V.C. Summer Resolution, Automatic Stay Reform, & State of the Judiciary
On Tuesday the House took up a Senate resolution relating to the proposal by Dominion Energy to purchase SCANA Corporation. In the resolution, the Senate extended the amount of time the Public Service Commission has to review the Dominion-SCANA acquisition bid. However, the Senate did not address the most glaring issue ratepayers are facing every month, which is the 18% nuclear surcharge SCANA is forcing its customers to pay for the failed V.C. Summer nuclear energy project. Ratepayers are now paying $37 million a month for a nuclear plant that was never built. The House believes this is unacceptable and therefore altered the Senate resolution by completely eliminating the nuclear surcharge SCANA is charging its customers until the PSC can make a decision on the merger. The altered resolution has been sent back to the Senate for approval.
The House voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday (86-30) to shorten the amount of time radical environmental groups can hold up construction of important state infrastructure projects and business development projects in court. Under current law, environmental groups have the ability to petition the Administrative Law Court for a “stay” on new construction of roads and highways and private businesses. Environmental groups have a history demanding taxpayers and private businesses give so-called “land trusts” millions of dollars before dropping the court cases that hold up construction. An environmental group recently forced taxpayers of the state of South Carolina to pay several million dollars to their aligned groups in order to end the delays to bring Boeing to South Carolina and deepen the Port of Charleston. Without these forced payments, an environmental group could have thwarted the recruitment of Boeing and the deepening on the Port of Charleston. Furthermore, the current law especially hurts small businesses who wish to create jobs in South Carolina by giving environmental advocacy groups the ability to delay projects indefinitely unless businesses pay these groups money. The new law passed by the House and Senate will limit a “stay” to 90 days. Governor McMaster has announced he will sign this important reform bill.
Chief Justice of the South Carolina Supreme Court Donald W. Beatty delivered his first State of the Judiciary in the House Chamber on Wednesday. The chief justice explained his experience of entering office to find the judicial branch facing a projected budget shortfall of $3.5 million. He credited legislators for listening to his concerns and their work to erase the shortfall. Justice Beatty also shared the judiciary’s progress of expanding E-filing, which allows attorneys and other officers of the court to file documents, pleadings, and complaints electronically. E-filing is more efficient than the old filing system and this efficiency saves the state money due to fewer man hours being used to file court documents. The justice was pleased to announced E-filing is expanding rapidly across the state and is projected to be used by all 46 counties by January, 2019.
It is an honor and a privilege to serve you in Columbia. If you need help navigating state government, or have any thoughts or concerns about what we are doing, please do not hesitate to contact me.