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Monday
May222017

Trump Request $800 Billion Cut in Medicaid

President Donald Trump plans to request $1.7 trillion in cuts to social and entitlement programs for lower-income Americans, including an $800 billion cut in Medicaid, U.S. government officials said.

Trump's request, which is expected to officially be unveiled on Tuesday, is part of an effort to balance the budget within a decade. Bloomberg News, citing a Republican congressional aide and a White House document outlining the budget, reported the Trump request includes $274 billion in cuts over 10 years to means-tested anti-poverty programs, such as food stamps.

The Trump administration prepared talking points for congressional Republicans, stating the "budget strives to replace dependency with the dignity of work through welfare reform efforts."

Trump's request assumes the Republican bill to replace former President Barack Obama's signature healthcare law becomes a law itself, CNN reported. Despite promising not to cut Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid as a presidential candidate, Trump has already supported cutting Medicaid by sponsoring the GOP's American Health Care Act, which passed the House on May 4.

The $193 billion cut, or 25 percent cut, to the food stamps program, called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, would be achieved by limiting eligibility for food stamps and by requiring those enrolled in the program to work, the White House document shows.

Full Story Here

Sunday
May212017

Heavy Rains Cause Sewer Spill in Stonewall Woods

Anderson County Wastewater has reported a Sanitary Sewer Spill into Hembree Creek in the Stonewall Woods Subdivision and Phil Watson Road area.

A 8-inch force main has washed out due to heavy rains spilling an underdetermine amount of wastewater into the stream. Crews are on site making repairs and pumper trucks are assisting with handling the wastewater flow. DHEC has been notified of the spill and advised of the actions taken to correct the failure. Wastewater staff will be sampling above and below the spill site for contamination.

Anderson Regional Water has been notified and will be performing additional sampling of their water intake.

Sunday
May212017

S.C. Law Expands Who is Eligible for State Health Plan

A new state law will allow all local government and quasi-local government employers to join the state’s health and dental plans. 

What is a quasi-local government? Think airports, economic development groups, libraries and museums.

The change is intended to free lawmakers from having to introduce legislation every time a group asks to join the health care plan. 

State Sen. Brad Hutto, D-Orangeburg, said he sponsored the new law after the Southern Carolina Economic Development Alliance, which tries to attract businesses and development to a six-county area, approached him about joining the state’s health plan. 

The new law means that, in the future, groups won’t have to lobby their legislators to get into the state’s health plan, Hutto said. “I don’t like the idea of everybody’s got to have their own senator put in their own legislation.” 

The law carries no cost to the state, according to a fiscal impact statement by the state Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office. That is because new governmental groups joining the health plan will have to pay their employees’ premiums.

A laundry list of groups is eligible to join the state’s health plan, including:

▪ Employees of typical local governments – counties, cities and towns.

▪ Workers for “special purpose districts created by act of the General Assembly that provide gas, water, fire, sewer, recreation, hospital, or sanitation service, or any combination of these services.”

▪ Workers at two airports – the Greenville-Spartanburg Airport District and the Pee Dee Regional Airport District.

Also eligible to join are some groups that lobby the Legislature, including the S.C. State Employees’ Association, S.C. School Boards and S.C. Sheriff’s Association. Employees of legislative caucuses also are allowed to join.

Sunday
May212017

Missing Iva Toddler Found Safe

The Anderson County Sheriff's Office is assisting the Town of Iva Police Department in a search for a missing 1 ½ year old male, Gabriel Justice Hamby. Hamby was last seen wearing only a diaper. No photos of the child are currently available.

A call into dispatch at about 2:30 a.m. Sunday indicated the child went missing from the area of East Green Street in Iva. Residents within a five-mile radius received a call from dispatch with information to assist first responders in locating the child.

Anderson County Technical Rescue, Mounted Search and Rescue, CERT, Sheriff's Office K9, SLED K9 and multiple fire departments are assisting with the search.

Anyone with information about this incident or who may see this child is asked to immediately call 911.

Saturday
May202017

10 Tons of Hot Dogs Recalled

More than 200,000 pounds of Nathan's and Curtis hot dogs are being recalled after complaints the meat products contained metal pieces.

The recall of 210,606 pounds of hot dogs includes the 14-ounce packages of "Nathan's Skinless 8 Beef Franks," with a use by date of Aug. 19, 2017, and 16-ounce packages of "Curtis Beef Master Beef Franks," with a use by date of June 15, 2017.

The nationwide recall includes beef franks produced on January 26, 2017, with 'EST. 296' printed on the side of the package.

"The problem was discovered after the establishment received three complaints of metal objects in the beef frank product packages," the U.S. Department of Agriculture said in its recall notice. "There have been no confirmed reports of adverse reactions or injury due to consumption of these products. Anyone concerned about an injury or illness should contact a healthcare provider."

Saturday
May202017

S.C. Offers Free Tuition at Struggling Denmark Tech

State efforts to save a historically black public college in one of South Carolina's poorest areas include offering local high school graduates a free two-year degree or technical certificate.

A law signed Friday by Gov. Henry McMaster puts the state Technical College System directly in charge of Denmark Technical College until November 2018.

An audit last fall showed Denmark Tech's operating balance had plummeted from $9 million to $285,000 in four years, prompting state officials to demand changes at the college that primarily serves residents of rural Allendale, Bamberg and Barnwell counties. Commissioners fired the former president in January. Lawmakers are replacing them with new commissioners who will work with the state agency until the college regains control.

The agency that oversees all of South Carolina's 16 technical schools recommended the temporary takeover to legislators. Both chambers approved the bill unanimously.

To boost enrollment, the agency worked with local groups to develop "Panther Promise," which offers up to two years tuition-free to students graduating in the coming weeks from tri-county area schools with at least a 2.0 GPA. How many will do so — and therefore the cost — is unknown.

Fewer than 450 seniors total attend the tri-county's six public high schools, according to state Education Department data.

"Our end goal is to make sure the college is financially stable and sustainable," said Kelly Steinhilper, spokeswoman for the state system. "The 45,000 people in those counties need a technical college. You could say they need it more than anyone in the state."

The counties' unemployment rates consistently rank among the state's highest. County hospitals in Bamberg and Barnwell closed in 2012 and 2016, respectively.

Losing Denmark Tech too was not an option, said Rep. Justin Bamberg, a Bamberg County Democrat.

"This school means so much to the community economically — the history behind it," he said. The key is to "change the overall image of the school to make it a more attractive option so people want to go there."

A 1947 state law created Denmark Tech as a trade school for black South Carolinians. In 1969, it became part of the statewide technical college system, whose mission includes training workers for local industries. But there's little industry among the three counties.

Denmark Tech's financial problems are largely due to enrollment falling from 2,000 students in 2012 to 600 students last fall, without adjustments to employees and course offerings.

"There are programs with one student in it," Bamberg said. Outdated equipment and underfunding help explain the problem, he added.

For example, students who graduate from Denmark Tech's welding program can't get a job at Boeing in North Charleston, Bamberg said. "If you're not able to train students to work for a company like Boeing, you're too far behind in time."

Part of the state agency's task is to evaluate which programs to potentially boost or discontinue.

"It's going to be great for the college and community," said interim President Chris Hall, previously business dean at Sumter's Central Carolina Tech. "With the state directly involved, we'll be able to get a lot of the resources we need."

The Panther Promise initiative represents the first time the state is funding a free two-year degree, though taxpayers are sharing the cost with Denmark Tech's alumni association, its foundation, and the local economic development alliance. It will pay tuition not covered by other scholarships or grants. Similar programs at other rural technical colleges have been funded by county governments, Steinhilper said.

In 2015, the Legislature fired and replaced the entire board at South Carolina State University, 30 miles away in Orangeburg, due to mounting debt and financial mismanagement. Similarly, problems stemmed from falling enrollment without corresponding cuts. But unlike SC State, Denmark Tech did not go into debt or receive accreditation warnings.

Saturday
May202017

McMaster Signs Moped Safety Law

Gov. Henry McMaster has signed a moped safety law that allows intoxicated drivers to be prosecuted for drunken driving and requires teens to wear a helmet.

