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    Another busy week

    I hope all is well. Here’s my legislative report for the week.

    On Monday, I was privileged to participate in the East Cooper Republican Club’s State of the State legislative panel, where area legislators provide an update on legislation and important issues and take questions. It was a great opportunity to hear from Charleston County constituents.

    This week, the House Ways and Means Economic Development Subcommittee I sit on met to consider legislation I cosponsored that would authorize the use of funds from the Emergency Rental Assistance Program and determine how the funds would be distributed to eligible renters. This U.S. Dept. of Treasury program makes available $25 billion to states to assist households that are unable to pay rent and utilities due to the COVID pandemic.

    There were a series of bills in the House Judiciary Committee to reform the election system in our state. Currently, our state’s election process is a confusing patchwork – each region of our state has a unique system and there is no central authority to cover the cracks and holes that exist in the system. These bills aim to streamline and structure our state’s election system, preserving the integrity of every citizen’s vote.

    During the nationwide shutdowns of the COVID pandemic, churchgoers of all religions were denied the ability to gather and worship. We deserve the right to make that decision within our religious bodies. The South Carolina Religious Freedoms Act that was introduced this week, protects the right to hold religious services, even during a state of emergency.

    This week, a legislative oversight committee met with leaders from SCDHEC, MUSC and Prisma Hospital systems on COVID vaccinations. The meeting allowed members to get a pulse on where we are, where we are going, and how we can better work together to vaccinate South Carolina. Clearly, our state is still not getting its fair share of the vaccine.

    Currently, frontline healthcare workers and anyone 65 or older is eligible to receive the vaccine. Click here to find a vaccine location near you.

    Click here to see the flow chart of future vaccine eligibility based on the availability of vaccine.

    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 report

    I hope you’re doing well. Here’s my legislative update for the week.

    The focus of the House of Representatives, now and over the next several weeks, is on improving education, reviewing and restructuring the Governor’s powers, and developing a fiscally sound state budget.

    On Monday, I was privileged to attend the South Carolina Beach Advocates’ annual meeting on the Isle of Palms. I participated in a panel of legislators to provide the group with a legislative update and outlook for our beaches. My thanks to Senator Stephen Goldfinch and Representatives Joe Bustos and Spenser Wetmore for their participation in the panel.

    I very much appreciate the efforts of SC Beach Advocates to educate the public, governmental authorities, and elected officials as to the environmental, economic, and social impact of our beaches and inlets.

    Thank you to the frontline workers and healthcare professionals for their hard work and dedication in performing COVID vaccinations.

    Here are some recent updates and developments concerning vaccinations:

    • As of February 8th, people aged 65+ began receiving the COVID-19 vaccination. Click here to make an appointment.

    • On February 10th, 17 CVS Pharmacies throughout the state began offering over 15,000 COVID vaccinations to eligible individuals. Click here for the CVS locations and to make an appointment.

    • To date, SC has received 970,250 vaccinations from the Federal government; 548,214 have been given.

    On Thursday, Deborah Whelan, a Pawleys Island constituent, was recognized by the Global Alzheimer’s Platform Foundation with the National Citizen Scientist Champion Award for her commitment to Alzheimer’s research. I sponsored a House resolution that passed unanimously honoring Deborah for her very impressive efforts in fighting this terrible disease. Click here for the resolution.

    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 report: Progress on COVID and Education

    We’re a month into the 2021 legislative session and progress is being made in fighting COVID.

    As of February 2nd, South Carolina ranks 5th in the nation in completed vaccinations. This is attributed to the hard work and collaboration of frontline workers, healthcare professionals, DHEC, and the Governor. Despite the hard work we have seen, we still have room to improve.

    Starting this Monday, February 8th, any South Carolina resident age 65 or older can begin scheduling their appointment to receive the COVID vaccine. Click here for more information.

    It was announced this week that 17 South Carolina CVS Pharmacies will be offering over 15,000 COVID vaccinations to eligible individuals beginning February 11th. Appointments will be available as early as February 9th. Click here to find a location near you.

