Protecting electric utility customers

This week the House of Representatives was focused on protecting electric utility customers.

On Wednesday, a bill I cosponsored to protect electric cooperative ratepayers by providing oversight of the state’s 20 electric cooperatives passed the House on a 104-6 vote. Please click here for news coverage.

We filed the bill after the recent Tri-County Electric Cooperative scandal in which the nine part-time directors paid themselves $52,000 a year each, plus expensive benefits and inappropriate perks – all at the expense of ratepayers. My thanks to Rep. Russell Ott, D-Calhoun, the prime sponsor, for his leadership on this bill.

The House issued a Joint Resolution this week to authorize the special Santee Cooper legislative committee to take the next step towards analyzing bids and making recommendations on offers to purchase the state-owned utility, which is now faced with having to sharply increase rates to start paying off its $9 billion debt. This issue also affects electric cooperative customers as the co-ops buy their power from Santee Cooper.

Last month the committee released a promising preliminary report showing a number of qualified bids that would effectively pay off all the debt and offer lower long-term rates than Santee Cooper.

The bill I sponsored to allow our struggling shrimpers access to prime inshore shrimping grounds off Horry County in the fall passed the Agricultural Subcommittee on Tuesday and will be considered by the full committee next week. I was overwhelmed with written testimony in support of the bill.

As the April 10th crossover deadline approaches, I’m very concerned about the lack of committee hearings on two important bills I’ve sponsored: H. 3064, which would outlaw child luring and H. 3931, which would increase criminal penalties for looting during an evacuation order.

I will continue to press the committee chairmen for hearings so these bills can get to the House floor for a vote. Any legislation that clears either the House or Senate after April 10th requires a two-thirds majority vote to even be debated by the other body this year.

Tuesday was Legislative Day for the S.C. State Firefighters Association. I was privileged to meet with a number of firefighters, including Murrells Inlet-Garden City Fire District Chief Norman Knight. I greatly appreciate their efforts to keep us safe.

As always, please let me know if I can be of any assistance.

Rep. Lee Hewitt

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