LOWCOUNTRY LOWDOWN

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 An abortion ban, looser gun laws, firing-squad executions 

 A few of the things our state Legislators did for us this year 

BEAUFORT – By the time you read this, the closing gavel probably will have banged on the 2021 state legislative session. But in case you missed it or just chose to block it out, let’s look a few of the highlights our elected state officials enacted by May 13. 

– Early in the session, they passed a “fetal heartbeat” ban on abortions, legislation that is expected to be tied up in the courts for some time. 

– They passed a bill improving in-state tuition assistance to military retirees and their dependents. The bill removes the time limit for retirees to file for the program whereas previous legislation required them to apply within three years of leaving the service. Supporters contend the assistance will increase the number of military folks moving to the state although it’s not a requirement that they live in South Carolina. 

– They appear to have added firing squads to the acceptable methods of state-sanctioned executions since the option of lethal injection has vanished because of drug shortages. As of this writing, specifics of the bill are going back and forth between the House and Senate, but Gov. McMaster has said he’s ready to sign a bill to get the proverbial ball rolling on executions. 

– Also as of this writing, the Legislature appears to be on a fast-track with a bill to make it easier for gun owners with permits to carry those guns in the open. McMaster says he’s ready to sign this one as well. 

– We didn’t get the right to use medical marijuana for debilitating illnesses. Our Sen. Tom Davis’ proposal to legalize medical marijuana made it through Senate committee, but yet again, the law enforcement protest the medical advancement as a pathway to hell.

Davis plans to push the state’s effort, called the Compassionate Care Act, to join 36 states which allow the use of when the Legislature reconvenes in January 2022 to tackle “unfinished business.”

– And McMaster, who is running for a second term in 2022 in case you missed it, announced as of June 30, the state will no longer participate in the federal COVID-19 unemployment assistance – those $300 per month checks. He apparently has authority to do without action by the Legislature.

The Palmetto State joined Montana as the second state in the nation to take this action to drive folks back into the workforce.

– The Legislature didn’t make a decision on what to do with the state-owned Santee Cooper utility company nor did they establish much groundwork – publicly – for the process of redistricting which they say will take place this fall, in time for the 2022 elections. Legislation was introduced to make the redistricting, aka gerrymandering, easier for the public to watch … a process not unlike making sausage.

Garbage fee update

BEAUFORT – Closer to home, good news on the garbage collection scene.

The County Council has backed off the idea of adding a flat $169 fee for using the drop-off sites and opted for adding a special millage fee to cover the costs.

But if this business of garbage collection is of interest to you, stay tuned. The consultants have recommended an eventual cost per visit to the sites down the proverbial road.

Also on the subject of garbage collection, county officials have been reporting little impact, in terms of littering, since two collection sites were closed.

On the other hand, Port Royal town officials say their restaurants and businesses are reporting a major increase in the amount of household debris being dropped illegally into their dumpsters. One Port Royal restaurant, according to reports, had to increase their weekly pickups from three days a week to five days.

Following up on the bridge

HARBOR ISLAND – Last week’s ceremonial opening of the new and improved Harbor River Bridge got some folks wondering why at least part of the bridge approach ramps couldn’t be developed as a recreational fishing pier.

When the Broad River Bridge was replaced in 2004, the northern span was left standing and is now one of the county’s most popular fishing pier. Same with the new Ravenel Bridge over the Cooper River where the old bridge span was developed into not just a fishing pier, but a lovely park area.

Well, it turns out S.C. Department of Transportation engineers considered a fishing pier at the Harbor River bridge site in the early planning stages but ruled against the idea because of the lack of adequate parking.


Following up on the pole

BEAUFORT – Mindy Lucas’ story last week, “Old Bessie vs. one old pole” brought up a problem that city officials have encountered before but apparently haven’t addressed.

The story of an abandoned utility pole crushing a family car in the North Street neighborhood and none of the utility companies taking ownership was a situation the city also experienced during the Boundary Street renovation.

S.C. Electric and Gas, which preceded Dominion Electric, agreed to put active power lines underground. But it was noted during the project that a number of the power poles along Boundary had lines which were not longer active – telephone lines, cable, etc.

As one travels the community’s roadways and notice the trees which have been clipped, or removed by Dominion, you have to wonder if ALL those wires are necessary.

Photo by Lolita Huckaby

Lolita Huckaby Watson is a community volunteer and former reporter/editorial assistant/columnist with The Beaufort Gazette, The Savannah Morning News, Bluffton Today, Beaufort Today and The Robesonian (Lumberton, N.C.). She can be reached at bftbay@gmail.com.