A 98-0 vote

I wanted you to know that my bill, H. 4683, for fixing the process for determining beachfront jurisdictional lines passed the House Thursday on a 98-0 vote.

Where these lines are drawn impacts first, and in many cases, second row properties regarding the structures that can be built or rebuilt. Most of the 20,000 beachfront property owners were not aware of the line review last year until it was almost too late to comment or appeal.

The bill now moves to the Senate Agricultural and Natural Resources Committee, where it's set for a hearing next Wednesday.

On Wednesday the House continued to stand with utility ratepayers by voting 107-1 to amend a Senate bill to stop SCE&G from billing customers for any of the costs of the failed VC Summer nuclear reactor project, which amounts to $37 million per month.

The House is frustrated by the Senate's inaction in stopping ratepayers from being charged for the project. The only bill the Senate has passed is a resolution to extend the deadline to review the proposed Old Dominion-SCE&G merger. I joined House Speaker Jay Lucas at his news conference Wednesday, where he cited the package of ratepayer protection bills the House has already passed and called on the Senate to take action to protect ratepayers.

Thursday, I welcomed members of the Georgetown County School Board and Superintendent Randy Dozier to the House chambers. I appreciate the hard work and dedication of our teachers, administrators and school board.

On Monday it was my privilege to present McClellanville Mayor Rut Leland with a House Resolution recognizing and honoring his leadership and dedicated service as one of the longest serving mayors (over 41 years) in state history. I'm proud that Mayor Leland is a constituent and appreciate the outstanding job he does for the town and coastal area.

Next week the House starts the challenging process of considering the state budget. It will likely result in hundreds of votes and sessions that go through the night. I'm committed to finding ways in the budget to save taxpayers money.

I'm thankful for the privilege of serving District 108 in the House! Please let me know if I can be of any assistance.

Rep. Lee Hewitt

P.S. I'll be filing for reelection next week and the election is just around the corner. Please help me win reelection by clicking here today and donating to my reelection campaign. I really need your help. Thank you in advance!


Flaws in our government

I think you would agree that efficiency and accountability are qualities we all want in state government.

One of the things that being in the state House has made very clear to me is that our state government is very lacking in both. Our antiquated 1895 state constitution gives most of the power to a handful of senior legislators, which means these legislators are effectively in charge of our government. In South Carolina, the legislature, judiciary and office of governor are not co-equal branches of government.

Last week I joined with a bipartisan group of 26 freshmen legislators, House and Senate, to fix our state constitution by introducing legislation, H. 5043, to hold a referendum for state citizens to call for a constitutional convention so the constitution can be rewritten to fix the structural flaws in our government. Click here for news coverage.

The Agricultural, Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs Committee I serve on met every day last week to consider bills. One important to our area is a bill to protect red drum from overfishing and gigging. This fishery is very important to recreational and charter fishermen.

A recent SC Dept. of Natural Resources stock assessment of red drum determined the stock is overfished and that current landings are unsustainable. The committee approved a bill that reduced the daily bag limit from three per person to two per person, instituted a boat limit of six fish per day and prohibited gigging red drum. The current size slot limit of 15 to 23 inches for red drum would remain the same.

The committee approved another bill that's important to the coast, one that gives sheriffs, in addition to SCDNR, enforcement authority over the abandonment of boats in our waters, which is illegal. The abandonment of boats can present very real safety, navigation and environmental issues, in addition to the unsightliness of a boat hulk in a saltmarsh or on a river bank.

Saturday, I presented a General Assembly Resolution to the family of Midway Fire Battalion Chief Josh Carney, who passed away last year at the age of 41, recognizing and honoring his 18 years of service and leadership to the department. Josh is a real hero and my sympathies are with his wife Lillian and daughter Shayla in their terrible loss.

I'm thankful for the honor of serving District 108 in the House! Please let me know if I can be of any assistance.

