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Top lawmakers question higher-ed agencys town halls, dire claims
By Lindsay Street, Statehouse correspondent | A statewide campaign intended shed light on the states rising college costs could fall on deaf ears in the S.C. House, according to two top lawmakers.
The issue of whether the state should provide more subsidies for tuition and fees for its 33 public colleges is ramping up to be a loud, long public battle. Lawmakers and the states college oversight agency say the issue will likely remain unsolved this legislative session as attention is diverted to other issues.
CHE has town halls to draw attention to finding
In the meantime, the Commission on Higher Education says it has set out on a fact-finding mission intended to draw attention to the issue.
We believe that before you can address these issues these problems, you got to recognize you have (a problem), CHE Chair Tim Hofferth of Chapin said in an interview. Im not sure all leaders believe we have a problem Somebody needs to begin the painstaking process of coming up with recommendations to treat the problem.
The commission has hosted three of eight planned town halls around the state, gaining headlines like Why colleges and their state oversight agency are clashing and Higher ed commission predicts financial knife fight. At the town halls, the commission is taking this message to the people: attending public college in South Carolina has become too pricey and the states public institutions could be on the verge of collapse, unless they curb spending. Its a message that has put it at odds with many public colleges around the state.
The goal is to help inform future action for the commission and the state, CHE interim president Jeff Schilz told Statehouse Report Thursday.
"We hear these stories from people all the time as I talk to legislators; they hear these stories as well, he said. We thought it would be a good opportunity to go around the state and go out and hear what the people are really dealing with."
South Carolinas public colleges have some of the most expensive tuition and fees in the nation, according to a 2018 state-by-state comparison from Simple Thrifty Living. In the last 10 years since the Great Recession, state dollars for those colleges have dropped 33 percent or about $225 million, according to an August report by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. South Carolina funds less than 6 percent of college revenues, while some neighboring universities get up to one-fifth of their funding from public tax dollars, according to S.C. House Ways and Means Chair Rep. Brian White, R-Anderson.
For CHE, the town halls and the tough stance on college spending are needed to begin addressing the problem of rising tuitions and fees.
CHE playing with fire?
But the town halls and the related attention-grabbing headlines have some lawmakers questioning the CHEs role. For 50 years, the CHE has acted as the General Assemblys oversight agency and an advocate for higher education.
(Colleges are) having to get more and more and more from mom and dad than they are from the state of South Carolina, White said. CHE is beating that drum, Well theyre charging too much, charging too much. Well, part of your job is to say, Hey, they need more money from the state so they don't have to charge more in tuition, but they're not doing that.
White said he takes issue that the CHE is not asking for more state funds but instead choosing to question spending by colleges. He said the commission isnt in the classrooms, and that in 10 years, he hasnt seen the commission advocate on behalf of the colleges to get more state dollars.
Ways and Means Vice Chair Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, D-Orangeburg, said the town halls arent doing CHE any favors in winning support from lawmakers or the colleges. Cobb-Hunter said theres a talk of commission overreach but she said she supports the CHEs town halls.
"I can see the case that they see (the town halls) as part of their roles. They see it as stepping into a vacuum, meaning who else is doing it? Cobb-Hunter said.
A disconnect between colleges and CHE
Where she and others have a problem is with the warring information between CHE and the public colleges.
"There may be an issue with the information they are providing and Ive heard disagreement from the universities on how that information is both captured and presented, but thats separate from whether CHE ought to be doing it, Cobb-Hunter said.
She said the town halls may have been more effective if CHE involved the universities and lawmakers.
"Id be very surprised if the town halls had the effect on the legislature that CHE seems to think they will have, she said, adding there would be "even less" of an effect for university leaders.
White said CHE has been a poor advocate for the states public colleges and should be pushing for more state money to help students. But Hofferth said before CHE can advocate for more funds, there should be an examination of costs.
"We have to get our hands around these skyrocketing costs, Hofferth said.
He bristled at the suggestion that CHE is not advocating for public colleges.
our higher ed institutions more than the commission and our staff,"
Hofferth said. "We want to make sure theyre healthy
Right now, they dont need another cheerleader.
