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    Goldfinch and Hewitt: Recent flooding spotlights need for evacuation highway

    By Sen. Stephen Goldfinch and Rep. Lee Hewitt

    Hewitt-Goldfinch_copy_II.jpgIn the month of September, Georgetown and Horry counties faced a disaster on two fronts. First, as Hurricane Florence slowly moved toward the coast we faced a strengthening category four storm. Then, as it moved ashore in North Carolina, we watched the storm stall and dump up to 17 inches of rain into the watershed that drains into rivers that feed into Winyah Bay.

    Both of these scenarios required the local Emergency Operations Centers to call for evacuations of the affected areas. Luckily, we were spared damage from the land fall of Florence. However, we were not so lucky from the affects of the rainfall. The flooding caused closure of Highways 501, 22 and 9 in Horry County and aqua dams were installed on Highways 17 and 521 in Georgetown County as the Dept. of Natural Resources flood modeling projected these roads would become impassable as well. If Hwy 17 had become inundated with flood waters as predicted this would have been a nightmare situation for both counties, with the Grand Strand and particularly the Waccamaw Neck becoming inaccessible islands.

    As we look back and review the outcome, it’s obvious the proposed Southern Evacuation Lifeline Highway (SELL) must become a priority for the safety of our residents and visitors. This proposed 28-mile limited access highway connecting Hwy 31 with U.S. 378 would vastly improve access across the Waccamaw River between Conway and Georgetown, providing a needed additional transportation corridor in the event other vital roadways became flooded and impassable.

    Studies by the S.C. Dept. of Transportation and the Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce show the SELL project will reduce traffic congestion, improve road network efficiency and significantly expedite hurricane evacuations, particularly for Georgetown County, and now it’s clear the project would also improve safety in the event of flooding.

    Planning for this important road began in 2003 and a feasibility study was completed in 2009. Currently, Horry County has allocated $25 million for the final environmental impact study, road design and right-of-way acquisition. This is a drop in the bucket compared to the estimated $600 million price tag. While there are many road improvements that are important and needed in our area, we call on our Congressional delegation to help us find funding for this very important evacuation route.

    Recently, Gov. Henry McMaster issued an executive order creating the S.C. Floodwater Commission, which we applaud. This commission is tasked with identifying potential short and long-term mitigation solutions for low lying and coastal areas along the state’s rivers. We ask this commission to address a flawed FEMA home buyout program that bars many hard-working families impacted by flooding from qualifying for the mitigation program. We also ask for additional funding to improve the accuracy of the DNR flood modeling, which was flawed, particularly for Georgetown County. It is vital that local Emergency Operation Centers and the residents of affected areas have the best possible information to plan for a flood event.

    It is important that we begin to address these critical needs as soon as possible to ensure the safety of our residents and visitors.

    Sen. Goldfinch and Rep. Hewitt live in Murrells Inlet and represent Districts 34 and 108 respectively in the SC General Assembly.

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    Hewitt named Legislator of the Year

    First freshman legislator ever named Legislator of the Year

    COLUMBIA -- Rep. Lee Hewitt, R-Georgetown, along with Rep. Heather Ammons Crawford, R-Horry, were named Legislators of the Year Monday by the S.C. Association of Realtors.

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    Reps. Lee Hewitt and Heather Ammons Crawford with their awards.

    Hewitt is the first freshman legislator to ever win the award.

    “I’m honored to have been awarded Legislator of the Year, particularly as a freshman legislator,” Hewitt said. “My sincere thanks to the association for this award.”

    Hewitt was the lead sponsor for legislation signed into law this year that reforms the process for determining beachfront jurisdictional lines. Where these lines are drawn impacts first, and in many cases, second row properties regarding the structures that can be built or rebuilt.

    Hewitt was a cosponsor of the S.C. Homeowners Association Act, which was also signed into law this year. This reform legislation requires increased HOA transparency concerning notices, budgets and documents.

