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.


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


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


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


Unopposed for reelection

Hewitt_-_well__large_FB_copy.pngI wanted you to know that the filing period for office ended at noon on Monday and I’m unopposed going into the November election. I’m so thankful for all of the supporters who made this possible!

The campaign is far from over. Work still needs to be done to ensure a good turnout in November and there is always the possibility of petition or write-in candidates. I’m going to continue reaching out to voters and listening to their concerns.

I ask for your continued support and prayers as the reelection campaign moves forward.

The General Assembly remains out of session until it’s safe to meet again.

The state's focus has turned from the budget, education reform, debt-ridden Santee Cooper and many other important issues to managing the spread and impact of a highly contagious virus. President Trump, Governor McMaster and their respective teams are working around the clock to respond to the nation's healthcare needs and to map out a plan to get us back to our jobs, schools, friends and families.

The reality is that this situation is fluid and requires creativity, ingenuity, and an "all hands-on deck" approach that I have seen firsthand throughout this pandemic.

I encourage you to visit this page on my website devoted to information on the COVID-19 response efforts: www.hewittforhouse.com/covid_19_resources

Let’s thank the doctors and nurses on the front lines and practice social distancing by staying at home to limit the spread of this virus. Together, we will win this battle.

I will continue to monitor this situation closely and will keep you informed as developments arise. If you have any comments, questions, or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Rep. Lee Hewitt

Please click here to donate to my reelection campaign.


Rep. Lee Hewitt files for reelection to state House 108 seat

MURRELLS INLET – Republican Rep. Lee Hewitt Monday officially filed for reelection to the S.C. House District 108 seat.

“Serving in the state House of Representatives is a real privilege and I’m hopeful district voters will send me back for another term,” Hewitt said. “I’ve been blessed with an outpouring of support and will continue working hard in Columbia representing the district.”

The filing period for candidates opened Monday and will close at noon on March 30th.

“I will continue to fight for low taxes, better roads, the best education for our children, more jobs, and to protect our natural resources,” Hewitt said. “I share the conservative values of the district and will continue working hard to earn the support of Georgetown and Charleston County voters.”

Hewitt, 59, was first elected in 2016. He is a House Majority Whip and serves on the Labor, Commerce and Industry, Legislative Oversight, and Opioid Abuse Prevention Study committees.

Hewitt has lived in Murrells Inlet for 40 years. He is owner of Garden City Realty and has served as President of the Coastal Carolina Association of Realtors and on the board of the state Association of Realtors.

In 2014, Hewitt was appointed by Gov. Nikki Haley to the SC Department of Health and Environmental Control Board of Directors.

Hewitt has served as chairman of the Georgetown County Planning Commission and Board of Zoning Appeals and on the Georgetown County Comprehensive Land Use Plan Committee, Grand Strand Area Transportation Committee, and the Southern Evacuation Lifeline Road Task Force.

Hewitt is a charter member of the Murrells Inlet Rotary Club and a founder and current Co-Chairman of the Murrells Inlet 4th of July Boat Parade.

He is a 1982 graduate of the University of South Carolina - Coastal with a bachelor’s degree in business administration.

Hewitt is an active member of Belin Memorial United Methodist Church. He and his wife, Whitney, have two sons.

Hewitt’s campaign website is HewittForHouse.com.

House District 108 includes all of coastal Georgetown County, except for the city of Georgetown, and the northern coastal portion of Charleston County to Mt. Pleasant.


Weekly report: Coronavirus, Santee Cooper

I wanted you to know that last night the SC Dept. of Health and Environmental Control reported that two patients in South Carolina have been diagnosed with the coronavirus. The women are located in Charleston and Kershaw counties.

Gov. McMaster held a news conference this morning about the outbreak. This is a time for concern, not panic. I urge you to learn more about the virus and its prevention by visiting this SCDHEC webpage.

Additionally, MUSC Health is providing FREE telehealth coronavirus screening to ALL South Carolinians. If you are experiencing symptoms you can click here and be screened without having to leave your home. Just enter promo code COVID19.

The week began with a huge development for the future of debt-ridden state-owned utility Santee Cooper. I encourage you to read House Speaker Jay Lucas's op-ed in the Post & Courier that summarizes how the House is working towards making the best decision for ratepayers and taxpayers.

The House Ways and Means Committee voted 19-3 to go forward with the two parallel paths, one that includes negotiating with NextEra to purchase Santee Cooper, and one that includes significant governance reform for Santee Cooper. It's a move that would create more time for a sale to be negotiated and NextEra representatives said they are willing to negotiate a better deal.

After eight weeks of debate and over 300 amendments, the Senate finally passed their education reform legislation. It addresses many of the same issues which were covered in the education reform legislation I voted for last year. I look forward to the upcoming debate on this bill in the House.

We passed a bill that would close a current loophole for inmates on death row. Currently, state law allows death-row inmates to pick lethal injection or electrocution, but mandates using lethal injection if inmates don’t make a choice. Manufacturers of the lethal injection drugs have stopped selling them to prisons so this bill fixes the loophole by making the electric chair the default method.

Next week is budget week in the House. We’ll be working hard to pass a fiscally conservative budget.

It’s a privilege to serve District 108 in the House of Representatives! Please let me know if I can be of any assistance.

Rep. Lee Hewitt

Please click here to donate to my reelection campaign.


Budget

It was another busy week at the State House with a lot of behind-the-scenes work as we debated in committees the state budget, Santee Cooper, education, opioid abuse, and a host of other important issues.

The House Ways and Means Committee passed a proposed budget out of committee, which mirrored Gov. McMaster’s priorities.

Here are some of the budget highlights:

*$128 million will be refunded directly to taxpayers with an income tax credit

*Funds to bring the total reserve fund to almost $800 million in case of recession or natural disaster

*$120 million devoted to lowering the income tax rate below 7%

*$213 million for an across-the-board pay raise for teachers, ranking SC in top 25 for teacher pay

*$40 million to provide merit pay raises for state employees

*$165 million to ensure college tuition rates are frozen so that college is more affordable for in-state students

The full House will take up the budget the week of March 9th.

The Labor, Commerce and Industry Committee unanimously passed the business license reform bill, H. 4431, I cosponsored that streamlines the process of obtaining business licenses from all the jurisdictions that require them.

The bill establishes a standard application and renewal date, and a single website for payments.

I was pleased to meet with Georgetown County Probate Judge Leigh Powers Boan at the State House where we had an opportunity to talk about issues affecting the court. I’m proud that Leigh has been elected president of the S.C. Association of Probate Judges in just her first term in office.

Next week promises to be very busy with more committee meetings, including House Ways and Means Committee hearings on what to do with debt-ridden state-owned utility Santee Cooper.

It’s an honor to represent District 108 in the House of Representatives! Please let me know if I can be of assistance.

Rep. Lee Hewitt

Please click here to donate to my reelection campaign.