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Lawmakers Debate S.C. Medical Marijuana Bill

BY CHRISTINA L. MYERS, Associated Press

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A South Carolina legislative panel spent hours Thursday hearing from supporters and opponents of a medical marijuana bill, even though the proposal has little chance of passing this year.

The Compassionate Care Act would allow patients with terminal, debilitating medical conditions to purchase up to 2 ounces (57 grams) of marijuana or its equivalent every two weeks if authorized by their physician. Sponsors say it sets some of the strictest conditions in the nation.

Members of the Senate Medical Affairs Committee said they held two meetings on the proposal to make sure all sides were heard.

"To really understand the issue, you have to move beyond just the medical science to written things, statistics and hear directly from the stakeholders," Republican Sen. Tom Davis of Beaufort said during the morning hearing.

Davis has been working to pass a bill allowing medical marijuana in South Carolina for years. He said he's trying to craft a proposal that enables doctors to work in the best interest of patients who may benefit from using medical cannabis but prevents the drug from making it to recreational users.

But the bill likely won't pass this year. It missed a Wednesday deadline where bills that haven't passed at least one legislative chamber require a two-thirds vote.

Sen. Kevin Johnson said he thinks the bill is improving, but he still has trouble supporting it because it lacks the backing of doctors and law enforcement. The proposal needs to regulate marijuana more tightly, and the drug should be directly distributed by doctors instead a dispensary, the Democrat from Manning said.

"I won't say that I won't ever support it because I do want people who have a medical need to be able to get help, but I don't want there to be a lot of unintended consequences," Johnson said.

State Law Enforcement Division Chief Mark Keel said he can't support the bill because it will likely worsen the mental health and substance abuse problems some people already face. While 33 other states have approved medical marijuana, South Carolina doesn't need to conduct that kind of social experiment on its people, Keel said.

"I went into many drug houses where I saw children being neglected and abused because they had drug addicted parents, so I'm just as compassionate as anyone about it," said Keel, who has worked as an undercover narcotics agent.

Some physicians who attended the hearings said they don't support the legislation because there hasn't been wide-scale clinical testing of the medical benefits of cannabis and they can't prescribe a substance that is not federally regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Sen. Darrell Jackson said he thinks people are missing the point of the bill.

"We are talking about a situation where people who are suffering from debilitating, painful experiences get help," said the Democrat and Baptist minister from Hopkins. "If we were talking about legalizing all marijuana, recreational marijuana, I would have a different position."

The committee plans to meet next week to continue discussing the legislation.

This is the first year of a two-year legislative session in South Carolina, so the bill will survive into 2020.


DeHay Named New President of Tri-County Tech

Galen DeHay, the senior vice president on Tri-County Technical College’s executive leadership team, was named the school’s next president today. 

DeHay, the college’s former science department head, has served as senior vice president for the past four years, will succeed Dr. Ronnie L. Booth, who retire in June after 16 years in the office.  

The Presidential Search Committee conducted a national search over the past several months and conducted interviews with DeHay and two other candidates in late March. 

DeHay will assume his duties as president July.

“This is a very important decision – and it was a tough decision,” said Commission Chairman John Powell.  “We were blessed to have three excellent candidates who could serve as president of any college.  We are offering the position to Galen DeHay.  He exhibited superior competencies as the Commission went through the lengthy interview process; he is young, he has a lot of ambition and he has a great attitude.  Dr. Booth put Tri-County at the top.  Galen wants to take us over the top.”

DeHay acknowledged his admiration for Dr. Booth, whom he calls a mentor.

 “Tri-County is a high-performing institution and we will build on our successes, with a focus on student success and economic mobility --  helping individuals grow in their careers and in life,” DeHay said. “We will build on the College’s prior successes in the areas of helping students to be successful and continuing to be an asset for economic development.  I want to help students to realize their potential.  When they do that, then that is our success. I also want to help business and industry to be successful and focus on economic mobility while creating stronger, more intentional partnerships with them.  Specifically, I would like to see the College continue to expand its economic and workforce development mission as we continue to improve workforce opportunities for our communities.”

As senior vice president, DeHay has provided leadership for all academic, student support, enrollment and workforce development functions of the College, including Academic Affairs, Student Support and Engagement, College Transitions, Marketing, Research and Evaluation and Integrated Workforce Solutions.   

The Central resident holds B.S. and M.S. degrees from Clemson University and is a Dissertation Candidate toward a Ph.D. from Clemson University.

