SC politics: Water withdrawal bill introduced; Lee Bright giving away rifle in US Senate campaign

January 24, 2014 

Lee Bright

Bill to restrict water withdrawal is introduced

A state senator introduced legislation Thursday to restrict mega-farms from siphoning large amounts of water from rivers.

The bill, authored by state Sen. Chip Campsen, R-Charleston, says farms seeking to withdraw at least 425 million gallons a month from a river must get a state permit. The bill also applies to farms whose withdrawals would draw down 4-5 percent of a river’s “safe yield.”

Campsen introduced the bill in response to a giant potato farm’s plan to take water from the South Fork of the Edisto River. To withdraw the water, the farm didn’t need a state permit or to tell the public. Critics fear the withdrawals will siphon too much water from the narrow river in central Aiken County. Many have called for tighter controls on agricultural withdrawals.

“I’m trying to plug this drain in the bottom of the river,” Campsen said. “This is simply a stop-gap measure to make sure if you are huge user on a small river and you’re taking a big percent of the safe yield of that river, at that point, you’re going to have to get a permit.’’

Bright raffling AR-15 rifle in U.S. Senate campaign

State Sen. Lee Bright, one of four GOP challengers running for the U.S. Senate seat held by fellow Republican Lindsey Graham, is raffling off a semi-automatic rifle.

The Spartanburg Republican sent emails to supporters Thursday with word of the giveaway of an AR-15, the civilian version of rifles used in the military.

“In the wake of the horrific tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, gun-grabbers were sure they had the votes to RAM gun control into law,” the email said. “Thanks to the action of Second Amendment supporters all over the country, their schemed failed – even despite my Republican Primary opponent, U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-Seneca). ... In fact, it’s one BIG reason I’m running for the U.S. Senate. And today, I’m announcing that my campaign is giving away a brand new Palmetto Armory AR-15!”

The free internet drawing for the rifle, which sells for from $600 to $800, will be held at 5 p.m., Feb. 15, the email said.

State revenues down in December; economists not worried

S.C. tax revenue fell by 1.7 percent in December compared with a year ago. But state economists say the state is still on track to meet its revenue projects for the 2014 budget year that ends June 30.

Sales taxes were up 3.9 percent in December, but individual income taxes were down 1 percent. Corporate income taxes were down 38.7 percent.

Since the start of the fiscal year on July 1, sales tax collections are up 4.8 percent while individual income tax collects are up 2.5 percent. Corporate income tax collects are down 10.9 percent, in line with economists’ projections.

So far, state officials have collected $1 million more than they expected – a razor thin margin in a nearly $7 billion general fund budget. But the Department of Revenue says it did not count $20 million in taxes in December because of a reporting error, money that would have the state on track to meet its projections.

S.C. GOP boss calls Graham a conservative by definition

S.C. Republican chairman Matt Moore said Thursday the state GOP will not pick a favorite in the five-candidate race for U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham’s seat.

In an appearance on MSNBC, Moore evaded questions about whether the Seneca Republican is electable and conservative enough for S.C. voters.

“He’s a great candidate,” Moore said as anchor Chuck Todd tried to pin him down on Graham.

Asked if South Carolina’s senior senator is a conservative, Moore responded: “Graham is a conservative by the traditional definition. He believes in balanced budgets and America’s power in the world and position in the world.”

Staff writers Andrew Shain, Sammy Fretwell and Adam Beam contributed

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