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ISSUE 9.53
Dec. 31, 2010

RECENT ISSUES:
12/04 | 11/27 | 11/20 | 11/13

Index

News :
2011 to be grim for lawmakers
Radar Screen :
Money fight
Palmetto Politics :
God's gift to the media returns
Commentary :
Safety added, tax removed from Priorities
Spotlight :
S.C. Policy Council
My Turn :
Obama smiling more these days
Scorecard :
From Haley to Greene
Stegelin :
Best of for 2010
Megaphone :
"No fun"
Encyclopedia :
Ashley River Road

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EDITOR'S NOTE

Year-end issue highlights

In our year-end issue, we offer a few interesting things for you to review:
 
News.  Editor Bill Davis pens a news story that highlights what Statehouse leaders and observers think will happen in the 2011 legislative session.  (Hint:  It won't be pretty.)
 
Cartoons.  We showcase 12 of the best cartoons from 2010 by our own Steve Stegelin.
 
Commentary.  Publisher Andy Brack says lawmakers should add reducing violence to their list of priorities for the coming year in his updated Palmetto Priorities feature.
 
Happy New Year!

NUMBER OF THE WEEK

17,570

That’s how much power in megawatts that Duke Energy produced on Dec. 15 to comfort cold customers in both North and South Carolina.  That’s 300 megawatts more than the previous record. Expect higher bills in the mail. More.

MEGAPHONE

"No fun"

“The thing that bothers me the most is we’ll have an issue where we have to take action, and I will wake up at 2-3 in the morning knowing that the action we gotta take will affect so many people and they don’t know it, don’t know it’s coming, really don’t have any input. … That and just knowing we’re denying services … that’s tough, that’s tough. … You can’t explain it. Just no way. But that’s the way it is right now.”

-- Senate Finance Chairman Hugh Leatherman (R-Florence) commenting this week on the upcoming state budget fight. More.

ENCYCLOPEDIA

Ashley River Road

The Ashley River Road is one of the oldest roads in South Carolina. It began as a Native American trading path, paralleling the Ashley River, and later served the colonists of the original Charleston settlement. The Lords Proprietors authorized the road in 1690. The modern road consists of an approximately fifteen-mile portion of S.C. Highway 61 up to Bacon's Bridge Road (S.C. Highway 165). During the colonial era, numerous plantations lined the route, as did St. Andrew's Episcopal Church (1706). In 1721 a law was passed to protect the shade trees along its route, a forerunner of modern ordinances that protect trees and require buffers.


The St. Andrew's Episcopal Church was built in 1706. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.

In the years after the Civil War, Ashley River Road communities, especially those of newly emancipated African Americans, established numerous churches along its routes, including Springfield Baptist, St. Andrew's Episcopal, St. Philip's African Methodist Episcopal, and Ashley River Road Missionary Baptist. Since World War II, suburban development has increasingly moved from Charleston up the Ashley River Road. Of major significance was the prevention by preservationists of an exit off Interstate 526 onto the Ashley River Road. Instead traffic was shifted to a new four-lane highway paralleling the road to the west.

Scenic sections of the eleven-mile segment from Church Creek almost to S.C. Highway 165 are still canopied by forests festooned with Spanish moss. In 1983 the road was placed in the National Register of Historic Places. It was designated a State Scenic Byway in 1998 and a National Scenic Byway in 2000. Historic sites along its route, such as Drayton Hall, Magnolia Gardens, and Middleton Place, attract hundreds of thousands of people each year, making the road one of the most popular historic routes in the state. Increasing suburban sprawl and the pressures of traffic, however, render the future of this unique road uncertain.

-- Excerpted from the entry by George McDaniel. 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

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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News

2011 to be grim for lawmakers

By Bill Davis, senior editor

DEC. 31, 2010 -- Tomorrow is supposed to be the day when the cranky old man holding the hourglass swaps places with the big-eared cherub infant, replete with a top hat and boundless optimism.

But for the coming year in state government, the 2011 legislative session may see one cranky old man simply passing his staff to another, crankier old man, while Baby New Year waits in the wings for 2013, when the state’s economy is projected to get somewhere close to where it was in flusher days.

Talking with a wide swath of politicians, staffers, observers and experts over the last couple of weeks, we’ve learned they believe 2011 will be a year when the state’s annual fiscal budget is further cut to ribbons, the state’s political lines are re-cut to make way for a new Congressional district, tax reform is ignored, and the distinctions between the haves and the have-nots become even sharper.

The budget

Senate Finance Chairman Hugh Leatherman (R-Florence) was sanguine recently on the status of the upcoming state budget:

“For the past several years, I’ve told the state Senate the upcoming budget would be the most difficult one they had ever experienced. The fiscal year 2011-12 budget is even beyond our current reference point. South Carolina’s General Fund revenue collections have declined over one-fifth from its peak of several years ago,” said Leatherman.

Leatherman’s budget director told the Taxation Realignment Commission earlier this year that the state had lost about $500 million in revenue due to tax cuts over the past few years.

“Claims for services like Medicaid, food assistance and unemployment compensation have ballooned as the state and national economies have suffered,” continued Leatherman. “And the only place left to reduce our budget is in programs that most would consider core services.”

Estimates for the coming state budget shortfall for next year range between the oft-quoted $800 million, and as high as $1.5 billion, as state tax revenues continue to lag and federal stimulus monies dry up.

There is an option to Draconian cutting: raising taxes.

But that option has become a third-rail, according to many, including state Rep. Liston Barfield (R-Conway) chair of the Invitations committee and a member of the Ways and Means Committee, where he chairs the taxation subcommittee.

Barfield says he was not expecting any House or Senate Republican to put in a bill raising taxes

“Unfortunately, we cannot print money like the federal government, so I think what we are going to end up doing is cutting (state programs and agencies),” he said. “But the problem is there’s not a lot of fat left. We’re going to cut lean.” The legislature, he added, would likely not raise taxes, which could force already stressed families out of their homes.

So what do Democrats say? House Minority Leader Harry Ott (D-St. Matthews) said his allies were content to sit and watch Republicans “make good on campaign promises of doing more with less.”

Ott, taking a break from hunting this week, said he was “waiting eagerly for Nikki Haley’s and Republican leadership’s budget.”

Barfield said he had seen the Democrats take a similar, passive posture in the past. “And how did that work for them in the last election? They lost three seats to us,” said Barfield.

Several sources said 2011 could be the year when government restructuring comes to mean combining agencies and offices – like Corrections and Parole – for cost savings by doing away with duplicative administrative offices and duties.

Redistricting

The good news from the latest U.S. Census Bureau findings was that South Carolina, one of the 10-fastest growing states in the nation, and has now earned an additional Congressional seat, enhancing the state’s national political stature.

The new district is expected to be placed along the coast, north of Charleston County, using Horry County as its center. But the new 7th district may offer a double-edged sword.

One edge, according to state Sen. Vincent Sheheen (D-Kershaw), was that the redrawing of political boundaries could exacerbate the state’s metro areas increased political power over rural areas. Sheheen said this was especially disturbing since it is the state’s rural areas that are struggling the most economically and educationally.

Sheheen worried that the state’s enhanced national profile may come at the cost of rural interests.

Scott Huffmon, a political scientist at Winthrop University, said he expected state demographers to push for a heavily-Republican 7th district that would maintain the 5th and 6th Congressional districts as more minority-dominated districts.

Ott said he expected heated debate on the subject, but that ultimately, the legislature would draw what it thinks the lines should be, and that a federal court would decide where they would most likely end up.

Tax reform


In a word, dead. No one interviewed for this story said they had any misapprehensions that 2011 would be the year the legislature tackled tax reform. And that is despite the tremendous amount of work that went into compiling the Taxation Realignment Commission final report, which will be waiting on legislators when they get back to Columbia officially in a week and a half.

“I don’t consider representing people who hate taxes [to be] leadership,” said Holley Ulbrich, a senior scholar at the Strom Thurmond Institute of Government and Public Affairs.

Ulbrich said that now, especially, was the time for leaders in state government to step forward and tell people about the hard decisions that need to be made about the state’s fiscal crisis before it spirals downward even more.

Barfield, who doesn’t agree with Ulbrich on what leadership should be doing, said South Carolinians should look for cuts in education and public health care, as they make up the vast majority of the state’s General Fund Budget.

Huffmon makes the debate over tax reform sound almost quaint. And ominous.

“Real tax reform is simple,” said Huffmon. “Lower the rates and broaden the base. Period. However, Democrats and liberals rarely want to lower the rates and Republicans and conservatives never want to broaden the base – i.e., close loopholes, etc., because they call this ‘raising a tax.’ Mind you, Democrats have quite a few sacred cows when it comes to broadening the base as well.”

Huffmon said he also saw a looming scenario in which municipalities and counties would continue to suffer, as state cutbacks mean less pass-through support from Columbia.

Crystal ball: Cuts to Medicaid, education and human services are expected. The state will likely not address tax reform. Whatever legislators hammer out in re-districting will just end up in the hands of the feds. Metro areas will suffer economic losses, but not on par with the fiscal, educational and investment hits rural areas may take. What this state may really need now is a time machine.

