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ISSUE 13.37
Sep. 12, 2014

9/05 | 8/29 | 8/22 | 8/15


News :
Bipartisan group seeks to transform S.C. House
Photo :
Empty chair, Kingstree, S.C.
Legislative Agenda :
DSS oversight, domestic violence committees to meet
Palmetto Politics :
Ethics scorecard
Commentary :
Legislature not corrupt, but has work to do
Spotlight :
South Carolina Hospital Association
My Turn :
It is not all about Bobby Harrell
Feedback :
Send in your opinion
Scorecard :
A lot of thumbs pointing down this week
Megaphone :
Ye Olde Nothing Burger
In our blog :
Check out our blog
Tally Sheet :
Research past bills, proposals
Encyclopedia :
Meet S.C.'s 4th largest town

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That’s the rank now held by the Palmetto State in the rate of women killed by men, according to a new domestic violence report by the Violence Policy Center.  In 2011, 61 women died at the hands of men, the nation’s highest rate at 2.54 women killed by men per 100,000 people. According to 2012 data, 50 women were killed by men, a rate of 2.06 per 100,000 people. More.


Ye Olde Nothing Burger

"This is what we call a nothing burger. I took complete responsibility for the liability portion of this. I represent the values of my district ... conservative values. And I've been very effective at it."

-- S.C. Rep. Stephen Goldfinch, R-Murrells Inlet, on the federal misdemeanor charge he is facing that alleges his former biotech company illegally sold stem cells. While Goldfinch says in this story that he expected prosecutors wouldn’t move forward with the case, a federal prosecutor told a reporter it was moving forward.


Check out our blog

The latest post in our blog about the Statehouse is by Lynn Teague and is published in full in this week's My Turn section at left.



Meet S.C.'s 4th largest town

Mount Pleasant was a small village until the 1970s, when it began a dramatic expansion to become the fourth-largest municipality in South Carolina today (74,885 people, 2013 Census estimate).

Lying on the north side of Charleston harbor, Mount Pleasant occupies what was formerly Christ Church Parish. James Hibben laid out the village in 1803 on the site of the former Mount Pleasant plantation of Jacob Motte. In 1837 the villages of Mount Pleasant and Greenwich were combined and incorporated as the town of Mount Pleasant. The municipal limits later expanded with the annexations of Hilliardsville in 1858 and Lucasville and Hibben's Ferry Tract in 1872.

In the 18th century, the beachfront locale was a popular haven for Christ Church elites, including Charles Pinckney. Although many colonial residents were rice planters, shipbuilding was also an important component of the early Mount Pleasant economy. With the decline of rice cultivation in the parish in the early nineteenth century, agriculture dwindled in importance to Mount Pleasant, although the town remained a retreat for wealthy planters and merchants.

After the Civil War, white and black farmers turned to truck farming. Large planters established commercial farms worked by black wage laborers, while tenants and small landowners grew produce to supplement farm incomes. Commercial fishing and small-scale manufacturing also gained importance in the late 19th century. By 1883, Mount Pleasant had a population of 783, four miles of shell-paved streets, nine stores, a sawmill, and a brick and tile factory. In that same year Mount Pleasant became the Berkeley County seat, but it was annexed back to Charleston County in 1895.

Mount Pleasant stagnated in the early 20th century. Area farmers struggled against competition and a lack of modern transportation links, while a hurricane in 1911 destroyed farmlands and fishing facilities. The situation improved somewhat with the expansion of the Georgetown Highway (U.S. Route 17) and the opening of the Grace Memorial Bridge across the Cooper River in 1929. Black residents near Mount Pleasant tapped into the roadside tourist trade by selling sea grass "show baskets" to passing motorists.

Growth remained modest until 1970. The expansion of the port of Charleston, the growth of Lowcountry tourism, the construction of a second Cooper River bridge, and the advent of new highways contributed to a tremendous expansion in population. Between 1970 and 1990 the Mount Pleasant population soared from 6,155 to 30,108. By 1990, 72 percent of the Mount Pleasant workforce held "white collar" jobs, which helped give the town one of the highest per capita incomes among South Carolina communities.