Rep. Lee Hewitt

P.S. I'll be filing for reelection in two weeks and the election is just around the corner. Please help me win reelection by clicking here today and donating to my reelection campaign. I really need your help. Thank you in advance!


Keep our children safe

Recently I was made aware of concerns by Mt. Pleasant and law enforcement officials about attempted efforts by adults to lure children into cars or vans, sometimes using puppies as lures, and the inability to charge the person with a crime.

It's sickening to know there are people out there trying to take advantage of children to harm them.

Last week, Rep. Nancy Mace, R-Charleston, and I introduced a bill, H. 5006, to make child luring a crime and keep our children safe. Our bill is modeled after Florida's child luring law and has been referred to the House Committee on Judiciary.

Most of last week in the House was spent clearing the uncontested bill calendar and getting those bills to the House floor for a vote.

My beachfront jurisdiction line reform bill is now scheduled for debate on the House floor March 6th. In the meantime, I'm meeting with SCDHEC officials to iron out some details on the property owners' appeal process.

On Wednesday it was Myrtle Beach Night at the State House, and a good opportunity to meet with area leaders. I enjoyed speaking with Murph Fore, Horry-Georgetown Tech President; Brad Dean, Myrtle Beach Chamber Executive Director; Austin Beard, Georgetown County Council Vice-Chair; Don Smith, Coastal Carolina Association of Realtors President; and many others.

Myrtle Beach Night happened to coincide with the S.C. Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism's announcement on Wednesday that tourism spending in SC grew to a record $21.2 billion. Tourism supports one in ten jobs in the state and generates more than $1.5 billion in state and local tax revenues. It's a vital industry to Georgetown and Charleston counties.

And finally, I attended the East Cooper Republican Club meeting in Mt. Pleasant on Monday. It was a great opportunity to meet and talk with Charleston County constituents and hear from the GOP gubernatorial candidates.

I'm thankful for the honor of serving District 108 in the House! Please let me know if I can be of any assistance.

Rep. Lee Hewitt

P.S. I'm up for reelection this year. Please donate to my reelection campaign today by clicking here and make the largest donation that you can afford. I really need your help. Thank you in advance!


WMBF News: Proposed bill would add misdemeanor charge for luring

COLUMBIA, SC -- A new bill in South Carolina could make luring or enticing a child to get into a car or a building against the law.

The proposed legislation, called the Anti-Luring Bill, was first introduced in the State House Thursday by District 108 State Rep. Lee Hewitt.

According to the bill, luring a child into a conveyance, dwelling, or structure without the consent of the child or legal guardian will be prosecuted.

Screen_Shot_2018-02-24_at_11.31.50_AM.pngClick here for the WMBF video

The heart of the bill is to stop a situation from getting much worse. The reason Lee wrote it is because of something that happened a month ago in Mount Pleasant with some of his constituents.

Lee said a family reached out to him for help after their kids were playing outside and a man approached them in a van and tried to entice them to get in by saying, "Come look at my dog." The children ultimately ran back to their house and the mother got the license plate for police.

"The problem was they could never charge him with anything because there wasn't a criminal act," Lee said. "Asking somebody to look at your dog isn't a criminal act, even though what could have happened if they got in the van could have been."

Lee's bill would give law enforcement more discretion.

"That when you have someone going around, trying to lure kids in the car by offering candy or something that is not criminal, it gives them the ability to charge that individual," he said.

The first offense would be a misdemeanor. If multiple offenses occur, the person could face a felony.

"As someone who has raised kids, I couldn't imagine if something happened to one of my kids," Lee said. "So if something like this can prevent a bad situation with children, hopefully we can get it done."

One mother in Carolina Forest is thankful to see the new bill, as the situation hits close to home.

Last August, Dr. Barb Horn's 10-year-old son was playing outside with his friend when a group of men told the boys to get inside their car.

Neighbors found the car and told police, but Horn said ultimately no charges were filed.