Prior to joining Tri-County’s faculty, he was a teaching assistant for anatomy and physiology at Clemson. 


New Burger King Coming to S.C. 24/S.C. 187

A new Burger King is being built at the corner of S.C. 24 and S.C. 187.

Construction is under way for the new location across from the West Point Village Shopping Center. 

No opening date has yet to be announced.

Developing story...


S.C. Chili Cook-Off Championship Saturday

The tenth annual South Carolina Chili Cook-Off Championship, will be held Saturday, from 10 a.m.- 4 p.m. in downtown Belton. More than 60 Pro chili cooks from across the United States and Canada will complete for a chance to make it to the World Championships in 4 categories: Red Chili, Chile Verde, Homestyle Chili andSalsa. Lots of People's Choice to sample. Come early, eat or compete. 

By 11:30 a.m., fans of spicy foods can come taste the various offerings from both professional and amateur cooks.  Tasting bands can be purchased for $15 for unlimited samples, and $5 for 5 tastings.   All profits from the tasting bands go to non-profits in town: The Belton Area Museum Association, the Belton Center for the Arts, the Belton Interfaith Ministries Association, Shalom House, and the WLS Foundation which seeks to help wounded veterans or those suffering from PTSD. 

 “We’ve grown from 15 cooks over a three-state area to 60 professional cooks from Florida, Connecticut, Texas,  and even California,” said Cook-off Director Matt Lusk.  “It’s a wonderful event for our county and brings the little city of Belton positive recognition from people from all over the United States.”  

Live music provided by the Combo Kings, flowering and garden plant sales, museum tours, and an art market from 10 a.m.–4 p.m. will also be part of the event, as well as antique cars, and Little Miss Chili Pepper and a Miss Chili Pepper Beauty Pageant. 


S.C. Says New Measures in Place in State Prisons

(AP) — A year after seven South Carolina inmates died in an insurrection, myriad security measures are in place to crack down on the illegal cellphone use that facilitated the worst U.S. prison riot in 25 years, corrections officials said Wednesday during a tour of the institution.

In April 2018, inmates gained control of parts of the Lee Correctional Institution in Bishopville in what officials described as a battle over contraband and territory. Most of the slain were stabbed or slashed; the remainder appeared to have been beaten. One inmate described bodies "literally stacked on top of each other, like some macabre woodpile."

During Wednesday's tour, there was no sign of the bloodstains that had covered dorm walls and pathways shortly after the deadly violence. No one has been charged in the killings. Corrections Director Bryan Stirling said an investigation by state police and his own agency had been completed and would be sent to local prosecutors and the state attorney general.

All of Lee's 1,200 inmates were on lockdown for weeks after the riot. These days, according to Warden Ken Nelson, fewer inmates are allowed out at a time for activities, but only two units are still considered on some form of lockdown.

Stirling reiterated Wednesday that the uprising was facilitated by a constant scourge of cellphones, smuggled into the state's institutions each year by the thousands and used by prisoners to communicate with the outside world and each other. Over the past year, Stirling said, he has enhanced programming to keep inmates productive and busy, and implemented security measures, including perimeter netting, monitoring by drone and scanners to detect cellphones brought in either by visitors or inmates.

"Everything we do, they try to find a way around it," Stirling said. "So we have to be vigilant."

After the riot, an employee familiar with the operations of the Corrections Department told The Associated Press that delivery trucks — which are supposed to be inspected when entering prison grounds — often ferried cellphones and other contraband. On Wednesday, Stirling confirmed the information and said a number of corrections employees had been arrested on contraband-related charges.

So far, Stirling said, scanners are helping to reduce the number of phones that make it inside. His officers are finding fewer of them in raids, and he said a lawyer with inmate clients told him the price for a contraband phone has skyrocketed from around $100 to as much as $1,500, indicating they are scarcer.

There are other changes, including a $1 million electronic cell door locking system to replace aging air locks inside the primary dorm where the riot took place. For several months leading up to the insurrection, the AP communicated with a Lee prisoner who used a contraband cellphone to offer insight into life behind bars. Describing frequent gang fights with inmates using homemade weapons, he said prisoners roamed freely, had easy access to cellphones and drugs, and were often left to police themselves.

"ALL of the doors to the cells are broken," wrote the inmate, who spoke to AP on the condition of anonymity because his cellphone was illegal and he feared retribution from other prisoners. "At any time, I can let myself out of my cell, to do whatever it is that I would want to do."

