Motorists likely will feel plenty of bumps this Memorial Day weekend as they drive over South Carolina’s seemingly endless pothole-riddled roads.

Since the state gas-tax-hike law took effect nearly four years ago, The Nerve has repeatedly pointed out the S.C. Department of Transportation’s relatively slow pace of completing paving projects while sitting on massive reserves generated with the extra revenues.

Now, the agency is proposing a “Pavement Improvement Program” for fiscal 2021-22, which calls for an additional 683 repaving or reconstruction projects statewide totaling about 977 miles. Last week, the DOT Commission approved a 21-day public comment period on the proposal.

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Local governments in South Carolina are expected to collectively receive hundreds of millions more in federal COVID-19 relief funding, though what exactly that money can be spent on is unclear.

The U.S. Department of Treasury last week adopted an “interim final rule” on the American Rescue Plan (ARP) funding. But local government spokespersons told The Nerve this week their municipalities haven’t yet received the funds or specific guidance on how the money can be used, though the law authorizing the funding is more than two months old.

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Since 2015, two sitting House members have owed thousands in civil fines after receiving public reprimands for campaign reporting violations, records reviewed by The Nerve show.

Rep. Cezar McKnight, D-Williamsburg, who is an attorney, owes $59,150.88 to the Senate Ethics Committee, committee lawyer J.J. Gentry said in an initial written response in January to The Nerve, citing information from the S.C. Department of Revenue.

Out of a total $60,190 in fines imposed against McKnight, $1,039.12, or less than 2%, had been collected, Gentry said then – though the amount was not paid directly to the Ethics Committee but instead was collected through SCDOR’s debt-collection program, which involves deductions from income tax refunds.

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Individual income taxes are a major source of state government revenue, accounting for 38 percent of state tax collections.[1] Their prominence in public policy considerations is further enhanced in that individuals are actively responsible for filing their income taxes, in contrast to the indirect payment of sales and excise taxes.

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S.C. lawmakers routinely approve naming road sections and bridges for living or deceased persons, including ex-legislators and other former public officials.

Not only does it take up a lot of collective time that could be spent working on larger, more pressing issues, but it also comes with a cost to taxpayers – and local roads.

A little-known state law requires that the cost to the S.C. Department of Transportation to produce and erect the new road and bridge signs be reimbursed largely from a state fund designated to repair local roads.

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An attorney who works in a state senator’s law firm is Spartanburg County’s new master-in-equity judge – less than three months after the county’s legislative delegation, of which the senator is a member, quietly nominated her.

The Senate and House this week confirmed Shannon Phillips, an attorney in Sen. Scott Talley’s law firm, for the judgeship after Gov. Henry McMaster appointed her to a six-year term, based on the delegation’s recommendation.

Talley, R-Spartanburg, was appointed to the state judicial screening committee just two months before the legislatively controlled panel in November qualified Phillips for the seat held by Gordon Cooper, whose term expires June 30.

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BATON ROUGE, La. -- Senate Concurrent Resolution 38 (SCR 38), designating January 22, 2022 as the Day of Tears in Louisiana, passed the senate yesterday unanimously.

Sponsored by Senator and President Pro Tempore, Beth Mizell, (R-Franklinton), SCR 38 encourages the citizen of Louisiana to lower their flags in remembrance of those who have been lost to abortion. Louisiana joins Alabama, Arkansas, and Mississippi as the latest state to consider adopting the Day of Tears.

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No matter who’s in charge, state government in South Carolina just keeps getting bigger.

Three stand-alone state agencies created since Republican Henry McMaster became governor in 2017 – the departments of Veterans’ Affairs and Children’s Advocacy, and the newest agency, the Office of Resilience – would have combined total budgets of $173 million for next fiscal year, under the state budget version passed last week by the Senate.

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Through March, a special fund created with the state gas-tax-hike law had a cash balance of nearly $824 million and racked up more than $26 million in investment earnings on surpluses since July 2017, records show.

The $823.8 million surplus in the “Infrastructure Maintenance Trust Fund” as of March 31 represented nearly 46% of the $1.79 billion in total collected revenues under the 2017 law, The Nerve found in a review of recently released S.C. Department of Transportation and state comptroller general records.

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S.C. senators want to spend nearly $108 million next fiscal year on dozens of pet projects by funneling the money through state agencies that typically didn’t request the public dollars.

More than half of the $107.9 million in labeled earmarks for fiscal year 2022, which starts July 1, would be spent collectively on a new Greenville convention center, renovations to the Columbia Convention Center and Sumter Opera House, and unspecified infrastructure projects in Spartanburg, according to an earmark list released under a new Senate rule requiring public disclosure.

The Nerve for years has reported about Senate and House earmarks – and the lack of transparency and public input on the spending requests.

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idaho bus

This law would outlaw abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected.

BOISE, Idaho -- Stanton Healthcare, based in Boise, has life-affirming Clinics in Idaho and affiliates across America and internationally. Stanton provides compassionate and professional women's healthcare along with holistic services to clients experiencing an unexpected pregnancy.

Stanton's medical staff, team and clients all testified before the Idaho Legislature in support of the Heartbeat legislation.

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Over the past three years, the S.C. Department of Transportation denied a total of nearly 2,300 pothole-damage claims filed by motorists statewide – more than half of all such requests received during the period, The Nerve found in a review of agency records.

Motorists collectively sought more than $4.8 million in 4,325 pothole-damage claims received by DOT from 2018 through last year, with listed settlements totaling $802,609, or 16.5% of the overall requested total, according to the records, obtained under the S.C. Freedom of Information Act.

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State lawmakers are continuing to push bills that would increase legislative delegations’ powers over local K-12 schools and other public agencies in their home counties.

Today, for example, the House Education and Public Works Committee, chaired by Rep. Rita Allison, R-Spartanburg, is scheduled to consider a Senate bill that would allow a legislative delegation – made up of senators and House members in a county – to control the appointment of an interim local school board if a popularly elected board is dissolved following an approved “state-of-education emergency.”

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Unlike panels overseeing other state agencies, the governing boards of the state-created Ports Authority and utility Santee Cooper are paid thousands of dollars annually for their part-time jobs, records show.

Most members of the Ports Authority Board of Directors made $11,700 last year, while members of the Santee Cooper Board of Directors received $10,384.20 in compensation and another $2,000 in a category labeled “travel, insurance and meeting reimbursement,” according to their annual income-disclosure reports, known as statements of economic interests (SEIs), filed with the State Ethics Commission.

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If there’s one power that S.C. senators likely will never relinquish – at least willingly – it’s their control over the selection of the state’s more than 300 county magistrates.

Magistrates, who handle traffic tickets and other relatively minor criminal and civil cases, know how much authority senators can exercise even after their judicial terms expire. Under a loophole in state law known as “holdover status,” magistrates can continue to serve indefinitely past their official terms – and feel more pressure to cater to their local senators.

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It'll be months before Major League Baseball knows how much its decision to move Atlanta's All-Star Game cost them financially. Fortunately, Americans won't have to wait nearly that long to understand how much it hurt the MLB politically. Thanks to Governor Doug Ducey (R-Ariz.), they already know. If the goal of MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred and his liberal pals was to scare other states into submission, Arizona's new law makes it quite clear: he's already failed.

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