Staff reports | A report from the state budgeting agency has shown that a much-feared projected shortfall is no longer a factor that will affect the 2018-2019 budget. In fact, there could be a $58 million windfall based on current projections which shows growth of general fund revenue at 6 percent rather than the predicted 4.6 percent.
On Feb. 15, the S.C. Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Offices Board of Economic Advisors released what is its final forecast before the S.C. House drafts next years budget. Any shortfall in the current years budget would have to be made up in the 2018-18 budget, but now it looks like lawmakers wont have to rob next years revenues to pay this years bills.
On Tuesday, the House Ways and Means committee begins work on the budget. In an interview this week, committee Chair Rep. Brian White, R-Anderson, said the state budget will remain tight, despite the sunnier forecast for this years budget. He said big-ticket items, such as K-12 education, health care and law enforcement, will eat up the lions share of any new dollars. Health care and pension reform are expected to have big increases this year.
White said he would be surprised if there would be more than $200 million left over after dealing with many of the recurring and must-fund items.
It goes away fast, White said of discretionary funding, which often goes toward salary increases and other items at state agencies.
House votes to reauthorize Conservation Bank
House members this
week voted 107-3 to keep the state's Conservation Bank open. The bill,
version of which was introduced last year as a priority in the Senate,
now heads to the Senate.
the original Conservation Bank legislation in 2002 was made possible when
businesses and citizens combined forces and convinced a bipartisan majority
of legislators to support protecting special places around the state,"
S.C. Wildlife Federation Executive Director Ben Gregg told his members
this week. "It is heartening to see history begin to repeat itself
Under the House-passed bill, the bank would not face sunsetting of its function, but it would lose its dedicated source of funding. The companion Senate bill would keep the dedicated source of funding and maintain the sunset.
"We are a big
step closer to extending the life of this state agency that has been the
single most important factor in the preservation and conservation of some
of our most precious natural resources," Gregg said. "We are
grateful for the overwhelming vote in the House today and especially for
the leadership of Rep. Brian White and others who championed the Conservation
By Lindsay Street, Statehouse correspondent | The House has cleared much of its nuclear legislation and is now moving into the budget process, according to S.C. Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, D-Orangeburg. She called much of the bills on the calendar for next week "a bunch of nothing-burgers."
The House Ways and Means Committee, which Cobb-Hunter is vice chair of, will begin budget work 11 a.m. Feb. 20, in room 521 in the Blatt building.
Here are a few other items on the calendar for next week:
Looking back: Legislature working on utilities, pensions, more
Staff reports | State Rep. Raye Felder, R-Fort Mill, introduced a bill (H. 4935) Wednesday that seeks to create a state committee to study palliative care to improve the lives of patients and caregivers.
"Palliative care is specialized medical care for people with serious illnesses and is focused on providing patients with relief from the stress and other symptoms that come along with a diagnosis such as cancer. It is appropriate at any age and for any stage of a disease," said Beth Johnson, director of government relations in South Carolina for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. "Most importantly, research indicates that palliative care systems increase health outcomes while reducing health care costs.
shown coordinating patient care and treating pain and symptoms leads to
increased patient and family satisfaction and decreases the time spent
in intensive care units and the likelihood patients will be readmitted
IN THE SENATE
32 bills during the week, with these of particular interest:
IN THE HOUSE
House members introduced 57 bills during the week. Of note:
By Lindsay Street, Statehouse correspondent | Our weekly Top Five feature offers big stories or views from the past week or so with policy and legislative implications that you need to read because of how they could impact South Carolina. If you have stories to suggest to our readers, send to: email@example.com.