    As of Thursday, 777,250 vaccinations have been received for distribution from the federal government; 439,888 vaccinations have been put in arms.

    Education improvement remains a top priority. Since the beginning of the pandemic, it has been a challenge for educators, parents, and students. This has also brought many areas of weakness in education to our attention.

    Last year, we began an overhaul of education with a few large bills. This year, we’re breaking down the bills. Through this, I’m hopeful that more legislation will pass, and we can get students to where they need to be. This week I was proud to vote in favor of legislation that does the following:

    • Reduces the amount of literacy screening and testing for Kindergarten-3rd grade.
    • Revises the criteria for retention ensuring students are reading on grade level before promotion.
    • Provides reading and literacy coaches to schools who have below average achievement in English/Language arts.
    • Establishes “Schools of Innovation” in multiple South Carolina school districts to allow for more flexible models.

    On Tuesday, the House Ways and Means Economic Development Budget Subcommittee I sit on met to hear budget requests from state agencies. I approach these meetings by keeping the interests of taxpayers at the forefront to ensure state spending is cost effective and not wasteful.

    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

    The House of Representatives reconvened this week in Columbia after a week of virtual meetings. Progress was made on improving the expediency and transparency behind the COVID vaccination process, resolving the issue of Santee Cooper, and improving education and teacher pay.

    This week, I voted in favor of a $208 million COVID relief bill, appropriating $63 million to DHEC, $45 million to MUSC and $100 million to establish the COVID Vaccine Reserve account to offset the costs associated with administering the vaccine. Additionally, the House unanimously passed a bill that would allow qualified personnel such as South Carolina-licensed Advanced Practice Registered Nurses, Physician Assistants, and Registered Nurses to administer the COVID vaccine.

    This week Becker’s Hospital Review, a national healthcare information forum, released a report showing South Carolina ranks 10th in the nation for how quickly the state is vaccinating people for COVID.

    Now, SC just needs to get its fair share of the vaccine -- SC’s vaccine allocation is 61% below the national average. I’ve joined with other state legislators representing Horry and Georgetown counties to pushed our federal representatives to help South Carolina get its fair share of COVID vaccine.

    Click here for a news report about the effort.

    On January 22nd, I had the opportunity to tour the Tidelands Health COVID vaccination clinic in Murrells Inlet. My thanks to Tidelands, especially the frontline medical providers, for their impressive efforts to expedite vaccinations.

    The House passed a bill to put state-owned Santee Cooper back up for sale in an effort to get a better offer, while at the same time mandating needed reforms for this troubled and heavily in debt utility.

    I proudly supported a bill to appropriate $9 million in one-time, surplus funds to address some of the funding shortfalls being experienced by the State's public charter schools due to increased enrollment in 2020-21. I also voted to restore Teacher Pay Step Increases, retroactively awarding $50 million in step increases for the 2020-21 school year-- a significant step in the right direction as we work to raise our teacher pay above the national average.

    I wanted to make sure you had this 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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    Horry, Georgetown legislators seek federal help resolving state’s COVID vaccine shortage

    SC’s vaccine allocation 61% below national average

    CONWAY – State legislators representing Horry and Georgetown counties Friday pushed federal representatives to help South Carolina get its fair share of COVID vaccine, citing Center for Disease Control numbers showing the state is getting 61 percent less vaccine than the national average.

    Sixteen legislators from the Horry and Georgetown County legislative delegations signed identical letters to U.S. Senators Lindsay Graham and Tim Scott and Congressman Tom Rice that said, “While we understand that the entire country is competing for the vaccines, South Carolina’s allocation of vaccine doses is only 28 doses per 1,000 by the CDC, while the overall country average is 46 doses per 1,000. This is not acceptable, and it will continue to cause our vaccine supply to be gridlocked.”

    Click here for the letters.

