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.


Santee Cooper

I hope you’ve had a Happy Valentine’s Day!

This week brought about one of the biggest decisions the General Assembly will ever face, the fate of debt-ridden state-owned utility Santee Cooper.

On Tuesday, we received a report from the Dept. of Administration (DOA) detailing their recommendation of the three best options for Santee Cooper:

  1. Sell Santee Cooper to privately-owned utility NextEra.
  2. A management agreement with privately-owned Dominion Energy.
  3. Reform Santee Cooper while keeping state ownership and management.

Now, the House and Senate must decide on the best option for ratepayers and taxpayers. Ways and Means Chairman Murrell Smith appointed an Ad-Hoc Committee to go through all of the information in the DOA report and bring their findings to the full House within 30 days.

This is all in response to the billions in debt accumulated from the failed V.C. Summer nuclear project that has resulted in lawsuits and higher rates for electric customers who are served by Santee Cooper as well as most Electric Co-ops.

Yesterday, the Business License Fees Ad Hoc Subcommittee I serve on passed a much-needed bill, H. 4431, that would streamline the maddening process of obtaining business licenses for all the cities and counties that require them. The bill establishes a standard application and renewal date, and a single website for payments. The bill will be considered by the full Labor, Commerce and Industry Committee next week.

I was privileged to serve on discussion panels at two conferences this week. On Monday, I was a panelist at the SC Beach Advocates’ annual conference in Myrtle Beach, discussing pending legislation affecting the coast.

On Tuesday, I was a panelist at the SC Association of Realtors’ Capitol Conference where we discussed legislative issues affecting real estate and realtors, including an update on the status of the business license reform legislation.

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.


State House update

I hope everyone stayed safe during the storms that spanned across our entire state yesterday.

The bad weather did not stop the legislature from taking up some important legislation this week. On Tuesday I was proud to join my colleagues from the House and Senate to elect 34 judges and 10 new board members to state universities.

Yesterday the House unanimously passed legislation ratifying the overwhelming annexation vote taken this past November by property owners affected by the Horry-Georgetown County border error. The bill now goes to the Senate.

The Senate continued their debate on their education reform bill, S. 419, marking one month since they started debate. They are expected to finish debate by the end of next week, and will send the bill back to the House for our consideration.

We passed two Senate bills affecting fishermen aimed at conserving fish stocks. S. 474 establishes catch and size limits for spadefish (Daily limit: 10 per person, 30 per boat; Minimum size: 14” total length) and S. 475 establishes catch and size limits for tripletail (Daily limit: 3 per person, 9 per boat; Minimum size: 18” total length).

This week I was privileged to meet with a number of area officials visiting the State House: Georgetown County Treasurer Allison Peteet, Awendaw Mayor Miriam Green and Councilman Robert Causey, Georgetown Mayor Brenden Barber, Mt. Pleasant Mayor Will Haynie and members of town council, and Horry-Georgetown Technical College President Dr. Marilyn “Murph” Fore.

I’m always glad to meet with groups and constituents, particularly at the State House.

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.


Legislative report: Another busy week

Yesterday I was interviewed by Charleston journalist Quintin Washington on his Quintin’s Close-Ups show. We discussed a lot of important issues like education reform, the budget surplus, pension reform, the Port of Georgetown and roads. Please click here to watch the video.

This week was a busy one in Columbia, filled with committee meetings and teachers visiting the State House. Teachers from around the state visited the Capitol while the Senate was addressing the education bill this week and the House was debating different education initiatives.

One of those initiatives is the Teacher Bill of Rights, H.4753, which passed this week. The bill addresses many concerns heard from teachers about limitations that have been placed on them in the classroom. It addresses student discipline, reducing frivolous lawsuits, cutting out burdensome paperwork, compensation for extra days, providing ongoing professional training, and adding a daily “duty-free” planning period.

I’m proud of leading a compromise between environmentalists and property owners this week to unanimously pass H. 4945, which allows repairs to some existing seawalls. This legislation is important for the district in particular.

I was particularly pleased and honored that Democratic Rep. Mandy Norrell said this on Twitter about my compromise efforts on the bill:

“Lee is a really good person and legislator...He recently worked out an agreement on a legislative issue in which I couldn’t have imagined an agreement could be achieved! Impressive!”

My thanks to Rep. Norrell for her very kind comments.

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 Hewit

Please click here to donate to my reelection campaign.


Rep. Lee Hewitt interview -- Quintin's Close-Ups

Rep. Lee Hewitt was recently interviewed by Charleston journalist Quintin Washington on his Quintin’s Close-Ups show. Lee talks about a lot of important issues like education reform, the budget surplus, pension reform, the Port of Georgetown, and roads.


Legislative report

I hope you’re doing well.

The highlight of the legislative week was Gov. Henry McMaster’s State of the State address on Wednesday.

Gov. McMaster set as his priorities improving public education and returning a portion of the budget surplus to taxpayers. I share those priorities.

On the education issue, I’m excited to work with the Governor and am hopeful the Senate will soon pass their own comprehensive education reform bill like the House passed last session. In addition, I also support the Governor’s plan to expand 4-year-old kindergarten programs, increase teacher pay again and freeze higher education tuition rates for in-state students and universities.

Speaking of education, I’m pleased that House Speaker Jay Lucas has proposed H. 4760, which will continue our education reform efforts by reducing the number of state-mandated tests and assessments. This will allow more time in the classrooms for teachers to teach. The bill successfully passed subcommittee and full committee this week.

We’ve made great strides in economic and job growth. The Post & Courier reported yesterday that South Carolina tied with Utah for the lowest unemployment rate in the nation at 2.3 percent, an accomplishment we can all be proud of.

On Friday, I was privileged to participate in the annual Georgetown County Legislative Delegation Breakfast, hosted by the Georgetown County Chamber of Commerce and sponsored by the Coastal Carolina Association of REALTORS. Senators Stephen Goldfinch and Ronnie Sabb and Rep. Carl Anderson and I answered a lot of great questions from a packed house.

My thanks to the chamber and CCAR CEO Laura Crowther, who was moderator, for a great event.

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.


House committee assignments announced

As usual, this first week of the legislative session is one of organizing and getting committee assignments.

It seems as if House Speaker Jay Lucas is calling on me to do more and more each year in the House leadership and on committees.

I’m honored to remain a House Majority Whip for Speaker Lucas.

He assigned me to the following committees and subcommittees:

Labor, Commerce and Industry Committee
Banking & Consumer Affairs Subcommittee
Real Estate Subcommittee
Business License Fees Ad Hoc Subcommittee

Legislative Oversight Committee
Economic Development, Transportation, and Natural Resources Subcommittee

Opioid Abuse Prevention Study Committee

The Labor, Commerce and Industry Committee did meet this week and agreed to an extension of the application period for seats on the Public Service Commission, which regulates investor-owned utilities. Finding qualified candidates for these seats has been difficult as is noted in this news story.

It appears the House will vote next week on a bill I cosponsored, H. 3087, which would effectively prohibit the onshore infrastructure needed for offshore oil drilling and seismic testing. The bill is now cosponsored by a majority of the House.

A similar bill sponsored by Sen. Chip Campsen, R-Charleston, passed a Senate subcommittee hearing last week chaired by Sen. Stephen Goldfinch. Click here for news coverage.

I’m appreciative of the efforts to protect our coastal economy and environment from the threat of oil spill disasters.

Next Friday, I’m privileged to participate in the annual Georgetown County Legislative Delegation Breakfast, sponsored by the Georgetown County Chamber of Commerce and the Coastal Carolina REALTORS Association. Senators Stephen Goldfinch and Ronnie Sabb and Rep. Carl Anderson and I will discuss issues and what to expect in the legislative session. Please click here for more details.

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.


Legislative session starts next week

I hope you and your family had happy holidays.

I wanted you to know the legislative session starts this Tuesday in Columbia.

I believe the most important issues for the legislature are:

*The need for continued education reform.
*Passing a fiscally responsible budget that provides some taxpayer relief with the estimated $1.8 billion surplus.
*Protecting our coast from offshore oil drilling
*Deciding what to do with debt-ridden state-owned utility Santee Cooper.

Possibly as early as next week, recommendations on bids received to either buy, manage or internally reform Santee Cooper will be presented to the legislature. My decision will be based on the best long-term interests of Santee Cooper ratepayers.

