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Historical Changes in Senate
For the first time in 150 years, the lieutenant governor no long presides over the SC Senate.  On Tuesday, Senators approved a new position called "President of the Senate" to preside over the body like the lieutenant governor used to do. (A constitutional amendment in 2012 that put the lieutenant governor and governor on the same ticket led to the change.) In addition, to prevent the consolidation of power, Senators also agreed that the Senate President could not be the Chairman of a committee.

Following the title/position change, Senators unanimously voted Senator Harvey Peeler (R-Gaffney) as the new President of the SC Senate. Peeler gave up his Chairmanship of the Medical Affairs Committee to take on this new role.
 
"You chose me to lead you. And lead you — by God I will," Peeler said at the end of his speech, eagerly banging the gavel.

The Senate also voted to make changes to rules to accommodate the new position.
Senate Committee Leaders

Agriculture and Natural Resources:  Senator Paul Campbell (R-Berkeley)
Banking and Insurance: Senator Ronnie Cromer (R-Newberry)
Corrections and Penology: Senator Shane Martin (R-Spartanburg)
Education:  Greg Hembree (R-Horry)
Ethics: Senator Sean Bennett (R-Dorchester)
Family and Veterans Services: Senator Katrina Shealy (R-Lexington)
Finance: Senator Hugh Leatherman (R-Florence)
Fish, Game and Forestry: Senator Chip Campsen (R-Charleston)
Judiciary: Senator Luke Rankin (R-Horry)
Labor, Commerce and Industry:  Senator Thomas Alexander (R-Oconee)
Medical Affairs: Senator Danny Verdin (R-Laurens)
Rules: Senator Shane Massey (R-Edgefield)
Transportation:  Senator Larry Grooms (R-Berkeley)
McMaster Outlines Game Plan for SC
The Inauguration of Governor Henry McMaster took place on Wednesday, where he was sworn in on the stairs of the SC Statehouse.  During his inaugural address, Gov. McMaster laid out a positive and concise message regarding his priorities for the state.

On the heels of Clemson's national championship victory, Gov. McMaster had the perfect opportunity to analogize issues of importance to that of a football game, and continue his campaign message of “winning.”  Key issues that McMaster addressed during his address were education, workforce development, tax reform, and tackling rural challenges.   

 “My pledge to you today is that the words ‘Corridor of Shame’ will soon be a fading memory,” McMaster said. “This will require a number of things, including a state-backed economic development commitment to bring jobs to these communities by providing infrastructure in rural areas — not only in water, sewer and roads, but in school buildings and facilities.

Gov. McMaster also reiterated his stance that surplus tax revenues shouldn’t be spent hastily; instead, he stated that they should be prioritized among the state’s most critical needs. While he did not outline any specific needs, he did mention rebating what is “not needed” back to the taxpayers. 

McMaster closed his address by encouraging the legislature to work as a team.  “We — among ourselves — are not competitors. We are all on the same team — with the same ultimate goal — which is the prosperity and happiness of the people of South Carolina.”

A full copy of Gov. McMaster’s speech can be viewed here.
Freshman House Members
There are 16 new faces in the SC House this year (6 Democrats and 10 Republicans).  Rep. Bobby Cox (R-Greenville) was elected Chairman of the Freshman Caucus by his peers. As chairman, Rep. Cox will focus on forging unity within the group.  He will also serve on the Republican Majority Whip team to help further the legislative agenda.  Get to know all of the new members here.
STIB Approves I-526 Extension
The State Transportation Infrastructure Bank (STIB) Board voted 5-2 Thursday afternoon to approve an amended intergovernmental agreement (IGA) for the I-526 extension. 
YES
STIB Chairman John White
Chip Limehouse
Ernest Duncan
Rep. Gary Simrill
SCDOT Commissioner Ben Davis (proxy vote)

NO
Senator Hugh Leatherman
Joe Taylor
Under the agreement, the STIB will be responsible for $420 million total (capped amount) and Charleston County will be responsible for the remaining costs of the project, which is estimated to be roughly $305 million. Based on the cash flow scenario, fees associated with any remaining preliminary work would be split 50/50 between the Bank and the County. The remaining costs of the project would be split 55% (STIB) 45% (County), this aims to lessen the chance of default by the county.

While specific funding mechanisms were not outlined, officials stated that the funding would come primarily come from Charleston County’s local sales tax for transportation projects.

Senator Hugh Leatherman voted against the amended IGA, but he made it very clear he was not against the project. He said, “I’ve been pegged as someone who opposes this project, and nothing could be further from the truth.” Leatherman attributed his vote Thursday to the fact that he merely wanted to do his due diligence to determine this if this project is in the best interest of the state.

Chip Limehouse, who has long been a proponent of the project, told his peers on the STIB Board that this was a great day for Charleston and South Carolina as a state.

Following the news of the approval, Governor Henry McMaster tweeted: “This is great news not only for the Lowcountry, but for all of South Carolina. It is a perfect example of what we can do when we open lines of communication and collaborate to invest wisely in the infrastructure that will help keep our people safe and set us on a course towards future prosperity.”
STIB Evaluation Committee Working to Remove “Politics and Pork”
The State Transportation Infrastructure Bank Evaluation Committee met following the full board meeting on Thursday afternoon to continue discussions regarding the prioritization and evaluation processes of the Bank.  STIB Chairman John White said the committee should aim to establish criteria to make the awarding of applications objective and not subjective.  He added that it was really to try to  remove the two Ps from the process – politics and pork.  While that may be a difficult task, the SCDOT’s perspective on the issue was to ensure that priorities drive the ranking process, not the rankings driving priorities.  

Ron Patton provided a quick overview to the committee regarding proposed changes to the application process.

