Last week was the 6th week of the 2021 legislative session. There are 12 legislative weeks remaining before the General Assembly is scheduled to adjourn on May 13, 2021. Here are the highlights from last week in the Senate:
COVID LIABILITY PROTECTIONS – The Senate debated S. 147 2021-2022 Bill 147: SC COVID-19 Liability Safe Harbor Act – South Carolina Legislature Online (scstatehouse.gov), a bill that would give businesses and nonprofits immunity from being sued if someone contracts COVID or fears he may contract COVID as long as the business or nonprofit reasonably complies with public health guidance. The Senate will continue discussing and hopefully pass the bill on Tuesday.
BONDING FOR PORT EXPANSION – The Senate spent a good bit of time discussing S. 491 2021- 2022 Bill 491: Economic Development Bonds – South Carolina Legislature Online (scstatehouse.gov), a resolution that would allow the state to borrow up to $550 million to expand rail access to the Port of Charleston and extend the existing docks. The Port is a major economic engine in South Carolina. We have two “inland ports” in Greer and Dillon that allow industry to load and unload their products onto rail cars and have the products shipped to and from Charleston via rail. However, the rail lines do not go all the way into the port. Trucks must deliver the cargo about 15 miles to/from the port and the existing rail lines. This resolution would allow the rail lines to be extended into the port, taking an estimated 500,000 trucks off the roadways. It would also allow for the existing docks to be extended to assist with the loading and unloading of the larger Panamax cargo ships that are used since the Panama Canal was deepened.
South Carolina has about $750 million in general obligation debt with a constitutional capacity of about $5 billion. That is a much smaller amount of debt than most states, putting South Carolina in a better overall financial position. The state should be able to borrow the money for less than 2% interest. It would cost around $90 million in interest over a payback period of 12- 15 years. Paying off the bond would not require a tax increase. The plan is to use current budget allocations, dedicated to servicing debt that was recently paid off.
The Senate will continue discussing this significant issue this week.
Virus Numbers – South Carolina’s infection rate has been declining, but it is still too high. You can see the daily numbers here.
We have to do a better job of controlling the spread of the virus. Please wear a mask, avoid large crowds, and wash our hands frequently. We can all help this process if we take these steps.
Testing Sites – You can find COVID testing locations near you here.
Vaccine eligibility – South Carolina is currently in Phase 1A of the vaccine distribution. Here’s who’s eligible to receive the vaccine under Phase 1A:
Frontline healthcare workers who are high risk of exposure and mission-critical to the overarching goal of preventing death
Residents and staff of long-term care facilities
Admitted hospital patients who are aged 65 years and older
Anyone 65 years and older
State/local government employees and their contractors who are mission-critical for maintaining operations of COVID-19 vaccinations and testing
You can read more information about the phases and eligibility here.
What if I’m not eligible under Phase 1a? – DHEC estimates that Phase 1b eligibility will begin “Early Spring” and the remaining phases will follow. You can see more information about phases and eligibility here.
How do I get the vaccine? – DHEC has updated its list of vaccine locations here.
In addition to the locations identified on the map, in our area you can request vaccines through the following local hospital websites:
Aiken Regional Medical Centers – COVID-19 Vaccine | Aiken Regional Medical Centers
Lexington Medical Center – COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Vaccine | Lexington Medical Center (lexmed.com)
Self Regional Healthcare – Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information, Prevention and Preparedness – Self Regional Healthcare | Greenwood, SC
For those who do not have internet access, DHEC launched a new phone number – 866-365-8110 – that is staffed with 240 operators to answer calls 7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. and help schedule vaccine appointments.
Appointments should be scheduled because walk ins may not be able to receive the vaccine.
How is South Carolina doing in the administration of the vaccine? – As of Sunday, February 21, South Carolina had received 1,122,550 doses (152,000 more than last Sunday) and has administered 770,742 643,284 doses (127,458 more than last Sunday). You can keep up with how many doses we have received and administered here. This site is updated daily.
SCDOT ROAD PROJECTS – SCDOT has an interactive map to allow citizens to see the road and bridge projects going on around the state. You can see that map here.
How is the gas tax being used? – SCDOT’s website allows you to view a detailed revenue statement and project list that is funded by the Infrastructure Maintenance Trust Fund (IMTF). SCDOT updates this site monthly as the revenue comes in. You can see that report here.
WANT TO SEE THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY IN ACTION? – The Senate meets in statewide session on Tuesdays at 12:00, Wednesdays at 1:00, and Thursdays at 11:00. Committees and subcommittees meet 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.
P.O. Box 551
Edgefield, SC 29824
Cell Phone: (803) 480-0419