    Hewitt, a Murrells Inlet realtor, serves on the House Agricultural, Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs Committee and Environmental Affairs Subcommittee, Opioid Abuse Prevention Study Committee and Offshore Drilling Ad-Hoc Committee.

    He is also a former S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control board member.

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    Busy summer

    I hope you’re doing well. The summer seems to be flying by. I know a lot has been happening from a state and county perspective.

    Last month I participated in Liberty Steel’s reopening ceremony of the Georgetown mill and got to meet Liberty House Group chairman Sanjeev Gupta. The reopening is great news for the city, county and especially for all the families hurt by the steel mill closing in 2015.

    The legislature was back in session for two days last month. I’m glad we were able to finally pass a bill providing SCE&G ratepayers with substantial relief from the costs of the failed nuclear reactor project and repeal the Base Load Review Act, which enabled the nuclear fiasco.

    It looks like we’ll be back in session this fall to vote on Gov. McMaster’s budget vetoes.

    One of the vetoes I will vote to overturn is the Governor’s veto of $300,000 for needed dredging in Murrells Inlet. Boat access to the channels in the inlet is vital to the economy of Murrells Inlet, Garden City Beach, Georgetown and Horry counties and this state. A plan needs to be developed and funded to deal with the continued siltation of the channels.

    I appreciate the Murrells Inlet-Garden City Fire District Board’s decision to postpone its millage increase referendum that was scheduled for this month until required financial audits are completed by the district. Last month, Sen. Stephen Goldfinch, Rep. Russell Fry and I asked the board for the postponement. It’s important that these required outside audits be completed and reviewed by the board and the public before moving forward with a referendum.

    On Wednesday, August 8th at 5:30 pm, Sen. Stephen Goldfinch, Rep. Russell Fry and I have scheduled an informational meeting at the Murrells Inlet Community Center for property owners affected by the Horry-Georgetown County border error. The public is welcome to attend.

    For many years, Horry and Georgetown counties have recognized a border that differs from the official border as enacted in statute. As a result, about 200 parcels of land, long believed to be in Horry County, are actually in Georgetown County, raising potential issues concerning property taxes, school attendance and voting.

    A bill I cosponsored gives Gov. McMaster the authority to call for a referendum in the affected area to allow voters to decide as to whether they wish to stay residents of Horry County or officially become part of Georgetown County.

    And finally, our thoughts and prayers are with Sen. Greg Hembree, R-Horry, and his family. Sen. Hembree suffered a brain aneurysm last week. We wish him a speedy recovery.

    I’m thankful for the opportunity to represent District 108. Please let me know if I can be of any assistance.

    Rep. Lee Hewitt

    Please click here to donate to my reelection campaign.

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    A busy month

    Since the House adjourned last month, I’ve been very busy.

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    Yesterday, Whitney and I were privileged to be with Vice-President Mike Pence and his wife Karen and Gov. Henry McMaster and his wife Peggy when they visited Myrtle Beach. It was an honor to have Vice-President Pence and Gov. McMaster on the Grand Strand.

    This month I spoke at the ceremony renaming the North Causeway in Pawleys Island the Linwood Altman Causeway in honor of the former state legislator and community leader who recently passed away. I was a sponsor of the legislation that enabled the name change. Click here for news coverage.

    Last Tuesday, I was on WGTN News Talk radio with former Georgetown Mayor Jack Scoville discussing state and district issues and answering questions.

    Also, on Tuesday, I spent the afternoon at the Georgetown office of the Dept. of Employment and Workforce learning about all the services they provide for businesses and the community. I appreciate the opportunity to meet the staff and greatly appreciate their hard work and dedication.

    On Thursday at the Tidelands Health board meeting I was privileged to present Dr. Gerald Harmon with a resolution passed by the General Assembly congratulating and honoring him for being named chairman of the American Medical Association. Dr. Harmon is truly a leader in medical care in our county, state and nation and is very deserving of this honor.

    Today I’ll be attending Liberty Steel’s reopening ceremony of the Georgetown mill. The reopening is great news for the city, county and especially for all the families hurt by the steel mill closing in 2015.

    On Wednesday and Thursday, the House will be back in session to deal with the state budget and legislation that addresses the V.C. Summer nuclear reactor spending disaster.

    So far, the conference committees that were tasked with ironing out the differences between House and Senate versions of the budget and legislation aimed at protecting utility ratepayers have failed to reach agreement, so the session may not be productive.

    My thoughts and prayers are with my House colleague and District 1 GOP Congressional candidate Katie Arrington, who was seriously injured in a car accident on Friday night in Charleston.

    I urge you to vote tomorrow in the Republican runoff election for Governor and Attorney General. Any registered voter can vote in the election except those that voted in the June 12th Democratic primary. The polls are open from 7 am to 7 pm. Click here for polling place locations.

    I’m thankful for the opportunity to represent District 108. Please let me know if I can be of any assistance.

    Rep. Lee Hewitt

    Please click here to donate to my reelection campaign.

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    End of the legislative session

    After casting over 800 votes, the regular session of the legislature ended last Thursday.

    Importantly, several bills of local significance passed last week and head to Gov. McMaster’s desk for his signature.

    On Wednesday, a bill I cosponsored to fix the Horry-Georgetown County border error passed.

    For many years, Horry and Georgetown counties have recognized a border that differs from the official border as enacted in statute. As a result, about 200 parcels of land, long believed to be in Horry County, are actually in Georgetown County, raising potential issues concerning property taxes, school attendance and voting.

    The bill gives Gov. McMaster the authority to call for a referendum in the affected area to allow voters to decide as to whether they wish to stay residents of Horry County or officially become part of Georgetown County.

    A bill I supported to protect red drum from overfishing passed. This fishery is very important to our recreational and charter fishermen.

    A recent SC Dept. of Natural Resources stock assessment of red drum determined the stock is overfished and that current landings are unsustainable. The bill reduces the daily bag limit from three per person to two per person and institutes a boat limit of six fish per day. The current size slot limit of 15 to 23 inches for red drum would remain the same.

    From a statewide perspective, a bill passed this week to place a constitutional amendment question on the ballot in November that asks voters if they approve of granting the governor the authority to appoint the state superintendent of education instead of keeping it as an elected position. If voters approve, the final election for the position will be this year.

    While the legislative session has ended, there is still unfinished legislative business, so there will be special legislative sessions on May 24-25 and June 27-28 to deal with legislation related to the failed VC Summer nuclear reactor project and to finalize the budget respectively.

    I’m thankful for the opportunity to represent District 108. Please let me know if I can be of any assistance.

    Rep. Lee Hewitt

    Please click here to donate to my reelection campaign.

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    One week left

    I wanted you to know that there is just one week left in the legislative session.

    Last week, the House took a major step to make our public schools safer by making it easier to hire school resource officers. There are currently 590 public schools in the state that don’t employ a school resource officer.

    Many retired law enforcement officers have expressed interest in using their previous training to work as a school resource officer. However, current state law caps salaries of retired state employees at $10,000 a year. To fix this problem, the House lifted the $10,000 cap so retired state workers can apply for the many open school resource officer positions.

    A bill I cosponsored to increase the transparency of homeowners associations, the S.C. Homeowners Association Act, passed both the House and Senate and awaits Gov. McMaster’s signature.

    The bill provides for the recording of the governing HOA documents with the Register of Deeds or Clerk of Court, notice to homeowners when there is any increase in the annual budget, notice on the seller’s property disclosure statement that the property is governed by an HOA, and allows magistrates concurrent jurisdiction to handle monetary disputes. The bill also creates a Homeowners Association Ombudsman within the South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs. This legislation would implement consistent guidelines that encourage good governance among HOAs and protect homeowners' interests.

    Last week, the House voted to place a constitutional question on the ballot that asks voters if they approve of granting the governor the authority to appoint the state superintendent of education instead of keeping it as an elected position. If voters approve, the final election for the position will be in 2018 with the governor having the power to appoint the position after the conclusion of that four-year term.