STIB Board member Joe Taylor said that the words “economic development” were two of the most overused words in the state.  He expressed concerns with promoting economic development when soliciting applications, and rightfully so.  As the former SC Secretary of Commerce, he said that there are many pots of money that can be used explicitly for economic development. Taylor said that from his experience, the Bank could see itself opening Pandora’s Box if they tout economic development when soliciting applications.

STIB Board Member Chip Limehouse acknowledged his concerns but reminded his peers that the Bank had not awarded funding to anything other than roads – with the exception of a dam.  Limehouse echoed Taylor’s sentiment that the bank needed to solely focus on roads.  “We are a road bank,” Limehouse said.

STIB Chairman White said that he agreed that the bank didn’t need to tag along with economic development projects.  However, he also cited the Governor’s inaugural remarks regarding the “corridor of shame” and said that the bank should be in the position to fund projects that are independent (non-SCDOT/Act 275 projects) and benefit the state as a whole. 

SCDOT Secretary Christy Hall urged the committee to put a lot of consideration into the bank’s strategic priorities over mathematical formulas.  Hall cited her experience and the agency’s struggles with prioritizing projects.  She said that while everyone knew parts of I-26 needed to be widened, the SCDOT did not.  This was because only the segments close to urban areas would score high enough to be considered a priority.  It wasn’t until the agency looked to address strategic corridors (rural interstate freight network improvement program) that they were able to identify more sections of interstates across the state that needed to be improved.

Chairman White plans to meet with Secretary Hall to discuss the changes further and hopes to have a plan in place that may be voted on during the next evaluation committee meeting.  That meeting is tentatively scheduled for January 23. Stay tuned…
SCDOT Launches “Pothole Blitz”
This week, the SCDOT launched a “pothole blitz” aimed to tackle an increased number of potholes across the state due to the significant amounts of rainfall that have occurred over the past few weeks.  Crews will be working extended hours over the next few weeks to tackle these repairs. 

Deputy Secretary for Engineering Leland Colvin said, “It is expected that these additional efforts will take several weeks before we return to normal patching activities,” adding that employees will be working extended hours. “Please use caution while driving and watch out for our work crews out on the roads trying to make these temporary repairs.”

The public is asked to help SCDOT by reporting potholes via SCDOT’s website or calling the SCDOT Pothole Hotline at 1-855-GO-SCDOT 
(855-467-2368).
Ongoing Shutdown Fosters Confusion About Federal Highway Funds
The partial government shutdown that began Dec. 22, 2018, continues to hold Washington, D.C., in a vise grip with no immediate path toward resolution. While the impact of the stalemate impacting roughly 25 percent of federal discretionary spending is being widely reported by national and local media, the ramifications on federal highway investment remain a source of confusion and uncertainty.  Read More...

Transportation Funding Related Bills Introduced to Date
 
S.5 Interstate Lane Expansion Fund
Sponsor: Senator Nikki Setzler (D-Lexington)
The bill would create the Interstate Lane Expansion Fund to be used by the State Transportation Infrastructure Bank to finance, through the issuance of revenue bonds, the construction of additional lanes on mainline interstates that exist on July 1, 2019, and any rehabilitation required to accomplish the increased number of lanes. The fund cannot be used to create new interstates.  Monies for the fund would come from the infrastructure maintenance fee.

S.178 Tolling I-95
Sponsors: Senators Kevin Johnson (D-Clarendon) and Brad Hutto (D-Orangeburg)
The bill would impose a toll along Interstate Highway 95 where it crosses Lake Marion in either Orangeburg County or Clarendon County. The revenue collected from the toll would be used for the maintenance, upgrade, and expansion of the highway and interchanges of I-95.

H. 3409 – Gambling Revenues for Road Improvements
Primary Sponsor: Rep. Todd Rutherford (D-Richland)
The bill would allow for a constitutional amendment to be put forth in the next general election to legalize gambling in the state.  Should the amendment pass, any revenues generated from such activities would be allocated to the maintenance, construction, and repair of roads and bridges in the state.

 
SCDOT/STIB Reform Bills Introduced to Date

H. 3111 – Abolish the SCDOT Commission
Primary Sponsor: Rep. Micah Caskey (R-Lexington)
The bill abolishes the SCDOT Commission and places all of the Commission duties and responsibilities under the SCDOT Secretary and the SCDOT.  The Governor would appoint the SCDOT Secretary and he/she would serve at the pleasure of the Governor. The bill would require that the SCDOT annual budget receive legislative approval. Provisions are included that would put additional responsibilities and requirements for the Secretary/Department when it comes to reporting and involvement in awarding of contracts, etc.

H.3418 – Eliminate the State Transportation Infrastructure Bank
Primary Sponsor: Rep. Mac Toole (R-Lexington)
The bill would place the functions of the State Transportation Infrastructure Bank under the SCDOT Commission.  A transition committee would be established for six months before full authority is transferred to the SCDOT Commission. Members of the transition committee would include the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the South Carolina Transportation Infrastructure Bank, the Secretary of the Department of Transportation, one director appointed by the President of the Senate, one director appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and one director appointed by the Governor.

 
South Carolina’s roads and bridges will continue to be one of the top issues facing the state for many years to come. As the new state revenues are phased in, SCFOR understands the importance of publicly promoting both progress and patience; while continuing to urge policymakers at all levels of government to be proactive about infrastructure needs and investments. 
 
Questions regarding your 2019 SCFOR membership?
Please contact Jennifer Patterson via email jennifer@scfor.org or by phone at (803)417-6256.
2018 - 2019 Newsletter Archive
Copyright © 2019 South Carolina Alliance to Fix Our Roads, All rights reserved.


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