"Not only did we have to plea, the whole community had to become outraged, and had to make something happen and we said we wouldn't stand for it," Horn said. "Something was done and this type of bill can actually help next time something happens. Hopefully it doesn't, but people will have protection against this. If they feel they can't fully commit to kidnapping as a crime or attempted kidnapping, this gives them the option of luring and it's absolutely needed."

Horn said she hopes no one has to live through what she endured. She does think the bill should apply to others, and not just those 18 years of age or older.

"If you are old enough to drive a car and old enough to make a poor decision to try to lure a child into your car, then you should face the consequences as well, no matter what age," Horn said.

Lee said he received a lot of support from fellow legislators and law enforcement, who have heard of similar instances across the state.

Fifteenth Judicial Circuit Solicitor Jimmy Richardson said he fully supports the Anti-Luring Bill and thinks it's a strong piece of legislation.

The judiciary committee will review the bill next.


Rep. Hewitt introduces bill to make child luring a crime

On Thursday, Reps. Lee Hewitt and Nancy Mace, R-Charleston, introduced a bill, H. 5006, to make child luring a crime. The legislation is in response to concerns from Mt. Pleasant and law enforcement officials about attempted efforts by adults to lure children into cars or vans, sometimes using puppies as lures, and the inability to charge the person with a crime. The bill is modeled after Florida's child luring law.

Hewitt-Mace_copy.jpgReps. Nancy Mace and Lee Hewitt with the bill they filed to make child luring a crime in South Carolina. 


One-on-one committee work

I wanted you to know that after a lot of one-on-one work with my fellow committee members, my bill, H. 4683, for fixing the process for determining beachfront jurisdictional lines was passed out of the Agricultural, Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs Committee last week.

SCDHEC is required by law to review these lines every 7 to 10 years based on the average annual erosion rates for all beachfront land and they impact first, and in many cases, second row properties regarding the structures that can be built or rebuilt according to where these lines are established. Most of the 20,000 beachfront property owners were not aware of the line review last year until it was almost too late to comment or appeal.

The bill was amended by the committee and will be debated on the House floor soon. It establishes the beachfront baseline at the 2012 location and mandates December 2023 as when new line review will begin. It improves property owner notification, expands the public comment period and allows owners one year from the date of line implementation to appeal.

Last week, the House overwhelmingly passed reform bills concerning the Public Service Commission and the Conservation Bank.

In response to the nuclear reactor spending disaster, we passed legislation Thursday to reform the Public Service Commission by a vote of 108-1. The legislation effectively fires the commission that approved the rate hikes to pay for the reactor project, strengthens ethical standards to limit outside utility influence, requires stricter questioning of parties by commissioners before making decisions and provides the ability to inspect utility construction sites.

On Wednesday, the House voted 107-3 to reform and reauthorize the state Conservation Bank, which purchases land conservation easements for landmark sites that merit preservation. The bill changes the way the Conservation Bank is governed and requires public access to easements that are purchased.

I'm thankful for the privilege of serving District 108 in the House! Please let me know if I can be of any assistance.

Rep. Lee Hewitt

P.S. I'm up for reelection this year. Please donate to my reelection campaign today by clicking here and make the largest donation that you can afford. I really need your help. Thank you in advance!


One of the busiest weeks

I wanted you to know that last week's House session was one of the busiest, mostly because of committee work.

The Agricultural, Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs Committee I serve on or one of our subcommittees met every day in an effort to catch up on hearings for bills delayed by House floor debate over the last several weeks on bills related to the abandoned nuclear reactor spending disaster.

I'm pleased the bill I'm the lead cosponsor of, H. 4683, which would reform the process for determining beachfront jurisdictional lines and allow a much better notification and appeals process for property owners, is scheduled for a hearing this Tuesday, February 13th, at 2 pm before the Environmental Affairs Subcommittee on which I serve.

I'm especially pleased that House Speaker Jay Lucas has signed as a cosponsor of the bill, giving the bill his complete support.

