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    Last week in the House

    I hope you’ve had a good week.

    The pandemic has highlighted the urgency of many educational issues. Last week, Gov. McMaster signed a House bill that allows for more “Schools of Innovation'' to arise around the state, giving students more opportunities to succeed. We also sent a bill to the Governor’s desk that allows Palmetto Fellow Scholarship recipients to use their scholarship at a technical college, which is currently not allowed.

    Last week, the Senate had ‘Budget Week’, reviewing, debating, and amending the budget the House sent them a few weeks ago. When the Senate returns their version of the budget back to us, we’ll meet to review their amendments.

    Though this year’s legislative session officially ends on May 13th, the Speaker of the House introduced a Sine Die resolution that schedules us back in the capitol in June to finalize the state budget, review conference committee reports, and assess any vetoes to the budget by the Governor. We will also be back in late Summer/early Fall in an effort to complete our once-a-decade task of redistricting.

    On Thursday the Coastal Observer published a nice editorial supporting my call for in person meetings on the Waccamaw Neck Hwy 17 corridor plan. From the editorial:

    “Don’t get us started talking about the traffic. Of course, there’s nothing Waccamaw Neck residents would rather talk about. State Rep. Lee Hewitt wants to keep us talking, but in a way that is both meaningful and productive...While many people have become comfortable with the virtual meeting format over the past, Rep. Hewitt is right in pointing out that they come up short of providing the level of engagement required.”

    Click here for the full editorial.

    I’m pleased to have sponsored a bill to recognize and declare May 4-5 as Palmetto Giving Day in South Carolina. Palmetto Giving Day is a 36-hour online giving event that provides the community with an opportunity to give back to participating nonprofit organizations in Georgetown County. In order to help qualified nonprofits achieve their goal, the Bunnelle Foundation and others have agreed to match a portion of the donations.

    As we are navigating through the pandemic, these nonprofits need our support. I encourage you to visit PalmettoGivingDay.org to learn more about the event and donate to the charities of your choice.

    It’s an honor 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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    COASTAL OBSERVER: Rep. Hewitt is right seeking in person meetings on Hwy 17 plan

    “While many people have become comfortable with the virtual meeting format over the past, Rep. Hewitt is right in pointing out that they come up short of providing the level of engagement required.”

    More public input would help study

    DON’T GET US STARTED talking about the traffic. Of course, there’s nothing Waccamaw Neck residents would rather talk about. State Rep. Lee Hewitt wants to keep us talking, but in a way that is both meaningful and productive.

    The specific topic is the update to the 2003 study of the Highway 17 corridor on the Waccamaw Neck. It was completed over the past year to include a list of $53.3 million worth of projects proposed for the next 20 years. Those were the topic of a virtual meeting earlier this month, and normally that last round of public review would be the end of the process. These are not normal times. While many people have become comfortable with the virtual meeting format over the past, Rep. Hewitt is right in pointing out that they come up short of providing the level of engagement required. Putting 70 people in a chat room can’t compare with putting them together in an actual room for a conversation.

    The updated corridor study, prepared by the firm AECOM under a contract with the Grand Strand Area Transportation Study, identifies areas of particular concern for traffic flow and safety. It also highlights how traffic planning has changed since 2003. In the original study, widening the highway to six lanes was seen as inevitable. Now, the use of “reduced conflict intersection” design is seen as more effective and economical.

    Raise your hand if you can sketch out a reduced conflict intersection on the back of a napkin so your neighbors can understand what it looks like. The concept was explained well in the virtual meeting, but it deserves a wider audience if it is going to be the foundation for improvements on Highway 17.

    One of the major improvements listed in the 2003 study was the installation of the raised median on Highway 17 through the Pawleys Island business district. It didn’t come up for funding for nearly a decade. When it did, the project drew complaints about both the design and the level of public input. To avoid repeating that scenario, there needs to be both more engagement before the update is formally adopted and ongoing engagement afterward.

    The immediate obstacle isn’t time or interest, but money. The $100,000 contract with AECOM has been completed. The cost of filling in the gap in the process created by the pandemic seems to be a worthy target for some of the $12 million in COVID relief funds Georgetown County expects to receive. It was the county that requested the corridor study update. The county will also have to act to implement its recommendations. The public confidence in and support for the study shouldn’t be a victim of the pandemic.

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    Three weeks left in legislative session

    Just three weeks left in the legislative session.

    This week, several key issues moved quickly in committee. The overall theme of the week was getting our state back to normal on the heels of the pandemic. In the coming weeks, we’ll be spending less time in committee and more time on the House floor, trying to pass all necessary legislation before adjournment on May 13th.

