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Charles Hall: An Open Letter To Leon Howard

Lawmaker needs to follow directive given by the people …

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by CHARLES HALL || Is it me or is it just another typical year in Columbia, South Carolina?  It seems the level of hot air has increased as the S.C. General Assembly has come in session.  As that level of hot air goes up, so does the level of frustration for the common South Carolina citizen.  Case in point?  The delay tactics of S.C. House medical, military, public and municipal affairs committee Leon Howard.

Chairman Howard, you have purposely delayed debate in full committee of the South Carolina Compassionate Care Act (H. 3521) since the spring of 2017.  For those not in the know, the South Carolina Compassionate Care Act would establish a medical marijuana program in the Palmetto State.  This will be the most comprehensively conservative program enacted by any state.

The bill came out of subcommittee in the spring of 2017, yet Chairman Howard has not placed the bill on a full committee agenda with enough time for the committee members to debate the bill and offer amendments.  By comparison, in what was a 14-month process in the Senate, the medical affairs subcommittee has conducted multiple hours of hearings and finally voting 3-2 to send an amended version of the same bill to the full medical affairs committee – where Senators will be given the chance to debate and amend the bill.

With the latest delay, Chairman Howard, you moved a full committee meeting because the House went “over” before the committee start time on Tuesday, March 20, 2018.  You moved the committee meeting until Thursday March 22, 2018.

I applaud state representative Jonathon Hill for making the motion to suspend the committee rules and modify the agenda to add the bill.  The biggest reason why this motion failed?  Not enough time to debate the bill in full committee.

I also applaud representatives Nancy Mace and Neal Collins for asking when the bill will be up for debate in the full committee.

I would like to call on you, Chairman Howard, to quit delaying debate and hold a special full committee meeting so the debate on this bill can happen. I have witnessed this “Democrat in Name Only” delay for too long on this issue.  Fact is that in 2015 and 2016 polls conducted by Winthrop University show a majority of South Carolina citizens support a medical marijuana program.  In fact, in 2014 Chairman Howard’s own party voted overwhelming in support of a medical marijuana program on the party primary ballot advisory questions.

Your own county Democrat voters voted yes at almost 80 percent.

Chairman Howard it is time to follow the directive given to you by the voters.  That directive is give all the issues full and open consideration. Chairman Howard, you are a leader in the state house.  It is time to act like it.  Leadership is the courage to ignore others opinion to let the public achieve its best outcome.  As we are told in the book of Ezra 10:4 (ESV): “Arise, for it is your task, and we are with you; be strong and do it.”

For far too long we as citizens of South Carolina have put up with the hot air without the free balloon rides.  It is time for that to change.  It is time for a strong blast of cold air to cool off the power trip certain lawmakers take and do their jobs.  That job is to follow the directives of every voter not just the ones that hold power.  For some South Carolinians the Compassionate Care Act will be the difference between life or death.  It is time for the debate to happen.

Charles Hall is a civil rights warrior from Aiken, South Carolina.