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Here's what the South Carolina Freedom Caucus is

According to its members, it's a group of 20 lawmakers who are the most conservative representatives at the South Carolina State House.

COLUMBIA, S.C. β€” Although they've existed for nearly a year, some still might not know exactly what the South Carolina Freedom Caucus is and who is in it.

They are a group of 20 lawmakers who say are the most conservative members at the South Carolina State House. 

Essentially, they're a state version of the Freedom Caucus that exists in the U.S. Congress. 

The group tells News 19 their goal is to challenge the status quo. According to the group's vice chair, State Representative RJ May of Lexington, it's a group of members with no specific set number who seek to govern conservatively and live up to their campaign promises. 

April Cromer, a House representative from Anderson explains she joined the caucus because her values aligned.

"The reason I ran is because [of] ... seeing how South Carolina is supposed to be a red state, our constituents are red, the taxpayers for the most part are red, in my area we're ruby red, and we didn't have good representation for our values in Columbia," Cromer said.

May tells News 19 the group is invite only. After 80% of the Freedom Caucus agrees they want a member to join, that member is in transition for a year until they're deemed an official member. 

May explains that the group meets about three times a week in person and over zoom. He tells News 19 they're increasingly involved in major debates.

They recently argued against a bill banning hate crimes, and this week argued against a deal to offer tax incentives to bring an electric car company to Richland County.

They are outspoken on abortion restrictions and what's taught in schools. 

May explains one of their big wins was passing a bill that banned critical race theory derived ideas in schools. However critics indicate critical race theory is not part of any state curriculum. 

"What they are seeking to do is undermine the founding documents of our nation, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, which guarantees equality under the law," May said.

He explains they're working to ban a bill about diversity equity and inclusion. But other members of the House, including House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford explain that this effort isn't really protecting freedom.

"Their voting record and everything that they've done so far has indicated that this is not about freedom for them, Rutherford said. "This is more about litigation, this is more about confusion and this is more about turning Columbia into Washington D.C." 

Rutherford tells News 19 he's working on creating guidelines for a new "Real" Freedom Caucus focused on smaller government, tax relief, creating industry and jobs instead of focusing on lawsuits.

According to members in the SC Freedom Caucus, their long term goals are to eliminate the state income tax, provide universal school choice and lower corporate tax rates. 

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