A daily review of what’s making news in South Carolina state government.
Gov. Henry McMaster dropped few hints of what he will discuss in his first State of the State address Wednesday night. It will be the first time McMaster has addressed the joint assembly of the House and Senate since becoming governor last year.
“I’ve got a lot to say and not much time to say it,” he told a South Carolina Chamber of Commerce gathering on Tuesday. However, the governor is expected to discuss energy issues, particularly the shutdown of construction on two new nuclear reactors. He may also touch on his proposal to lower income tax brackets in South Carolina.
State Rep. James Smith, D-Columbia, will deliver the Democratic response. Smith is running for governor this year against McMaster. His opponent Charleston activist and businessman Phil Noble takes issue with Smith’s essentially free air time and plans to livestream his own response.
McMaster’s speech will air on SCETV beginning at 7 p.m. Smith’s taped response will air shortly after he finishes.
— McMaster also said Tuesday he would sign legislation that completely replaces the Base Load Review Act, potentially killing a proposed deal by Dominion Energy to buy SCANA. The governor sent a letter to the General Assembly asking lawmakers for a proposal that guarantees that SCANA ratepayers will not have to pay any further towards the failed VC Summer reactor expansion project. The House and Senate already are considering such a move.
— The House voted Tuesday to create a new position that would advocate for consumers in issues involving power utilities. The proposed Utilities Consumer Advocate would be in the Attorney General’s Office under a new bill approved 114-1 in the House. Supporters say the new office would partially replace the functions of the current Office of Regulatory Staff, which acts as a neutral analyst in utility issues that appear before state regulators. The measure will go to the Senate after another procedural vote on Wednesday.
— Two senators introduced legislation Tuesday that would provide taxpayer funding to preserve the unfinished nuclear reactors at the V.C. Summer plant in Fairfield County. State Sens. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, and Sen. Mike Fanning, D-Fairfield want to preserve the site for potential future reuse years from now. State-owned power utility Santee Cooper wants to keep the option open even as its public partner SCANA decided last year to completely abandon the project so it could write off the failure on its taxes.
— The Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum’s director told the Charleston Post & Courier he will present a roughly $300,000 plan to his board members next month that would exhibit the last Confederate battle flag to fly on the Statehouse grounds. The latest plan is severely reduced from $3.6 million two years ago after a backlash from the legislature about the cost. The legislature voted to place the flag at the museum as part of an agreement to remove it in 2015. Lawmakers would have the final say in any funding requests.
— State judges are pushing for a pay raise, arguing they are significantly underpaid. The State newspaper reports the Judicial Department will ask for a 20 percent pay hike for all state judges at a House budget panel on Wednesday. The raise would cost the state roughly $6.3 million more each year. The proposed raises do not include other Judicial Department employees, including court reporters or other staff.