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    Report from the House of Representatives

    Good morning. Hope you’re well.

    SC_Farm_Bureau_award_II_-_Jan._31__2023.jpegI accepted the Legislator of Year Award from the SC Farm Bureau via video in December. Rick Caldwell, Farm Bureau policy specialist and legislative coordinator, presented the actual award to me on Wednesday in Columbia. My thanks to the Farm Bureau for this very nice award.

    As a member of the House Opioid Abuse Prevention Study Committee, I heard from countless law enforcement officers, recovering addicts, medical professionals, and heart-wrenching testimony from family members of overdose victims about the growing opioid addiction epidemic, particularly the impacts of the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl.

    From 2019 to 2020, drug overdose deaths involving fentanyl increased 105% in South Carolina and it’s my understanding that preliminary 2021 data shows deaths climbing even higher. Charleston and Georgetown counties are some of the hardest hit areas. Fentanyl was involved in nearly 80% of all opioid-involved overdose deaths in the state.

    So, on Wednesday, I was pleased to join 91 of my colleagues in passing a strong fentanyl trafficking bill. H.3503 declares fentanyl a Schedule 1 drug and increases the penalties on dealers who sell it.

    This bipartisan bill provides a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years and sends a strong message to drug dealers and those trafficking fentanyl that South Carolina will no longer tolerate their dangerous activity in our state. I hope the Senate will move quickly to pass this legislation.

    On Monday, I was privileged to participate in a panel of legislators at the SC Beach Advocates’ annual meeting on the Isle of Palms. We provided the group with a legislative update and answered questions. I very much appreciate the efforts of the Beach Advocates to educate the public, governmental authorities, and elected officials as to the environmental, economic, and social importance of our beaches and inlets.

    On Tuesday, I welcomed Dr. Gerald Harmon and Dr. Elizabeth Dixon of Tidelands Heath to serve as Doctors of the Day for the House of Representatives. For Dr. Harmon, who is the immediate past president of the American Medical Association, this was his 31st year serving as Doctor of the Day. Dr. Dixon is from Myrtle Beach and is a Senior Resident at Tidelands.

    I welcome visits to my office in the State House and to attend House sessions and committee meetings. We’re usually in session Tuesday through Thursday. Groups are welcome. Please contact me to schedule a visit.

    I’m honored to represent District 108 in the House. 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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    County legislative delegation action and more

    Hope you’re having a good weekend.

    My week in Columbia was filled with work on the Ways and Means Healthcare Budget Subcommittee. We met on Tuesday and Wednesday hearing budget requests from the state Departments of Health and Environmental Control, Mental Health, Social Services, Aging, and Children’s Advocacy.

    The subcommittee will meet again next Tuesday and Wednesday.

    On Wednesday, I joined my colleagues from the House and Senate for Gov. McMaster’s State of the State Address. The Governor laid out a bold, conservative roadmap to ensure prosperity and success for the future generations of South Carolinians. I look forward to continuing working with him to accomplish our legislative goals.

    On Friday, I was privileged to participate in the annual Georgetown County Legislative Delegation Breakfast at Pawleys Plantation, hosted by the Georgetown County Chamber of Commerce and sponsored by the Coastal Carolina REALTORS Association. Senators Stephen Goldfinch and Ronnie Sabb and Rep. Carl Anderson and I discussed issues and what to expect in the legislative session.

    One of the important responsibilities of the Georgetown County Legislative Delegation is to make nominations to the Governor for appointments to county and regional boards and commissions.

    After the chamber breakfast the delegation met to consider a number of nominations, most importantly to the Georgetown County Board of Elections, where board chairman and steelworkers union boss James Sanderson was mired in controversy because his union made campaign donations to Georgetown City Council candidates and he effectively endorsed a gubernatorial candidate – political activities which election board members cannot engage in.

    The delegation agreed to replace Sanderson with former county school board member Harold Jean Brown-Williams. Click here for news coverage of the delegation meeting.

    I hope you’ll visit my official House webpage, where you can find bills that I have either sponsored or cosponsored, view my voting record, search for bills, and access video feeds of the House sessions and committee meetings.

    I’m thankful for the opportunity to represent District 108 in the House. 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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    Legislative update: News conferences

    Good morning. Here’s a brief update.

    Last week I had the privilege of participating in two news conferences with House Speaker Murrell Smith at the State House.

    On Wednesday, I joined Speaker Smith and my colleagues on the Economic Development and Utility Modernization Ad Hoc Committee at a news conference announcing our bill to streamline the delivery of workforce development.