Beyond Speaker Lucas' support, it's important the committee receive supportive comments from the public. I urge you to email comments to Committee Chairman Rep. David Hiott at DavidHiott@schouse.gov no later than noon on Tuesday. Thank you in advance!

Last week I cosponsored bipartisan legislation, H. 4896, that would oppose offshore oil and gas drilling and seismic testing off South Carolina. We cannot afford to risk harming our coastal economy and environment by effectively playing Russian roulette with oil rigs off our coast. Sooner or later our coast will catch a bullet in the form of a major oil spill disaster. The bill has been referred to the Agricultural, Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs Committee.

I'm disappointed a bill, H. 3529, to prohibit cities and counties from banning or regulating plastic bags or containers passed the House last week on a 73-41 vote. I think home rule is important for cities and counties - they should have the right to regulate plastic bags and containers if they so choose. Certainly, along the coast, plastics litter has presented not only a visual problem, but an environmental problem that threatens marine life.

On Thursday, it was my honor to introduce Georgetown County's Dr. Gerald Harmon as Doctor of the Day on the House floor. Dr. Harmon is a leader in medical care in our county, state and nation. He currently serves as Chairman of the American Medical Association.

It's an honor and privilege to serve District 108 in the House! Please let me know if I can be of any assistance.

Rep. Lee Hewitt

P.S. I'm up for reelection this year and Democrats say that have a candidate to run against me. Please donate to my reelection campaign today by clicking here and make the largest donation that you can afford. I really need your help. Thank you in advance!


House session update

I wanted you to know that the nuclear reactor spending disaster continued to dominate the House session last week.

By a 119-1 vote, the House passed the third utility ratepayer protection bill, which blocks SCE&G from continuing to charge ratepayers $37 million a month for the abandoned reactor project and allows the Public Service Commission to strike down some previous SCE&G rate hikes for the project.

I remain committed to not only protecting SCE&G ratepayers, but also those of state-owned Santee-Cooper.

I spent some time this week with my House Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. David Hiott, R-Pickens, preparing for a subcommittee hearing on the beachfront jurisdictional line legislation I introduced two weeks ago.

H. 4683 would reform the process for determining beachfront jurisdictional lines and allow a much better notification and appeals process for property owners. I'm appreciative the bill got referred to a committee and subcommittee on which I serve. I'm hopeful the Environmental Affairs Subcommittee hearing on the bill will be in two weeks.

On Thursday, I was pleased to introduce a Resolution that unanimously passed the House recognizing McClellanville Mayor Rut Leland for his leadership and dedicated service as one of the longest serving mayors (over 41 years) in state history. Last year, I was honored to be with Mayor Leland and his wife Kathy at the unveiling of his portrait at town hall. I'm proud Mayor Leland is a constituent of mine and appreciate the outstanding job he does for the town and coastal area.

On Friday, I attended the Grand Strand Area Transportation Study Policy Committee meeting in Surfside Beach. GSATS is the regional transportation planning agency for our area and I'm pleased to serve on the committee. We heard a presentation from SCDOT on the additional revenue from the gas tax increase and how it can be applied to GSAT's list of road projects. I'm hopeful we'll start seeing results from the extra tax revenue soon.

I'm thankful for the opportunity to serve in the House! Please let me know if I can be of any assistance.

Rep. Lee Hewitt

P.S. Please consider donating to my reelection campaign. With the election this year, I could sure use your help. Please click here today and make the largest donation that you can afford. Thank you in advance!


Third week of the House session

Last week was rough. I got the flu, but as fate would have it, the threat of bad weather in Columbia caused most activities in the House to be cancelled, so I didn't miss any votes.

Thankfully, I'm much better this week and wanted to let you know about this third week of the House session.

On Wednesday, as the lead cosponsor, I introduced legislation, H. 4683, that will reform the process for determining the beachfront jurisdictional lines and allow a much better notification and appeals process for property owners. These lines impact first and, in many cases, second row properties regarding the structures that can be built or rebuilt according to where these lines are established.