Bill Davis, editor of Statehouse Report, can be reached at:  editor@statehousereport.com.
Legislative Agenda

Slow burn

Few legislative meetings have been scheduled for the week leading up to the Jan. 11 start of the legislative session and Gov.-elect Nikki Haley’s inauguration on Wednesday, Jan. 12. Information and tickets for the latter can be found here.

In the Senate, one major meeting will be held next week as a Senate Judiciary subcommittee will meet Thursday at 3 p.m. in 105 Gressette to discuss a bill that would require voters to present photo identification before being allowed to vote. More.

No legislative meetings have been announced for next week in the House.
Radar Screen

Money fight

An indicator of how state government may eye future federal bailouts may be seen in the differing positions taken by outgoing state Superintendent of Education Jim Rex and his successor, Mick Zais, on the issue of the failure by Congress to rewrite a law to get $143 million in education funding for the state.

Rex called the money “one-time” with no strings attached, while Zais’ team said the money would come with strings and may be a bad deal in the long run for South Carolina. The latter position seems to parallel other rhetoric making the Statehouse rounds, like Gov.-elect Nikki Haley’s comments about options to not taking part in Medicaid funding
Palmetto Politics

God's gift to the media returns

Alvin Greene, the criminally-charged, unemployed politician of world renown, has thrown his hat in the ring, yet again.

Earlier this year, Greene defeated Democratic pol Vic Rawl in one of the most unexpected primary battles in U.S. Senate history. Greene went on to get pasted by incumbent Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.)

According to reports, Greene has submitted his name in the race to fill the seat of the recently deceased state Rep. Cathy Harvin in Clarendon County. Greene -- who once opined that the selling of action figures bearing his likeness may be a way to cover governmental shortfalls -- has kept mum on his platform this time.
Commentary

Safety added, tax removed from Priorities

DEC. 31, 2010 -- Violence and jobs. South Carolina has too much of the first and not enough of the second.

In this column, we offer our annual review of Palmetto Priorities, our sweeping policy objectives first outlined two years ago to help state lawmakers have a big-picture guide for how it could make significant changes for the people of the state. 

Despite two years of having one of the nation’s top unemployment rates at more than 10 percent, there’s still not a comprehensive jobs creation plan in place. There has been political hot air, but little real action to generate jobs throughout the state. (And yes, while we landed Boeing in Charleston, that doesn’t do much to help folks in Hartsville or Seneca.)

Across South Carolina, the school dropout rate remains high. Health care is expensive. The state’s energy policy is piecemeal. And our state is just too violent.

This last indicator – bolstered by an FBI ranking of the Palmetto State being second in the nation in violent crime – highlights how state legislators need to do more to make South Carolina safer. Even though violent crime went down 7.8 percent last year, we’re adding a safety priority to our annual list.

We are, however, removing an original Palmetto Priority. We’re cutting our call for raising the cigarette tax to help generate more federal matching health care funds. In 2010, lawmakers raised this “sin tax” by 50 cents – not to the national average that we called for, but enough that this priority likely won’t be addressed for awhile.

As a new governor prepares to take office, here’s a look at our revamped 2011 Palmetto Priorities. We urge state officials to use this list to drive policy decisions in a legislative year that may be the toughest in generations:

  • JOBS. Develop a Cabinet-level post dedicated to adding and retaining 10,000 small business jobs per year. Politicians talk about helping small businesses. This would force them to.
  • SAFETY. Take a comprehensive approach to get off the FBI’s top 10 list of violent crime by cutting rates by a third by 2016. State lawmakers should enact significant legislation to reduce violence against women, curb hate groups, cut hate crimes and more. Achieving this goal is more than locking up people and throwing away the key. It’s about being smart to make communities safer.

  • EDUCATION. Cut the state’s dropout rate in half by 2015.

  • HEALTH CARE. Ensure affordable and accessible health care that optimizes preventive care for every South Carolinian by 2015. The state needs to lead, not wait for more from the federal government.

  • ENVIRONMENT. Adopt a state energy policy that requires energy producers to generate 20 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2020. If such a goal were established, lawmakers could implement an array of conservation and renewable energy policies to change the state’s energy course.

  • TAXES. By 2012, remove special interest sales tax exemptions that are outdated for the state’s 21st Century economy. Special-interest tax breaks cost the state more than $2.7 billion in revenue every year.  State lawmakers should resist the urge to do nothing by blaming tough budgetary times. Instead, they should seriously consider recommendations generated in 2011 by the Tax Realignment Commission (TRAC). 

  • RESTRUCTURING. Reform and stabilize the tax structure by 2012 after following an overall nonpartisan review that seriously considers reimplementation of reasonable property taxes. Lawmakers need to reshape the ill-fated Act 388 that cut school operating property taxes in exchange for an increase in sales tax that shifted burdens to the middle class.