1. South Carolina receives a D for election security, Center for American Progress, Feb. 12, 2018.
A foreign nation-state targeted America's elections in 2016, with 21 states being targeted by hackers, according to the Department of Homeland Security. South Carolina was not among those listed by the department, but the state's election system has gained notoriety for its weakness in being completely electronic. An excerpt:
2. South Carolina 16th in nation for high state, local sales taxes, The Tax Foundation, Feb. 13, 2018.
California has the highest state-level sales tax rate at 7.25 percent, and Colorado has the lowest sales tax rate at 2.9 percent. South Carolina has a statewide sales tax of 6 percent. If you average all of the state's local sales taxes, the rate goes up to 7.37 percent. An excerpt:
3. Higher minimum wage prevents recidivism, The Union Daily Times, Feb. 12, 2018.
Crime doesn't pay if wages pay better, according to new research from Clemson and Rutgers universities. Researchers examined records from nearly 6 million criminal offenders released from prison between 2000 and 2014, and more than 200 state and federal minimum wage increases and earned income tax credit programs in 21 states. Clemson researcher Michael Makowsky told The Union Daily Times:
4. Earned-income tax credits gain ground in S.C., elsewhere, Center for Budget and Public Policy, Feb. 7, 2018.
In 2017, South Carolina was one of three states to create new earned-income tax credits. That same year, three other states expanded their credits. Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia have credits now. South Carolina is one of six states that offers non-refundable tax credit. According to the analysis, refundable EITCs are preferred because they "give working households the full value of the credit they earn even if it exceeds their income liability." An excerpt:
5. $35M in federal housing assistance cut in S.C. in proposed Trump budget, Center for Budget and Public Policy, Feb. ,2018.
Under President Donald Trump's proposed federal budget, South Carolina would see a loss of $2,368 per household for housing choice vouchers, $35 million for Public Housing funding, $12 million for HOME funding and $34 million for CDBG funding. An excerpt:
By Andy Brack, editor and publisher | The Russians will only be successful in meddling with the 2018 elections if we let them do it to us.
The nation's spy chiefs this week said they expected foreign governments to try to fiddle with election outcomes in 2018, just like the Russians did in 2016. But that doesn't mean foreign governments will necessarily try to hack into voting systems, change names on voting rolls or disrupt the internal mechanics of voting.
"What they are trying to do is inject themselves [into our election process] and cause confusion in another way - using social media and other means," said state Sen. Brad Hutto, D-Orangeburg. "They are creating fake news."
And we can't fall for it. The Russians and others, tickled pink with their success in the 2016 elections, will keep at it this year. They'll deploy disinformation, propaganda and, yes, fake news strategies against Americans to get inside their hearts and minds to influence them before they even walk into the polls. It's sad, but these non-Americans want to use one of the greatest powers of our democracy - the free flow of information -to manipulate our behavior inside the polling booth.
We can't let that happen. The cure is for Americans to be more discerning about the news they consume - and stop relying so much on Twitter, Facebook, other social media and the Internet. Voters need to rely on news gathered by trained reporters who know what they're doing.
In South Carolina, our election system is safe, secure and impartial, says Marci Andino, executive director of the State Election Commission.
"The State Election Commission is taking all reasonable measures to protect our systems; however, we have no way to prevent the use of propaganda on social media," she said. "We encourage voters to visit scVOTES.org and to rely on credible sources to verify the accuracy of stories found on social media."
In recent months, the commission has taken several steps to boost security to the state's election hardware, Andino said. It is in the process of getting secret-level security clearances. It is communicating frequently with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to get classified information if it is necessary. The state joined the department's cyber-hygiene program before the 2016 election and its public, Internet-connected systems are scanned weekly.
"The scans have been an important tool the agency uses to strengthen our security posture," she said. "In addition to the Homeland Security scans, we rely on scans and assessments by other security partners to identify vulnerabilities and perform necessary remediation."
But all of the cyber-vigilance in the world still doesn't let elections officials rest easy.
"I'm worried that in spite of all of the extraordinary efforts by election officials across the country, the fear of foreign interference will discourage voter participation and undermine voter confidence in elections."
And that would be a tragedy. We need more participation in elections, not less, Hutto said.
"We've got to do a better job of letting people know every vote matters, every vote counts," he said. "People need to use their own common sense about where they're getting their information from.
"People also need to be vigilant when they hear things. Don't necessarily take it at face value until you've tracked down the source."
A weakness in South Carolina's voting system is that its machines are all-electronic and without paper back-ups for recounts. The current statewide system of voting booths dates to 2004 when it cost $34.6 million. A new voting system will cost $50 million to $100 million, Andino said.