    It’s an honor to serve the district. Please let me know if I can be of any assistance.

    Rep. Lee Hewitt

    Please click here to donate to my reelection campaign.

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    Awaiting Gov. McMaster's signature

    My bill for fixing the process for determining beachfront jurisdictional lines has now passed the House and Senate and heads to Gov. McMaster’s desk for his signature.

    My thanks to all who helped pass this important bill that affects over 20,000 beachfront property owners.

    The House and Gov. McMaster continue to work to eliminated the SCE&G nuclear surcharge on ratepayers for the V.C. Summer reactor spending disaster. Last week, the House voted to not concur with a Senate bill that would not eliminate the full nuclear surcharge. I’m hopeful a joint conference committee will be able to negotiate an acceptable resolution for utility ratepayers.

    There are just two weeks left in the legislative session. The House will take up the final draft of the budget this week and vote on $26 million in additional funding for school resource officers and prison safety measures. Republicans are pushing for this funding to make our public schools safer for students and teachers and in response violence at our state prisons.

    Just a reminder of the Keep the Majority fundraiser tomorrow, May 1st, 5:30-7:00 pm, at the Nelson Mullins Law Firm, located at 1320 Main Street, 17th Floor, in Columbia, which will benefit my reelection campaign. Special guests will be Speaker of the House Jay Lucas, Speaker Pro Tempore Tommy Pope, House Majority Leader Gary Simrill and other House leaders and committee chairs.

    Suggested donation levels are Patron $1,000, Supporter $500 or Friend $250, but any amount would be helpful. Any amount you donate would benefit just my campaign. Please click here to donate.

    Thank you in advance! Please let me know if I can be of any assistance.

    Rep. Lee Hewitt

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    Constituent visits

    It’s always great when constituents are able to come to Columbia and visit with me in the House. Last week I had a lot of visits.

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    Thursday, it was my privilege to present the Waccamaw High School boys and girls cross country teams with a resolution passed by the House recognizing and honoring their state championships. The girls team has won the state championship two out of the last three years. This is the first state championship for the boys team. I was proud to have them at the State House and introduce them to my colleagues from the House well. The resolution also recognized the boys golf team state championship, but they were unable to attend due to a match.

    Wednesday, it was great to meet with the Charleston Trident Association of REALTORS at the State House. I appreciate the work they do and their interest in state government.

    Also, on Wednesday it was State House Day for Alzheimer’s Advocacy. It was my privilege to meet with advocates Lisa Phelan, Becky Thomason and Ashley DesMarteau, who are doing their part to make legislators aware of the plight of Alzheimer’s victims and caregivers.

    This was crossover deadline week. Tuesday was the last chance to get bills out of committee and on to the House floor for a vote to meet the April 10th crossover deadline. Any legislation that clears either the House or Senate after April 10th requires a two-thirds majority vote to even be debated by the other body this year.

    I wanted you to know that the legislation Rep. Russell Fry and I sponsored to fix the Horry-Georgetown County border error is in the Senate now. We’re hopeful a version of the bill supported by both counties and the House will ultimately be passed.

    The border error affects about 200 parcels of land, long believed to be in Horry County, which are actually in Georgetown County, raising potential issues concerning property taxes, school attendance and voting.

    Our bill calls for a referendum to be held in the affected area to allow voters to decide as to whether they wish to stay residents of Horry County or officially become part of Georgetown County.

    I’m honored and privileged to serve District 108 in the House. Please let me know if I can be of any assistance.

    Rep. Lee Hewitt

    Reelection campaign donations can be made by clicking here.

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    Legislative week: A border fix and legislation to combat opioid addiction

    I wanted you to know that the legislation Rep. Russell Fry and I sponsored to fix the Horry-Georgetown County border error passed the House this week.

