Major repaving or road reconstruction projects in South Carolina could take on average at least a year and possibly more than two years to complete, The Nerve found in a review of state Department of Transportation records.

But it’s unclear exactly how long it takes to finish road projects funded with gas-tax-hike revenues, given that DOT’s publicly available records are incomplete.

Meanwhile, DOT continues to sit on hundreds of millions of dollars generated under the gas-tax-hike law that took effect July 1, 2017. As of Aug. 31, the cash balance in a special fund created with the law was $869.7 million, or 42.4% of the $2.05 billion in revenues collected since 2017, according to DOT and state comptroller general records.

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a law that creates new crimes for intentionally electronically recording clients and/or staff within 100 feet of the entrance of an abortion clinic with the specific intent of intimidating them from going into the clinic.

This new law, which is an expansion of California's "Freedom of Access to Clinic and Church Entrances" (FACE) Act, has many pro-lifers concerned that they will no longer be allowed to record activities outside abortion mills. We have received numerous inquiries that contain inaccurate information about the law.

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Since 2017, powerful county legislative delegations have approved a total of more than $8 million in state grants for hundreds of local recreation projects in South Carolina, records show.

And as of mid-July, the delegations, made up of state House and Senate members representing a county, collectively had $5 million more available for future grant projects.

State law requires that each grant application be approved by a majority of the delegation representing the local government agency or special purpose district applying for the money. The S.C. Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism (PRT) must annually notify delegations of the available revenue in their respective counties’ Parks and Recreation Development (PARD) Fund, and provide a list of eligible government entities in their counties, as determined by PRT.

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In South Carolina, county legislative delegations – made up of state House and Senate members representing a county – have considerable power on their home turfs.

As The Nerve has pointed out, delegations make appointments to various local boards and committees, including school boards in some counties and most county transportation committees, which decide which local road projects to fund with part of the state gasoline tax.

Senate delegations – sometimes just one senator – control the selection process of county magistrates, while county delegations exert nomination powers over master-in-equity judges, as The Nerve has reported.

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South Carolina will need almost $43 billion more by 2040 to fix its bad roads and handle increased traffic with projected growth, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers, which gave the state’s roads a “D” grade in its annual infrastructure report card.

Meanwhile, the S.C. Department of Transportation continues to poke along in completing repaving and road reconstruction projects with $2 billion in revenues collected under the 2017 gas-tax-hike law – while sitting on a surplus that has surpassed $900 million, newly released agency records show.

The $903.5 million cash balance in a special fund created with the 2017 law was $226.3 million more than the total value of completed “pavements” projects statewide as of July 31, The Nerve found in a review of DOT records.

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Pro Life Texas

Pro-life allies across the country cheered as Texas signed into law a measure that protects the rights of the preborn. The Heartbeat Act, SB 8, took effect on September 1, 2021. It requires doctors to first search for a fetal heartbeat before performing an abortion. If a heartbeat is found, an abortion cannot be performed unless it is a medical emergency. In most cases, a fetal heartbeat is detected as early as 6 weeks gestational age.

The legislation allows any person the ability to sue an abortionist who violates the law, or anyone who aids or abets in an abortion. It’s important to note that these civil-liability provisions do not apply to the mother who desires or is able to maintain an unlawful abortion.

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Out of this fiscal year’s $32.5 billion state budget, more than a third of it – nearly $12.3 billion – is made up of “other” funds.

“Other” funds include such things as fees and fines, college tuition, lottery proceeds, state gasoline taxes, and part of the state sales tax earmarked for K-12 education. Many state agencies don’t spend all of their other funds in a fiscal year, with some of them amassing huge year-end surpluses.

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The S.C. Department of Transportation since 2016 has awarded 56 bridge contracts totaling $8.4 million to a company with ties to Sen. Hugh Leatherman – one of the state’s most powerful lawmakers, records provided to The Nerve show.

The contracts with Florence Concrete Products, Inc. ranged from $50,164 for a bridge near the town of Lodge in Colleton County to $564,400 for four bridges in DOT’s District 1, which covers Richland, Lexington, Kershaw, Sumter and Lee counties, according to DOT records provided under the state Freedom of Information Act.

State comptroller general records show that DOT paid Florence Concrete a total of nearly $7 million from fiscal 2017 into this fiscal year, which started July 1.

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E.&J. Gallo Winery, a multibillion-dollar global corporation, will get at least $25 million in assistance from the state of South Carolina to locate a plant in Chester County – plus could receive tens of millions more in taxpayer-backed incentives over decades, records released to The Nerve show.

