On Friday, March 10, I had the opportunity to attend the unveiling of the first F-16 built in Greenville at the Lockheed Martin facility for the Kingdom of Bahrain. Bahrain is a strong ally of the United States in the Persian Gulf, where we have a large Naval base. They actually purchased 30 F-16’s almost 30 years ago and the current contract will update and replace those jets.

The F-16 is an incredible fighter jet, but as a Lockheed representative told me, it’s still no match for our T-35 fighter jets. The sound of freedom is alive and well in Greenville! (To read more about the F-16, click here.)

We have been busy in the Senate since the last newsletter. We have passed bills dealing with the Certificate of Need, toughened sentencing on fentanyl trafficking, passed several Education bills, and much more. Click here for a list of all the bills we have passed and sent to the House.

Below are updates on several issues I am often asked about:

Status of Roads
I chaired a Transportation Finance committee last Thursday and received the following updates from DOT Secretary Christy Hall:

• The I-26 project, which widens the road to six lanes from Columbia to Charleston, will be completed by 2029.
• The Malfunction Junction “redo” in Columbia has begun and is expected to be completed by 2027.
• The project to widen I-95 from the Georgia line to I-26 will be completed by 2028.
• The I-85 to the North Carolina line project should be completed by 2026.
• The I-26 project to widen the road from Columbia to Newberry should be completed in 2027.

You will also see a huge emphasis on repaving our major roads. We have and will continue to invest in the infrastructure needed, but we are still playing a catch-up game from 30 years of not funding our needs.

Scout Motors Deal
The legislature passed a bill last week to approve and fund a deal with Scout Motors, a wholly owned subsidiary of Volkswagen. The plant will build next generation electric trucks and rugged SUV’s for American drivers.

The company is expected to invest over $4 billion dollars and produce 4,000 jobs in two phases. The state’s investment is $1.291 billion, and the plant will be located on 1100 acres at Blythewood Industrial Park in Northern Richland County.

Several Senate attorneys reviewed the contract. The “clawback” provisions are very strong and financially backed by Volkswagen, and the plant is expected to have a $15.3 billion economic impact by 2029. This gives the Midlands a huge manufacturing presence to balance others around the state.

If you have been here for a while, then you know the impact BMW has had on the Upstate. This new plant will do a lot to help an area of the state that needs it. Despite being in Richland County, it will have a ripple effect to the other counties around it, including the town of Winnsboro in Fairfield County.

Status of $ 3.5 Billon Accounting Error
A Senate Finance subcommittee chaired by Sen. Larry Grooms (Berkley County) investigated Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom and issued a final report last week. The report did not find evidence for an impeachment, but Sen. Grooms did ask for Eckstrom’s resignation. He refused to resign.

I wish I could explain how we can have a $3.5 million dollar error (accumulated over several years) and it not affect our status by the rating agencies, but it is a sign of how financially strong we are as a state.

Abortion – Where are we?
The Senate passed S.474 at the beginning of February. It is a 6 week heartbeat bill that fixes the issues outlined in the State Supreme Court decision that struck it down last summer. This bill contains the exceptions for life of the mother, rape, incest and fetal anomaly.

The House passed H 3774 a week or so later. It has 0 weeks but with some exceptions. The Senate does not have the votes for an outright ban of 0 weeks. The problem is that we have fallen back to our 20 week law and now we are considered an abortion destination state because our neighboring states have passed lower thresholds. North Carolina and Georgia are at 8 weeks.

The House needs to pass our bill to eliminate us from being a a destination state. Whatever is passed will be taken to the South Carolina Supreme Court again. We feel very confident that they will uphold our 6 week bill.

As always, thank you for the opportunity to represent District 8 in the South Carolina Senate. It is an honor and privilege that I do not take lightly.

If there is anything I can do to help you navigate state government or if you just want to share your thoughts and concerns, please call my Columbia office at (803)212-6148. I, or my assistant, Ja’vell Bynoe, will be happy to help you.

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