A daily review of what’s making news in South Carolina state government.
State senators on Tuesday voted unanimously to override Gov. Henry McMaster’s vetoes against using surplus lottery funds to pay for school buses.
After the vote, state Education Superintendent Molly Spearman said her office would use the $20.5 million to buy more than 200 badly-needed buses to replace aging, fireprone vehicles. “By overriding this veto, we will be able take 210 old and dangerous school buses off the road and provide safer and more efficient transportation for our students,” she said in a satement.
McMaster had stood on principle in June, arguing the extra money should have gone towards the lottery’s primary goal of providing college scholarships. But lawmakers in the House and Senate insisted the law also allows lottery funds to go for new buses. Legislators’ hardened their resolve after a string of older buses have caught fire since 2016.
The House overrode the vetoes last week. Normally vetoes are handled within a month, but lawmakers decided to wait until the new session in January.
— Dominion Energy CEO Tom Farrell faced a hostile reception as he went before a Senate panel Tuesday, explaining that his Virginiia-based utility is the best hope to take over SCANA in the wake of a failed nuclear expansion project. Co-chair of the panel State Sen. Shane Massey, R-Edgefield, said he believes there are more options than just the Dominion offer. However, the company maintains SCANA could go bankrupt iwithout help, especially if legislators repeal a law which allows the utility to use ratepayers to pay off the nuclear project’s massive debt.
— Gov. McMaster postponed his first State of the State address Wednesday after weather forecasts predicted snow and icy conditions in Columbia on Wednesday. Meanwhile the Charleston Post & Courier reported the governor’s campaign staff said some changes have been made among McMaster’s reelection campaign staff. Out was former director Katie Baham, while the governor named Scott Farmer as her replacement. Farmer is a longtime consultant who served on the successful reelection campaign of U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham in 2016.
— Voters sent two new Republican women to the Statehouse on Tuesday. Commercial realtor Nancy Mace, a former Trump presidential campaign staffer who was the first woman to graduate from The Citadel military academy, dispatched her Democratic opponent Cindy Boatwright with 56 percent of the vote to 43 percent. Both were vying to replace State Rep. Jim Merrill, a Republican who resigned from the district along the Berkeley-Charleston county border after pleading guilty to ethics-related charges last year. However, Democratic Party officials said the race showed momentum has switched to their party, citing the dozen-point swing since President Donald Trump won the same district with a much larger margin… Meanwhile, creamery owner Ashley Trantham won a seat representing western Greenville County. The Republican was the only candidate on the ballot. She will replace State Rep. Eric Bedingfield, who is stepping down to take a techincal college administration job.