    While the economy has been booming in South Carolina, improvements are needed concerning workforce and education services to help our economy and tax base growth even further. The committee’s bill creates a “one-stop shop” for businesses and citizens to access these services.

    On Thursday, I again stood alongside Speaker Smith, Majority Leader Davey Hiott, and other members of the House Republican Caucus at a news conference that highlighted some of our recent successes and outlined our legislative agenda.

    The Ways and Means Healthcare Budget Subcommittee I sit on met Wednesday and Thursday to hear budget requests from the SC Dept. of Health and Environmental Control, Dept. of Disabilities and Special Needs, and SC Center for Rural and Primary Healthcare, among others. We’re scheduled to meet again this Tuesday and Wednesday.

    One of the things I enjoy in Columbia is the opportunity to meet people at the State House.

    On Wednesday, I got the opportunity to meet Angel Brabham and Matthew Connelly of Connelly Farms in Allendale County, who were the SC Farm Bureau “Farmers of the Week.” As someone from a farming family, I appreciate their leadership in our very important agriculture industry.

    I wanted you to be aware that SCDHEC’s Ocean and Coastal Resource Management Division is still accepting Emergency Authorization Requests for reconstruction or repair of docks and bulkheads that were damaged by Hurricane Ian. For information on how to apply, click on this link and scroll down to “Emergency General Permits.”

    I’m honored to represent District 108 in the House. 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 new legislative session starts

    Happy New Year! I hope you’re doing well.

    The House of Representatives session began last Tuesday and I wanted to give you an update.

    I’m honored to again serve on the coveted Ways and Means Committee, now as chairman of the Property Tax Subcommittee and as a member of the Healthcare Budget Subcommittee.

    I’m also honored to again serve in the House leadership as a Majority Whip.

    Last Wednesday, I joined the entire General Assembly as we led the procession down the State House steps to witness Gov. Henry McMaster, Lt. Gov. Pamela Evette, and our Constitutional Officers being sworn in for the next four years.

    Gov. McMaster’s Inaugural address commended the General Assembly for passing the largest income tax cut in state history last year, appropriating over $1.5 billion for new infrastructure needs around the state, and ensuring we saved our budget surplus so that we now have the largest rainy-day reserve fund balance in state history.

    Gov. McMaster outlined a bold vision that focuses on education, properly funding law enforcement, and making sure the process of electing judges is transparent and accountable.

    I look forward to working hand in hand with the Governor in making South Carolina a better and safer place to live and to raise a family.

    I believe that the success of our state is dependent on these five pillars of the House Republican Caucus’ agenda for this legislative session:

    *Improve Statewide Economic Development to Ensure Prosperity
    *Reform our Education System so Students are Better Prepared for the Workforce
    *Limit Government by Implementing Fiscal Discipline and Responsibility
    *Increase Personal Freedom and Encourage Conservative Values
    *Prioritize Public Safety and make Law and Order a Top Priority

    I’m committed to introducing and supporting legislation that focuses on each of these pillars.

    Last month I was privileged to be awarded House Legislator of the Year by the SC Farm Bureau.

    It was an honor to receive this award. I grew up in rural South Carolina in a farming family and understand the importance of farms and agriculture to our state. Click here for my video acceptance speech.

    My wife Whitney and I were honored to be in Washington, DC earlier this month for Congressman Russell Fry’s swearing in ceremony. I’m so proud of Russell. He'll be a great Congressman.

    I’m thankful for the opportunity to represent District 108 in the House. 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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    Rep. Lee Hewitt awarded Legislator of the Year by SC Farm Bureau

    The SC Farm Bureau awarded Rep. Lee Hewitt House Legislator of the Year at their annual meeting on December 1st in Myrtle Beach.

    "These awards are presented to individuals who exemplify the insight and effort to support South Carolina farmers and the vast business of agriculture," Farm Bureau President Harry Ott said.

    Click here for Ott's letter to Hewitt.

    "It’s an honor to receive this award. I grew up in rural South Carolina in a farming family and understand the importance of farms and agriculture to our state. My thanks to the Farm Bureau for this very nice award," Hewitt said.

    This is not the first Legislator of the Year award for Rep. Hewitt. In 2018, he was awarded Legislator of the Year by the SC Association of Realtors, the first freshman legislator ever to win the award.

    Hewitt's video acceptance speech of the Farm Bureau award is below. 