With outside threats on the rise, now is the time to invest in a new system to boost accountability and transparency - and to reassure voters that we have the best voting system around that can't be manipulated by outsiders.
"My hope is
the legislature will fund the request for updating the machines and replacing
our state voting machines," said S.C. Rep. Mandy Powers Norrell,
a Lancaster Democrat. "It's that important. Our elections are that
The public spiritedness of our underwriters allows us to bring Statehouse Report to you at no cost. This week's spotlighted underwriter is the American Civil Liberties Union of South Carolina.
The ACLU of South
Carolina is dedicated to preserving the civil liberties enshrined
in the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights. Through communications, lobbying
and litigation, the ACLU of South Carolina works to preserve and enhance
the rights of all citizens of South Carolina. Foremost among these rights
are freedom of speech and religion, the right to equal treatment under
By Kelly Callahan Cruise, special to Statehouse Report | Sometimes life throws us a curveball and we are stopped in our tracks. Perhaps you need to find home healthcare for an elderly relative, or maybe you need assistance in paying a utility bill. You may be looking for help for a friend who is suffering from an addiction problem. Did you know there is a resource to help you find answers?
Whether you're searching
for information, or trying to locate a resource for someone in the community,
dialing 2-1-1 can find you the help you need!
Every day, thousands
of people call, text, and web chat with highly trained specialists at
SC 2-1-1 to find food,
housing, health care, financial coaching, job training and more. This
vital service is part of United Way's effort to fight for the health,
education and financial stability for every person in our state. Having
this resource available is a huge asset to our state, and that is why
we celebrate February 11 (2-11) as 2-1-1 Day!
SC 2-1-1 offers assistance
in an array of areas. Are you concerned about your child's developmental
growth? There is so much information available about the early stages
of child development that it can be hard to understand. SC 2-1-1 specialists
can connect you to someone who can help, and in many communities, to agencies
that actually offer developmental screenings by phone.
Sometimes we are
just in need of support in dealing with life's stresses. If you, a friend,
or a loved one is looking for a therapist, addiction treatment resource,
or support group, don't spend hours searching online or simply avoiding
finding the help you need.
If you are looking
for help with filing your taxes, SC 2-1-1 can help connect you with easy
ways to file in person or online. In most cases, you can file for free,
depending on your income. SC 2-1-1 partners with government agencies and
non-profit organizations to help you get connected to needed services.
During tax season, call SC 2-1-1 to find a local Volunteer Income Tax
Assistance (VITA) site in your community to get your taxes prepared free.
In 2017, SC2-1-1
handled 1.7 million calls for healthcare, food, and community resources,
including 11,706 VITA appointments. When you consider that taxpayers spend
an average of $200 in tax filing fees, this is a cost savings of over
$2.3 million for low-income individuals. Combined with the Earned Income
Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit, these savings allow working families
to put more money toward unexpected household expenses, childcare, advanced
education or a savings account. This helps create greater financial stability
and security for families.
In addition to being
able to call the three-digit 2-1-1 telephone number 24 hours a day, seven
days a week, individuals can search for support online at SC211.org or
use the SC 2-1-1 mobile app available for Android and Apple Devices. You
can also use the online chat feature on the SC211.org website during regular
business hours. It is easy to access and free to use.
Call SC2-1-1 today to get your questions answered, or visit SC211.org.
To the editor:
The total number of children and teens killed or injured by gun violence nationwide since January 1 is at least 402. In South Carolina, during the same period, 47 people have died and 102 have suffered injuries from gun violence. (More: Gun Violence Archive.)
I call on the S.C. Legislature to make South Carolina safer from gun violence. Evidence shows that laws strengthening background checks and permit-to-purchase are associated with decreased firearm homicide rates. (See this study).
The Senate Judiciary
Committee should vote NO on bill S. 449, which would gut the concealed
carry permit system in our state and allow anyone to open carry without
a background check or safety training. In Arizona and Missouri, gun violence
has increased dramatically after implementing similar permit-less carry
laws. (More: See this 2010 Arizona
report and this St.
