News from the Statehouse.

By Bill Sandifer

While the S.C. House of Representatives is out of session, I’ve had some exciting opportunities to represent Oconee County and our state, both regionally and nationally.

For example, a couple of weeks ago, I traveled to Washington, D.C., to address the Council of State Governments about South Carolina’s brand new solar law that I fought to pass this year. Our law opens the door for more individuals and businesses to produce solar energy. Also, it allows our public utilities to install an estimated 300 megawatts of renewable energy by 2021. This is up from about 8 megawatts now, representing a major increase.

I was invited to Washington because the council likes what it sees in South Carolina’s new law and thinks we’ve got it right. This is exciting! Traditionally, our state has drawn much of its energy base from coal and nuclear plants. I am excited not only that our new law is being recognized, but also that it can help South Carolina move toward greater use of clean, renewable energy.

Regionally, I’ve had opportunities to work with legislators from across the Southeast, particularly on issues related to energy and the environment. I recently traveled to Arkansas to represent South Carolina at the Southern Legislative Conference (SLC), an organization working to promote cooperation among 15 states. I was honored to be elected chair of one of the SLC’s six standing committees, Energy & Environment.

Chairing this committee fits well with my passion for developing renewable and efficient energy sources that will protect South Carolina’s natural resources and business climate. Also, by chairing, I can help give the people of Oconee County a stronger voice as new energy policies take shape.

Along with a lot of positive news, I also want to mention the recent shakeup in the SC House of Representatives. You probably have heard by now that House Speaker Bobby Harrell had indictments filed against him regarding the misuse of campaign funds. It is important to realize that this did not deal with any public funds. Harrell is fighting these allegations, but in the meantime, he has suspended himself from the House.

I believe Harrell stepping down is the right thing to do, so the House can go about its business and stay focused on working for the people. For now, Speaker Pro Tempore Jay Lucas is providing leadership and we will elect a Speaker when return to Columbia after the November elections.

I have talked to a lot of House members over the last two weeks. I can tell you that everyone is committed to seeing the House move forward as a strong and unified body. I have no doubt that will happen.

Last but not least, it’s been great to spend more time in Oconee County while the legislature is adjourned. One highlight was playing in the Safe Harbor Invitational golf tournament this week, along my son Wes and several LPGA professionals. This tournament was great (despite my golf score) because it raised money to help Safe Harbor build a new domestic violence shelter and for the YMCA of the Foothills. It was organized by Seneca’s own Austin Earnst, a rising star in the LPGA. I am so proud of Austin, what she is accomplishing, and her hard work to give back to our community. With all the negative comments about professional athletes, it is truly refreshing to see Austin giving back in a very positive way.

As always, constituent service is my number one priority, so please let me know how I can help you. My door is always open. Thanks for the privilege of representing you in Columbia.