Strengthening election integrity

It’s been a busy week.

Free, fair, and secure elections strengthen public confidence in electoral institutions and give efficacy and legitimacy to our democracy.

I cosponsored H. 4919 to improve and fortify the integrity of our election system by combating voter fraud and inconsistencies in the way elections are held in each county.

On Wednesday, the bill received full bipartisan support, with a unanimous 114-0 vote.

Here are some of the safeguards, protections and improvements to the election process that are in the bill:

Makes election fraud a felony and creates a SLED hotline to report suspicious activity at the polls.

Requires the witness of every absentee ballot to be verifiable by providing a printed name, signature, and address.

Improves cybersecurity, by ensuring ballot machines will never be connected to the Internet.

Creates an ‘early voting’ system, which extends two weeks before an election for all qualified voters.

Allows absentee ballots to be opened before the election for quicker election results when polls close, but makes disclosing information about results a punishable offense.

It was my pleasure to meet with the Leadership Georgetown County class at the State House this week. Sponsored by the Georgetown County Chamber of Commerce, this great program focuses on leadership development and community awareness and service.

Wednesday was Nurse Practitioner Day at the State House and an opportunity to meet with nurse practitioners from around the state to hear their concerns about their profession and healthcare. I appreciate their dedication to patients and the difficulty of their work during the pandemic.

My thanks to Jon Tester for his kind letter to the editor about my support for including substantial teacher pay raises in the House budget bill. South Carolina is facing an unprecedented teacher shortage, only to be made worse by pandemic conditions. More and more teachers are leaving the profession. These pay raises can help retain teachers.

We’re at about the midpoint of the legislative session and we’ll begin to debate the state budget bill, which contains raises for teachers and law enforcement officers, on the House floor soon.

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.


Raises for law enforcement officers and teachers

Last Wednesday, the tax relief bill I cosponsored passed the House 110-0, which is indicative of a good bill that both Democrats and Republicans supported with a common goal: to make South Carolina a better place to work, live, and raise a family.

The bill cuts taxes in South Carolina by $1 billion, putting $600 million back in the pockets of South Carolinians in the first year.

We were able to lower that effective tax rate to 2.54 percent, with a new simplified two-rate income tax system. Our current system includes 6 different complex and outdated tax brackets, but our plan collapses those brackets into just two rates.

We’ve focused on finding the best ways to use our state’s surplus funds, the federal American Rescue Plan Act funding, and dollars we’ve received for infrastructure projects. Throughout this process, my goal has remained the same -- to provide the best benefit for taxpayers while prioritizing resourcefulness and funding the core functions of state government.

Last week, I voted to designate millions of dollars to improve, expand and repair the condition of our state’s infrastructure, such as roads, highways, interstates, bridges, sewer, and broadband access.

The budget bill incorporates needed raises for law enforcement officers, teachers, and state employees.

It’s imperative that we recruit and retain law enforcement officers. To accomplish this, we’re increasing the base salary by 17 percent, making salaries competitive with local municipalities and surrounding southeastern states.

South Carolina is facing an unprecedented teacher shortage, only to be made worse by pandemic conditions. More and more teachers are leaving the profession, so to help mitigate this, we are increasing the minimum salary across all levels by $4,000 and raising the starting teacher salary from $36,000 to $40,000.

Our state employees have always been a huge asset. They continued to work hard and face the challenges that this pandemic brought. In the budget bill, we have recognized their hard work and dedication by including a 3 percent across the board pay raise -- the largest pay increase in six years – and a $1,500 bonus for all state employees.

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.


Cutting taxes

Happy President’s Day!

Last week, I joined my House Republican colleagues, along with Gov. McMaster, to roll out a plan to cut taxes in South Carolina by $1 billion.

Our economy is booming, with American Rescue Plan Act funds, infrastructure money, and years of conservative planning, we have a historic surplus. Rather than spend this money, we’re returning it to the taxpayers.

The plan puts $600 million back in the pockets of South Carolinians in the first year.

