TOP FIVE: Climate change, S.C. State, taxes

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Photo courtesy S.C. DOT.

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:  feedback@statehousereport.com.

  1. Tough sell: People aren’t changing minds on climate change despite crushing hurricanes, Brookings, Sept. 18, 2017

There have been many state and national editorials focused on how the juggernaut hurricanes Irma and Harvey — and now with Maria on their heels — will change the minds of climate change deniers and skeptics. Not so, according to Brookings’ article. The problem isn’t the physical world but in people’s minds themselves.

“So why isn’t the public heeding scientists and demanding climate action by politicians that could help deal with these destructive extremes? You can point fingers at the influence of fossil fuel companies, at misinformation from climate deniers and at political obstructionism, notably from a fragmented Republican party. But a much deeper force is also at work: the way our brains function.”

  1. Mayors pave path forward on climate change, U.S. Conference of Mayors, Sept. 17, 2017

Columbia, S.C., Mayor Stephen Benjamin is vice president of the conference, and the organization released its report on mayoral leadership and climate change policy in the nation. Citing a warming climate and unpredictable storms, the report says mayors are in a unique position to build public and private partnerships to combat the global problem.

“Leadership from mayors is becoming increasingly important in the fight against climate change. Cities are uniquely positioned to advance solutions in transportation, buildings, and renewable energy, and understanding their approaches and progress can guide decision-making and help shape markets. The sustainability questionnaire was designed to determine innovative practices in these policy areas, identify trends, and define opportunities where additional assistance may be needed. More than 100 cities across the United States participated in the questionnaire, and their responses provide a snapshot of local action and potential.”

  1. No one wants to be on the S.C. State University board, The Post and Courier, Sept. 14, 2017

When the state opened the election process for South Carolina State University’s board, only one person applied for the dozen open seats. It’s the state’s first attempt at bringing in a new board since firing the entire board two years ago. Now it appears, there are few takers for the job, which could threaten the university’s ability to keep the doors open.

“S.C. State needs at least five trustees to keep its accreditation with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Without it, S.C. State would no longer be eligible to give federal financial aid to its 2,900 students, a virtual death blow to the 121-year-old Orangeburg school.”

  1. Red states benefit from tax deductions on federal chopping block, Tax Policy Center, Sept. 11, 2017

Tax reform isn’t as easy as slicing and dicing, and one of the federal deductions on the chopping block could negatively impact S.C. taxpayers. Many in the Republican Party, including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, say the state and local deductions only benefit blue states.

“But the red-blue divide is less apparent at the congressional district level.  Enclaves of high-income Republicans live in the New York suburbs, for example.  In three Northern New Jersey GOP districts, more than half of residents claim the deduction for taxes paid.  All told, 45 percent of the top 20 districts ranked by percentage of residents claiming the deduction have Republican representatives.”

  1. U.S. Supreme Court could be the next stop as state governments seek to claim Internet sales tax money, National Conference of State Legislatures, Sept. 18, 2017

While South Carolina is picking a fight with Amazon over collecting sales tax, a South Dakota case is seeking to overturn Supreme Court precedent that says states aren’t owed sales tax from establishments without a physical presence in the state (Quill Corp. v. North Dakota). The current case ruled against South Dakota in the state’s Supreme Court and now the state will seek the opinion of the highest court in the nation.

“‘Quill remains the controlling precedent on the issue of Commerce Clause limitations on interstate collection of sales and use taxes. We are mindful of the Supreme Court’s directive to follow its precedent when it ‘has direct application in a case’ and to leave to that Court ‘the prerogative of overruling its own decisions.’”

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One Comment

  1. Curt Loftis says:

    SC State has come made significant progress in the last few years. One reason for this is that the most recent Board members were directly appointed by certain elected officers of state government.

    There is more accountability when an officer DIRECTLY appoints a board member – that officer surely feels more responsibility than a member of the legislature feels as he/she is just one vote of 174 members.

    Perhaps the Legislature would consider allowing the officers to appoint another set of Board members…

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