The profile of town residents became increasingly white, professional and conservative. Indeed, South Carolina's first Republican governor since Reconstruction, James B. Edwards, hailed from Mount Pleasant. However, Mount Pleasant's rapid growth also sparked concerns over suburban sprawl and strip development. By employing subdivision covenants, development restrictions, and downtown revitalization projects, town leaders worked to balance the human scale and charm of the "Old Village" while providing the services and efficiency of a modern urban hub.

  • NOTE: This entry has been updated to reflect current population.

    -- Excerpted from the entry by Amy Thompson McCandless. To read more about this or 2,000 other entries about South Carolina, check out The South Carolina Encyclopedia by USC Press. (Information used by permission.)


Palmetto Priorities Statehouse Report encourages state leaders to develop and implement Palmetto Priorities involving several issues to make the state better a better place. Click the link to learn more about our suggestions for bipartisan policy objectives.

Here is a summary of our Palmetto Priorities:

CORRECTIONS: Reduce the prison population by 25 percent by 2020.

EDUCATION: Cut the state's dropout rate in half by 2020.

ELECTIONS: Increase voter registration to 75 percent by 2015.

ENVIRONMENT: Adopt a state energy policy that requires energy producers to generate 20 percent of energy from renewable sources by 2020.

ETHICS: Overhaul state ethics laws.

HEALTH CARE: Ensure affordable and accessible health care.

JOBS: Develop a Cabinet-level post to add, retain 10,000 small business jobs per year.

POLITICS: Have a vigorous two- or multi-party political system of governance.

ROADS: Strengthen all bridges and upgrade state roads by 2015.

SAFETY: Cut the state's violent crime rate by one-third by 2016.

TAX REFORM: Remove outdated special interest sales tax exemptions as part of an overall reform of the state's tax structure to be completed by 2014.


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Bipartisan group seeks to transform S.C. House

Multiple rule changes to be proposed to open process

By Andy Brack, editor and publisher

SEPT. 12, 2014 -- A bipartisan group of House members wants to change its chamber’s rules to reshape how members wield power. The ongoing discussion between a dozen House members follows this week’s indictment of House Speaker Bobby Harrell, a Charleston Republican on nine misconduct charges. Harrell was suspended Thursday.

“This is not really about Bobby Harrell,” said one of the proponents for rule changes, Rep. Rick Quinn, R-Lexington. “I had been looking at this before Bobby had issues with the indictments.”

Quinn said he, Democratic Rep. James Smith of Columbia and about a dozen Democratic and Republican House members want their colleagues to consider rule changes that would make the House a more inclusive body, in part, by altering a House speaker’s power to hire and fire staff, appoint conference committees and set legislative agendas. They call for limiting leadership terms and sharing some appointment power with a minority party. 

“There’s too much power in one person and we need to have some reform,” said state Rep. Jenny Horne, R-Summerville.

Meanwhile, three House leaders vying to be the next speaker also are talking about more openness and power-sharing as they jockey for votes. In the hunt are Acting Speaker Jay Lucas, R-Hartsville, Jim Merrill, R-Daniel Island, and Kenny Bingham, R-Cayce.

But the grassroots group of House members led by Quinn and Smith also will push for some ethics reforms, such as increasing transparency and eliminating political action committees of House leaders, through rule changes during the House’s organizational session later this year. The group expects to have a press conference early next week to review its proposals.

“Our House is really unlike any other legislative body in the country,” Smith said. “Not just some of the power -- but all of the power is held by the Office of the Speaker, one office. It’s not just administrative power, but it’s employment, agendas and appointments.”

He also added, “We don’t need to wait until the end of a two-year legislative session until we get ethics reform. We can do that at the organizational session.”

Lots of transformational ideas floating around

Quinn said the bipartisan group of members examining and questioning how to make rules changes are considering a number of ideas.

“There’s nothing irrevocable in what we’re saying, but we’re trying to build a coalition to get some positive changes done,” he said.

If the House makes significant rule changes, it could transform decades of domination by the House speaker over the chamber’s legislative process. Among the ideas being batted around:

  • Leadership term limits. The group is looking at imposing term limits for House speakers and committee chairs to open the political process inside the House. “It might be wise to consider not being allowed to serve in perpetuity,” Quinn said. “That way, it’s not stifling to new leadership and new ideas.” Smith added that having term limits on leadership roles, rather than at the polls by voters, would help the House keep its institutional knowledge, but offer broader leadership in the body.

  • Reforming Ways and Means. Not only does the powerful House Ways and Means committee write the state’s annual budget, but it considers all tax-related legislation that can impact the budget. Quinn said splitting the two functions might make for better policy discussions on tax proposals because of the load borne by budget writers.

  • Reshaping hiring. Unlike the Senate that allows committee chairs to hire its staff, all hiring and firing goes through the speaker’s office. Smith said it made sense to allow members to hire their own interns, not to have to rely on the speaker’s office, and for committees to employ their staff. “It’s ridiculous that we don’t hire our own people,” he said.

  • Involving the minority. Smith said the House speaker currently makes all appointments to conference, or compromise, committees. That doesn’t necessarily guarantee a place at the table for the minority party. He suggested that allowing the House Minority Leader have at least one of three appointments on conference committees would improve accountability.

  • Eliminate leadership PACs. Through its rule-making authority, the House could eliminate leadership political action committees this year and not have to wait for an ethics reform law, Quinn and Smith said.

  • Procedural transparency. Quinn and Smith complained at how some bills quickly get on the calendar for final votes without being debated in committee through procedural moves. And some other bills may not get the floor debate they need because the author or a chairman won’t answer questions about them. They said a rule needed to be made to require a committee chairman or a designee to respond to members’ questions and concerns.

  • Ethics reform. For matters not able to be dealt with through the House rules process, the General Assembly needs to consider ethics reform, such as the bill that didn’t pass at the end of the 2014 session.

“Institutions like this always have to reform themselves,” Quinn said. “From time to time, you have adjustment ... so all members of the body have a fair shake in the process.”

Andy Brack is editor and publisher of Statehouse Report.  He can be reached at:


Empty chair, Kingstree, S.C.

This chair sits on the porch of a house in the Kingstree, S.C., neighborhood of the photographer, Linda W. Brown.  She writes, “Although no one has lived in the house for several years and the house is in serious decline, the chair appears to be waiting for someone to come along and ‘set a spell.’” More:  Center for a Better South.

Legislative Agenda

DSS oversight, domestic violence committees to meet

Several meetings are scheduled for the next week:

  • DSS. The Senate General DSS Oversight subcommittee will meet 9 a.m. Sept. 16 in 308 Gressette to get updates on what’s happening at the Department of Social Services. The meeting is scheduled to be broadcast live at

  • FOIA. The Senate Freedom of Information Act Study Committee will meet 10:30 a.m. Sept. 16 in 105 Gressette to discuss the ramifications of recent state Supreme Court decisions and more. Agenda.

  • Domestic violence. A special House Criminal Domestic Violence Reform Committee will meet 9:30 a.m. Sept. 17 in 101/110 Blatt to hear testimony from invited presenters. Agenda.

  • Lottery. The Education Lottery Oversight Committee will meet 11 a.m. Sept. 18 in 433 Blatt to hear a presentation by the agency’s director.

  • Expungement: A joint study committee on expungements will meet 9 a.m. Sept. 19 in 105 Gressette.

Palmetto Politics

Ethics scorecard

While the General Assembly may not be rife with corruption, as columnist Andy Brack suggests today, it may be tough to keep up with various ethical allegations over the last few years. Here’s a scorecard:

  • September 2014: House Speaker Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston, was indicted Wednesday by a county grand jury on nine counts of misdemeanor ethics and misconduct violations.  He was suspended Thursday, first on his own accord, followed by the acting speaker.

  • September 2014: S.C. Rep. Stephen Goldfinch, R-Murrells Inlet, faces a federal misdemeanor charge related to the alleged illegal sale of stem cells. A court date hasn’t yet been set.

  • May 2014: The House Ethics Committee levied a $15,000 fine for Rep. Harold Mitchell, D-Spartanburg, on campaign finance violations and ordered him to reimburse his campaign account by $7,400.

  • May 2014: The House Ethics Committee dismissed an allegation that Rep. Bill Chumley, R-Woodruff, inappropriately used state aircraft.

  • May 2014: The Senate Ethics Committee fined former Sen. Robert Ford, D-Charleston, some $30,000 for campaign finance violations. Ford resigned a year earlier.

