September 1, 2014

Report: Lowcountry legislator, despite bio, does not have doctorate degree


State Rep. Samuel Rivers (Image: SC Legislative Services Agency)

State Rep. Samuel Rivers (Image: SC Legislative Services Agency)

A state legislator from the Lowcountry is accused of misleading voters about a doctorate degree he received.

A new report by the Charleston City Paper published on Wednesday dug into the background of State Rep. Samuel Rivers (R-Goose Creek), who was first elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives in 2012. Rivers is a pastor who leads The Voice of the Lord International Ministries outside of his Statehouse service.

On his House biography page, Rivers lists a Doctorate of Theology from Smith Christian University in Florida as part of his resume. The doctorate was also included on the bio for his ministry website.

However, when confronted by the paper, Rivers admitted he never earned a doctorate from the tiny unlicensed college. He said the school had instead presented him with an honorary degree.

Rivers answered all the reporter’s questions, but said he felt the issue of whether or not he actually earned a doctorate was not important to voters. “I have gone to school, different schools, religious schools and institutions, but I really wish we would stay away from things like that, and let’s focus on the actual issues, because that distorts the voters,” the City Paper quoted Rivers as saying. “The voters are unconcerned with a doctorate of theology.” 

Rivers is running for re-election against Democrat Marian Redish this November. Redish is also a Christian minister: she and her husband both lead the nondenominational Life Changers Covenant Ministries in North Charleston. However, she also has an education that is difficult to track. The City Paper noted Redish attended Tabernacle Bible Institute in Jamaica, N.Y., but noted the only phone number listed for that school had been disconnected.

Governor signs bill making solar energy more accessible in SC


Haley signed the bill underneath a solar panel array at a Columbia outfitter Wednesday

Haley signed the bill underneath a solar panel array at a Columbia outfitting store Wednesday

Gov. Nikki Haley held a ceremonial signing Wednesday for a new law that loosens restrictions on solar energy in South Carolina.

The Distributed Energy Resource Program Act will let third-party companies lease solar panels to customers without being regulated as a public utility. The leasing practice is meant to help homeowners afford the relatively expensive panels.

While the governor officially signed the bill into law back in June, Wednesday’s ceremony at a Columbia outfitter was a celebration for conservation and renewable energy groups. Those groups have long criticized state laws they said made South Carolina one of the most difficult states for installing solar panels on homes and businesses.

Haley said South Carolina trails neighboring states for solar energy usage.  “(Georgia and North Carolina) have been doing pretty well when it comes to solar energy and they don’t have any more sun than we do. The goal is to never be satsified, but what are we doing to move the ball forward?”

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SLED seeks new helicopters, saying current vehicles date back to late 1980s

2-passenger SLED helicopter at agency's headquarters (Image: USC-Lancaster)

2-passenger SLED helicopter at agency’s headquarters (Image: USC-Lancaster)

State police are seeking permission to purchase a new helicopter, saying their current models that are all more than 25 years old and are showing their age.

The Joint Bond Review Committee on Monday advanced the State Law Enforcement Division’s request to spend up to $3.5 million on a new 2-passenger copter. The matter will now go to the full Budget & Control Board later this month.

In a letter to the committee, SLED said it currently owns four helicopters: one 10-passenger “rescue”/transport helicopter from the late 1960s, two 2-passenger helicopters built in the 1980s which are experiencing considerable downtime for repairs, and one 2-passenger helicopter used in the Vietnam War, which is no longer in service due to the lack of available parts.

The federal government donated the Vietnam-era helicopter to SLED along with 10 replacement engines which had a service life of 1,000 flying hours each. The letter said all of the engines have been used with less than a couple hundred flying hours left on the last engine. SLED is required to return the helicopter to the U.S. Dept. of Defense or another governmental entity under the program.

SLED Chief Mark Keel was at Monday’s meeting, but said he did not wish to comment until after the Budget & Control Board makes its decision.

SLED’s letter said it is “challenged” to maintain its current level of support with this helicopter out of service.

The General Assembly increased SLED’s 2014-15 Other Funds authorization by $3.5 million for the purchase of a new helicopter. The source of the funds are $1.2 million in confiscated cash and $2.3 million from criminal record search funds carried over from previous year operations.

SLED said it hopes to purchase a new MD Model 500E helicopter– the same model as the pair of 2-passenger helicopters in the current fleet.

SLED: More than 100 CWP permits blocked with new gun purchase law

State agents say 136 people have been stopped from buying guns in South Carolina under a new law that took effect last year.

WCIV in Charleston reported last week that State Law Enforcement Division chief Mark Keel wrote in a letter those individuals had been deemed mentally incompetent to own a gun. In 2013, legislators required probate judges to submit those judicial orders to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. While it was already illegal for those individuals to own a handgun, South Carolina had not previously been submitting the information to the FBI until last year.

The State Law Enforcement Division also said its agents have revoked 132 concealed weapons permits from CWP carriers who were ineligible to carry them under the law. SLED also revoked 29 applications, the letter stated.

The law passed after a Beaufort County woman named Alice Boland brought her handgun to a Charleston school in February  and tried to shoot an administrator. The gun misfired and no one was hurt, but investigators later learned Boland had been banned from owning a gun after a judge previously ruled her mentally incompetent. However, state law at the time did not require the information be included in the federal database, meaning the business which sold the gun to Boland did not realize she was barred from owning one.

More than 48,000 records have been submitted to the FBI so far, according to the Charleston Post & Courier.

Stone Brewing eliminates SC as site for new brewery

Stone beerSouth Carolina has been eliminated as a site for a California company’s new East Coast brewery.

Stone Brewing Company had said it was considering locations in Charleston, Greenville, Lexington, and Myrtle Beach – among sites in other states. The $31 million craft brewery would have been South Carolina’s largest, by far.

The Charleston Post & Courier confirmed the news from state Commerce Department officials on Monday.

“We considered a number of great locations in South Carolina, but after careful review and evaluation, we narrowed the candidates to locations that we feel better fit our needs and requirements,” company spokeswoman Sabrina LoPiccolo told the paper. “Stone Brewing Co. would like to express our gratitude for the significant efforts put forth (during) our search. We truly appreciate the time and resources that went towards our project.”

State lawmakers had lobbied hard to get Stone, even loosening South Carolina’s alcohol laws to make the state more appealing for brewers. Previously, state law restricted how breweries could distribute beer to stores. Restaurants could brew no more than 2,000 barrels per year in sales. In May, legislators eliminated those restrictions and allowed breweries to manufacture up to 500,000 barrels per year. For perspective, South Carolina’s largest breweries currently distribute only about three percent of that amount.

The company did not say which locations were finalists.