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News. Brief.: SC using ‘sharks’ to bite into REAL ID gap as deadline approaches

shark

South Carolina DMV workers like these will be traveling the state over the next ten weeks with mobile units that can register people for a REAL ID ahead of the federal Oct. 1 deadline. SUBMITTED 

South Carolinians usually want to avoid sharks, but the Department of Motor Vehicles is planning to spread them across the state. Over the next five months, state employees will visit all 46 counties with mobile “self-contained hazardous area response kits” — or SHARKs — to get REAL ID driver’s licenses and identity cards into the hands of residents ahead of a federal mandated Oct. 1 deadline. So far, less than 40 percent of South Carolinians are projected to have a REAL ID by the deadline, DMV officials say. Without a REAL ID after October, people cannot fly commercially or step foot on federal facilities. The first SHARK was set to arrive Jan. 6 in Myrtle Beach as part of a 10-week registration drive that ends in Laurens and Newberry counties. State DMV chief Kevin Shwedo said the traveling units — actually computers set up on tables — will augment services offered at the agency’s branch offices. A schedule for the mobile units that will be stationed away from DMV offices is posted to the agency’s website at scdmvonline.com/news. As of Dec. 31, 1.1 million REAL IDs have been issued, bringing the total to 1.7 million since last February. Statewide, 4.3 million people have a driver’s license or identification card, but only a quarter of them carry the REAL ID designation. DMV spokeswoman Lauren Phillips said almost 62,000 REAL IDs are being processed monthly. — Adam Benson, The Post and Courier

Joe Biden wins sought-after endorsement in SC 2020 Democratic primary

With less than two months left until South Carolina’s Democratic presidential primary, former Vice President Joe Biden picked up the sought-after endorsement of an influential lawmaker from Charleston. State Sen. Marlon Kimpson, who has hosted town halls for many of the top Democratic contenders over the course of the race, tells The Post and Courier that he has decided to back Biden because he believes the longtime Washington politician has the best chance of defeating President Donald Trump. “He is the most electable candidate appealing to the broadest base of my constituents,” says Kimpson, who represents a majority African American district that includes parts of Charleston and Dorchester counties. All of the top candidates have earned the support of at least some South Carolina officials and activists, racking up lengthy endorsement lists. But Kimpson’s support represents one of the most high-profile Palmetto State lawmakers so far to publicly pick a candidate. The news could help Biden continue consolidating support in what has long been his strongest early-voting primary state, the first with a sizable African American voting bloc that could serve as a bellwether for other Southern contests later in the race. After moderating town halls with several candidates, Kimpson said he has been impressed by the depth of the Democratic field. — Jamie Lovegrove, The Post and Courier

Man arrested in connection with Vista shooting

A man has been arrested after allegedly firing a gun at a bar in the Vista. According to Columbia Police, officers arrested Willie Lee Jones, 34, and charged him with four counts of attempted murder and one count of weapons possession. Just after 2 a.m. on Jan. 5, Jones allegedly fired a shotgun in the direction of security staff at Social Bar and Lounge at 918 Gervais St. One 26-year-old man was struck by the gunfire in the upper body, and was taken to an area hospital. His injuries were not thought to be life threatening. A member of the bar’s management staff returned fire, according to the police, hitting Jones. The suspect was later found at a hospital in a neighboring county, arrested and taken to Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center. Police say Jones had been asked to leave Social at closing time, and had to be forced out of the business. He came back with a gun. — Chris Trainor

SC lenders sued for selling high-interest title loans to North Carolinians

Several high-interest loan companies are accused of using South Carolina as a haven to prey on low-income residents in North Carolina and circumvent that state’s consumer protection laws. The lenders are facing a growing number of lawsuits in North Carolina for allegedly setting up shop along the border, luring people across the state line into South Carolina and convincing them to sign what are known as title loans. Those small-dollar loans can carry interest rates of up to 300 percent annually, and require people to post their cars, trucks or motorcycles as collateral. Hundreds of North Carolinians signed similar loan agreements in recent years. But many are now suing the lending companies in state and federal court, where they are represented by the Greensboro Law Center. The lawsuits allege North Carolina law prohibits the loans from being enforced. And it is seeking money from the companies for seizing people’s vehicles and charging “excessive” interest rates. The litigation targets some of South Carolina’s largest consumer lending businesses. That includes companies operating under the names AutoMoney Inc., TitleMax, Carolina Title Loans and North American Title Loans. — Andrew Brown, The Post and Courier

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