The inmate said he and other prisoners roamed around freely at the prison in Bishopville, about 40 miles (65 kilometers) east of Columbia. Hours after the violence started, no corrections officers or medical personnel attended to the dead or dying, he said.

State Rep. Justin Bamberg, who represents the estates of two of the inmates killed, said piecemeal improvements are better than nothing but only a significant one-time effort like a bond bill could raise the kind of cash needed to make substantive changes at all of the state's prisons.

"This is exactly what happens when state government ignores a core aspect for so long," Bamberg said. "It's decades of neglect, financially, that put us exactly where we're at now."


Salvation Army Anderson to Open Expanded Shelter April 24

The Salvation Army of Anderson will dedicate the official opening with a tour of their expanded shelter April 24 at 11 a.m. at 118 Tolly Street. 
The new space adds 30 permanent, low-barrier shelter beds in Anderson County, offering more than 95 percent of people sleeping rough, or on the streets, the opportunity to come inside and begin the process of rebuilding their lives, said Capt. Rob Dolby, head of the Salvation Army in Anderson.
Dolby said Anderson is joining a handful of other communities across the United States that have made the commitment to end street homelessness.
The Salvation Army in Anderson average nights stay, per night, has grown from 19 to 76 over the past three years. In the first quarter of 2019 they provided 6,077 nights sleep, to men, women, and families. They report witnessing 26 individuals and 5 families obtain employment and sustainable housing, provided over 20,000 meals, and estimated a social-ROI (Return On Investment) back into the community of over $1.2 million just this quarter. 
The Salvation Army has been serving Anderson for 115 years.

The State: S.C. House Caucus Kicks Out Anderson's Jonathon Hill

From The State Newspaper

In an unusual move, the powerful S.C. House GOP Caucus has indefinitely kicked out one of its own members, accusing Anderson Republican Jonathon Hill of making “erroneous and hostile attacks” on fellow Republicans that “have gone too far.”

In a closed-door meeting Tuesday, Hill was jettisoned by an overwhelming majority of his colleagues who had grown tired of his penchant for criticizing them, disseminating their cell phone numbers to angry constituents and publicly sharing details of private strategy meetings.

“Rep. Hill’s actions are against everything our body stands for,” House Majority Leader Gary Simrill, R-York, wrote in a statement to The State. “His actions are unbecoming of a member of the State House as well as a member of the House Republican Caucus.”

Hill is arguably the least popular of the S.C. House’s 124 members. He’s known as a libertarian firebrand whose “no” votes and critical Facebook posts and blogs vex House Republicans and Democrats alike.

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Hill told The State Tuesday he wasn’t surprised, noting members of the caucus have hinted since last fall he was on thin ice.

“My desire has been to let the people of South Carolina know what goes on in the backrooms and back halls of this place, especially when it affects their liberties, their taxes, their lives in some way,” Hill said.

Hill regularly takes to Facebook, his blog and the House floor to publicly criticize his colleagues, including House Republican leaders, saying they don’t do enough to advance pro-life or gun rights legislation.

But House Republicans have told The State that Hill has crossed the line in recent weeks by publicly sharing details of private GOP Caucus discussions, often mischaracterizing his colleagues’ statements and policy positions to make them look bad.

House Republicans use the closed-door meetings to discuss proposed legislation, getting their questions answered and concerns addressed before the debate on the House floor.

The caucus is a dues-paying organization that the courts have declared exempt from the state’s open-records laws. But it also serves as a private forum where the Republicans who dominate the House build consensus before passing legislation overwhelmingly.

“People didn’t feel like they could speak freely and confidentially in the meetings,” Hill said Tuesday. “They want to be able to know that what goes on behind closed doors stays behind closed doors. There’s a time and place for private discussions, but I also think that privacy is for private citizens and openness and transparency is for government.”

House Republicans were especially frustrated with Hill during the budget debate in March, when Hill said on the House floor that the Republican Caucus had conspired to vote down every Democratic amendment to the $9.3 billion state budget.

In reality, House GOP leaders have told The State, they had agreed not to approve any changes to only a small piece of the budget. House Republicans had worked with Gov. Henry McMaster to spend the $61 million Mega Millions tax windfall on one-time refunds to S.C. taxpayers, and they resolved to reject any proposals to spend that money on something else.

“At best, he is an obstructionist,” Simrill said. “At worst, an anarchist.”