  • 2012: The House Ethics Committee twice heard allegations of ethical improprieties by GOP Gov. Nikki Haley for incidents when she was a member of the House from Lexington County. It found insufficient grounds both times.

  • 2012: GOP Lt. Gov. Ken Ard resigned from office in March 2012 and was sentenced to probation and a $5,000 fine for each of the seven campaign violations on which he was indicted.

  • 2010: State Sen. Jake Knotts, R-Lexington, was reprimanded by the Senate Ethics Committee for campaign finance violations and directed to pay back more than $25,000 in excess contributions from the previous decade.

Not listed are members and former members charged with breaking other laws, such as threatening people or driving under the influence of alcohol.


Legislature not corrupt, but has work to do

By Andy Brack, editor and publisher

SEPT. 12, 2014 -- Part of the job of a political party chairman is to arouse passions and stick it to the other party when there’s a good opportunity.

S.C. Democratic Party Chair Jaime Harrison certainly did both this week. Soon after news that a Richland County grand jury indicted GOP House Speaker Bobby Harrell of Charleston on nine misdemeanor ethics violations, Harrison said, “This culture of corruption in South Carolina has to stop. Leaders on both sides of the aisle must be held accountable for ethical wrongdoing.”

Harrison is right on the money that our leaders ought to be held accountable for ethical wrongdoing. But he’s dead wrong that there’s an insidious “culture of corruption” in South Carolina.

It might make good partisan politics to suggest the General Assembly is corrupt, but it rings hollow when you get to know legislators and what they do, says state Sen. Larry Grooms, R-Daniel Island.

“I don’t believe most people in the state understand what it takes to serve in the General Assembly in the sacrifices on your personal life and on your professional career,” he said. “The vast majority are serving for the good of the people and the state.”

State Sen. Wes Hayes, a Rock Hill Republican who started his political career in 1985 in the House as a Democrat, remembers the legislature of the early 1990s when federal authorities indicted 28 state lawmakers and lobbyists on corruption charges in what became known as Operation Lost Trust.

Before Lost Trust, there was a subculture in Columbia that was a little fast and loose with things like gifts by lobbyists to lawmakers. Some legislators were accused of taking bribes. But statements like Harrison’s on a culture of corruption today are overboard and “out of line,” Hayes said.

“We’ve come a long way in building an arms-length relationship between lobbyists and legislators,” he said. “The General Assembly, for better or worse, truly reflects the people they serve. Some are dishonest. Some are wishy-washy. But the vast majority want to do the right thing, just like the people of South Carolina do.”

GOP State Sen. Larry Martin, who heads the Senate Judiciary Committee, understands how news of the legal and ethical accusations suffered by a few tars the whole General Assembly and reduces people’s confidence in government.

“This just sort of kicks us all in the stomach,” he said this week after news of Harrell’s indictment broke. “People tend to put it all in the same bowl of fruit. That’s the distasteful thing about this.”

Former Democratic state Rep. Vida Miller currently is trying to recapture the Pawleys Island House seat she had for 14 years in a race against the guy who beat her two years ago, GOP Rep. Stephen Goldfinch of Murrells Inlet. Currently he faces a federal misdemeanor charge related to the alleged illegal sale of stem cells, a charge he reportedly (and incredibly) says shouldn’t be an election issue. (UPDATE: Miller lost her seat in 2010 to another candidate.)

Miller says the news about Harrell puts an extra burden on members of the General Assembly to pass an ethics reform bill that failed in the waning days of this year’s session. The proposal would have eliminated leadership political action committees, required more disclosures on income, provided more accountability and created an independent investigatory agency to look into complaints about elected officials. 

“It is past time that this gets done,” Miller said of ethics reforms. “Everybody in the Senate and House has to come together and restore people’s confidence back in the General Assembly.”

Suggesting the legislature is corrupt makes for a nice sound bite for partisan political purposes, but it unfairly paints good, elected public servants from both parties. Yes, there might be one bad egg in every few cartons -- just like in regular society -- but the overwhelming majority of people who serve in the legislature are upstanding folks who got into elected politics to try to make positive differences in the lives of South Carolinians.

