President Donald Trump’s tariffs could threaten the new China Jushi USA plant being built in Richland County. According to Jeff Wilkinson at The State, the Chinese company’s lawyers have sent an exclusion report to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer which said, among other things, that Trump’s “tariffs will have a crippling effect on Jushi’s ability to build and operate its production lines.” An official at the Richland plant site said China Jushi wants to be excluded from additional tariffs. Jushi is looking to begin production at the Richland plant next month and is in the process of hiring 400 workers for the first phase. — Chris Trainor

Bobby Hitt to Remain Commerce Secretary

Gov. Henry McMaster made a special announcement Dec. 6 that Bobby Hitt will continue to lead the State Department of Commerce. Hitt was named to the position in 2011 by then-Gov. Nikki Haley, and he’s been key to building South Carolina’s role in the global manufacturing economy. According to a news release, during Hitt’s tenure the State has seen more than $29.5 billion in capital investment, $8.1 billion of it since McMaster took office last January. — Eva Moore

Pitts Retiring from House

Longtime state Rep. Mike Pitts, a Laurens Republican, is retiring from the House of Representatives after seven terms. According to The State, Pitts, a member of the powerful, budget-writing Ways and Means Committee, is slated to become the head of the State’s S.C. Conservation Bank, pending the approval of the State Senate. Pitts had a heart attack in October while hunting in Montana. He’s said he thinks running the conservation bank would be less stressful than being in the Legislature. A retired police officer, Pitts’ time in the Legislature was marked with some eyebrow raising moments, such as when he proposed a bill to register journalists. He said it was a tongue-in-cheek proposal meant to show the media’s bias against the Second Amendment. And he was at the forefront of legislators who fought to keep the Confederate flag flying at the State House in 2015, proposing dozens of amendments that gummed up the debate about bringing that flag down. But he also displayed a libertarian streak at times, like when he introduced a marijuana decriminalization bill that would have made the possession of a small amount of the drug a civil penalty, rather than a crime. — Chris Trainor

Scott to Colleagues: Do Better Picking Judicial Nominees

U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, the only African-American Republican in the Senate, is imploring his colleagues to exercise better diligence in nominating judges, particularly when it comes to past transgressions in regard to race. Scott recently shut down the nomination of Judge Thomas Farr to a federal post. Farr had a checkered history of disenfranchising black voters. “We should stop bringing candidates with questionable track records on race before the full Senate for a vote,” Scott said in a letter to the Wall Street Journal. As noted by The Post and Courier, Scott also recently said that, “We are not doing a very good job of avoiding the obvious potholes on race in America, and we ought to be more sensitive when it comes to those issues.” — Chris Trainor

Carolina Water Can’t Bill Customers for Court Loss

The Public Service Commission ruled on Dec. 5 that private utility Carolina Water Service can’t ask customers to foot its legal bill, via higher sewer rates, for a loss the utility took in court. “We agree with [Office of Regulatory Staff] that the company should not be allowed to recover its litigation expenses in this federal environmental action as the ratepayers derived no benefit from the expenditure,” the commission wrote, according to Tom Barton at The State. The ruling was a reversal of an earlier order, where the PSC had approved nearly $3 million in higher sewer rates that would have, among other things, covered legal costs from Carolina Water’s court loss to Congaree Riverkeeper. The river advocate sued Carolina Water to get the company to end its discharges into the lower Saluda River. — Chris Trainor

Brian White Loses Powerful Committee Role in House

State House Speaker Jay Lucas has reassigned state Rep. Brian White, removing him as chairman of the influential Ways and Means Committee and sending him to a rank-and-file post on the Labor and Industry Committee. According to The Post and Courier, “White said Lucas informed him [Dec. 4] the GOP caucus wasn’t happy with his leadership. That was followed by his demotion.” The Ways and Means Committee is a particularly powerful panel at the State House, as it helps guide the State’s budget each year. White, a Republican from Anderson, had been the chairman since 2011. — Chris Trainor

Haley Sells Lexington Home, Plan to Stay in NYC 

Former governor and outgoing U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley plans to stay in New York after she leaves the ambassador post at year’s end. She has reportedly sold her home in Lexington for $405,000. “South Carolina will always be home for Ambassador Haley and her family, and they look forward to returning to their friends and family in the Palmetto State after her son finishes high school,” Haley spokeswoman Chaney Adams said. It remains to be seen what Haley will do once she leaves the ambassador position. The Post and Courier reports that a new book deal could be in the works for Haley. — Chris Trainor

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