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      Florence County native opens Senate session

      Lt. Gov. Ken Ard open SC senate.

      Lieutenant Governor Ken Ard opened the state senate session Thursday.

      Ard was sworn-in to office Wednesday.

      He's a former Florence County Councilman. He was elected to that office in 2004. Ard also served as president of his family's truck-body manufacturing business.

      Ard defeated Ashley Cooper with 55 percent of the vote in the November election. A special election will be held to fill is Florence County Council seat.

      Ard's Chief of Staff will be Brant Branham of Myrtle Beach.

      Senators were already hard at work Thursday morning. Those on the Senate Labor, Commerce and Industry Committee approved two of Gov. Nikki Haley's Cabinet picks. Committee members voted 12-0 to approve former newspaper editor and BMW Manufacturing executive Bobby Hitt to lead the state's Commerce Department.

      The same panel also unanimously approved Catherine Templeton to direct the state Labor, Licensing and Regulation Department. Templeton is a labor management lawyer who Haley says will help fight unionization efforts at Boeing's new North Charleston plant.

      Both nominations now move to the state Senate floor for consideration. Haley planned to announce her eighth Cabinet pick later Thursday.