The current law created a crisis last year when many beachfront property owners were unaware of proposed line changes and we worked with SCDHEC to delay implementation. I'm pleased that all of the Horry and Georgetown County House members have signed on as cosponsors. I've been working with Sen. Chip Campsen, R-Charleston, on this legislation and he introduced the same bill in the Senate.

Also, on Wednesday I attended Gov. McMaster's State of the State address. I appreciate the Governor's strong message of support for tax cuts, investment in workforce development, school district consolidation to save taxpayers' money, stopping the opioid addiction epidemic and his strong stance against offshore oil drilling off our coast.

Regarding the V.C. Summer nuclear reactor spending disaster, Gov. McMaster said in his address to send him a bill that "prevents ratepayers from being charged in the future for the abandoned reactors." I agree with the Governor and the House passed two bills this week that draw upon the work of the House Utility Ratepayer Protection Committee, which is developing a legislative package of bills to protect ratepayers and prevent another utility spending disaster.

One bill, H.4378, replaces the Public Utilities Review Committee with a new twelve-member Utility Oversight Committee, which is charged with screening Public Service Commission candidates, among other duties. The other bill, H. 4379, creates a Utilities Consumer Advocate within the Attorney General's Office to safeguard the interests of consumers in dealings with public utilities.

Both bills prohibit any member of the Utility Oversight Committee or the Consumer Advocate from accepting anything of value or campaign contributions from utilities.

I hope this weekly update is helpful. Please let me know if I can be of any assistance.

Rep. Lee Hewitt

P.S. I can't emphasize enough the need for my campaign to raise more money. According to reports, it's very likely a Democrat will run against me in the election this year. Please help by clicking here today and donating the largest amount you can afford to my campaign. Thank you in advance!


First week

I wanted to let you know about this first week of the new legislative session in Columbia.

We had an unusual start: voting on about 40 vetoes issued by Gov. McMaster back in June. Usually, the legislature deals with vetoes in the same session in which they are issued, but the House and Senate leadership decided to wait in this case.

While I voted to sustain most of the governor’s vetoes, I voted to override his vetoes of $20.5 million for new school buses. I couldn’t support his vetoes of the bus funding in light of the fire hazard of our aging bus fleet. According to a report in The State, “Seventeen buses have caught fire or dangerously overheated since August 2015…some with children aboard.” The problem has to be fixed.

On Tuesday, the House Opioid Abuse Prevention Study Committee, which I was privileged to serve on, issued its final report and recommendations to House Speaker Jay Lucas and effectively introduced a number of bills to address the addiction epidemic. One of the bills is one I cosponsored, H. 4487, which would vastly expedite the regulation of synthetic opioids or “designer drugs” by SCDHEC.

For eight months, the committee held public hearings and working group meetings where we received in-depth testimony from several state agencies, healthcare providers, and families affected by opioid addiction. While there is no silver bullet to end the addiction problem, I believe our recommendations are a big step in the right direction.

On Wednesday, Gov. McMaster committed to ask the Trump administration to exempt our state from the Dept. of Interior’s offshore oil drilling plan, just as Florida was exempted. I applaud the governor’s stance. Offshore oil drilling is a huge threat to our coastal economy and environment and this plan would allow drilling as close as 3 miles to our beaches.

Click here for media coverage of my comments.

Also on Wednesday, I participated in a meeting of the S.C. Energy Caucus, a bipartisan group of legislators who are working to ensure our homes and businesses have access to affordable energy options and focusing on correcting institutional deficiencies that led to the V.C. Summer nuclear project spending disaster. The meeting focused on reform legislation and the need to better plan for our state’s future energy needs.

I hope this information is helpful.

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

Rep. Lee Hewitt

P.S. I’m up for reelection this year, and according to this news report, county Democrats are committed to putting up challengers for all seats, including my House seat. I hate to ask for money, but my campaign needs to raise more money to help fend off challengers. Please help by clicking here today and donating the largest amount you can afford to my campaign. Thank you in advance!