McMaster's signature Friday caps a seven-year effort to close the "liquor-cycle" loophole.

His predecessor, Nikki Haley, vetoed a similar measure last year, calling it government overreach to require reflective vests for nighttime driving and helmets for drivers under 21. The compromise sent to McMaster's desk removed the vest requirement.

Republican Sen. Greg Hembree of North Myrtle Beach says lives will be saved. The former prosecutor has been pushing for moped safety legislation for years.

The law also limits mopeds to roads where the posted speed limit is below 55 mph.

The state Department of Public Safety says 41 moped drivers were killed last year.

Friday
May192017

S.C. House Told Not to Return for Budget Talks

House Speaker Jay Lucas is encouraging House members not to waste their time and taxpayers' money by returning to Columbia on Tuesday, since there is no budget compromise to consider.

Before the regular session ended May 11, the Legislature created a three-day special session starting Tuesday to take up the budget and potential compromises on differing versions of other bills passed by both chambers.

The expectation was that a six-member panel of Senate and House members would craft a compromise this week between the chambers' roughly $8 billion spending plans. But they've yet to do so.

House Clerk Charles Reid told representatives in an email Friday "there is no need" to attend until there's a budget to vote on.

No similar message has gone out to senators.

Friday
May192017

Anderson County Unemployment Rate Falls to 3.3 Percent

Anderson County saw the jobless rate fall to 3.3 percent in April, while South Carolina's unemployment rate fell slightly as the number of people working in the state has risen.

In Anderson County, the rate is down from 3.8 percen in March. With a workforce of 89,415, 86,447 were employed in April, leaving 2,968 unemployed. The county remains tied for the sixth lowest unemploymentn rate among the state's 46 counties.

The Department of Employment and Workforce reported Friday that South Carolina's unemployment rate in Aprl was 4.4 percent, down from 4.5 percent in March. Employment went up more than 10,000, to more than 2.2. million people.

The state agency reported 2.2 million South Carolinians were working in April - nearly 4,000 more than in March. The state's labor force grew by almost 1,900, to more than 2.3 million people.

The leisure and hospitality industry saw the biggest month-to-month gain of 2,000 jobs, followed by 900 government jobs and 700 construction jobs.

Nationally, the unemployment rate reflected the numbers in South Carolina, edging lower to 4.4 percent in April from 4.5 percent in March.

Friday
May192017

Study: Social Media a Mental Health Issue for Youth

Four of the five most popular forms of social media harm young people’s mental health, with Instagram the most damaging, according to research by two health organisations.

Instagram has the most negative impact on young people’s mental wellbeing, a survey of almost 1,500 14- to 24-year-olds found, and the health groups accused it of deepening young people’s feelings of inadequacy and anxiety.

The survey, published on Friday, concluded that Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter are also harmful. Among the five only YouTube was judged to have a positive impact.

The four platforms have a negative effect because they can exacerbate children’s and young people’s body image worries, and worsen bullying, sleep problems and feelings of anxiety, depression and loneliness, the participants said. 

The findings follow growing concern among politicians, health bodies, doctors, charities and parents about young people suffering harm as a result of sexting, cyberbullying and social media reinforcing feelings of self-loathing and even the risk of them committing suicide. 

“It’s interesting to see Instagram and Snapchat ranking as the worst for mental health and wellbeing. Both platforms are very image-focused and it appears that they may be driving feelings of inadequacy and anxiety in young people,” said Shirley Cramer, chief executive of the Royal Society for Public Health, which undertook the survey with the Young Health Movement

She demanded tough measures “to make social media less of a wild west when it comes to young people’s mental health and wellbeing”. Social media firms should bring in a pop-up image to warn young people that they have been using it a lot, while Instagram and similar platforms should alert users when photographs of people have been digitally manipulated, Cramer said.

The 1,479 young people surveyed were asked to rate the impact of the five forms of social media on 14 different criteria of health and wellbeing, including their effect on sleep, anxiety, depression, loneliness, self-identity, bullying, body image and the fear of missing out. 

