SCE&G files lawsuit to block 15-percent rate cut Legislature passed last week

BY TOM BARTON AND AVERY G. WILKS
tbarton@thestate.com
awilks@thestate.com

COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina Electric & Gas Company has filed a federal lawsuit seeking to block S.C. regulators from following a newly passed law to temporarily slash the utility’s power customers’ bills by 15 percent.

But the S.C. Public Service Commission on Monday voted to enact the rate cut. It will move forward with slashing SCE&G’s electric rates at a hearing on Tuesday, barring a successful legal challenge by the Cayce-based utility.

The legal proceedings unfolded Monday, days after the S.C. Legislature passed a new law that would nearly wipe out the roughly $27 per month SCE&G now charges its average customers for a failed nuclear construction project.

In its lawsuit, SCE&G seeks a judge’s ruling that the law is unconstitutional and an injunction blocking the S.C. PSC from officially setting the lower rate. SCE&G complains that S.C. lawmakers passed a 2007 law encouraging the V.C. Summer nuclear expansion project and appointed state regulators who approved it, and now wants to punish the utility because the project failed.

The suit does not detail SCE&G’s role in the failure, laying blame with the project’s chief contractor, Westinghouse.

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7 candidates running for SC Senate District 20

For more than a year, the residents of Senate District 20 have been without a Senator. During that time, I worked with other House members to be sure our community and their communities were not without constituent service. Contrary to the one of the many false attacks and misrepresentations leveled my way during this recent House campaign, I had made no decision about pursuing another office than the one I currently serve. Days after our election was over I spoke with family and friends and came to a decision not to pursue the office at this time. Thank you for the calls and emails over the past year and most recently the past few weeks. Here is the statement I released two weeks ago.

Seven candidates have filed for the seat – including two from our community: Christian Stegmaier (Chapin) and Benjamin Dunn (Irmo). Below is more from The State. It is my hope that after 30 years, our next Senator will be from this community. Please be sure to vote in the upcoming primary on August 14th!

4 Republicans, 2 Democrats join Harpootlian in bid for John Courson’s SC Senate seat

COLUMBIA, SC – A fourth Republican threw his hat into the candidate ring just before the Saturday filing deadline in the race to fill John Courson’s vacated S.C. Senate seat.

John Holler joins Republicans Benjamin Dunn, Christian Stegmaier and Bill Turbeville and Democrats Dick Harpootlian, Kyle Lacio and Dayna Alaine Smith in competition for the District 20 Senate seat.

Party primaries for the Senate special election will happen Aug. 14, and voters will choose a new senator during this fall’s regular election on Nov. 6.

Read more at The State

Took longer than we’d like….Bill passes to slash SCE&G rates

Anyone who know’s me (or has been following NathansNews since this post in 2010 ) knows I have little patience. In fact, that’s one of the reasons I declined to run for the SC Senate last month. With that in mind, like you, this past year has been a struggle to keep the focus on what’s best for the ratepayer in the aftermath of the VC Summer collapse last summer. This week, the House and Senate were able to agree and pass a law that not only has several fixes to what got us here; but also cuts our rates temporarily (and hopefully, permanently). That permanent decision is ultimately left to the Public Service Commission and, we suspect, the courts in the weeks and months ahead. In case you missed it this week…

From The State

…The new law, expected to spark a lawsuit from SCE&G, nearly would wipe out the monthly charges that the utility is continuing to charge its customers for the unfinished V.C. Summer reactors. The law also sends a message to the S.C. Public Service Commission, which sets utility rates, that it should side with electric customers when it decides, in December, who should pay off the billions of dollars left in construction debt — SCE&G’s customers, shareholders or both.

But lawmakers did not pass the new law easily.

It took nearly a year of State House hearings and legislative debates, plus a steady drip of news coverage unraveling the project’s failure and what lawmakers say was a cover-up of the Fairfield County project’s woes by SCE&G and its junior partner, the state-owned Santee Cooper utility.

Along the way, there were other key moments.

The new law was passed only after Gov. Henry McMaster pressured Santee Cooper, the project’s minority partner, to release a long-secret February 2016 study that — even after being scrubbed of some of its harshest criticisms — revealed major flaws in the project that were hidden from legislators, state regulators and the public.

Finally, lawmakers moved to slash SCE&G’s rates only after being assured by experts and studies that doing so would not force the utility into bankruptcy, as it had claimed.

“We worked through a process like none other I’ve been involved with in my time in the House,” House Speaker Jay Lucas, R-Darlington, said Friday. “I can’t remember a tougher issue.”…

SC Budget heads to Governor’s desk

We returned this week to finalized next year’s budget (which ultimately passed 84-28 in the House and passed 30-9 in the Senate). In the coming days, Governor McMaster will get to issue his vetoes – and I look forward to seeing many of those and hope we can sustain those that are not the best use of your tax dollars.

If you ever wanted to dive into the budget, here it is. Click and “enjoy”.

Below are some highlights for the areas most often asked about by constituents.

