A new survey from personal finance website WalletHub says South Carolina is the 44th ranked state in terms of places to raise a family. According to The State, in individual categories in the survey, South Carolina ranked 36th in infant mortality rate, 37th for the separation and divorce rate, 39th for percentage of families living in poverty, 41st for the violent-crime rate and 43rd in median family salary. — Chris Trainor

Obama Store Owner Charged With Tax Evasion 

An owner of the iconic Obama gas station in North Columbia has been arrested and accused of failing to pay sales taxes. According to the South Carolina Department of Revenue, Murad A. Alhanik has been charged with four counts of sales tax evasion for failing to pay $136,753 in sales taxes. Alhanik faces a fine of up to $10,000 and up to five years in prison on each count. The Obama gas station, named for former President Barack Obama, has become a landmark in Columbia and has been the focus of numerous media stories, including a January 2017 cover story in Free Times. — Chris Trainor

Trump Administration Opens Up South Carolina to Offshore Drilling 

The Trump administration announced a drilling plan allowing for the offshore exploration of gas and oil. The plan opens up offshore drilling in South Carolina along with nearly all other offshore waters of the U.S. Political leaders in the state are divided about the prospect. U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford, who represents much of the Lowcountry, opposes offshore drilling, while U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan of the 3rd District called the new plan “tremendous news.” Many coastal communities in the state have come out against the prospect. Drilling off the shore of South Carolina was closed off by the Obama administration. Legal battles are expected.— David Travis Bland

McMaster Pitches Income Tax Cuts 

Gov. Henry McMaster is proposing a state income tax cut of $140 million in year one of a five-year phase plan that would eventually reduce state revenue by $750 million annually. “When you cut taxes, economic growth goes up,” McMaster said, per The Post and Courier. “Just like night follows day, if you cut taxes, things happen. The result will be a more vibrant economy.” The state Legislature has, in the past, rejected such steep tax cuts proposed by other governors, including Nikki Haley and Mark Sanford. While McMaster’s budget plan provides no across-the-board pay raises for state workers or teachers, it does increase the pay of some law enforcement officers. The governor faces a primary battle for re-election this year. — Chris Trainor

In 2017, More Killings and Assaults in SC Prisons 

The number of inmates killed in South Carolina prisons doubled in 2017 from the year before and quadrupled from two years ago, per The State. Inmate assaults on correction officers also increased. In 2017, 12 inmates killed other prisoners, up from only three in 2015. Bryan Stirling, S.C. Department of Corrections director, says the increase in killings and assaults stem from understaffed prisons, a higher percentage of violent criminals in the system, and more contraband like cell phones coming into prisons, which allows inmates to continue criminal activity. — David Travis Bland

Coyote Sightings Increasing in Columbia

The State is reporting on an increase in the number of coyotes in urban areas of South Carolina like Columbia — including a sighting near Elmwood Park, only blocks from downtown Columbia. Coyote populations are growing with urban areas in South Carolina. While coyotes mostly run from adult humans, they will attack small pets and children, experts say. In South Carolina, coyote populations have reached such a level that the 30,000 a year that are hunted isn’t putting a ding in the number of the wolf-cousins roaming the state. “Cockroaches and coyotes will still be here when we all turn to dust,” Charles Ruth of the Department of Natural Resources told the paper. — David Travis Bland

Snow Hits Lowcountry, Misses Columbia

Coastal South Carolina was blanketed Dec. 3 with a near-record snowfall. Authorities in Charleston and other coastal areas implored residents to stay off roadways, and SCE&G reported nearly 900 power outages statewide. More than five inches of snow fell at the Charleston International Airport, the third heaviest snow since 1938. Meanwhile, Gov. Henry McMaster warned residents across the state of the frigid temps. “It is cold, cold, cold and it’s going to stay cold,” McMaster said. In Columbia, despite widespread last-minute cancellations, the weather was merely really cold. — Chris Trainor

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