January 31, 2015

SC Big Story: Former Lt. Gov. gets job at his old agency

Former Lt. Governor Yancey McGill (File)

Former Lt. Governor Yancey McGill (File)

A roundup of what’s making news in South Carolina state government.

It didn’t take long for former Lieutenant Governor Yancey McGill to land a new gig.

Less than a month after his short term as the state’s number two officeholder ended, The State newspaper reports McGill has landed a top executive job in his old office.

McGill is the new state director of the South Carolina Office on Aging, which is run by the lieutenant governor’s office. McGill said new Lieutenant Governor Henry McMaster asked him to take the position.

The former Williamsburg County senator was the only one to volunteer in June 2014 when then-Lt. Governor Glenn McConnell announced his resignation to become College of Charleston president. The state Constitution requires the Senate President pro tempore to resign his office and replace him. But since the upcoming election meant the new lieutenant governor could only serve six months, no senator at first seemed willing to effectively end their political career.

McGill finally stepped forward and was elected President pro tempore. He then became lieutenant governor when McConnell resigned minutes later, becoming the first Democrat to hold the office since 1995 and the first member of his party to hold any statewide office since 2011.

He will earn $122,000 in his new bureaucratic post, according to the report.

— The ridesharing app Uber will be allowed to operate in South Carolina until at least June, state regulators voted Thursday. The Public Service Commission voted unanimously in favor of the temporary license after issuing a cease-and-desist order only two weeks earlier. A taxi company challenging the license has agreed to drop its objections while state legislators work on a bill that would effectively legalize the Uber app. Taxi companies oppose Uber, saying the company has an unfair advantage because it does not follow the same regulations they do.

— U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham has taken the next step towards a possible White House run in 2016, creating an exploratory committee that will allow him to begin fundraising. The senator announced the move on Fox News Thursday morning, after hinting at a run for weeks. Graham has dubbed his new presidential exploratory committee “Security Through Strength.” South Carolina’s senior senator has been critical of the party’s Libertarian faction and fought off a field of Tea Party challengers in the 2014 primary.

— Gov. Nikki Haley issued an executive order Thursday that creates a new task force to reduce domestic violence in South Carolina. The governor said more than 40 state agencies, nonprofits, and other groups will be part of the group. The task force will have until December 31 to issue a final report. Meanwhile, legislators in the House and Senate are working on crafting their own bills that address domestic violence. South Carolina consistently has one of the nation’s highest rates of women killed by men.

— The Associated Press reports a bill endorsed by a panel of legislators on Thursday would give the State Grand Jury more power to investigate human trafficking. State Attorney General Alan Wilson has made the bill a priority, saying it would give prosecutors a better tool for trafficking cases that usually go across county lines. The measure was given unanimous support in a House subcommittee. It now goes to the full Senate Judiciary Committee.

— A pair of Republican legislators plan to file new bills next month that would allow marijuana to be grown and prescribed for certain illnesses. The pledge came after a study committee heard testimony Thursday on the legalization of medical marijuana. State Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, and State Rep. Jenny Horne, R-Summerville, said they will introduce matching bills in both the House and Senate. But some health professionals questioned if allowing patients to inhale marijuana smoke was a wise recommendation for doctors to make.

Two GOP legislators say they will introduce medical marijuana legislation next month

Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort (File)

Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort (File)

A pair of South Carolina legislators plan to file new legislation next month that would allow marijuana to be grown and prescribed for certain illnesses.

The pledge by the two Republicans came after the Medical Marijuana Study Committee heard testimony Thursday on the legalization of medical marijuana.

“This is a process that I think everyone agrees needs to be thorough and deliberative, with all factors both anticipated and unanticipated considered,” State Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, said during the hearing.

Davis and State Rep. Jenny Horne, R-Summerville, said they will introduce matching bills in both the House and Senate that would allow the plant to be grown legally for medical purposes.

[Read more…]

Uber allowed to renew operations in SC

UberSouth Carolina regulators on Thursday temporarily approved a license they say the ridesharing service Uber needs to operate in the state.

The Public Service Commission had issued a cease-and-desist order against Reiser, LLC (the Uber subsidiary which makes the app) two weeks ago, saying the firm needed a Class C license in order to operate in South Carolina. Potential competitor Checker Yellow Cab had been intervening, objecting that Uber has an unfair business advantage since it is not subjected to the same regulations as a traditional taxi service.

The situation changed after State Rep. Leon Stavrinakis, D-Charleston, filed legislation on January 22 that would create new regulations for services like Uber. Uber argues it is not a traditional cab company, but uses a phone app to connect passengers with independent drivers. After the legislation was filed, Checker Yellow agreed to lift its objection and allow Uber to operate while legislators take up the proposed bill. An attorney for the cab company said they would work to change the law instead of continuing to fight the app.

Uber’s permit will allow it to operate until the legislative session ends in June.

“We’re very excited,” East Coast general manager Billy Guernier told South Carolina Radio Network. “We applaud the action by the PSC and certainly appreciate the support that we received from the governor… We look forward to seeing state legislation pass in the near future.”

Office of Regulatory Staff executive director C. Dukes Scott said Uber will be exempted from some regulations (it will not need to use markings identifying it as a taxi, for example). But the company has agreed to have each driver carry at least $1 million in insurance to protect the passenger. The cars will also be required to undergo state inspections.

Those requirements could change if state legislators set up different regulations later this year.

Guernier said Uber’s drivers had continued operating despite the cease-and-desist order the past two weeks.

Governor creates domestic violence task force

Gov. Nikki Haley speaks in front of task force members during a press conference at the Statehouse on Thursday

Gov. Nikki Haley speaks in front of task force members during a press conference at the Statehouse on Thursday

Gov. Nikki Haley issued an executive order Thursday that creates another task force to investigate ways of reducing domestic violence in South Carolina.

The governor said more than 40 state agencies, nonprofits, and other groups will be part of the task force. The groups include law enforcement, criminal justice, substance abuse and mental illness treatment organizations, victim’s aid organizations, and education and medial groups.

“I knew this wasn’t going to be a quick fix, but it’s okay,” Haley said in a press conference introducing the task force on Thursday. “I don’t mind if this is going to take us longer. I don’t mind if this is going to be hard.”

The task force will have until December 31 to issue a final report. Meanwhile, legislators in the House and Senate are working on crafting their own bills that address domestic violence. South Carolina consistently has one of the nation’s highest rates of women killed by men.

[Read more…]

Sen. Graham “testing the waters” to run for president

Senator-Graham

Graham was first elected to the Senate in 2002.

South Carolina’s U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham made it official today that he’s serious about running for president, creating an exploratory committee that allows him to start raising money.

Graham has dubbed his new presidential exploratory committee “Security Through Strength.” According to a press release from Graham’s office on Thursday, the committee “will fund the infrastructure and operations allowing Graham to travel the country listening to Americans’ concerns, and gauging support for a potential presidential candidacy.”

Graham also announced the move on Fox News Thursday morning, after hinting at it to media and party leaders for weeks.

South Carolina’s senior senator has been critical of the party’s Libertarian faction and fought off a field of Tea Party challengers in the 2014 primary. He then won handily over a Democrat and independent candidate in the general election.

[Read more…]