It collapses the 4%, 5%, and 6% brackets into 3% and reduces the top rate to 6.5% this year, and incrementally lowers it over the next 5 years until it hits 6%. Once fully implemented, this plan will decrease the average effective rate taxpayers pay from 3.1% to 2.54%.

We passed an ARPA Funds Appropriations Bill, essentially outlining how we should handle the federal money on its way to South Carolina. We designated these dollars to state agencies for infrastructure improvements in rural and urban areas, including expanding and improving roads, highways, interstates, bridges, sewer, and broadband access. In particular, we are sending over $450 million to SCDOT, who are using the funds to improve roads, interstates, highways, and bridges.

The House Education and Public Works Committee heard hours of testimony last week on a series of bills that prohibit Critical Race Theory from being taught in public schools.

CRT promotes the idea that groups of people, based on sex, race, religion, or other defining characteristics, should take responsibility for historical human rights violations.

I hope you’ll visit my official House webpage by clicking here, 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.


Holding ethics violators accountable

Last week, I cosponsored a bill, H. 3520, that would ban elected officials, who have violated state ethics laws and not paid their fines, from seeking reelection.

It’s wrong for these officials to thumb their noses at paying these fines, some of which are tens of thousands of dollars.

According to a Post & Courier report, there are nearly 400 debtors, many of which currently hold office, that owe nearly $3 million in ethics fines. Sen. Greg Hembree, R-Horry, has sponsored the same bill in the Senate. Tennessee and Missouri have enacted similar laws.

The bill I sponsored, H. 4504, to cap the sales tax on outboard motors at $500 passed the House on Wednesday and heads to the Senate. Currently, you can buy just a boat or a boat and outboard motor together and the sales tax is capped at $500. It just makes good sense that the cap should apply individually to outboards.

An election uniformity and protection bill, H. 3444, I cosponsored was sent back to the House last week, where we amended it to include important reforms to our state election system.

I believe that all votes in all counties should be cast, processed, and counted the same way. This bill provides a streamlined process and necessary oversight. I hope that the Senate will accept our amendment to ensure these protections become law.

Last week, school choice legislation advanced out of the House Ways and Means Committee I sit on. The bill, H. 4879, will provide parents up to $5,000 a year towards the cost of private school, which would be funded by $75 million of the state surplus funds. This 3-year pilot program is a necessary first step in incorporating more parental involvement in our education system.

The Ways and Means Committee also voted to approve a bill that eliminates state income taxes on military retirement.

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.


Free and fair elections

I hope you’re doing well.

Good news for Murrells Inlet and Garden City. Last week the Army Corp of Engineers approved $6.1 million for needed navigational channel dredging. The sand that’s dredged will be pumped to the south end of Garden City to renourish the eroded beach. A real win-win for our area.

Voting in free and fair elections is what sets our American democracy apart and makes our country the greatest in the world. Ensuring that this right is upheld is of utmost importance.

On Thursday, I cosponsored H. 4919, which will make it easier to vote while making it harder for fraudulent votes to be cast. Here’s some of what the bill would do:

This bill repeals the “in-person” absentee voting system, so all absentee ballots would have to be submitted by mail.

Instead, it creates 12 days of “early voting” with an acceptable form of ID, just as voting on Election Day. These early voting locations must be “brick and mortar”, and offer every ballot for that particular election - giving every individual a chance to go vote if voting on election day is not possible.

This bill enforces voter ID requirements when voting absentee, just as they are enforced on Election Day. IDs would mirror what is already in South Carolina law: SCDL, state ID card, passport, military ID, voter registration card with a picture.

Every absentee ballot that is submitted must have the signature of a witness. With this, witnesses would be required to print their name beside their signature and provide an address so their identity can be verified.

Absentee envelopes would be opened prior to Election Day so results are available by the close of polls. To safeguard this, any disclosure of any election-related information before the polls close is a felony.

South Carolina is known for its natural beauty and great hunting. It’s important that we preserve and protect our natural resources and the sport that so many love.

This week, I voted to pass H. 4177, which requires the Dept. of Natural Resources to hire a waterfowl program manager, who would be responsible for the development, protection, and propagation of our natural resources and waterfowl. If passed by the Senate, the bill includes funding to rebuild the important waterfowl impoundment dikes at the Samworth Wildlife Management Area in Georgetown County.