    Legislators point out the new record high COVID cases and positivity rates for the state, stating, “we anticipate those numbers to continue to rise and we are very concerned for our constituents.”

    “We are seeking your assistance in helping our communities and others statewide to receive more vaccine doses so that our medical professionals can vaccinate more South Carolinians more efficiently and effectively,” the legislators said. “The sooner we can receive more doses, the earlier our communities can begin to heal from this agonizing pandemic and our economy can bounce back quicker as well.”

    On Thursday, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control and the S.C. Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation issued a joint order expanding the number of medical professionals who may administer COVID-19 vaccine to include retired nurses and medical students with appropriate training.

    “While we applaud this major effort, South Carolina is simply not receiving enough vaccine doses to make this a reality,” the legislators wrote. “We have spoken with many of our local hospitals and health care workers who are more than ready and prepared to administer more vaccines, but they simply do not have it.”

    Horry County legislators who signed the letter are Senators Greg Hembree, Luke Rankin and Kent Williams, and Representatives Lucas Atkinson, William Bailey, Case Brittain, Heather Ammons Crawford, Russell Fry, Kevin Hardee, Jackie Hayes, Jeffery Johnson, and Tim McGinnis.

    Georgetown County signers are Senators Stephen Goldfinch and Ronnie Sabb and Representatives Carl Anderson and Lee Hewitt.

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    A new House of Representatives session

    I hope you’re doing well.

    The 2021 session of the SC House of Representatives started on Tuesday.

    I was pleased to be reappointed to a House leadership position, as a Majority Whip, and especially honored to be appointed by House Speaker Jay Lucas to a coveted seat on the House Ways and Means Committee.

    So far, over 900 bills have been prefiled and many were introduced this week. Here are some of the bills I’ve refiled from the last session:

    H 3430: Makes it illegal to lure a child into a vehicle using things like candy or puppies. Surprisingly, this is not already a crime in South Carolina.

    H 3368: Vastly expedites the regulation of synthetic opioids or “designer drugs” by the S.C. Dept. of Health and Environmental Control. My bill would allow the SCDHEC Director to immediately list it, allowing law enforcement to immediately crack down on its sale.

    H 3429: Makes entering into anyone’s dwelling, during a declared state of emergency, an upgraded charge of felony burglary in the first degree. This is in response to break-ins that occurred in the district during evacuation orders.

    I was pleased with Gov. McMaster’s State of the State address on Wednesday. I joined him in praying for and honoring the members of law enforcement that we have lost this year and thanking the many frontline workers who have made huge sacrifices during the COVID-19 pandemic.

    The Governor spoke about the goal of having students back in the classroom five days a week as soon as possible, expanding broadband internet to rural areas, better law enforcement funding and putting an end to the corruption behind Santee Cooper.

    On Wednesday, COVID vaccinations began for those 70 or older. You can find a location to receive the vaccine through this online locator tool: www.scdhec.gov/vaxlocator or by calling the DHEC Care Line at (855) 472-3432.

    I know Tidelands Health in our area is working diligently to do what is necessary to bring in extra staff and equipment to speed vaccinations. However, a major issue is a vaccine shortage in South Carolina, which is slowing vaccinations.

    Our state is not getting its fair share of the vaccine. South Carolina’s allocation of vaccine doses is only 28 doses per 1,000, while the overall country average is 46 doses per 1,000. That’s just not acceptable.

    Myself and other local legislators are reaching out to U.S. Senators Lindsay Graham and Tim Scott and Congressman Tom Rice for immediate assistance in solving this very critical problem that imperils lives.

    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

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    Hewitt named a 2020 Clean Energy Champion

    Rep. Lee Hewitt was named a 2020 Clean Energy Champion by Conservatives for a Clean Energy Future, a national nonprofit focused on advancing state-based clean energy policy solutions.

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    Special session

    I hope you’re doing well.

    This week the House of Representatives worked to finish the second week of the special session and the final legislative session of the year. We worked closely with the Senate and Gov. McMaster to ensure necessary COVID relief funds were passed.