Let’s hope state legislators use the discussions now about ethics and power to do the right thing by passing tougher ethics reform. That way, they’ll send a clear message that the General Assembly truly is an honorable place.

Andy Brack is editor and publisher of Statehouse Report.  He can be reached at:

South Carolina Hospital Association

The public spiritedness of our underwriters allows us to bring Statehouse Report to you at no cost. This week's spotlighted underwriter is the South Carolina Hospital Association, the Palmetto State's foremost advocate on healthcare issues affecting South Carolinians. The mission of SCHA is to support its members in addressing the healthcare needs of South Carolina through advocacy, education, networking and regulatory assistance.

Founded in 1921, the South Carolina Hospital Association is the leadership organization and principal advocate for the state’s hospitals and health care systems. Based in Columbia, SCHA works with its members to improve access, quality and cost-effectiveness of health care for all South Carolinians. The state’s hospitals and health care systems employ more than 70,000 persons statewide. SCHA's credo: We are stronger together than apart.

My Turn

It is not all about Bobby Harrell

By Lynn Shuler Teague
League of Women Voters of SouthCarolina

SEPT. 12, 2014 — The saga of Bobby Harrell, speaker of the S.C. House of Representatives, has moved forward with the filing of nine indictments for criminal violations of the South Carolina ethics laws. We can all be grateful that Attorney General Alan Wilson and Solicitor David Pascoe have done their jobs responsibly and well, bringing the case to this point despite serious obstacles. As Pascoe has pointed out, it isn’t over yet – Harrell has been indicted, but has not been convicted of any crime.  We will all watch closely as the process continues, in hopes that the whole criminal justice system will function as it should.

However, this isn’t all about Bobby Harrell. It also isn’t all about one political party or another. Those who try to define this issue in partisan terms do the state a serious disservice by obscuring the real issues. This is about how our state government works and how well it serves the public interest. This is about the distribution of power and the invitations to abuse of power that exist in our system. It is about a state with serious imbalances in its governmental structure and weak ethics laws, a deadly combination.

Structural reform needed

How do we end our long history of abuse of the public trust? To address the problem at its root, we must have structural reform in our government as well as stronger ethics laws. The disproportionate power of the General Assembly was reduced by changes enacted in the last session, but more work remains to be done. Further, both the strong and the weak within the General Assembly are placed into a framework that encourages abuse.

In 2012, the League of Women Voters of South Carolina submitted recommendations to the S.C. Commission on Ethics Reform. Our final recommendation was that the House and Senate leadership be limited to two terms in their leadership roles.

This recommendation was not directed at any individual incumbent, but at the very obvious history of these offices. Throughout our lifetimes, and before, speakers and presidents pro tempore have sometimes become autocratic, the inherent power of their offices amplified by networks of power and influence cultivated over years and even decades.

Corruption, putting self-interest above public interest, can become easy. Some have resisted the pressures to follow this path, but too many have not. Even the lack of power in the face of this concentrated political authority has its own temptations to corruption. These issues are a source of serious sickness in our state government. This must end.

"There will be people, some of them very powerful people, who have too much invested in the current system to cooperate in reforming it. They don’t want change. There are others for whom anything short of a perfect bill is too little. Both can be major obstacles to reform."
There are related problems in our judiciary. The General Assembly dominates the Judicial Merit Selection Committee and then makes the decisions about who will become a judge or justice. Then, the General Assembly controls court budgets. This is far too much legislative power over the judicial branch. It is an imbalance that has led to concerns about the impartiality of the judiciary in the Harrell case and in other cases.

We do not advocate public election of judges, a wretched option that simply provides another avenue for corruption as judges solicit campaign funds from donors hoping for special treatment in the courts. Instead, we advocate removing legislators from the committee. The redundancy of their control of the judicial branch at every turn makes a mockery of the supposed balance of power among branches of government.

And then there are our weak ethics laws. If you look at the Harrell case and other recent cases, it is reasonable to suppose that most of our ethical problems lie in the area of misuse of campaign funds. This is not necessarily so.

Our existing ethics law requires disclosure of the acquisition and use of campaign finance funds, so problems in these areas can be identified. However, we have no disclosure of sources of private income. Lucrative “consulting fees” can be a great a temptation to abandon the public interest. We know that we have at least two House members who are “consultants” to lobbyist principal organizations. We can be sure that there are many more that we don’t know about. Disclosure of private sources of income is one of the most important elements of sound ethics reform.