On Saturday, I’ll attend the Conservation Voters’ Legislative Kick Off event in Litchfield. One of the topics of discussion will be our continuing efforts to prevent offshore oil drilling and seismic testing off our state.

We can’t put our coastal economy and environment at risk from an oil spill.

Last year, I cosponsored legislation, H. 3087, which would effectively prohibit the onshore infrastructure needed for offshore oil drilling and seismic testing. The bill should be up for a vote on the House floor this month.

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.

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.


Legislators applaud order for November referendum to decide Horry-Georgetown County border issue

MURRELLS INLET – Horry and Georgetown County state legislators Wednesday applauded Gov. Henry McMaster’s order for a November referendum to address an error in the border between Horry and Georgetown counties.

“I appreciate Gov. McMaster’s order and the work of the special annexation commission resulting in a November 5th referendum to allow the affected voters to decide which county they want to reside in,” Rep. Lee Hewitt, R-Georgetown, said. “This issue is very important in that it affects property taxes, school attendance and voting. A referendum is the best way to decide the issue.”

“It’s important to the community to provide continuity and security in their choice of schools and services,” Sen. Stephen Goldfinch, R-Georgetown, said. “I’m proud to have been part of the team to secure that peace of mind.”

“From the very beginning, my constituents wanted a choice and I believe they should have it. After all, they didn’t invite this problem,” Rep. Russell Fry, R-Horry, said. “Now they’ll get that opportunity to choose which county they’d like to live. I appreciate the diligent efforts of Gov.McMaster and the committee for helping us bring closure to this local issue.”

McMaster issued the order Monday for the referendum to coincide with the November 5th general election.

Click here for the order.

For many years, Horry and Georgetown counties have recognized a border that differs from the official border as enacted in statute. As a result, about 200 parcels of land, long believed to be in Horry County, are actually in Georgetown County. The border error was discovered last year by the state Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office.

Click here for a map of the affected border area.

Hewitt, Fry and Goldfinch sponsored the legislation to enable the referendum.


Hewitt applauds SCDHEC rejection of seismic testing off SC

MURRELLS INLET – State Rep. Lee Hewitt, R-Georgetown, applauded the S.C. Dept. of Health and Environmental Control decision Monday to reject a federal permit application to conduct seismic testing for oil off the coast of South Carolina.

“SCDHEC made the right decision. Seismic testing is not in any way consistent with our state’s coastal management plan,” Hewitt said. “Seismic air gun blasts are harmful to marine life and would hurt fisheries that are very important to my constituents and the coastal economy.”

SCDHEC said in its letter to WesternGeco, LLC, the company seeking the federal permit, “DHEC finds that the risks associated with 2D seismic surveying to the resources under the purview of the SCCZMP are significant due to the known and unknown physiological and behavioral impacts to individual fish and sea turtles, populations and the ecosystems that support them... DHEC must find the federal application for seismic surveying in the Atlantic OCS by WesternGeco to be inconsistent with the enforceable policies of the South Carolina Coastal Zone Management Program.”

Click here for the SCDHEC letter.

According to the SCDHEC letter public opposition to the permit was unanimous, stating that “all 1,720 comments received, communicated opposition to the specific proposed activity of seismic surveying and/or potential future offshore oil and gas development generally.”

In a June letter to SCDHEC asking for rejection of the permit application Hewitt said “I’ve heard loud and clear from constituents that they do not want seismic testing or oil and gas drilling off our coast because of the detrimental effects of seismic air gun blasts to marine life and the very real threat of a drilling disaster and the resulting severe environmental and economic harm it would bring to our area.”

Click here for Hewitt’s letter.

WesternGeco, LLC applied to the US Department of Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management for a federal permit to conduct seismic testing in the federal waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

The federal permit application was submitted to SCDHEC for determination of federal consistency with the SC Coastal Management Program concerning the potential impacts of the seismic testing on sea turtles and on commercial and recreational fisheries.

WesternGeco may appeal SCDHEC’s determination to the federal Secretary of Commerce. An appeal must be filed by within 30 days of SCDHEC’s decision.

Hewitt, a Murrells Inlet resident and Realtor, represents District 108, which consists of the coastal areas of Georgetown and Charleston counties. He serves on the House Agricultural, Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs and Legislative Oversight committees.