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Spartanburg Legislative Delegation meeting becomes tense after criticism from residents

Delegation Chairman Max Hyde: 'We're going to uphold a civil discourse standard'

A Spartanburg County Legislative Delegation meeting became heated after residents spoke about abortion, medical marijuana and children's books on gender identity issues.

The lawmakers typically don't respond to comments made by the public, but the May 1 meeting was an exception. Two resident speakers were called out by delegation members for going too far.

Sevi Alvarez, who ran unsuccessfully for Spartanburg City Council two years ago, leveled criticism of the Republican-dominated Legislature.

"This Legislature does not seem to trust South Carolinians to make their own medical decisions," Alvarez said. "They're trying to give women who have abortions the death penalty. They tried to ban drag shows. They've waged war on our libraries.

'It's becoming increasingly clear that the folks pushing these ultra-niche agendas are out of touch. They are weirdos catering to a tiny population of fellow weirdos who care a whole lot about a handful of issues. It's not just (Republican Sen.) Josh Kimbrell …"

That's when delegation Chairman Max Hyde pounded the gavel.

"We're going to have some decorum. We're going to uphold a civil discourse standard," Hyde said.

Hyde let Alvarez finish, then a visibly upset Kimbrell responded.

"We have pretty much the same speech every quarter," Kimbrell said. "At some point, just coming in here and giving a campaign speech isn't necessarily helpful to dialogue. He's making a whole lot of accusations.

"You can't sit here and say a bunch of stuff that isn't accurate," Kimbrell continued. "Not a single bill has passed the House or the Senate that would execute a mom or prosecute somebody. We are, however, taking steps to protect the life of the unborn."

Kimbrell supported a near-total abortion ban that was blocked by a filibuster last week by five female senators.

Last August, Kimbrell called for public libraries to move books about sexual identity from the children's section into the adult section. Protesters accused him of favoring censorship and book bans.

"Secondly …. nobody's banning libraries, nobody's cutting off books, nobody's banning or burning," Kimbrell said. "It's inappropriate to have a teacher or a guidance counselor talking to a child that's 5 about his or her sexuality or gender identity, and I'm not going to apologize for saying we shouldn't allow that to happen in this state.

"You're not in California, Mr. Alvarez. You're not in New York."

Alvarez said, "May I respond?"

Hyde said, "No, the five minutes has been exceeded."

Next, Larry Bates of Boiling Springs then expressed his opposition to a bill called the "SC Compassionate Care Act" that would tax and authorize the use of cannabis products by patients with debilitating medical conditions.

He also expressed his opposition to the bill at the February meeting.

"Republicans should not be pushing this legislation because it is completely antithetical to the Republican platform that is for life and not anything that causes harm and death to our citizens," he said. "Marijuana produces a culture of death and destruction."

Democratic state Rep. Rosalyn Henderson-Myers responded.

"Your entire premise is incorrect, that there is no medical marijuana here in South Carolina," she said. "There absolutely is. I had medical marijuana when I was going through cancer treatment. If I had not had that – I had lost 20 pounds in about a week – I would have continued going down and I might not even be here today."

Bates said, "You just made my point. It's already here. Why do we have to have the Compassionate Care Act, which is going to put therapeutic cannabis pharmacies …"

Myers cut him off.

"Sir, let me finish talking, please. "You made the statement that we don't need medical marijuana here in South Carolina. I am simply saying to you, that is a false statement. There is already medical marijuana here in some form. It's a pill form. It's THC. Doctors are prescribing it for persons who can't keep anything down, who are nauseous, who might die."

Republican state Sen. Tom Corbin of Travelers Rest, whose district includes Greenville and Spartanburg counties, told Bates he voted against medical marijuana "because Rep. Henderson-Myers is correct, we have a form of that already.

"I actually did support a resolution to have marijuana go through clinical trials to try and see if pharmaceutical companies could enhance on the drug that helped you (pointing to Henderson-Myers). But I am vehemently opposed to (the Compassionate Care Act), and going forward just know I voted against that."

Bates said, "May I respond to that? Real quick. Thirty seconds."

Hyde said, "No one else is allowed to do it, thank you. I would also point out we have been very generous and tolerant with the same three or four speakers that come to every meeting, taping each other.

"Please, if you're going to come back, speak on a new topic or we will be more emphatic about enforcing the rules. Thank you so much."

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