sponsored by Sen. Thomas Alexander, R-Oconee, was signed into law on June 13.  The law requires each birthing facility licensed by the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) to do a pulse oximetry (or other department-approved) screening to detect critical congenital heart defects on all newborns in their care. This test, done while the baby is less than 48 hours old, is noninvasive and measures  the percentage of hemoglobin in blood that is saturated with oxygen. Early detection of a heart defect can lead to appropriate diagnoses and lifesaving treatment.

For legislation that didn’t get passed in to law this year, those bills remain in committees. When the General Assembly resumes their work in Columbia in January 2014, they will pick up right where they left off.  They have until June 2014 to pass legislation out of committees and through each Chamber or it effectively “dies” and the process must start over in 2015.  Check out the balance of our legislative agenda.

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