A busy week

One of the highlights of being in the state House is the ability to help recognize and honor constituents who have made an impact on our community.

Monday evening was one of those times when Rep. Russell Fry, Sen. Stephen Goldfinch and I had the pleasure of presenting Murrells Inlet-Garden City Fire District board member Wesley Gordon with a resolution passed by the General Assembly honoring him for his over 50 years of service on the board.

Wesley was a founding member of the fire district in 1966. Under his leadership the district has one of the best ISO fire protection ratings (top 3 percent) in the nation, which we can all be proud of. Congratulations to Wesley Gordon for a well deserved honor.

On Tuesday, after hearing from a lot of concerned fishermen, I cosponsored a House resolution, H. 3856, opposing the privatization of our federal fishery resources through “catch share” fishery management, which gives individuals and corporations ownership of commercial fisheries based on catch history. Catch shares can be bought and sold like stock shares on Wall Street.

Click here for news coverage of the resolution.

Catch shares hurt fishermen and fishing communities by putting access to fishery resources in the hands of just a few large shareholders, forcing most fishermen to either pay the large shareholders for the right to fish or stop fishing. Click here for an investigative report into the Gulf of Mexico red snapper catch share program in which just 50 businesses and individuals own 81 percent of the fishery.

Fishery regulators in the South Atlantic are considering snapper-grouper catch share management that would impact South Carolina and District 108, so I think it’s important to stand up for our fishing jobs by opposing catch shares.

Also on Tuesday, I voted for a state pension reform bill that passed 99-14, which would help put the pension plan back on solid financial footing after incurring a $20 billion shortfall through mismanagement. Follow up legislation will consider changing the system from a defined benefit plan to a defined contribution plan, like a 401(k) investment plan.

On Wednesday, I voted for the gas tax road infrastructure bill, which passed 97 to 18, after a portion of the tax increase was designated for County Transportation Committees to help upgrade our local roads and Georgetown County remained a “recipient” gas tax county under the bill. When fully implemented, it’s estimated the legislation will provide Georgetown County with over $1 million a year in extra CTC funds.

The average driver will pay about $60 more per year when the tax is fully phased in. It’s estimated that visitors to our state will pay about a third of the tax revenue annually.

In the debate of this bill, I supported an amendment that prevented the diversion of about $38 million per year from educational purposes. I heard from a lot of teachers on this.

Thank you for the privilege of serving in the House. Please let me know if I can be of assistance.

Rep. Lee Hewitt