    I was proud to support the COVID Liability Safe Harbor Act, which passed the House, and will soon go to the Governor’s desk. We created retroactive liability protections for health care providers and businesses that follow public health guidance in response to the COVID pandemic.

    My call for more public input via in person meetings on the proposed “improvements” for the Highway 17 corridor through the Waccamaw Neck received news coverage this week. Click here for the news report.

    Some of the recommendations are for additional lanes, closing median openings, eliminating left turns -- forcing U turns, new signals, lane restriping, vegetation maintenance, adaptive signal timing, and adding roundabouts at intersections on major feeder roads. These proposals, if implemented, will significantly impact area residents and businesses.

    A Post & Courier editorial this week praised my efforts to pass a bill that would prohibit SCDHEC from permitting mining or landfills within two miles of a public park or public natural area. The bill is in response to constituent concerns about efforts to expand a mining operation in Awendaw near the Francis Marion National Forest and the Cape Romain Wildlife Refuge. From the editorial:

    “H.3892 represents a positive first step toward updating South Carolina’s rules on where mining operations are allowed; at the very least, the bill should trigger a larger conversation on balancing the benefits of mining with legitimate concerns over environmental degradation and our quality of life.”

    Click here for the full editorial.

    40% of South Carolinians have started the COVID vaccination process. 28% are fully vaccinated. Nearly 2.7 million vaccine doses have been given to South Carolina residents to date. Click here to find a vaccination provider.

    It’s an honor 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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    State House Report

    I hope you’re well. Here’s my legislative update.

    Last Tuesday, the joint House and Senate ad hoc committee to study river flooding in Georgetown and Horry counties met. We heard testimony from Duke Energy and Cube Energy, which have dams in North Carolina that are upstream of our rivers, about water released from the dams and its impact on our area.

    On Wednesday, the House passed a joint resolution that requires all school districts in South Carolina to give an option for 5 days a week, in-person learning by April 26th.

    Ensuring that our children are educated about our Constitution, the Federalist Papers, the Declaration of Independence, and other important American documents is the first step in shaping civically responsible citizens. On Thursday, the House passed a bill that requires students in public high schools, and in some cases, undergraduate students, to study these constitutional documents as a requirement for graduation.

    H. 3939 received a favorable vote in a Judiciary Subcommittee meeting on Thursday morning. This bill extends workers compensation for law enforcement officers in deadly-force situations to PTSD, or other injury caused by stress or mental illness. It is important that we provide officers with these lifesaving resources, so they can safely serve our communities.

    The Vulnerable Adult Maltreatment Registry Act, passed out of a Judiciary Subcommittee on Thursday morning. This act aims to protect our most vulnerable, elderly populations from abuse, neglect, and exploitation. This bill would create a registry for these populations, creating further protections for them in places like nursing homes.

    On Saturday, I had the privilege of speaking at the Georgetown County Republican Party Convention, providing delegates with a legislative update. My congratulations to county GOP chair Karol Anderson and the rest of the party leadership for a very successful convention.

    All South Carolinians age 16 and up are eligible for COVID vaccinations. Click here to find a vaccination provider.

    38% of South Carolinians have started the vaccination process. 24% are fully vaccinated. Nearly 2.5 million vaccine doses have been given to South Carolina residents to date.

    It’s an honor 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 budget bill

    The big news from last week’s legislative session is that the state’s revenue projections, despite the COVID pandemic, are higher than expected and will cause the House to revisit our budget bill.

    The SC Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office released revised revenue estimates that show $1.3 billion in new non-recurring revenue, which includes a $647 million current budget surplus, and $385 million in recurring new general fund revenue.

    The Ways and Means Committee will look at writing a new budget bill that considers some needed state employee pay raises and legitimate state agency needs, while working to eliminate wasteful spending and ensuring a balanced budget.

    The House passed its annual tax conformity bill that puts the state and federal tax codes in line. This is an important bill to ensure that when you go to file your taxes, our state rules match those of the federal government.

    This year we had a very large amount of people file for unemployment in SC due to the pandemic conditions and shut-down. This bill exempts the first $10,000 of benefits these folks received from state tax income, ensuring that they are not penalized for the hardships they involuntarily faced.

    Last Thursday was crossover day in the legislature. Any legislation that clears either the House or Senate after crossover day 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.

    House Speaker Jay Lucas appointed me to serve on a joint House and Senate ad hoc committee to study river flooding in Georgetown and Horry counties caused by Duke Energy dam released water. The committee will hold its first meeting this Tuesday.

    The Georgetown County Legislative Delegation (comprised of Sen. Stephen Goldfinch, Sen. Ronnie Sabb, Rep. Carl Anderson and myself) met last Monday to make appointment recommendations to Gov. McMaster for various county boards and commissions.

