Legislative Update - February 15, 2020
The General Assembly will soon face a big decision regarding state-owned utility Santee Cooper. Much of the work in the State House over the next few weeks will focus on the Santee Cooper issue and drafting this year’s state budget. Between these two important issues, we plan to continue the work we started last session on education reform and streamlining the process of business license fees.
3 Options for Santee Cooper
On Tuesday, the General Assembly received from the Department of Administration (DOA) their report outlining three finalized options for the future of South Carolina’s state utility, Santee Cooper. These options include a sell/purchase option; an option to bring in an outside manager, and an option to reform Santee Cooper. After reviewing numerous offers, the DOA completed their evaluation, chose the best three options for the state-owned utility, and reported to the General Assembly:
1. Sell Santee Cooper to private-owned utility NextEra
2. Come to terms with 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 in South Carolina. Ways and Means Chairman, Murrell Smith, appointed ten members to 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 plant 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, many of whom purchase electricity for their customers. It’s an issue we must push to a resolution as soon as possible.
Another Record Year for S.C. Trade
For the 10th year in a row, S.C. export sales climbed to a historic high in 2019, reaching $41.5 billion. That figure represents a 19.7% increase over the 2018 total and ranks South Carolina 11th among all states. Additionally, South Carolina clinched the number one spot again in leading the nation in the export sales of both completed passenger vehicles and tires.
South Carolina is a leader in the production of some pretty remarkable things - premium automobiles, wide-body commercial aircraft, boats, appliances and so much more. And, while we excel at making these advanced products and materials, we also excel at selling them around the world.
Other Legislative News:
Moving Slow Drivers Out of the Left Lane (H. 4835 and S. 9): The House and Senate are considering bills that would discourage slow drivers from staying in the left-hand lane. The House version of the bill would give a $200 fine and points against your driving record if a slower driver in the left hand-lane knows that he is being overtaken by a faster car and will not move over.
Identity Theft (H. 3066): This bill requires the destruction of arrest records for those who are arrested as a result of mistaken identity and require that to be done at no charge to the person who was wrongfully-arrested. This bill now goes before the Senate for their consideration.
Migratory Waterfowl committee/ duck stamp and print program sunset (H. 5135): South Carolina is one of only seven states that currently have this program in place. Last year, the Department of Natural Resources spent $6,634 to subsidize the program. This bill will sunset the program and dismantle the committee that selects the artwork, which consists of up to eight people.
The House Agriculture Committee, which I'm a member of, voted it out of the subcommittee and full committee with all of the members that were present vote to do away with the program. If this bill becomes law it will save DNR money since they are currently having to fund the program if it does not generate the income needed to pay the artist, and will allow for the dismantlement of the committee that selects the artwork. In the upcoming weeks this bill will be on the House Calendar, and if it passes the House it will go to the Senate to be voted on as well.
Vice President Mike Pence Visits S.C.
The VP visited South Carolina on Thursday to help President Trump’s Victory campaign in Columbia and Charleston. He spoke with business leaders at Nephron Pharmaceuticals in Columbia before flying to Charleston to speak to cadets at The Citadel. All in a day’s work!
Useful Link of the Week:
It’s now easier to find state-funded childcare, just visit palmettoprek.org. The new website helps parents find free or nearly free childcare available near their home or workplace, whether in Head Start programs, state-funded full-day 4-year-old classes in public and private schools, or childcare centers that take taxpayer-funded vouchers. Programs like these helps make sure our children are ready for kindergarten!
Photo of the Week: Vice President Mike Pence speaks to cadets at The Citadel