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.


Rep. Lee Hewitt will seek reelection to state House 108 seat

Endorsed by House Speaker Jay Lucas

Hewitt_headshot_copy.jpgMURRELLS INLET – Republican Rep. Lee Hewitt Monday announced that he will seek reelection to the S.C. House District 108 seat and that he has the backing of House Speaker Jay Lucas.

“It’s been a real privilege to serve in the S.C. House of Representatives 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.”

“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.”

“There is no better representative for the people of District 108 than Lee Hewitt,” House Speaker Jay Lucas said. “Since 2017, Lee has been a strong advocate for the issues his constituents care most about: lowering taxes, strengthening our economy and protecting our beautiful coast. A vote for Lee is a vote for an experienced and committed conservative leader.”

“I’m honored and grateful to have the full support of Speaker Lucas,” Hewitt said.

Hewitt said his campaign has nearly $75,000 in the bank.

“We’re on target to fund a very good campaign. I’m grateful for all of our campaign donors who have given very generously,” Hewitt said.

Hewitt, 61, was first elected in 2016. He serves on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee and is a House Majority Whip.

Hewitt has lived in Murrells Inlet for over 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.


State House Report

With the icy conditions, please stay safe on the roads this weekend. My thanks to our hardworking first responders and utility linemen who are out in this difficult weather.

Snow in the Upstate early this week caused the House Speaker to postpone the start of our session to Wednesday. We focused on budget hearings as various state agencies testified before subcommittees to make requests as deliberations begin over the state budget. The budget will make its way to the House floor in March.

The two bills I had up for hearings were passed out of subcommittee. H. 4504 would cap the sales tax on outboard motors and boat trailers at $500 and H. 3892 would prohibit mining or solid waste management facilities within a certain proximity to a public park or public natural area.

Gov. McMaster gave his State of the State speech on Wednesday evening and I was honored to be chosen to be on the Governor’s Escort Committee that accompanied him in his entrance to the House chambers.

Gov. McMaster illustrated the successes of South Carolina in the past year, indicative of what our state can accomplish when we work together. Then he laid out a bold plan for our state.

The Governor introduced many highlights from his executive budget. These are items that he would like to see the House and Senate include when we pass our state budget. I share many of these sentiments and will work hard to include many of the items the Governor suggested, including the expansion and improvement to roads, bridges, highways, and interstates, tax cuts on ALL income tax brackets, a “rainy day” fund for future economic uncertainties, pay raises for teachers, and fully funding law enforcement, public safety, and other first responders.

I share Gov. McMaster’s pride in our state’s booming economy and business-friendly environment, which makes South Carolina the 10th fastest-growing state in America. And thanks to conservative planning and budgeting, we have the largest budget surplus, the largest rainy-day reserve account balance, and the lowest debt in our state’s history.

Next week, the House will continue subcommittee hearings on the budget.

Unfortunately, the Georgetown County Chamber of Commerce had to postpone yesterday’s Legislative Breakfast due to weather and the new date has not yet been set. This annual event features the county legislative delegation of Senators Stephen Goldfinch and Ronnie Sabb and Rep. Carl Anderson and myself talking about issues and legislation and answering questions.

Stay warm and safe. Please let me know if I can be of any assistance.

Rep. Lee Hewitt

Please click here to donate to my reelection campaign.


A new legislative year

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

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

I’m honored to again serve on the Ways and Means Committee and as a Majority Whip.

Every decade, our state leaders work together to redraw our state’s legislative districts to accommodate for population shifts and ensure that everyone in our state is being fairly represented. This week we approved a Congressional redistricting plan, which has been sent to the Senate.

Beyond redistricting, the House Republicans will focus on the following for 2022:

This year, South Carolina will receive several billion Federal dollars. Our job is to figure out how to use it wisely through prioritized conservative budgeting and spending.

I believe in basic Republican principles, and that means keeping taxes low. This year, as we prepare and finalize our state budget, I will vote to cut income taxes.

