South Carolina business leaders push for hate crimes legislation

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Nearly 100 businesses in South Carolina renewed their call Monday for state lawmakers to pass hate crimes legislation during the current legislative session.

The South Carolina Chamber of Commerce is spearheading the effort and held a virtual news conference that included national- and state-based companies that support the proposed bill.

South Carolina is one of three states in the country without some type of hate crimes law, with Arkansas and Wyoming being the other two. Business leaders in those states also are pushing for similar legislation.

“Last summer was a turning point for many in the business community and reminded each of us that diversity, equity and inclusion make us stronger and more productive,” South Carolina Chamber of Commerce Interim CEO Swati Patel said in a statement. “We were also reminded that South Carolina remains one of three states without a hate crimes law. It is time for the General Assembly to pass a hate crimes law this session.”

Patel also said the business community is appreciative of the efforts of House Speaker Jay Lucas, R-Darlington, who created a House Equitable Justice and Law Enforcement Review Committee to address the issue.

House Bill 3620, which has bipartisan support, was introduced in early January but has not moved beyond the committee level. If passed, it would allow for harsher penalties for crimes such as killings, assault, stalking and vandalism based on the victim’s race, sexual orientation, religious beliefs or disability.

The House Criminal Statutory Review Subcommittee last summer took hours of testimony on the matter and drafted the bill. For it to become law during this legislative session, it must pass the full House and be sent to the South Carolina Senate by April 10.

“We ask the House to finish the good work it started last summer and quickly pass HB 3620,” Patel said.

The chamber delivered a letter to the General Assembly last year asking for a hate crimes bill to be passed. The letter referenced the 2015 shooting at Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston that left nine Black people dead, and it also said Georgia, the only neighboring state to South Carolina that did not have a similar law, passed one earlier in 2020.

Joining the chamber in support of the legislation are several local chambers of commerce, the South Carolina Association of Realtors, the state AARP chapter and major national employers that have a presence in the state, including Walmart, UPS, IBM, CVS and Wells Fargo.

The chamber also created a website to track progress on the bill.

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