    Three bills I cosponsored passed this week:

    H. 4431: Business License Tax Reform
    This long overdue legislation reforms the way businesses are taxed and allows business owners tax relief while creating a more standardized application process.

    H. 3780: The Broadband Accessibility Act
    This bill helps expand broadband internet access in rural communities via the state’s electric cooperatives, allowing crucial access to virtual school, job training, and telemedicine.

    S. 1071: Firefighter Cancer Healthcare Benefit Plan
    This bill will help cover insurance for firefighters if they are diagnosed with cancer. Before this legislation, South Carolina was one of the few states that did not provide this support to firefighters.

    This week, the House met with the Senate one last time to finalize spending details for the second round of the federal COVID relief funds for South Carolina. The largest portion of the funds, $420 million, will be used to replenish the state unemployment fund, which has been largely depleted since March.

    When the pandemic forced the session to a screeching halt in mid-March, it also stopped much of our legislative agenda from moving forward. This agenda included massive education reform, the fate of Santee Cooper, and of course the 2020-2021 budget that included among other things raises for teachers. I am hopeful that starting in January we will be able to accomplish everything we had to set aside this year.

    Just a reminder that the November 3rd election is just around the corner. Absentee voting by mail or in-person is available. In-person absentee voting starts on October 5th.

    Click here for how to vote absentee.

    Click here to check your voter registration including the location of your polling place.

    I hope this information is helpful. Your vote is very important.

    It’s an honor to represent District 108. Please let me know if I can be of any assistance.

    Rep. Lee Hewitt

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    Hewitt takes Police Pledge to oppose efforts to defund law enforcement

    On September 5th, Rep. Lee Hewitt took the Heritage Action Police Pledge that he stands with America’s Police and pledges to oppose any bill, resolution, or movement to "Defund the Police."

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    Legislative report

    I hope you’re doing well and staying safe during this COVID-19 crisis. I wanted to give you a legislative update.

    On Wednesday the House went back into session and approved a Senate plan for how to allocate $1.2 billion in federal COVID-19 relief funds. About $500 million will be used to reimburse the unemployment benefits trust fund, $227 million to bolster K-12 educational efforts, $220 million to reimburse local governments for eligible COVID-19 expenditures, and $42 million for statewide testing and monitoring.

    Last month, I was privileged to be appointed by House Speaker Jay Lucas to the House COVID-19 Liability Protection Review Committee for the purpose of reviewing potential legislation for liability protections for businesses from COVID-19 claims. Based on information from the committee meeting, on Wednesday I cosponsored legislation, H. 5527, that would shield businesses from such liability claims.

    However, the legislation excludes protections for businesses that are “bad actors” if their conduct is intentional or reckless, and the business did not attempt to follow public health guidelines.

    Also, on Wednesday a resolution I sponsored, H. 5500, declaring August 31st as Drug Overdose Awareness Day in South Carolina, passed unanimously. The declaration is in conjunction with International Overdose Awareness Day – a day to stimulate discussion in order to educate communities about overdose prevention and provide information on the range of support services and resources that exist in our communities.

    This will be the first July 4th in 37 years without the Murrells Inlet Boat Parade. As a parade co-chair, it was a very difficult decision to cancel the parade as a safety precaution due to the recent spike in COVID-19 cases. Boaters, however, are still encouraged to show their patriotism while they practice social distancing and enjoy the inlet in celebration of Independence Day.

    To benefit the Belin United Methodist Church Boy Scout Troop 396, T-shirts are still available for purchase, $10 each, at the Conway National Bank (Murrells Inlet branch), Lee's Inlet Apothecary, and Murrells Inlet Moose Lodge.

    Stay safe from COVID-19: practice social distancing, and when possible, wear a mask in public spaces.

    It's a privilege to represent District 108 in the House. If you have any comments, questions, or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me.

    Rep. Lee Hewitt

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