STATEWIDE ITEMS

 $22 million to fully fund Constitutional Reserve Funds, which brings the
reserve fund total to $515 million ($364 million – General Reserve; $151 –
Capital Reserve)
 Reduced the total budget by $2.4 billion by removing double-booked funds
and items in higher education that are not state funds
 $599 million in direct tax relief for South Carolinians

STATE EMPLOYEE BENEFITS

 $32 million to fund the General Fund employer cost of Year 2 of the multiyear
plan to bring down the multi-billion pension liability
 $56.4 million to cover 100% of the state employee health and dental
insurance increases so employees will have no additional monthly
premium cost
 Expanded to cover Well Visits as a contractual service, which will require copays but
also count towards deductibles
 Small increases to patient liability in deductible and copays

PUBLIC EDUCATION AND SPECIAL SCHOOLS

Teacher Salary Increases
• $31 million for a statewide teacher salary increase of 1%
• $7.8 million to increase the statewide minimum starting salary for a
teacher with 0 and 1 year experience from $30,000 to $32,000
Increased School Funding
• $55.8 million to increase the Base Student Cost by $60 per pupil to
$2,485
• $13 million for SC Public Charter Schools student growth
• $11 million for Technical Assistance for low-performing schools
School Buses
• $12 million in recurring, non-recurring, and lottery funding for new
school buses
• With this new funding, all 1995 fire-prone buses will be off the road
by the start of the school year
School Resource Officers
• $2 million recurring for hiring certified law enforcement officers to
serve as School Resource Officers
• Funds are available for school districts that otherwise would lack the
adequate resources to hire their own SROs, with districts of the
lowest index of taxpaying ability receiving priority consideration
• Allows any retired Class 1 law enforcement officer to return to
employment as an SRO without affecting the monthly retirement
allowance
School Safety Upgrades
• $15 million in the Lottery for School Safety and Critical Facility and
Equipment Improvements
• Funds are for life safety infrastructure for school facilities including
door locks, security cameras, metal detectors, lifesaving medical
equipment and SRO equipment

HIGHER EDUCATION

Scholarships and Tuition Aid
 $11 million for Workforce Scholarships to provide grants for tuition, fees, transportation,
or textbook expenses to SC residents enrolled in a career education program at a
technical school or professional certification program
 $3.9 million to create Palmetto Promise Scholarship Pilot program that awards
scholarships to students from the Abbeville plaintiff school districts
 For the third year in a row, fully funded LIFE, HOPE and Palmetto Fellows Scholarships
through the Lottery, including the increases from the 10-point grading scale
Technical Colleges
 $4 million in recurring increases for all technical colleges
 $9.4 million for the successful ReadySC job training program, which provides customized
training for new and expanding business and industry
 $11 million for High Demand Skill Training Equipment to be distributed to all technical
colleges
Colleges and Universities
 $20 million in recurring to help bring colleges and universities closer to pre-recession
funding levels
 $50 million non-recurring for capital projects and maintenance needs at colleges around
the state

HEALTHCARE

Heath and Human Services – Medicaid Budget
 $26.4 million for the state Medicaid Maintenance of Effort and annualization to
continue current level of services without expending agency reserves
 Includes Increased revenue assumptions and lower targets for managed care rates
 Continued funding for the Healthy Outcomes Proviso, serving over 14,000 highutilizers
of emergency rooms and/or inpatient services through coordination with all
Medicaid-designated hospitals, 70 primary care safety net providers, and three
behavioral health clinics state-wide
Health and Human Services – Rural Health Initiative & Telemedicine
 $3.5 million in increased funding for the Rural Health Initiative. DHHS will continue
to partner with the USC School of Medicine in the development of a long term
strategic plan for addressing medically underserved communities in the rural areas
of the state through services such as the iCARED initiative.
 Aimed at supporting and developing medical education in rural areas through rural
residency placements and infrastructure improvements
 $5 million in non-recurring through Telemedicine Proviso for continued
infrastructure build out and $1 million increase in recurring funds for Telemedicine
operations – this brings total recurring dollars for the SC Telehealth Network to
$11.5 million in combined funding through DHHS and MUSC
Health and Human Services – Autism Spectrum Disorder
 $4.8 million increase in state recurring funds for increased rates for autism therapy and
service providers ($9.4 M in matching federal funds)
 Rates for ABA line therapists will increase from $17.38 to roughly $30/hour with
increases to the supervisor rate from $58/hour to $64/hour
 Agency has updated the rate methodology to reflect cost-driven structure and avoid
blending the supervision rate with line therapists
 Rates are indexed against national standard cost of employment information, and
proposal is being distributed to providers by the end of the month
 DHHS is continuing to explore opportunities to increase capacity in the workforce, so
that children are not placed on waiting lists – 20% increase in enrolled providers since
November 2017
DHHS, DAODAS and MUSC – Opioid Abuse Prevention
 Over $11 million in increased state funding specifically aimed at addressing the Opioid
Epidemic through DHHS and DAODAS
 $5 million in state funds for the MUSC Hospital Authority Health Innovations Program,
which includes funding to expand the Emergency Department MAT pilot established in
FY 17-18 to additional hospitals
 Proviso 117.142 will use these funds to implement many of the House Opioid Abuse
Prevention Study Committee recommendations
 $4 million in non-recurring through HOP proviso 33.20 for capital improvements to the
behavioral health facilities based on need as determined by DAODAS and DHHS
Other Health Agencies
 DSS – $23 million in recurring funds to address required components in
settlement agreement and continue child care match for $8.65 million in
federal funds, $25 million in non-recurring for the continued development of
the Child Support System
 DDSN – $11.3 million to increase the department’s direct care staff starting
salaries agency wide from $11/hour to $12/hour and a 3-4% increase to direct
care wages for employees working with the department for at least 5 years,
$500,000 increase to the Greenwood Genetic Center for Autism Research,
$650,000 for in-home Autism Support services
 DMH – $6.9 million to increase funding for Supported Community Housing,
Child and Adolescent Intensive Community and Residential Services, and
enhanced School Based Services
 DHEC – $2.4 million for the EMS Performance Improvement Center and the
Credentialing Information System, Enhanced Communicable Disease
Prevention and Treatment, including funding specific to HIV/AIDS, Breast and
Cervical Cancer, and Colorectal Cancer [Read more…]