    For many years, Horry and Georgetown counties have recognized a border that differs from the official border as enacted in statute. As a result, about 200 parcels of land, long believed to be in Horry County, are actually in Georgetown County, raising potential issues concerning property taxes, school attendance and voting.

    If the bill is passed by the Senate and signed by Gov. McMaster, a referendum will be held in the affected area to allow voters to decide as to whether they wish to stay residents of Horry County or officially become part of Georgetown County.

    On Monday, I had an opportunity to speak about this issue at the Georgetown County Republican Club meeting. Click here for the news coverage.

    As a member of the House Opioid Abuse Prevention Study Committee, I was pleased that a number of bills the committee created to address the opioid addiction epidemic passed the House this week. These bills do the following: increase accessibility to life-saving opioid overdose antidotes, create a prescription monitoring program that will keep track of information relating to opioid prescriptions, set limits for initial prescriptions of opioid prescriptions at five days for acute pain and 14 days for post-operative pain, and require tamper-resistant prescription pads to decrease counterfeit prescriptions being used to obtain opioids illegally.

    On Tuesday it was my pleasure to spend time at the State House with the Coastal Carolina Association of REALTORS leadership class and class president Jamie Broadhurst. We had a good discussion about my beachfront jurisdictional line reform bill, which will be considered by the Senate Agricultural and Natural Resources Committee next week.

    Next week, the House is furloughed for an Easter break.

    One week from today is the end of the campaign finance reporting period. With the upcoming election, it’s important for my campaign to report as much money in the bank as possible.

    Please help by donating to my campaign by March 31st. Please click here to donate. Your help is greatly appreciated!

    It’s an honor to serve the district. Please let me know if I can be of any assistance.

    Rep. Lee Hewitt

    P.S. Please donate by March 31st. Campaign donation checks can be mailed to Lee Hewitt for House, P.O. Box 928, Murrells Inlet, SC 29576 or please click here today to donate online. Thank you in advance for your support!

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    Officially filed

    I wanted you to know that Friday I officially filed for reelection.

    Serving in the state House is a real privilege and I’m hopeful district voters will send me back for another term. I’m very appreciative of the outpouring of support I’ve received and will continue working hard in Columbia representing the district.

    Also on Friday, Rep. Russell Fry, R-Horry, and I announced legislation to fix a Horry-Georgetown County border error. For many years, Horry and Georgetown counties have recognized a border that differs from the official border as enacted in statute. As a result, about 200 parcels of land, long believed to be in Horry County, are actually in Georgetown County, raising potential issues concerning property taxes, school attendance and voting. The border error was recently discovered by the state Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office. Click here for news coverage.

    The legislation, if passed by the General Assembly and signed by Gov. McMaster, will call for a referendum in the affected area to allow voters to decide as to whether they wish to stay residents of Horry County or officially become part of Georgetown County.

    Passing a state budget bill consumed the entire House session last week. During the marathon session, I cast nearly 230 votes on the bill. The budget that passed the House is balanced and does not increase taxes.

    I’m pleased the budget included nearly $20 million to our technical schools to train students for high-skill and well-paying jobs businesses are looking to fill, $60 million for teacher salary increases, new school buses, and opioid abuse prevention funding.

    On Wednesday, after the House budget session was finished, I went over to the Senate and testified before the Environmental Subcommittee in support of my beachfront jurisdictional line reform bill. The subcommittee voted unanimously in favor of the bill, which will now go to the full Senate Agricultural and Natural Resources Committee.

    And finally, I hate asking for money, but there is an upcoming election and the Democrats have made it a priority to contest all the elections this year. The best thing I can do is have a well-funded campaign, prepared to take on any challenger.

    Please financially support my reelection campaign with a donation today by clicking here. Your financial support is needed and would be greatly appreciated.

    It’s an honor to serve the district. Please let me know if I can be of any assistance.

    Rep. Lee Hewitt

    P.S. Campaign donation checks can be mailed to Lee Hewitt for House, P.O. Box 928, Murrells Inlet, SC 29576 or please click here today to donate online. Thank you in advance for your support!

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