Instagram emerged with the most negative score. It rated badly for seven of the 14 measures, particularly its impact on sleep, body image and fear of missing out – and also for bullying and feelings of anxiety, depression and loneliness. However, young people cited its upsides too, including self-expression, self-identity and emotional support. 

YouTube scored very badly for its impact on sleep but positively in nine of the 14 categories, notably awareness and understanding of other people’s health experience, self-expression, loneliness, depression and emotional support.

However, the leader of the UK’s psychiatrists said the findings were too simplistic and unfairly blamed social media for the complex reasons why the mental health of so many young people is suffering.

Full Story Here

Friday
May192017

Lawmakers Hope for Budget Deal Before July 1

Legislators trying to hammer out a state budget compromise will not reach a deal by Tuesday, when lawmakers are set to return to Columbia, negotiators said Thursday.

If a compromise spending plan cannot be reached before lawmakers go home again next Thursday, then legislators will have to return to Columbia yet again to approve a budget for the state’s fiscal year that starts July 1. 

A House-Senate budget conference committee has met formally for only about 30 minutes this week.

Senate President Pro Tempore Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, said Thursday that House and Senate budget staffers have been working behind the scenes and will work throughout the weekend on the state’s roughly $8 billion general fund budget.

“There are a couple of issues we’ve got to work through,” said House Ways and Means Committee chairman Brian White, R-Anderson. 

State Sen. Sean Bennett, R-Dorchester, a Senate budget negotiator, said the impasse was a matter of getting the work done right, not quickly.

However, another Senate budget negotiator — Nikki Setzler, D-Lexington — said there are “huge policy differences” between the Senate and House budget proposals, including spending levels for S.C. colleges and the state pension system.

The House and Senate both agreed to spend taxpayer money from the general fund to pay state workers’ higher pension costs, part of deal to inject more money into the underfunded pension system.

The S.C. House also approved sending money to cover half the higher retirement costs for local government employers — cities, counties and schools — directly to the pension system. However, the Senate approved sending $30 million to the state’s local government fund, not directly to the retirement system.

Some cities, including Columbia, have said the local government fund’s distribution formula would shortchange them.

Under the House plan, Columbia would get roughly $900,000. However, under the Senate plan, Columbia would get roughly half that amount – $440,000, according to S.C. Municipal Association estimates.

Budget negotiators remain optimistic a deal will be reached before July 1.

Thursday
May182017

County to Offer Nuisance Wildlife Seminar June 4

In response to widespread citizen concerns over the encroachment of coyotes, wild hogs, and ground hogs into urbanized areas, Anderson County and County Councilmember M. Cindy Wilson will be hosting a nuisance wildlife seminar June at the Civic Center of Anderson. The event is scheduled to run from 8:30 a.m. until 1:00 p.m.

Noel E. Myers, State Director of Wildlife Services for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), and other presenters will offer seminar-style instruction on the behavior, control, and management of nuisance wildlife.  The seminars will be followed (weather-permitting) by an outdoor demonstration of traps and other tools available to landowners seeking to manage nuisance wildlife on their properties. 

This program is free to the public.  There will be no charge for attendance or materials. Onsite registration for the event will begin at 8:30 a.m.  Instructional seminars begin promptly at 9 a.m.


Thursday
May182017

S.C. High Court Says Timeshare Owners Can Sue Developers

The South Carolina Supreme Court has ruled that timeshare owners are now able to sue developers for violations of industry regulations.

The Island Packet reports (http://bit.ly/2qvJrRs ) the unanimous decision on Wednesday will allow the estimated 100 lawsuits filed against two Hilton Head Island timeshare companies to go forward.

Lawyers for timeshare companies Bluewater by Spinnaker and Coral Resorts LLC have argued that complaints should be decided by the state Real Estate Commission, not the courts. The state Supreme Court ruled that commission oversight doesn't preclude buyers' rights to file civil lawsuits.

Timeshare buyers' attorneys Joseph DuBois and Zach Naert say that many of the lawsuits that can now move forward have been stalled for more than five years.