Further, we need action on S. 516, which was referred to subcommittee 10 months ago and would strengthen our 2015 domestic violence law. Mass shootings are related to domestic or family violence in most cases, and we need our domestic violence law to work better in terms of reporting and implementation.
No more prayers, no more talk. We need action.
We bet this South Carolina home looks pretty familiar to some of you, but where is it - and what's its importance? Send your best guess - plus your name and hometown - to firstname.lastname@example.org. In the subject line, write: "Mystery Photo guess."
Last week's mystery
Last week's Mystery Photo showed the main building at Wofford College in Spartanburg. Congratulations to those who correctly identified it: Jay Altman of Columbia; Wofford grad Dan Jepson of the Upstate; and George Graf of Palmyra, Va.
Graf provided more
information, according to forbes.com: "Established in 1854, Wofford
College is situated in the college town of Spartanburg, SC, on a campus
designated as a National Historic District in 1974. Wofford is a private
liberal arts college, offering 26 undergraduate majors and 22 minors;
the most popular courses of study include biology, business economics,
finance, and government. Greek life is central to Wofford's social life:
there are 12 chapters on campus, claiming 35 percent of the male student
body and 43 percent of the female student body. The entire 175-acre campus,
which contains over 5,000 trees, was designated as the Roger Milliken
Arboretum in 2002. Wofford has been recognized for having one of the best
tailgating traditions in the country, and students can join 110 clubs
and organizations. Wofford has been home to a Phi Beta Kappa academic
honor society chapter since 1940, and the Wofford Terriers compete in
the NCAA Division I."
S.C. Encyclopedia | The enfranchisement of women in South Carolina was first discussed publicly during the Reconstruction period. A women's rights convention held in Columbia in December 1870 received a warm letter of support from Governor R. K. Scott. In 1872 the General Assembly endorsed a petition of the American Woman Suffrage Association to grant women political rights, but it adjourned without taking any specific action. The earliest suffrage clubs in the state were not organized until the 1890s, but suffragists were beginning to receive notice. Writing for the Charleston News and Courier in 1882, the journalist N. G. Gonzales described the typical suffragist as "thirty to sixty, a majority of considerable embonpoint, a majority passable looking, a majority with gray hair and a majority wearing bright colors."
Virginia Durant Young of Fairfax almost single-handedly transformed the South Carolina woman suffrage climate in the 1890s. Wife of a country town doctor who supported her endeavors, Young came to the suffrage cause via church work and the Women's Christian Temperance Union. She championed both prohibition and votes for women in her weekly, the Fairfax Enterprise. Together with a "little knot of (temperance) women," in April 1890 in Greenville, Young formed the South Carolina Equal Rights Association (SCERA), which soon claimed memberships from places as small as Frogmore (Beaufort County) and Chitty (Barnwell County) to cities such as Charleston and Columbia. Young soon aligned the SCERA with the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), which constituted a committee for the southern states in 1892 and named Young a vice president for South Carolina.
Young found a crucial suffrage ally in Robert R. Hemphill, editor of the Abbeville Medium and a longtime member of the South Carolina Senate. In December 1892 she persuaded Hemphill to introduce a joint resolution to allow women to vote and hold office, although this was unsuccessful. The next year Young got Hemphill to introduce a petition claiming that the state was violating her civil rights as a tax-paying citizen by denying her the ballot, but no debate resulted.
Suffragists became increasingly active in 1895. Several, including Young and Senator Hemphill, attended the NAWSA convention in Atlanta in 1895 and hosted Susan B. Anthony on her return north. They vigorously lobbied legislators at the 1895 constitutional convention, hoping to get educated, property-owning women enfranchised. In so doing, they argued giving white women the vote could achieve the goal of restricting black political power. Young, the prominent suffragist Laura Clay, and several other enthusiasts visited twenty-three towns in the spring of 1895 hoping to gain converts and start new suffrage clubs. Numerous factors, however, including the influence of conservative religious groups and ties of the suffrage movement to abolitionism and the controversial Grimké sisters, coupled with the widely held view that the women's rights movement was "against Scripture, against nature, and against commonsense," insured legislative failure. Following rejection of an amendment to extend the franchise to women possessing three hundred dollars' worth of taxable property, the South Carolina woman suffrage movement entered a near twenty-year period of dormancy. The SCERA disintegrated with Young's death in 1906.