Lake Murray Fireworks!

Don’t miss out one THE event each summer on the Jewel of South Carolina – Lake Murray!

Click here for all the details from Capital City Lake Murray Country – and be safe out on the water this summer.

Statement on Special Election for Open SC Senate Seat


Conservative Reformer Will Focus Efforts to Finish What He Started, “Clean Up” State House

(Chapin, SC) Today, State Representative Nathan Ballentine issued the following statement on speculation he might enter the race for the open State Senate seat in District 20:

“For more than a year while our community had no Senator in office, I have worked with other State Representatives in the Midlands to help continue constituent service and give those impacted a voice in State government. I understand better than most the frustration many of these individuals have with the corruption scandal and the effect it has taken on this state.

Recently, calls and emails encouraging me to run in this special election for Senate have increased. Not until our House campaign ended last Tuesday, did I give any attention to seeking another office.

However, I have decided to stay in the SC House and not run for the SC Senate at this time.

I ran for reelection to the State House this year because we need the best representation possible for our community – and state. My tenure and relationships in the House are important and can impact the lives of those who reside in this community.

The battle over energy choice has finally become front page news. In the aftermath of VC Summer’s Nuclear plant shutdown, I helped form the SC Energy Caucus to develop more energy options in South Carolina. I also helped lead the fight in the House to save over 3,000 Solar jobs in SC. There is much more to be done and I will continue to work and put our state on the correct course for a brighter future.

Whether reforming the SC Department of Transportation so we can finally get our state roads and bridges fixed or pushing for meaningful ethics reform including On The Record voting, we must continue to fix our state government to work for the people and not the politicians.

The recent corruption scandals involving members of both the House and Senate must end; and legislators must do more to make sure this never happens again.

Absolute power corrupts absolutely. We have passed term limits for our House Speaker and now we must term limit our House Chairmen. The power held by so few can ultimately harm so many.

That is why I have decided to stay in the SC House and continue this fight for more reforms. I truly appreciate the kind words, encouragement and friendship others have shown me this last week. It has meant a great deal to both me and my family.

I am sure there will be many good qualified candidates that will announce in the coming days. Like many other voters, I will be looking forward to help elect a reform minded public servant who is willing to work with others to focus on people, not politics.”

Thank you!

Humbled and honored for the overwhelming support!

Certified results

69.97% Nathan Ballentine (3,103 votes)
5.03% Todd Watlington (223 votes)
25.01% Britton Wolf (1,109 votes)

Endorsements

The ultimate endorsement comes from you, the voters/the community; but I’m pleased to share these recent endorsements of our campaign and my work for South Carolina! Please vote tomorrow, June 12th!

I appreciate your support, prayers and vote

This was our 4th and final mail piece to the district. If you did not receive it in the mail, you can click and enlarge below. Please get out and vote, Tuesday, June 12th. There should be no wait at your local polling location!

Setting the Record Straight

I debated even addressing all the garbage you’ve been receiving the past several weeks in the mail, at your door, on your telephone.

With limited space on a mailer, I thought I’d touch on a few of the attacks. There are new people that have moved into our community that may not be familiar with my service and record of results for our community and state. Almost every month since being first elected, I send a COMMUNITY UPDATE so that everyone knows what’s going on in state government in our community. If you or your neighbors aren’t receiving the updates via email, please let me know by clicking CONTACT above (or here) and sending me your email and home address.

Even though I’m tight with money, I decided to send this out this week to set the record straight. As always, call or email anytime you have questions! No telling what else will be coming from these third-party activist groups this last week before the June 12th election. They are trying to buy this seat for my opponent and put someone they can control in this office. Don’t be fooled.

Speaking of being tight with money, I’ve had this same website for probably 10+ years and am finally giving in to the requests to “get with the 90s” and upgrade it. Look for changes in the weeks ahead!