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GOP-backed ‘reform’ in South Carolina would cement public health tyranny
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GOP-backed ‘reform’ in South Carolina would cement public health tyranny

Rather than outlaw the lockdown abuses of four years ago, the Palmetto State is about to make the law worse with more bureaucracy and power to override local sheriffs to enforce restrictions.

On the grim four-year anniversary of the lockdowns, it’s striking to realize that Republican legislatures were active in 2020 but did nothing to stop the overreach. Surprisingly, few states have changed their laws to prevent a repeat. What’s more, South Carolina is close to going a step farther by not advancing key medical freedom laws and instead may give a new health care czar the power essentially to declare martial law.

Two bills — H. 4927 and S. 915 — have sailed through their respective chambers with no opposition beyond the South Carolina Freedom Caucus. The legislation would create the Executive Office of Health and Policy run by a Fauci-like health czar to replace the disparate powers of the current state public health system, directed by the Department of Health and Environmental Control, an agency that is not accountable to the governor.

While it’s a good idea to have one agency responsible to the governor, the goal should be to reduce, not increase, its power. The South Carolina legislation actually worsens the current system.

For example, section five of the House bill prescribes the following:

All sheriffs and constables in the several counties of this State and police officers and health officers of cities and towns must aid and assist the Director of the Department of Public Health and Environmental Control and must carry out and obey his orders, or those of the Department of Public Health and Environmental Control, to enforce and carry out any and all restrictive measures and quarantine regulations that may be prescribed.

The bill’s proponents would say the state can already compel sheriffs to enforce tyrannical measures. That’s exactly the problem! Any reorganization of these agencies should remove oppressive powers, not conform them to a shiny new system. We need more freedom, not less. The state health department should only advise, not have power over our lives, liberties, and property.

H. 4927 passed the House with a vote of 91-18 on the last day of February. Attempts to take out the controversial powers over sheriffs didn't succeed, with a similar vote count. The Senate passed its version a week before, with only one dissenting vote. Now, the bills are moving to conference for reconciliation. Republican Governor Henry McMaster says he’ll sign the final bill. Despite voter backlash, it's uncertain whether the Senate will have the nerve to change the provision concerning sheriffs. But why would Republican legislators want to consider such legislation at all?

The bill purports to consolidate several different state agencies — the Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services, the Department of Disabilities and Special Needs, the Department of Public Health, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Mental Health, and the Department on Aging, along with DHEC — under the new umbrella office. And it’s good that the governor would have greater authority over it. But focusing on structure rather than powers and policy of the state public health agency is like focusing on the finger of someone who points to the moon rather than the moon itself.

South Carolina has barely nibbled around the edges of public health tyranny four sessions into the COVID travesty. Legislators have only banned the shutdown of houses of worship — nothing else.

They have not prevented businesses from mandating dangerous shots. They have not prevented hospitals from violating human rights and mandating masks. They have refused to consider all the conservative legislation redressing these issues.

That is not unique, unfortunately, to red states. What’s peculiar in South Carolina is that Republicans are making public health policy worse.

This legislation doesn't actually cut the size of government. It keeps all existing roles in the Department of Health and Environmental Control and other agencies and even adds a new layer of bureaucracy.

When asked about the cost, Rep. Bill Herbkersman (R), the bill's sponsor, couldn't provide a number. The bill is so complex that its financial impact is still unknown. In a committee meeting, Herbkersman, who chairs the Healthcare Subcommittee on Ways and Means, confessed that the bill's touted streamlining wouldn't eliminate even one job.

So if it doesn’t limit public health tyranny and doesn’t streamline or cut the health bureaucracy, then what is its purpose? Same as ever: cronyism and tyranny.

Rather than installing the new secretary and his agency in the existing DHEC building, the legislation would move $352 million in funding to rent new expensive office space in Columbia, near the baseball stadium on Otarre Parkway. Why would they do this if the entire point is to consolidate resources? Well, the new building they will rent is owned by Bill Stern, a big donor to McMaster. Stern led the ceremony at the governor’s inauguration in 2023.

If the only problem with the legislation was its cost, I’d be willing to pay off their cronies to buy my freedom. The reality is that South Carolina’s proposed “reforms” are part of a national effort to introduce health czars into every state, which may be why the bill is over 70 pages, which is long for state government. It turns out that House Republicans have paid $3.2 million to Boston Consulting Group, which does business with the CDC, the World Health Organization, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to write the legislation.

We wonder why most red states went along with COVID fascism for way too long, given that Republicans dominate the legislatures and governors’ offices. The fact that they refuse to recognize their mistakes and are, in fact, making those mistakes worse simply shows that unless we get active in primaries this year, we won’t have many red states in which to seek refuge during the next biomedical crackdown.

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