In a House GOP Caucus meeting last month, Hill also was made to apologize for publishing the cell phone numbers of his Republican colleagues on Facebook and telling his followers to call them and push them to support a proposal to defund Planned Parenthood through the House budget.

The group included some of the staunchest abortion opponents in the House, including state Rep. John McCravy, R-Greenwood.

But later, in a post on his website, Hill praised his followers for all their calls and voicemails, saying their efforts were instrumental in passing the proposal and prove his brand of “confrontational politics” works.

“At the end of the day, I have not one regret,” Hill wrote. “This issue is too important to led slide by. Inconvenient calls from constituents are part of the job, an occupational hazard of being an elected official.”

Just a handful of the House’s roughly 80 Republicans voted against the proposal to indefinitely suspend Hill. That includes Hill and state Reps. Josiah Magnuson of Spartanburg and Mac Toole of Lexington.

The House GOP Caucus has rarely, if ever, kicked out a member.

Hill could return, however, if a majority of the caucus votes him back in. The odds of that happening are long, he acknowledged Tuesday.

“I don’t see a lot of them changing their minds,” he said.

More at The State Newspaper


Fishers of Men National Event at Green Pond This Weekend

The Fishers of Men National Tournament Trail brings their Berkley Team Series National Championship to Hartwell Lake and Green Pond Landing later this week where 136 two-person teams will compete for a share of $150,000 in cash and prizes. The winners will take home a Basscat/Mercury Rig boat valued at $65,000, and the runners up a similar rig valued at $30,000.

The event begins Thursday and the top 27 teams will compete for the championship on Saturday. Winners will be crowned after the 3 p.m. weigh-in.

For more information on Fishers of Men visit our website at


Clock Ticking on Several Bills in S.C. Legislature

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Time is running out for some bills to have an easier trip through the South Carolina Legislature.

Wednesday is the crossover deadline. The requirement says a bill has to pass either the House or the Senate to be considered by the other chambers with less than a two-thirds vote. That is a high hurdle for any bill without broad bipartisan support.

Some bills likely to not make the deadline are medical marijuana, the heartbeat abortion ban and several firearm bills including legislation that would extend criminal background checks for gun purchasers from three to five days.

However, 2019 is the first of a two-year legislative session. Bills that do not pass by the end of this year's session will be picked back up in the same place in January.


Westside Watchful after Third Mumps Case in 90 Days

In a letter to the parents of students, Westside High School confirmed a third case of the mumps at the school. Previous cases were reported in late March and in February. 

DHEC will be at Westside tomorrow to answer questions for staff and faculty.

All of the students who have confirmed cases of the mumps were 100 percent up-to-date on their mumps vaccinations, according to a spokesman for Anderson School District Five. The vaccination, however, is not a guarantee a person will not get mumps. The shots do lower the chances of developing the disease.

Mumps can cause swelling in the cheek/jaw, and in other areas such as testicles or the ovaries. The disease can also lead to fever, tiredness, headache, loss of appetite, and muscle aches. 

The South Carolina Department of Health and Enivironmental Concerns regards the disease as highlly contagious, especially in places such as schools or offices. If other cases are reported at Westside, DHEC may require vaccination against the mumps for all students. Those who are not vaccinated will not be allowed back at school until no new cases are reported for at least 25 days.

DHEC suggests the best protection is two doses of the MMR vaccine, something which is already required by law in South Carolina, and which each of the students in the recent cases had already done. (A complete list of required vaccinations can be found here.


Anderson Area TD Club Honors Players of Year


Acura Recalling 323,000 SUVs

Acura is recalling 323,000 MDX sport-utility vehicles in the United States because of leaky seals on the rear taillights, the automaker said.

The division of Honda announced the recall Monday.



Landmark History Conference in Anderson this Week

If you enjoy learning more about Anderson County history, the April 11-13 "Untold Stories" Landmark Conference will be in town for the first time this year.

The annual event of the Confederation of South Carolina Local Historical Societies, which moves around in the state this year is is open to the public, history professionals, and history buffs interested in learning more about South Carolina's history. It also is a friendly, entertaining opportunity to connect with like-minded people from across the state. Membership is not required for attendance, but it does qualify you for a discount.

The event kicks off Thursday with a reception at the Anderson Civic Center, followed by a reception at Woodburn Plantation in Pendleton.

Friday events include tours of Pendleton, Belton and Honea Path, while Saturday offers presentations by the Anderson Genealogical Society.

Check out the full schedule at

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