     

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    Legislative session ends, budget still being negotiated

    When the clock struck 5 pm this past Thursday, it marked the end of the legislative session for the year.

    Up to the last minute, my colleagues and I fought to push many of our conservative agenda items over the finish line. Our successes this year will make South Carolina a better place to live, work, and raise a family for years to come.

    I recently reported how the Senate killed the House’s strong, bipartisan election reform bill that passed the House unanimously back in March. Thanks to the work of the House leadership and election reform champions, last week the Senate agreed to a bill which included much of the House’s election integrity language, and on Friday, Gov. McMaster signed the bill into law.

    A conference committee was appointed last week to finalize school choice legislation to give thousands of low-income families educational freedom. This legislation aims to provide scholarships to eligible students to put towards tuition, books, transportation, and other school expenses involved in attending the private school of their choice.

    On Tuesday, my colleagues and I approved the Senate's tweaks to a bill that saves women’s sports. This bill requires student athletes to only compete in sports based on their biological gender. The bill will soon be sent to Gov. McMaster for his signature.

    We had to fight again last week for a bill to outlaw Critical Race Theory indoctrination from our classrooms and give parents more insight into what their children are being taught. Unfortunately, our original House bill never made it out of the Senate, so our original language was incorporated into a different Senate Bill and sent back for approval.

    The House will reconvene on June 15th to finalize the state budget and review any gubernatorial vetoes.

    Our budget centered around 4 R’s: increasing reserves, roads and infrastructure, raises for teachers and first responders, and over $1 billion in tax relief. It passed the House and was sent to the Senate, where they developed their own version. Given the differences, the House and Senate will each send three delegates to meet in a conference committee where they will reconcile the differences to write a final budget.

    I hope you have a good week. 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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    Close to the end of the legislative session

    I hope you’re doing well.

    Another week in Columbia has come to an end and we only have three legislative days left until the end of the regular session. This week will be marked by long days on the House floor with a plethora of bills trying to make their way through the legislative process before the end of session.

    In the coming weeks and into the summer, we have the finalization of the budget process to look forward to. Weeks ago, we passed our House version of the budget which focused on the four R’s: Reserves, Raises, Relief, and Roads. The Senate has come up with its own version of the budget which is drastically different from ours. These differences will be reconciled over the summer to ensure that we have an appropriate budget that properly serves the people of South Carolina by our deadline of July 1.

    The House has already passed an impressive state income tax overhaul that restructured our state's convoluted and outdated tax bracket system. It provides significant relief to almost all taxpayers with a focus on relief for the working middle-class. Once fully phased in, this plan will cut over $1 billion in taxes for taxpayers and exempts all military retirement from taxable income.

    Our tax plan differs from that of the Senate. When comparing the two plans, our plan saves more money for more South Carolinians -- period. We’re not focused on just bringing down the top tax rate, but rather, we’re focused on lower rates for the middle-class -- where most South Carolinians find themselves. That’s why last Thursday, as a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, I voted with the committee to strike the Senate language and insert our tax plan, sending it to the floor for a vote.

    The House passed the “Save Women’s Sports Act,” which bans biological men, despite sexual identity, from participating in women’s sports. Upon passage in the House, it was sent to the Senate for approval. The Senate passed the bill with some tweaks, which will soon be back in the House for review. I look forward to supporting this legislation once again to outlaw these dangerous situations in our daughters' locker rooms and sports teams from taking place.

    Last week was Teacher Appreciation Week. Oftentimes, teachers are so much more than educators: they are role models that truly shape the lives of our children. My sincere thanks to all of our teachers for their tireless efforts!

    I hope you have a good week. 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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    Weekly report: Election integrity bill

    Last week in the House of Representatives was highlighted by the retirement of Speaker Jay Lucas and the election of our new Speaker, Murrell Smith.

    Speaker Lucas has been an outstanding leader for the House and very kind to me with a Majority Whip appointment and assignment to the powerful Ways and Means Committee, for which I’m so grateful.

    Speaker-Elect Smith previously served as Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. He will serve our body with a respectful consensus-building manner and will serve South Carolina in a way we will all be proud of.

    The incredibly strong election integrity bill that earned bipartisan support and unanimously passed the House stands to die in the Senate.

    This bill had the support of Gov. McMaster and election officials because of the important guardrails it provides for our election system. Essentially, it makes it easier to vote and harder to cheat in South Carolina.

    In an effort to get election integrity legislation enacted this year, last week my colleagues and I inserted election reform language into eight different bills that will soon pass the House and go back to the Senate. This gives the Senate eight separate chances to vote YES, in favor of election integrity and reform.

