Last week was the 6th week of the 2022 legislative session. There are 12 legislative weeks remaining before the General Assembly is scheduled to adjourn on May 12, 2022. Here are the highlights from last week’s action in the Senate:
American Rescue Plan Act funds – The Senate passed S.952, a resolution that would appropriate more than $1.75 billion in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds Congress sent to South Carolina last year. The money would be spent as follows:
- SC Department of Transportation – $453,499,758 to accelerate SCDOT’s statewide infrastructure program. You can see the plan here.
- Rural Infrastructure Authority – $900,000,000 for water, sewer, and stormwater projects statewide.
- Office of Regulatory Staff – $400,000,000 to expand broadband access statewide.
The House passed its own plan to spend the ARPA funds, so the House and Senate will have to work together to agree on the same plan.
SRS Plutonium Settlement funds – Last year, South Carolina settled a lawsuit with the federal government over the perpetual storage of plutonium at the Savannah River Site. After paying attorneys’ fees, South Carolina has $525 million. Last week the Senate passed S. 956, a plan to spend that money. The plan would divide the money as follows:
- 65% to Aiken, Barnwell, and Allendale counties, where the Savannah River Site and stored plutonium are located.
- 10% to Edgefield, Saluda, Lexington, Bamberg, Orangeburg, Hampton, and Colleton counties based on the percentage of SRS workforce that comes from these counties. Outside of the three host counties, these counties supply the workforce at SRS.
- 25% statewide to County Transportation Committees for infrastructure projects.
Here is how that money would be divided in our area:
Aiken County – $206,750,000
- City of Aiken – SRS Corridor/Whiskey Road (Powderhouse Connector Road) congestion relief – $29,500,000
- North Augusta/Aiken County – New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam Redevelopment – $20,000,000
- USC Aiken – National Guard Dreamport facility (coordination with US Cyber Command) – $9,800,000
- Aiken County – Improvements to Sage Mill Industrial Park to include water and sewer upgrades – $5,000,000
- Aiken County – Industrial Park Project in eastern Aiken County (land and infrastructure) – $10,000,000
- Aiken County – Off-site infrastructure Improvements for SRS/National Lab, including the Aiken Technology/Innovation Corridor – $20,000,000
- Aiken County – Upgrades to Horse Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant – $10,000,000
- Aiken County – Water line along Highway 39 from Wagener to Monetta with two elevated storage tanks and three pump stations – $4,000,000
- Aiken County – Water line from Beech Island to Jackson with elevated storage tanks and pump Stations – $6,000,000
- Aiken County – Public Safety Infrastructure/County Fire Suppression – $4,000,000
- North Augusta – Cyber Initiative infrastructure investment to complement Fort Gordon Army Cyber Command and Georgia Cyber Command – $15,000,000
- North Augusta – Regional Solid Waste Transfer Station – $2,000,000
- City of Aiken/Aiken County – Redevelopment and economic development in downtown and Aiken’s Northside toward I-20 – $25,000,000
- Aiken County – Highway 19 Corridor Business/Economic Development Improvements (New Ellenton) and Downtown Water/Sewer Infrastructure (Wagener, Jackson, Burnettetown and Salley) – $5,000,000
- Aiken Technical College – Nursing School Facility – $9,950,000
- Aiken Technical College – Welding Lab – $1,500,000
- Aiken County Public School District – New Career and Technology Center and district-wide technology upgrades – $30,000,000
Edgefield County – $21,600,000
- Piedmont Technical College – Center for Advanced Manufacturing – $15,000,000
- Edgefield County Law Enforcement Center – $4,000,000
- Edgefield County School District – Workforce Development Training and Equipment – $1,600,000
- Fox Creek High School Athletic Complex – $1,000,000
Lexington County – $11,900,000
- Batesburg-Leesville Industrial Park – Site Preparation for Parcel #1 – $1,250,000
- Saxe Gotha Industrial Park – Site Preparation for Parcel #9 – $2,500,000
- Chapin Business and Technology Park at Brighton – Site Preparation for Parcel #10 – $1,250,000
- Saxe Gotha Industrial Park – Phase III Roadway and Water Expansion – $4,800,000
- Batesburg-Leesville Industrial Park – Construction of Speculative Building on Parcel #1 – $2,100,000
Saluda County – $1,931,034
- Piedmont Technical College – Workforce Development and Career Training – $1,931,034
The House of Representatives will now consider the Senate’s plan.
Free Time for Teachers – The Senate passed S. 946, a bill that would guarantee each teacher at least 30 minutes of unencumbered time each school day. The bill will now go to the House of Representatives.
Hands Free – The Senate debated S. 248, a bill that would prevent drivers from holding a cell phone while driving. The bill is patterned after a law passed in Georgia a few years ago. I expect the Senate will continue discussing the bill this week.
Vaccine Mandates – I usually do not mention subcommittee and committee activity because legislation typically changes a good bit before being debated by the full Senate, but I have had a lot of emails and phone calls about employers requiring COVID-19 vaccines, vaccine passports, and medical facilities denying treatment to patients who have not received the vaccine.
Last April the Senate passed S. 177, a resolution that would prohibit vaccine mandates in most situations. The House did not take up that resolution but passed H. 3126 in December. Last week, a Senate Finance subcommittee took up H.3126 and adopted amendments to prevent governmental employers from requiring vaccines, impose financial penalties on private employers that have vaccine mandates, allow employees affected by vaccine mandates to receive unemployment benefits, and prohibit restaurants, businesses, and hospitals from denying services to unvaccinated citizens. The full Finance Committee will consider the amended resolution this week.
SCDOT ROAD PROJECTS – SCDOT has an interactive map to allow citizens to see the road and bridge projects going on around the state. You can see that map here.
How is the gas tax being used? – SCDOT’s website allows you to view a detailed revenue statement and project list that is funded by the Infrastructure Maintenance Trust Fund (IMTF). SCDOT updates this site monthly as the revenue comes in. You can see that report here.
WANT TO SEE THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY IN ACTION? – The Senate meets in statewide session on Tuesdays at 2:00, Wednesdays at 12:00, and Thursdays at 11:00. Committees and subcommittees meet Tuesday mornings, Wednesday mornings, and Thursday mornings. You can watch live coverage of the Senate, House of Representatives, and committees here.
OUR SENATE DISTRICT – Senate District 25 consists of all of Edgefield County and parts of Aiken, Lexington, McCormick, and Saluda Counties. If you’d like to see the district map, go here.
Beginning with the 2024 election, Senate District 25 will include all of Edgefield and McCormick Counties and parts of Aiken, Lexington, and Saluda Counties. You can see the new district, effective in 2024, here.
SPEAKING WITH GROUPS – Several groups, clubs, and classes around our Senate district have invited me to attend their meetings and provide legislative updates. If you would like for me to come speak with your group, please let me know.
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P.O. Box 551
Edgefield, SC 29824Email: