Welcome to your weekly South Carolina politics briefing, a newsletter curated by The State’s politics and government team.
Reminder, the SC Legislature is still out for the summer but they are about to get a lot busier.
We expect lawmakers to return this fall (anywhere from September through the end of the year) to debate how they’re going to dole out billions of dollars in federal COVID relief cash, plus $525 million more from the Savannah River Site settlement AND redistricting.
On the redistricting front, if you’ve been wondering when SC lawmakers were going to start holding hearings, you got your answer.
On the other side of the State House, the House will hold its first organizational meeting Aug. 3.
This will be our first redistricting rodeo, and it might be yours too. In that case, make sure to pay attention because you’ll want to know how your representative and senator plan to redraw their district, which could change who shows up on your ballot.
We’ve spent a lot of time writing about earmarks in the state budget, but they’re set to come back in the federal budget.
As lawmakers work on federal appropriations and transportation authorizations bills, money for nearly $400 million in projects in South Carolina has been requested, mostly from House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn and US Sen. Lindsey Graham, the ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee.
Among the earmark requests: money to help build I-73 from I-95 to Myrtle Beach, construct an aircraft maintenance hangar to support the F-35 training squadron at Marine Corps Air Station in Beaufort, restore and expand he Waverly-Good Samaritan Hospital building at Allen University and provide a learning hub to provide direct services to underserved students at HBCU Benedict College.
“I have never been against earmarks,” Clyburn said. “I’ve always been for them, and even when we didn’t have them, I didn’t miss an opportunity every year to tell them that we’re crazy for not doing it.”
Authorizations for transportation projects also have been included in a House Transportation five-year authorization bill.
They include $20 million for an I-26/I-526 interchange project in North Charleston requested by US Rep. Nancy Mace, and $13 million to help widen Belvedere Clearwater Road in Aiken submitted by US Rep. Joe Wilson.
Horry County GOP leaders sued
Disaffected Republican Matthew McDaniel is accusing several Horry County Republican leaders of defamation and assault after an incident at the “Rock the Red” Republican Party event in Greenville in June.
McDaniel’s complaint centers around this incident: Toward the end of the event, he went to the stage, took the microphone and said, “Gen. (Michael) Flynn is the biggest scumbag traitor in the history of this country, next to Donald Trump.” Flynn had finished speaking.
McDaniel alleges he was “grabbed” and “slammed” to the ground by former right-wing radio host Chad Caton, then kept in a “horse-collar grip” as he was lifted back up, knocked to the floor again and pushed out of the hotel ballroom where the the event was held.
But the focus of his lawsuit goes after Horry County GOP leaders — Roger Slagle, Jeremy Halpin, Tracy “Beanz” Diaz — and MySCGOP leader Pressley Stutts, who all defended Caton’s intervention and described McDaniel and his actions as “antifa.”
Meanwhile, the Greenville News reported the slate of MYSCGOP leaders who lost posts initially have won them back, weeks after three Greenville County Republican Party leaders resigned.
COVID-19 cases in South Carolina are spiking again and the highly contagious delta variant is likely to blame, say state health officials.
After accounting for only about 5% of all COVID-19 cases in June, delta makes up the majority of coronavirus cases the state’s public health laboratory has sequenced this month, providing further evidence the strain is spreading rapidly in South Carolina.
South Carolina’s low vaccination rate — only 44% of residents are fully vaccinated — has made it easier for delta to sweep the Palmetto State. Even the state’s long-term care facilities, which were prioritized for vaccination early in the state’s rollout, report lower vaccination rates than all but a few states in the country, according to the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
In an effort to get more South Carolinians to roll up their sleeves, SC health officials are accepting proposals for COVID-19 vaccine outreach initiatives and plan to award up to $5 million in grant assistance to groups with innovative proposals to get shots in arms.
There was some good news this week.
50% of eligible South Carolinians have received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine.
Gov. Henry McMaster and his wife, Peggy, have gotten the vaccine, but he said ultimately everyone has to make their own a personal decision.
“We made our decision,” McMaster said to reporters on Thursday. “I think it was the right decision to do, but people, if they have questions they can get answers and they need to talk to the people they trust. Whether it’s a preacher, a doctor, neighbors or friends, and make a decision. We made what I think is the right decision.”
“It’s a very personal decision but we know that the vaccine saves lives,” McMaster continued. “We’ve seen that. We see it in the numbers of people going into the hospital I think is close to 99% are not vaccinated. So that means that the vaccine is working.”
▪ Don’t expect to see Nikki Haley on a ticket with Donald Trump in 2024 — if he runs. In a new book by two Washington Post reporters about the former president’s one term in office, Trump criticized the former SC governor, saying she has been “killed” by the Republican Party after she criticized his comments leading up to the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. Based on her schedule, however, Haley has kept busy in Republican circles since leaving the Trump administration.
▪ Gov. McMaster signed the Student Identification Card Suicide Prevention Act, requiring public schools with 7-12th grade students and colleges and universities to provide the phone number of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and an additional crisis resource on school-issued student ID cards.
▪ SC Rep. Justin Bamberg, who is representing a Rock Hill man whose charges were dropped after his arrest, has sued the city and US Rep. Ralph Norman over “false” statements.
▪ US Rep. Nancy Mace is co-sponsoring legislation inspired by the #FreeBritney movement.
▪ US Sen. Tim Scott pushed back against reports that police reform talks on Capitol Hill are on “life support.”
▪ South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, a possible 2024 presidential candidate, is scheduled to headline Congressman Jeff Duncan’s “Faith & Freedom BBQ” in Anderson next month, the Associated Press reports.
▪ The State House team is sending our congratulations to SC Sen. Thomas McElveen and his wife, Bronwyn, who gave birth to their third child, a baby boy named Burke Tecklenberg “Buck” McElveen. Welcome to the world!
Mark your calendar
SC Senate redistricting meeting in Columbia in the Senate building on July 27 at 6:30 p.m.
SC Senate redistricting meeting at Central Carolina Technical College in Sumter on July 28 at 6:30 p.m.
SC Senate redistricting meeting at York Technical College in Rock Hill on July 29 at 6:30 p.m.
Mike Pompeo will speak at the SCGOP’s Silver Elephant fundraiser
Filing for Columbia City elections opens
SC Senate redistricting meeting at the Greenville County Council Chambers in Greenville, 6:30 p.m.
SC House redistricting organizational meeting at 10:30 a.m.
SC Senate committee meeting on how to spend American Rescue Plan Act money at 10:30 a.m.
SC Senate redistricting meeting at Florence-Darlington Technical College in Florence at 6:30 p.m.
SC Senate redistricting meeting at MacLean Hall at Technical College of the Lowcountry in Beaufort, 6:30 p.m.
SC Senate redistricting meeting at Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College in Orangeburg on Aug. 9, 6:30 p.m.
SC Senate redistricting meeting at Trident Technical College in North Charleston on Aug. 10, 6:30 p.m.
SC Senate redistricting meeting at Horry-Georgetown Technical College in Conway on Aug. 11, 6:30 p.m.
SC Senate redistricting meeting at Aiken Technical College in Graniteville on Aug. 12, 6:30 p.m.
South Carolina’s open carry with permit law takes effect
US Census scheduled to release data used for redistricting
US Rep. Jeff Duncan’s annual Faith & Freedom BBQ
Before we adjourn
Ambassador Harpootlian. Not Dick Harpootlian, the outspoken Richland County state senator, but his wife, Jamie. President Joe Biden nominated the Columbia attorney to be U.S. ambassador to Slovenia, an appointment which needs to be confirmed by the US Senate.
The Harpootlians are long supporters of Biden, including holding a fundraiser at their house in 2019 which raised $115,000.
“As someone who has spent much of my life in public service, I am honored and delighted by the opportunity to serve my country as ambassador to the Republic of Slovenia,” Jamie Harpootlian said in a statement. “My sincere gratitude to President Biden for putting his trust in me for this important position, and if confirmed, I look forward to our bilateral cooperation with the people of Slovenia.”
Jamie Harpootlian works at the Harpootlian law firm in Columbia. She’s also served as a court-appointed Special Master to facilitate case resolution in complex, mass disaster class actions and as a hearing officer on the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund.
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