    All South Carolinians age 16 and up are eligible for COVID vaccinations. Click here to find a vaccination provider.

    34.5% of South Carolinians have started the vaccination process. 20% are fully vaccinated. 2,169,505 vaccines have been given to South Carolina residents to date.

    It’s an honor 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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    Local issues

    I wish you a happy Easter weekend.

    This was furlough week for the House of Representatives, so no trip to Columbia for me. It was a great opportunity this week to meet and talk with constituents in the district.

    A looming issue for the Waccamaw Neck is the Highway 17 corridor and how to improve it to handle increases in traffic. Last Thursday, I participated in an important virtual meeting held by the Grand Strand Area Transportation Study (GSATS) to present the results of a draft corridor study and to take public comments. Click here for news coverage.

    This portion of Highway 17 is currently servicing 30,500 to 47,000 vehicles per day and is expected to serve up to nearly 72,000 vehicles per day by 2040.

    Some of the recommendations are additional lanes, closing median openings, eliminating left turns -- forcing U turns, new signals, lane restriping, vegetation maintenance, adaptive signal timing, and adding roundabouts at intersections on major feeder roads.

    I urge you to click here to review the corridor study information and let GSATS (I’m on the policy committee) know your concerns. Send comments on the Draft Highway 17 Corridor Study to [email protected]. The deadline for comments is this Friday, April 9th.

    The Georgetown County Legislative Delegation meeting that was scheduled for last Monday was cancelled and is now scheduled for noon this Monday, April 5th, at the Howard Auditorium located at 1610 Hawkins Street in Georgetown.

    The delegation (comprised of Sen. Stephen Goldfinch, Sen. Ronnie Sabb, Rep. Carl Anderson and myself) will meet to discuss appointments to various county boards and commissions, such as the Board of Elections, Transportation Committee, Water and Sewer District Board, and Murrells Inlet-Garden City Fire District Board. The meeting is open to the public.

    All South Carolinians age 16 and up are eligible for COVID vaccinations. Click here to find a vaccination provider.

    30.5% of South Carolinians have started the vaccination process. 16.5% are fully vaccinated. 1,880,362 vaccines have been given to South Carolina residents to date.

    On Tuesday, the House starts the second half of the legislative session. I anticipate a busy week starting with a Ways and Means Committee meeting on Tuesday.

    It’s an honor 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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    Budget votes and meetings

    This week, the House of Representatives took up the 2021-2022 state budget. I’m happy to report that this may be the most conservative budget yet.

    In short, this budget funds only necessary government services while recognizing that we are still in uncertain pandemic conditions. Although we expect state revenue to go up (as COVID-19 cases continue to fall), we cannot bank on that quite yet… and as such, we must be prepared by being conservative with our state’s resources.

    After hours of debate and casting 220 votes, the House passed a balanced budget that prioritizes a renewed dedication to improving education, funding resources for law enforcement, and expanding broadband internet access.

    The House will not meet next week. This gives us a week off - time to be back in our districts, regroup and refocus after an intense 11 weeks of session. By furloughing next week, we’ll save taxpayers over $50,000.

    This Monday, March 29th at 2 pm the Georgetown County Legislative Delegation (comprised of Sen. Stephen Goldfinch, Sen. Ronnie Sabb, Rep. Carl Anderson and myself) will meet to discuss appointments to various county boards and commissions, such as the Board of Elections, Transportation Committee, Water and Sewer District Board, and Murrells Inlet-Garden City Fire District Board. The meeting is at the Goldfinch Winslow Law Firm, 1119 Ocean Hwy, Pawleys Island. The public is welcome to attend.

    There will be an important virtual public meeting this Thursday, April 1st at 6 pm to present the findings of the Draft US 17 Corridor Study in Georgetown County and receive comments. The project study area covers the Waccamaw Neck area of Georgetown County from the Waccamaw River bridge to the Horry County line. Among other recommendations, this Grand Strand Area Transportation Study project is recommending widening Highway 17 to six lanes from Bellamy Avenue in Murrells Inlet north to Myrtle Beach.

    Click here for the link to the Zoom meeting.
    Click here for the corridor study and supporting materials.
    Comments can also be sent to: [email protected]

    This Wednesday, March 31st, all South Carolinians aged 16 and up are eligible for COVID vaccinations. Click here to find a vaccination provider.

    26.4% of South Carolina citizens have started the vaccination process. 14.2% are fully vaccinated. 1,629,77 vaccines have been given to South Carolina residents.

    It’s an honor 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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    Ways and Means Committee work

    I hope you’re doing well.

    This week, the House Ways and Means Committee I serve on was busy considering a lot of legislation.

    On Wednesday, the Property Tax Subcommittee met to consider bills to provide property tax exemptions for manufacturers and renewable energy resource properties. We also considered a bill concerning property tax installment payments.

    The full Ways and Means Committee met on Thursday to consider 14 bills, ranging from tax issues and S.C. Workforce Industry Needs Scholarships to abandoned building revitalization.

    On Tuesday, the bill I cosponsored to address the sustainability of our important flounder fishery, H. 3957, passed the House by a vote of 106 to 3. The legislation is an effort to rebuild the depleted flounder stock, while keeping the fishery open year-round. The bill, supported by SCDNR, now goes to the Senate for consideration. Click here for Coastal Conservation Association praise of the bill.

    A House Judiciary subcommittee passed S. 147, legislation that protects businesses operating in accordance with health guidelines from liability associated with COVID. This legislation is very important to the business community and helps us get South Carolina back to work.

    Next week is budget week in the House. We’ll meet for four days, usually running into the late evening hours, debating and voting on the state budget for 2012-2022.

    The budget will be built on the foundation of protecting taxpayers, a renewed commitment to being resourceful and efficient, funding core functions of state government, and providing value for every dollar we spend. There is also a new sense of awareness and preparedness for disasters, whether we face a weather-related natural disaster or health emergency.

    South Carolina is still in phase 1B of the COVID vaccination process. Click here to find out if you qualify for a vaccine. Click here to find a vaccination provider.

    23.1% of South Carolina citizens have started the vaccination process. 12.8% are fully vaccinated. 1,451,957 vaccines have been given to South Carolina residents.

    It’s an honor 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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    Votes this week

    This week, I voted in favor of legislation, H. 3444, regarding our state's election laws. This legislation has two goals: one, to maintain the integrity of each and every vote cast, and two, to ensure elections are run consistently across the state. After the elections of 2020, it became clear that there were discrepancies in the way each county handled votes. Simply put, we learned that counties were employing inconsistent processes, which is unacceptable.

    I voted for the Religious Freedom Act, legislation that reinforces our First Amendment Right to worship, even during a State of Emergency. It deems religious services essential and protects our ability to worship in times of crisis when we need it most.

    On Thursday, the House Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs Committee approved the bill, H. 3957, I cosponsored to address the sustainability of our important flounder fishery. The bill should hit the House floor for a vote very soon.

    This week, our state began the transition into Phase 1B, which makes a new group of individuals eligible for the COVID-19 vaccination: people 55 and older, teachers, law enforcement personnel, store clerks, and other at-risk individuals. Click here to locate a vaccine provider.

    As of March 11th, 1,244,565 doses of the vaccine have been administered in the state.

    In response to concerns about the poor surface condition of the Sampit River bridge in Georgetown, I contacted SCDOT Director Christy Hall to get the bridge assessed and repaired. SCDOT engineers found no structural issues. Surface repairs will take place as soon as possible.

    Here’s the link to my official House webpage, where you can find the 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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    Budget work

    This week, the House Ways and Means Committee I serve on worked diligently to craft a 2021-2022 state budget. The committee unanimously passed a conservative budget bill that will likely hit the House floor the week of March 22nd for debate. We took into consideration the recommendations made in Gov. McMaster’s executive budget that focus on COVID relief, pay raises for law enforcement and rebuilding our state’s reserve fund.

    The budget bill recognizes the uncertainties caused by the pandemic. It also invests millions of dollars in K-12 education and our state’s struggling hospitality industry to recover from devastating COVID impacts.

    On Wednesday, I presented the bill I cosponsored to address the sustainability of our important flounder fishery, H. 3957, to the House Wildlife Subcommittee. The bill is an effort to rebuild the depleted flounder stock, while keeping the fishery open year-round. It reduces the daily bag limit to five fish per person (ten per boat) and creates a slot size limit of 16 to 20 inches with an allowance for one “trophy fish” over 20 inches per person (two per boat maximum).

    The bill was passed out of the subcommittee with a favorable report and now heads to the full House Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Environmental Affairs Committee for consideration.

    This week, the Governor announced that starting this Monday, March 8th, the following groups may schedule an appointment to receive their COVID vaccine:

    *Anyone over the age of 55.

    *People 16 and over who have a high-risk medical condition.

    *Teachers, store clerks, law enforcement and other frontline jobs that put an individual within 6 ft of other people for more than 15 minutes.

    Click here to locate a vaccine provider.

    As of March 4th, over 995,309 doses of the COVID vaccination have been given in South Carolina. This is due to the hard work and sacrifice made by volunteers, medical professionals, the National Guard, and many other folks in our state. I’m proud and thankful for the progress we continue to make and the fellowship our state has shown during these tough times.

    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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