The enforcement of our ethics laws is another area of great importance. This past summer, a Supreme Court ruling in the Harrell case overturned a very unfortunate ruling by a lower court and affirmed the constitutional authority of the attorney general to pursue criminal investigations of all persons in the state, including legislators, without seeking permission from committees of the General Assembly.

The ruling affirmed that civil and criminal processes associated with the Ethics Act are separate and discrete. Unfortunately the same ruling contained more questionable elements, preventing open hearings on procedural issues in the case and essentially inviting a lower court judge to remove the Attorney General from the case, although the grounds for doing so were exceedingly weak. The Attorney General must be allowed to do his or her job without unwarranted intervention, or the constitutional authority of the office is seriously diminished.

Statutory change needed, too

We need statutory change to bring ethics law into better conformity with that constitutional authority of the Attorney General, clearly identifying that office as the appropriate authority at all stages of a criminal investigation and prosecution.

We also need an improved system for the investigation of offenses, both civil and criminal. Routine audits of disclosures are an important aspect of this, in both the executive and legislative branches. Investigation by professionally trained personnel is also essential. The executive branch has the Ethics Commission, which has professional investigators on staff, to fulfill this role. The legislative branch has relied on staff members and, on occasion, attorneys and accountants hired for a specific case. This is not sufficient.

Independence of investigation is also very important. In the criminal arena, the attorney general is an independently-elected official who the citizens of South Carolina select to represent them. He should be allowed to do so without inappropriate obstacles.

And so, from the Harrell case, we move quickly into issues that reach into every aspect of ethics law, and from there into the underlying structure of our state government. We need to provide a framework within which officials are encouraged to serve the public interest rather than themselves and their friends. We must have a legal framework that is adequate to handle both the civil and criminal processes when someone decides to place their own interests above those of the people of South Carolina.

There will be people, some of them very powerful people, who have too much invested in the current system to cooperate in reforming it. They don’t want change. There are others for whom anything short of a perfect bill is too little. Both can be major obstacles to reform. Nevertheless, we must do the hard work of making South Carolina’s government accountable, transparent, and responsive to the needs of its citizens.

The 2012 recommendations of the League of Women Voters of South Carolina are here.

Lynn Shuler Teague of Columbia is a vice president and director of the League of Women Voters of South Carolina.


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A lot of thumbs pointing down this week

Clemson. Hats off to folks in TigerTown for becoming a top 20 ranked public university.

DSS. The troubled state Department of Social Services is highlighting how it is going to make big improvements, but be forewarned that it may be just a spin before a hailstorm of criticism that’s sure to come soon when a Legislative Audit Council report is published.

McMaster. It’s past time for GOP lieutenant governor candidate Henry McMaster to resign from an all-white club. And it’s not only Democrats who are calling for it. More.

Bobby Harrell. What can we say? The suspended House Speaker dodged legal bullets for a year over misconduct allegations involving his campaign account. Now it looks like it’s time for him to face the music.

Goldfinch. Acting House Speaker Jay Lucas needs to suspend Rep. Stephen Goldfinch, the Murrells Inlet Republican facing a federal criminal charge. To not do so would be irresponsible. The House has enough problems now without this looming.

Scott. Thumbs down to U.S. Sen. Tim Scott for being among those holding almost two dozen fundraisers in Washington on September 11. Tacky. More.


Statehouse Report

Editor and Publisher: Andy Brack
Senior Editor: Bill Davis
Contributing Photographer: Michael Kaynard

Phone: 843.670.3996

© 2002 - 2014 , Statehouse Report LLC. Statehouse Report is published every Friday by Statehouse Report LLC, PO Box 22261, Charleston, SC 29413.
Excerpts from The South Carolina Encyclopedia are published with permission and copyrighted 2006 by the Humanities Council SC. Excerpts were edited by Walter Edgar and published by the University of South Carolina Press. Statehouse Report has partnered with USC Press to provide readers with this interesting weekly historical excerpt about the state. Republication is not allowed. For additional information about Statehouse Report, including information on underwriting, go to