The September 1912 formation in Spartanburg of the New Era Club, which was committed to advancing "the industrial, legal and educational rights of women and children," signaled a revival of the cause in the state. The pace quickened in spring 1914 when visits to Columbia and Charleston by Lila Meade Valentine, founder of the Equal Suffrage League of Virginia, resulted in leagues in those cities and, in May 1914, formation of the South Carolina Equal Suffrage League (SCESL). There were twenty-five leagues and a membership of three thousand by the time of the convention of 1917. Aligned with NAWSA, the SCESL carefully distanced itself from the English-style militancy of the National Woman's Party (NWP), supporters of a federal suffrage amendment.
Recognizing the uphill battle before it, the SCESL initially kept its legislative work on a small scale and focused on organization and education. The league distributed literature at state and county fairs, clubs, and schools. Outside speakers, including NAWSA leader Dr. Anna Howard Shaw, were brought to the state. The first suffrage parade was held during the 1914 State Fair. An overall plan to organize counties, towns, and wards was drafted.
Foremost leaders in the final suffrage drive were Susan Pringle Frost of Charleston and Eulalie Chaffee Salley of Aiken, both professional realtors and arguably the state's most controversial feminists. An eighth-generation Charlestonian and grande dame of that city's historic preservation movement, Frost headed the Charleston Equal Suffrage League (CESL) until December 1917, when she narrowly failed to align it with Alice Paul's NWP and resigned to form a Woman's Party branch, one of three in the state. Frost and her small group of Paul partisans, including Anita Pollitzer, later head of the national organization, continued to promote woman suffrage during the war years, and Frost joined one of the demonstrations against President Wilson in Washington. Eulalie Salley was organizer and president of the Aiken Equal Suffrage League and, in 1919, SCESL president. An aggressive and innovative suffrage campaigner, Salley once boxed in a prizefight to raise money and scattered suffrage pamphlets over Aiken while hanging out of an airplane.
With the death of Ben Tillman in 1918, South Carolina suffragists concentrated lobby efforts on his interim replacement in the U.S. Senate, William Pollock of Cheraw. With the Senate only two votes shy of passing the Anthony amendment in October 1918, an intense and successful "Helping Pollock to Declare" campaign was waged. However, his was the only additional vote in favor of the amendment. Although his replacement voted against the Nineteenth Amendment, it was passed in 1919.
The journalist William
Watts Ball observed in January 1920 that "legions of suffragists
. . . painfully excited" had descended on the state capitol in Columbia
as ratification was debated in the General Assembly. Despite the heroic
support of Beaufort legislator Neils Christensen, however, the cause was
hopeless. The S.C. House rejected the amendment 93 to 21, the S.C. Senate
32 to 3. Following national ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment,
the South Carolina General Assembly reluctantly passed a law giving women
the right to vote but simultaneously passed another statute excluding
women from jury duty. Patriarchal and recalcitrant to the end, the state
finally ratified the Nineteenth Amendment in 1969. Standing behind the
governor on the occasion, eighty-six-year-old Eulalie Salley reputedly
had the last word, remarking, "Boys, I've been waiting fifty years
to tell you what I think of you."
ISSUE 17.07 | Feb. 16, 2018
NEWS: Top lawmakers question higher-ed agency's town halls, dire claims
NEWS BRIEFS: It's a tight budget year; Conservation Bank moves forward
CALENDAR: House moving forward on budget, more
TALLY SHEET: House members seek state committee to study palliative care
TOP FIVE: On voting, sales tax, recidivism, tax credits and housing
Election systems safe, but your hearts and minds may not be
SPOTLIGHT: ACLU of South Carolina
MY TURN, Cruise: Celebrate state's 2-1-1 system every day of February
FEEDBACK: No more talk on guns. We need action now.
PHOTO: Mystery home
SC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Women's suffrage
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