I am dedicated to passing legislation that creates uniformity and consistency in the way elections are run in the state. Through this, we can be sure to uphold the integrity of every single vote cast in South Carolina.

I am committed to giving parents more choices in how to best educate their children through measures like Education Savings Accounts or Tuition Tax Credits.

Next week will be busy with committee hearings. I have two bills I sponsored up for hearings. H. 4504 would cap the sales tax on outboard motors and boat trailers at $500. Currently, you can buy just a boat or a boat, outboard motor and trailer together and the sales tax is capped at $500. It just makes good sense that the cap should apply individually to outboards and trailers.

H. 3892 would prohibit mining or solid waste management facilities within a certain proximity to a public park or public natural area.

Over the next two weeks the House Ways and Means Economic Development Subcommittee I serve on will be conducting budget hearings.

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.


Accomplishments

I’m pleased that last week the legislature overwhelmingly approved the $2 million I sought for badly needed Murrells Inlet dredging. Many of the channels have silted in and are no longer navigable except at higher tides. Our economy hinges on boating and fishing, which requires navigable channels and good, clean water flow to foster our fisheries.

Please click here for news coverage.

I’m also pleased and thankful for the successful 38th annual Murrells Inlet Boat Parade on July 4th. As a co-chair of the parade, it was great to see outstanding participation and turnout on such a beautiful Independence Day. Over the years, the parade has raised tens of thousands of dollars through T-shirt sales to benefit the local Boy Scout troop. This year nearly 3,000 parade T-shirts were sold.

As the legislative session has ended for the year, I wanted to make you aware of these major accomplishments:

  • Passed the most conservative budget in South Carolina history, funding only the essential functions, while protecting taxpayers and preparing for weather or health-related disasters.
  • Lowered taxes by passing a conformity bill to streamline the state and federal tax code and a bill that allows South Carolina’s small businesses higher tax deductions to be on an equal playing field with big corporations.
  • Passed a bill to ensure elections are run fairly across the state by prescribing a consistent process to ensure elections are uniform across all 46 counties, along with accountability measures.
  • Passed a Santee Cooper Reform Bill that puts in place checks, balances, and guardrails to maximize the utility’s value with the ultimate goal of protecting customers and taxpayers.
  • Worked to improve education by a 75% expansion of the state’s 4-K program and $1,000 raise for every teacher (in addition to a STEP increase) bringing teacher pay in South Carolina above the Southeast average.

While the legislative session has ended, the legislature will reconvene in September to begin work on redistricting, which is required by law every 10 years in conjunction with the census.

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.


Budget effort

I hope you’re doing well.

I wanted you to know that the House of Representatives convened for one of the final times this summer last Monday. We met to review and vote on a conference report from the joint Senate-House Budget Conference Committee, which met to iron out differences between the two chambers’ versions of the state budget for the next fiscal year.

We were able to pass the most conservative budget in South Carolina history. This budget funds only the essential functions of the state while protecting taxpayers and preparing for weather or health-related disasters.

Here are some of the budget highlights:

  • $50 million in a Preparedness Relief Fund in the case of a natural disaster
  • Investment in rebuilding tourism to recover the pandemic’s hardest-hit industry
  • 75% expansion of the state’s 4-K program and $1,000 raise for every teacher (in addition to a STEP increase) bringing teacher pay in South Carolina above the Southeast average
  • $36 million for the growth of South Carolina’s charter school system
  • 2.5% pay raise for state employees
  • STEP pay raise for law enforcement officers and PTSD treatment for law enforcement and firefighters

Additionally, I was successful in getting $2 million included in the budget for badly needed Murrells Inlet dredging. Many of the channels have silted in and are no longer navigable except at higher tides.

We’ll return to Columbia tomorrow to take up the Governor’s vetoes. We’ll also return in September to begin work on redistricting, which is required by law every 10 years in conjunction with the census.

It’s an honor to represent District 108 in the House. Thank you so much for your support!

Please let me know if I can be of any assistance.

Rep. Lee Hewitt

Please click here to donate to my reelection campaign.