Despite lawmakers’ promises more than three years ago that part of the state gas tax hike would be used to fix South Carolina’s bad bridges, only one bridge project has been completed with that money, newly released records show.

The Nerve’s review of S.C. Department of Transportation records found that through Oct. 31, the department had identified 16 bridge projects in nine counties totaling $18 million, though only one of those projects – located in Charleston County – was listed as finished.

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Less than three hours after The Nerve revealed Friday that the S.C. Judicial Department was keeping secret the salaries of department employees making at least $50,000 annually, the agency released a list of 300 staffers in that group, including judges.

Department public information director Ginny Jones provided the list without explanation to The Nerve late Friday afternoon. In a follow-up written reply, The Nerve requested who in the department made the final decision to provide the records, and the department’s reasoning in reversing its prior refusal to publicly release the salaries.

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The S.C. Judicial Department – the third branch of state government – is refusing to publicly reveal salaries of its own employees, contending it isn’t legally required to do so.

The Nerve on Oct. 18 submitted a request to the department under the state Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) asking for the name, title and salary of every department employee making at least $50,000 annually. The law says that the exact compensation of a public employee receiving $50,000 or more a year is not exempt from disclosure to the public.

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Update: 11/18/20 – The S.C. Public Service Commission today voted to hold two additional public hearings in the first week of January on Dominion Energy’s proposed electric rate hike. The hearings will be held from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 5, and from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 7. Participants can either phone in their testimony or attend in person at either hearing. In-person testimony will be held in the PSC hearing room at 101 Executive Center Drive, Columbia; one person at a time will be allowed in the room to testify, and the room will be cleaned between witnesses to comply with public health guidelines in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Witnesses must register by no later than 4:45 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 6, by either emailing the PSC at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or calling the agency at 803-896-5133; witnesses will be asked to give their name and a phone number for the PSC to call to receive testimony. The PSC also required Dominion to give notice of the additional hearings to its customers by Dec. 1.

“No.”

That was the collective response by the small number of Dominion Energy electric customers who testified at last week’s virtual hearings about whether they supported the utility giant’s proposed nearly 8% rate hike.

It’s unknown whether the seven-member state Public Service Commission, which hosted the hearings, will allow more public comment before it issues its final order by Feb. 15.

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INFOWARS 1340

Columbia-Alex Jones' Infowars website based in Texas started a caravan to arrive at Washington, D.C. on Saturday and stopped at each state capital along the way.  They arrived at the S.C. Statehouse on Wednesday night at 10:00 pm.  Despite the late hour, bad weather, social media censorship, and short notice, approximately two hundred people showed up to greet Infowars.

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The S.C. Department of Commerce doesn’t employ any medical or infectious disease experts, but the agency is seeking $250,000 in federal funds to reimburse itself for staff time spent on coronavirus-related tasks.

The state earlier this year received $1.9 billion in federal “Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security” (CARES) funds. Under a state law passed in May, state agencies must provide monthly reports to the governor and General Assembly on federal spending related to the COVID-19 outbreak in South Carolina.

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Dominion Energy electric customers in South Carolina are angry.

They were promised a rate cut following the 2017 collapse of the $9 billion V.C. Summer nuclear project. But Virginia-based Dominion now wants a significant rate hike.

And the state panel that will decide whether to approve the nearly 8% rate hike has quietly made it difficult for customers to publicly voice their concerns, an investigation by The Nerve found.

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Since last December, 15 S.C. Senate staffers, including the chamber’s top administrator, received pay hikes of up to nearly 34%, The Nerve found in a review of chamber records.

The top-paid staffer is Jeff Gossett, who, as the Senate clerk, manages the $16.3 million, 46-member chamber. He makes $225,000 annually, an increase of $14,864, or 7%, from his salary as of December 2019, according to records provided to The Nerve under the S.C. Freedom of Information Act.

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In theory, the pace of fixing South Carolina’s pothole-riddled roads should have increased over the hot summer months.

The reality, however, was different.

The Nerve’s review of newly released S.C. Department of Transportation records found that through September, the total dollar value of completed “pavements” projects statewide was less than half of the collective estimated cost of all such projects.

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At least one thing didn’t change in the S.C. Legislature during the coronavirus outbreak this year: legislative delegations’ control over local affairs.

Two delegations gained even more power.

Last month, lawmakers quietly passed a Senate bill, which had stalled after COVID-19 hit the state in the spring, giving the three-member Hampton County legislative delegation the authority to appoint a nine-member school board pending the planned consolidation of Hampton County school districts 1 and 2.

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From December 2015 through April of this year, 16 start-up companies funded by SC Launch Inc., an affiliate of the state-created South Carolina Research Authority, did not repay nearly $5 million owed to the nonprofit, according to organization records.

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Of the $20 million for tourism marketing, $15 million will go to the following five tourism organizations, according to JBRC records:

  • Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce: $6.88 million;
  • Charleston Area Convention and Visitors Bureau: $4.08 million;
  • Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce: $1.43 million;
  • Visit Greenville SC: $1.33 million;
  • Columbia Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau: $1.28 million

The Nerve last year reportedthat the five organizations in fiscal 2018 received a total of $14 million in “Destination Specific Tourism Marketing” grants from SCPRT, and collectively provided $28 million in required matches. Representatives of several of the groups said then that participating hotels in their areas assess a room fee toward the private matches for the state grants, though an investigation by The Nerve raised questions about whether the fees were as voluntary and transparent as claimed.

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In touting a $600 million settlement with the federal government over plutonium storage in the state, S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson publicly described the deal as the “single largest settlement in South Carolina’s history.”

But what Wilson, the state’s chief lawyer since 2011, didn’t mention in his Aug. 31 announcement was thathe wantsto keep $10 million to $15 million out of the $600 million for his own agency, records show – though his office every year gets tens of millions of tax dollars through the normal budget process.

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Former SC Governor candidate and Greenville businessman John Warren launched a Political Action Committee (PAC) titled South Carolina's Conservative Future.

The goal of the statewide PAC organization is to focused on advancing freedom, economic opportunity, and accountability at the state level through policy advocacy, empowering grassroots leaders to support reforms and direct electoral engagement. The PAC says that they will only support conservative, courageous and capable Republicans who will protect life and liberty, advance economic opportunity and provide accountability to taxpayers.

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Another governing board of a state-created agency is under scrutiny over whether some board members are receiving state health-insurance benefits in violation of the law, The Nerve has learned.

Two members of the S.C. Ports Authority Board of Directors participate in the state health plan, authority spokeswoman Liz Crumley saidTuesday when contacted by The Nerve, though the law doesn’t allow part-time board members to be covered through the agency.

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The slow pace of fixing South Carolina’s bad roads and bridges since the state gas tax was hiked more than three years ago could be tied in part to who’s doing the work and what other projects those companies are handling, records show.

The 10 highest-paid road contractors with gas-tax-hike revenues from July 1, 2017, through August of this year each received millions more over roughly the same period from the state Department of Transportation, The Nerve found in a review of DOT and state comptroller general records.

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