    In our Ways and Means Committee meeting, I voted in support of a Senate bill that would create education scholarship accounts for eligible students who would like to attend a private school. These scholarships can be used to pay tuition and other necessary school costs. Most importantly, this bill gives parents more educational choices for their children.

    Speaking of education, on Wednesday I met with the Georgetown County School Board at the State House. I appreciate their efforts to improve educational outcomes in the county.

    Last month, the House unanimously passed a resolution I sponsored to recognize and declare this Tuesday and Wednesday, May 3-4, as "Palmetto Giving Day" in South Carolina.

    The Frances P. Bunnelle Foundation organizes this annual thirty-six hour online giving event that benefits nonprofit organizations in Georgetown County. Many of these organizations have matching donation opportunities during this event that will essentially double your donation.

    For more information about Palmetto Giving Day and to make donations please visit PalmettoGiving Day.org.

    I hope you have a good week. 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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    Three weeks left in the legislative session

    Last week, the House was back in session after some time off for Easter. As we near the end of the legislative session, we’ve been very busy in Columbia.

    In the coming weeks, we should expect long days on the House floor of passing important legislation and finalizing our state budget as it comes back from the Senate. As a reminder, we have just three weeks remaining until the House adjourns for the remainder of the year.

    On Wednesday, after hundreds of amendments and over eight hours of debate, the House voted to outlaw the teaching of critical race theory to keep bias and impartiality out of our schools.

    The "Transparency and Integrity in Education Act'' requires that when our rich history is taught, it is taught without bias and age-appropriately. It requires teachers to teach facts without bias and includes a complaint process for when it is not. It ensures that teachers, school employees, or volunteers will not be required to teach children gender or sexuality diversity training.

    Additionally, we worked hard in committees, reviewing and amending legislation sent over from the Senate. I’m pleased to see the Senate working through several important bills sent to them from the House.

    H. 3144 received a favorable report from a Senate Committee this week. The “South Carolina Workforce Industry Needs Scholarships Act” (SC WINS) provides certain students attending a two-year technical college a state scholarship, given they meet certain eligibility requirements.

    However, I’m disappointed the Senate did not support the election reform and integrity bill that I cosponsored, H. 4919, as passed by the House and supported by Gov. McMaster.

    This bill would ensure that our election system is secure, uniform across the state, and free of voter fraud. Hopefully, the Senate will reconsider amending the bill with unnecessary language that would force Gov. McMaster to veto the bill, killing any chance of election reforms this important election year.

    We need these election safeguards in place as soon as possible.

    I hope you have a good week. 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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    Crossover week

    Last week was crossover week in the legislature, the deadline for when bills must have passed out of the House and have been sent to the Senate to be considered this session through the normal legislative process.

    Any legislation that clears either the House or Senate from this point forward requires a two-thirds majority vote to even be debated by the other body this year, greatly narrowing down bills that can pass both houses this year.

    The “Save Women's Sports Act” passed the House last week. I firmly believe that women should be able to participate in sports with a competitive edge and feel comfortable and safe.

    Despite nearly 1,000 amendments from the Democrats meant to derail the legislation, the House Republicans fought tooth and nail to outlaw the participation of biological men (who identify as women) in women’s sports throughout K-12 education and college. Now, the bill goes to the Senate, where I hope they will support this measure.

    Another hot topic last week was Critical Race Theory, or the curriculum which teaches that people of a certain ethnicity or race should be held responsible or blamed for past oppression of other races.

    A bill to outlaw CRT being taught in South Carolina K-12 schools was debated on the House floor last week and was bogged down with over 200 amendments from the Democrats. When we return after Easter, we will continue the debate on CRT, and I look forward to passing a bill to outlaw the curriculum.

    The House is constantly working to make the lives of those who served our country easier. including lowering their tax burden. This year, we exempt veterans from state income taxes, and this week, we gave third reading to a bill that exempts disabled veterans from property taxes for the year the disability occurs to allow them to get back on their feet.

    I’m appreciative of Gov. McMaster’s op-ed published yesterday in the Post & Courier titled “It’s time for SC to make it easier to vote and harder to cheat in our elections,” in support of election reform and integrity bills passed by the House that I cosponsored. I join Gov. McMaster in the hope the Senate will pass these vital bills.

    The House will be on Easter break until April 19th.

    I hope you have a good week and a happy Easter. 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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