Special legislative session

Last week the legislature finished its three-day special session by passing the budget and legislation that effectively puts state-owned utility Santee Cooper up for sale.

The 2019-2020 budget is balanced, built on the foundation of protecting taxpayers, a renewed commitment to being resourceful and efficient, funding core functions of state government, and providing value for every dollar spent. It even includes a modest rebate for taxpayers.

The budget is focused on improving education, with an additional $300 million devoted to that purpose, of which nearly $160 million is to provide every teacher a pay raise.

The budget also includes $2 million for dredging Murrells Inlet.

Last year $300,000 was included in the budget to develop a dredging master plan for the inlet that includes all the main channels, particularly areas where SCDOT stormwater drains have caused shoaling, and spoil disposal options. Sen. Stephen Goldfinch, Rep. Russell Fry and I are hopeful that this initial funding will eventually help accomplish comprehensive dredging in the inlet.

I strongly support the ban on approval of offshore oil drilling infrastructure permits by the state or local governments that was included as a provision in budget.

In a near unanimous vote, the legislature agreed on a process of deciding what to do with Santee Cooper in wake of the $8 billion debt accumulated from the failed VC Summer nuclear reactor project and sharp upcoming rate increases. The Dept. of Administration will seek binding offers from companies interested in purchasing or managing Santee Cooper. In addition, Santee Cooper can submit its own plan on how they would improve if allowed to maintain ownership. The Dept. of Administration is charged with bringing the best proposals to the General Assembly to consider by January 15, 2020.

I’m very disappointed the legislative session ended without the anti-child luring bill I cosponsored with Rep. Nancy Mace, R-Charleston, even getting a committee hearing.

You may recall this bill was introduced in response to multiple attempts in Mt. Pleasant and Charleston to lure children into vehicles using puppies and candy. Now another attempted child luring has occurred, last week in Aiken, where a man attempted to lure little girls with money into a pickup truck. He was apprehended, but not arrested because luring is not a crime in South Carolina.

We’re going to continue to work hard for the bill’s passage next year.

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

Rep. Lee Hewitt

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