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SC governor says he'll challenge abortion ruling, calls for continued economic development in State of the State address

He tackled familiar themes of the state's economic successes and lowering taxes.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster spoke of the need to keep growing the economy, pay teachers more, and add more funding for law enforcement. But he also chastised the state's supreme court for its recent abortion rights decision and said he'll challenge the ruling. 

McMaster used the hour-long speech to tout the state's economic successes such as the record industrial investments made in the state last year, income tax cuts, raises for state employees and teachers, and continued increases in the state's rainy day fund.

Full Text. Governor Henry McMaster's 2023 State of the State Address

They're all themes that were heard in his inauguration speech two weeks ago

On abortion, McMaster criticized the South Carolina Supreme Court's 3-2 ruling earlier this month that threw out the state's fetal heartbeat abortion law, which essentially bans abortions at six weeks. He said the decision was "at odd with the facts" and said he'll challenge it. 

"I will be filing a petition for rehearing next week, along with other state officials, and I remain optimistic that we will prevail in our historic fight to protect and defend the right to, and the sanctity of, life," McMaster said.

In the Democratic response, State Senator Ronnie Sabb, a Democrat from Greeleyville, said the ruling is sound and that the issue of abortions should be up to voters.

"We trust South Carolinians and hope you do too," Sabb said. "This issue should be placed on the ballot for a referendum vote which will allow all South Carolinians to decide this issue."

Ahead of another state supreme court ruling expected in weeks on the death penalty, McMaster called for a law to shield the names of the manufacturers of the drugs used for lethal injections. That method of execution has been on hold in the state for years. The state's corrections department says the companies that make the drugs won't sell to the state because they fear their company's name will become public record. 

The speech was also an opportunity to focus on bills he sees as a priority like fentanyl legislation, police funding, and education reform. 

Ahead of the address, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle said they expected a bipartisan speech. 

"I don't expect any surprises tonight," said State Senator Brad Hutto, a Democrat from Orangeburg. "I think you'll find Governor McMaster to be the same jovial big promoter of South Carolina that he always is. He's our biggest cheerleaders and he certainly wants to do what's best for South Carolina and we're not expecting him to vary from that tonight."

"I think we're going to hear about the future, what the next four years has to hold," said State Senator Katrina Shealy, a Republican from Lexington. "But I think we're going to talk about the past things he has done and South Carolina has grown a lot. You know people are moving here, we have a beautiful state, he's going to tell you that. he's going to say from the mountains to the sea we have everything."

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