And the California-based wine and spirits giant would face relatively light financial penalties if it doesn’t fully live up to its end of the deal, according to records recently provided by the state Department of Commerce under the S.C. Freedom of Information Act.

In fact, the performance agreement for a $16 million state grant would allow state and county officials to lower job creation and investment requirements for the company to receive incentives.

It’s more than just words on paper: The Nerve in 2018, for example, revealed that officials sharply lowered required job and investment targets to keep the Element TV assembly plant in Fairfield County.

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Lawmakers have far more state tax dollars to play with this fiscal year, though there has been no serious interest in returning any of it to taxpayers.

In an annual report released earlier this month, S.C. comptroller general Richard Eckstrom – the state’s top accountant – said the state had a $1.024 billion general-fund surplus for fiscal 2020-21, which ended June 30.

That works out to be about $200 for every man, woman and child living in South Carolina. A press release that accompanied Eckstrom’s report described the windfall as “unprecedented.”

Lawmakers earlier this year appropriated $1.8 billion more in actual and projected state funds for fiscal 2021-22, including an estimated $646.7 million general-fund surplus for the fiscal year that just ended.

The $1 billion surplus identified in Eckstrom’s report – $377 million more than the earlier estimate in the current budget – doesn’t include a collective general-fund surplus of about $640 million that state agencies had at the start of this fiscal year, according to the report.

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ATLANTA -- VoterGA today announced joining with State Rep. Philip Singleton in a legal petition to ban Georgia's Dominion Democracy Suite 5.5 voting system. The voting system has already been declared in violation of Georgia law by the U.S. District Court of Northern Georgia [Pg. 81-82].

Georgia law requires a voting system to "print an elector verifiable paper ballot;" and "...produce paper ballots which are marked with the elector's choices in a format readable by the elector." After reviewing extensive evidence in the Curling V. Raffensperger case, Judge Amy Totenberg concluded: "Plaintiffs and other voters who wish to vote in-person are required to vote on a system that does none of those things." [O.C.G.A. § 21-2-2(7.1); O.C.G.A. § 21-2-300(a)(2)]

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Since 2017, S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson has hired at least six current or former lawyer-legislators to handle certain civil cases, including the chairman of a House committee that first approves the annual state budget, which funds Wilson’s office, records show.

The outside lawyers hired to assist the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) were to be paid on a contingency basis, which means they would receive a percentage of any settlement or court award. Records provided recently by the AGO under the S.C. Freedom of Information Act didn’t indicate whether the current or ex-lawmakers have received any fees.

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- The California gubernatorial recall election is underway and voters across the state are eager to make their voices heard. This special election is being held to answer two important questions: Should Gavin Newsom be recalled from the office of Governor? If so, who should replace him? How voters answer these two questions could transform the political landscape of both California and the U.S. for years.

For Debbie Wuthnow, president of iVoterGuide, this recall election provides a unique opportunity. "An opportunity like this hasn't occurred in California in years. Recent polls indicate that the state is evenly split over the effort to recall Governor Newsom, with the majority of California voters still undecided. This is exactly what iVoterGuide is for— equipping voters with facts about each candidate so they can cast an informed vote."

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State-owned utility Santee Cooper’s debt load is projected to grow by more than a half-billion dollars under a proposal that a legislative committee likely will rubber-stamp today.

The utility’s board of directors in a special meeting Thursday approved asking the state Joint Bond Review Committee (JBRC) to allow the utility to sell up to $350 million in revenue obligation bonds. Last week’s board meeting was held the same day The Nerve revealed that the Berkeley County-based utility in recent years had approved millions in economic development spending while being mired in debt.

The 10-member JBRC is scheduled to meet later this morning.

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Santee Cooper’s electric customers are on the hook for billions in debt payments, but that hasn’t stopped the state-owned utility from spending millions in recent years on economic development projects.

The Nerve’s review of utility records provided recently under the state’s open-records law found that from May 2018 through May of this year, Santee Cooper approved a total of more than $28 million in economic development grants and no-interest loans. The beneficiaries included companies, county and municipal governments, and economic development groups.

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AUSTIN, Texas -- Following a recent opinion written from the Department of Justice claiming that federal law permits mandating an emergency use vaccine, non-profit Informed Consent Action Network's attorneys issued a response disputing the conclusion in this opinion.

On July 26, 2021, at the request of the White House, the DOJ's Acting Assistant AG released an opinion claiming the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, Section 564 permits mandating an emergency use vaccine. Section 564 states that for all emergency use products, i.e. unlicensed medical products, individuals must be informed of "the option to accept or refuse administration of the product."

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