STATE-ing the truth and keeping it real with Senator Mia McLeod

Who is Senator Mia McLeod?

Senator Mia McLeod is a leader, advocate, and warrior.

The American Rescue Plan was passed earlier this year. What type of changes can South Carolinian residence see when the money is disbursed to their cities and towns?

So here's the thing I wrote a letter to the Governor and Martha Adams, the Director of the Department of Administration. Asking them to please just request the money. It's roughly $435 million in American Rescue Plan Funding, and that money can be used for Broadband, for rural underserved, forgotten, and neglected communities like my hometown communities, Marlboro County. It can also be used for vaccinations to ensure everyone has access to vaccinations in rural areas and other areas across the state. It can be used for teacher's salaries and infrastructure. There are so many things that the money can be used for, and to think that we have a Governor who is willing just to sit on that money while smaller cities and towns who don't have 50,000 people or more have to wait on him to request the money or his Administration. It's just unconscionable.

These smaller cities and towns need that money so they can start to recover. In the smaller cities and towns, there are 270 of them. Out of those, only 17 have gotten their American Rescue Plan money (ARP). I wish I could answer the question about when but I just know the Governor has no discretion, or the Governor's Administration has no discretion on how that money should be spent. He talks about giving people the freedom to make their own personal decisions, choices, and responsibilities. The same could be said about these smaller towns and cities. They know what their needs are. Their needs are great. For him to sit on that money and not allow them to use it and try to begin to recover is just unbelievable.

Governor McMaster supports leaving it up to the people to decide on getting vaccinated or simply wearing a mask. Do you feel this is the right message from our leaders?

No, I don't—I'm all about personal responsibility and accountability. The Governor is only talking about half the equation if that. He refuses to be responsible or accountable as it relates to this virus. Because of his inaction, this state has lost 10,000 people or maybe more than that. The death toll is rising because we are in the middle of a pandemic. I don't understand how he thinks it makes sense, economic or otherwise, to send kids back to school at a time when cases are surging. We see a rise and increase in exposure, hospitalization, and death. The CDC has said that we need a mask mandate, especially for the school and businesses that are opening back up. Folks are being exposed to the virus, even those that have been vaccinated. All of our children under 12 don't have the ability to get vaccinated. Personal responsibility is great, but he is the leader of this state. For him not to lead by example is one of many reasons he shouldn't be Governor. He doesn't have the political courage to do the right thing because it's the right thing. He doesn't care or have the compassion to represent the interest of all South Carolinians truly, and we need leadership now more than ever.

You are an advocate for the need for justice being placed within our Justice System. How important is passing the Transparency and Justice Act?

It's extremely important. One of the things we've got to focus on, in my opinion, is the systems. We've put some emphasis on the symbol, and while that is good, it is not enough. We have to focus on the systemic ills and policies that have been in place for many years. That is causing the disparities and injustices that we see every day. They're playing now in every aspect of our lives. My Transparency and Justice Act does just that. It is the most comprehensive bill introduced to address some of these systemic ills, like making hate a crime in South Carolina. I support Representative Gilliard's hate crimes bill, and there's no reason why we shouldn't have passed that bill at least this year. We had every opportunity to do that. Instead, our Republican leaders focus on fetal heartbeat bills, open carry, firing squads, unauthorized militias, and different devices that do nothing to move our state forward.

In addition, to making hate a crime, my bill would also repeal our expansive citizen's arrest law. Hopefully, what happened to Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia won't happen here. I've discovered our law is even more expansive than Georgia, so the likelihood of something like that happening here is real. I've got a son who Ahmaud Arbery age who plays football, and he's an athlete. He plays at a college in another state, and when he comes home, he works out here. He jogs here. I couldn't see past the fact that it could easily be my baby or anybody's baby. Freedoms cant apply to some. Everybody has to have the same freedoms, and we don't in this state. We just saw what happened in Charleston to Jamal Sutherland, what happened in Charleston to Walter Scott, and what happened in Charleston at Mother Emmanuel to my colleague and friend Senator Pickney and his eight other members. It's unthinkable that we would not recognize the need to address the systemic ills that are killing us, particularly for communities of color.

One of the other things that the Transparency and Justice Act does is decriminalize marijuana. We see more and more of our young people, disproportionally people of color going to jail or prison for many years for marijuana possession. The way our laws have impacted specific communities and individuals. It would ban police chokehold and no-knock warrants. It would require de-escalation training for Law Enforcement Officers. and it would also require every Law Enforcement Agency to fully and thoroughly vet candidates who want to become Law Enforcement Officers to make sure they aren't aligned, membered, or affiliated with any hate groups or white supremacy organizations. It would do the same thing for those currently serving or seeking recertification. It would also get rid of qualified immunity or unjustified officer tailing. Law officers in the past have not been held accountable because of qualified immunity. The law would no longer protect them as they are now in South Carolina.

As a leader in the political world, how do you know when it's time to speak up verse being silent?

I think all of us know when it's time to speak up. I don't understand how those of us who are in positions where we represent a constituency, when we see the wrongs that are happening in state government, negatively impacting the people we represent, why are we here if we're not willing to speak up. That means if I'm not willing to speak up for my constituents, they won't have a voice, and I'm here to be their voice. I know why I'm here and why God has placed me in this position. I know my purpose. It's never been a question of how to lead; I have to lead. That is why the people of Senate District 22 elected me.

That is why I believe I will be the next Governor of the state. I have shown I not only have the ability to lead, but I also have the courage to lead. Often times that is more important than the ability. I have the guts to Govern and the experience to hit the ground running on Day 1. Our state is last in all the ways it should be first, and I plan to change that. My candidacy creates so much excitement and enthusiasm because I am not more of the same I am different; I have the courage to stand even if I have to stand alone. I'm not in it for myself. I am in it for the people of South Carolina. It's what they deserve, and it's what I will give them.

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