I hope you had a great Christmas and a nice start to 2018. For the past several years, I have sent weekly emails during the legislative session to provide you with updates on the previous week’s activities. I will continue to do that this session, as well.
The General Assembly returned last week for the first week of the 2018 session. Each legislative session typically starts slowly with committee work. I expect that will happen this year, as well, with a few exceptions. Here are a few updates to keep you in the loop:
REV. DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. – Today is a state and national holiday, observed as a national day of service and to remember Dr. King’s legacy of nonviolence in the pursuit of equality. I attended a memorial service in McCormick yesterday. My favorite writing/speech from Dr. King is his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, written in April 1963.
VC SUMMER – I have spent a great deal of time the past five months investigating the abandonment of the VC Summer nuclear reactors. As most everyone is aware by now, SCANA (the parent company of SCE&G) and Santee Cooper (a state-owned utility that supplies power to most cooperatives in the state) have partnered over the past 10 years in an effort to build two new nuclear reactors at VC Summer in Fairfield County.
During that time period, SCANA has increased rates 9 times; Santee Cooper’s rates have increased 5 times. Now, approximately 18% of every SCE&G customer’s monthly bill is devoted to VC Summer. For Santee Cooper customers, that amount is just under 6%. SCANA collects $37 million per month from customers for the abandoned project.
Westinghouse, the contractor hired to build the reactors, declared bankruptcy in March 2017. At the end of July 2017, SCANA and Santee Cooper announced that they were abandoning the construction plans. Since that time, we have learned a lot about what led to the abandonment. It’s pretty clear to me that there is plenty of blame to go around: Westinghouse, SCANA, Santee Cooper, and many of those in elected office. It is important that we hold the right people accountable for this disaster, but it’s also important that we make the right decisions going forward to protect customers, utility employees, and the state.
There are several legislative proposals pending to respond to what we’ve learned. I expect a large amount of this session will be devoted to consideration of those proposals. The biggest fight, I believe, will be whether the utilities can continue charging customers for the abandoned reactors.
Earlier this month, Dominion Energy announced plans to acquire SCANA. The press has spent a good bit of time covering the details of that proposal over the past couple weeks. Tomorrow, a special Senate committee will question Dominion’s CEO about the details. A House committee will look into the proposal this week, as well. I will keep you updated, but I am available to answer questions by email or phone if you have them.
POULTRY HOUSES – Agribusiness is the largest industry in the state. We have a lot of agriculture in our area, and poultry farms make up a big part of that. South Carolinas laws often make it difficult for these large investments. Last week the Senate Agriculture Committee approved H. 3929, a bill that would streamline the application process and define who can challenge permits. The House of Representatives passed the bill last year, and I expect the full Senate to consider the legislation soon.
CAPITAL PUNISHMENT – South Carolina law allows two methods of carrying out capital punishment: lethal injection and electrocution. The law lets death row inmates choose the method.
Many states, including South Carolina, have been unable to buy the lethal injection drugs because pharmaceutical companies have given in to death penalty opponents and now refuse to sell the drugs for executions. As a result, since death row inmates almost always choose lethal injection, South Carolina is unable to carry out a death sentence.
Last week, a Senate subcommittee met to consider changes in the law to allow the Department of Corrections to carry out the law. I expect the committee to vote this week and the full Senate to consider the bills in the coming weeks. Stay tuned.
STATE OF THE SENATE – Governor Henry McMaster will deliver his first State of the State address on Wednesday at 7:00. You can watch the speech on ETV or here.
WHAT ISSUES ARE IMPORTANT TO YOU? – I expect the General Assembly will deal with many issues in the next four months, but I would really appreciate your input as to what the General Assembly should focus on this year. If you have thoughts, questions, or concerns about issues facing South Carolina, please let me know.
SCDOT PROJECTS – SCDOT Secretary, Christy Hall, recently appeared before the Senate Transportation Committee to present an annual State of the SCDOT. You can view Secretary Hall’s power point presentation here.
WANT TO SEE THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY IN ACTION? – The Senate meets in statewide session on Tuesdays at 2:00, Wednesdays at 12:00, and Thursdays at 11:00. Committees and subcommittees meet Tuesday mornings, Wednesday mornings, and Thursday mornings. You can watch live coverage of the Senate, House of Representatives, and committees here.
OUR SENATE DISTRICT – Senate district 25 consists of all of Edgefield County and parts of Aiken, Lexington, McCormick, and Saluda Counties. If you’d like to see the district map, go here.
SPEAKING WITH GROUPS – Several groups, clubs, and classes around our Senate district have invited me to attend their meetings and provide legislative updates. If you would like for me to come speak with your group, please let me know.
EMAIL UPDATES – If you know of people in or around District 25 who do not receive my updates but would like to get them, please email their names and email addresses to me. You can also forward this email to them and encourage them to sign up for the updates at www.senatormassey.com.