  • ELECTIONS. Increase voter registration to 75 percent by 2015 by restructuring the state’s election, reducing voting barriers and making it easier for all to vote.

  • CORRECTIONS. Reduce the prison population by 25 percent by 2020 through creative alternative sentencing programs for non-violent offenders.

  • ROADS. Strengthen all bridges and upgrade all state roads by 2015 through creative highway financing and maintenance programs.

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

Send us your thoughts on these objectives. Better yet -- let your legislator know they're important to you.

Andy Brack, publisher of Statehouse Report, can be reached at: brack@statehousereport.com.

Spotlight

S.C. Policy Council

The public spiritedness of our underwriters allows us to bring Statehouse Report to you at no cost. This issue's underwriter is the South Carolina Policy Council. Since 1986, the Policy Council has brought together civic, community and business leaders from all over our state to discuss innovative policy ideas that advance the principles of limited government and free enterprise. No other think tank in South Carolina can match the Policy Council's success in assembling the top national and state experts on taxes, education, environmental policy, health care and numerous other issues. That ability to bring new ideas to the forefront, lead the policy debate and create a broad base of support for sensible reform is what makes our organization the leader in turning good ideas into good state policy. For more information, go to: www.scpolicycouncil.com.
My Turn

Obama smiling more these days

By Elliott Brack
Reprinted with permission

DEC. 31, 2010 -- Let's hear it for President Obama. He's been smiling from big ear to big ear during Christmas for his victories in the lame-duck session of Congress.


Brack

Even the Republican side must be wondering how this president, from the party who had a resounding defeat in the mid-term elections, had such a successful after-election dealing with the Congress.

Written off as weak and ineffectual after the elections, President Obama came back much stronger than even his most ardent supporters thought possible. Faced with a much-adjusted Congress next year, which will no longer have a Democratic majority in the House of Representatives, nor even as great a Democratic strength in the Senate, the president scored major victories in the lame-duck time.

The earliest indication of success was Obama's pushing through a continuation of the temporary Bush-era tax measures, ensuring that in the depths of the recession all American taxpayers will not be faced with higher taxes. That in itself was a major victory, especially in the face of the looming deadline at the end of the year. That alone would have been a major positive mark on the presidential agenda.

But he came back much more vigorous than even thought, eliminating the infamous "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" rhetoric, to the applause of the liberal and gay community and liberals everywhere.


President Barack Obama, right, talks with Sen. Chris Dodd and other guests before signing the “CAPTA Reauthorization Act of 2010,” (Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act) in the Oval Office, Dec. 20, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

And not to be denied, even while the Republican Senate leadership was against the Stark nuclear arms treaty, the President gained a mighty victory with a 71-26 vote on this measure, of course, gaining the support of several Republican senators, including Georgia's own Johnny Isakson. What was thought of by many as a lost cause, especially as Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell announced that he would oppose it, came through as a sound Obama victory.

All this had to make the president much more confident for the next two years, knowing that he can gain victory in the face of defeat. Some will point out that in some cases, it meant that the president had to abandon his staked-out positions, and seek a more middle ground, in order to secure these votes and gain passage of some of these measures. But that is nothing less than compromise, something that the president has had a more difficult time doing earlier in the first two years of his term. He has apparently now recognized that while he would like to govern from his comfortable position at the left of center, he can gain much by moderating his positions slightly, when governing from the center, and be more successful.

The new Congress will come in determined to make sure that the president will have strong opposition to many proposals he would like to see passed. Yet this is as expected. While the more-Republican Congress would like to make wholesale changes in office, there is still a Democratic-controlled Senate, and ever-present ability of the president to exercise the veto.

It all probably adds up to a scene which is best for one particular group---the people of the United States. For shared power is usually far better than raw power of all-Democratic control, which in effect, the president had with a Democratic Congress for the first two years of his term.

The new set-up of shared power, especially taken in view of the president's recent victories, looms well for our country. And who knows, working from the center, the president may be smiling more in 2011-12, as he was during Christmas, 2010.

Elliott Brack is editor and publisher of our sister publication, GwinnettForum in Norcross, Ga. Feedback.

Scorecard

From Haley to Greene

Haley. Denying Oprah (always a courageous thing to do) and her request to interview on camera incarcerated South Carolina child-killer Susan Smith was the absolute right thing to do. More.

Firsts.
The State newspaper compiled an interesting list of political “firsts” for the state in 2010. It’s a good read.
More.

Snow.
A day late in most places, but it was neat while it lasted.


Deepening.
A U.S. Senate committee has approved funding to deepen the Charleston Harbor, making it more attractive for shipping. But the earmark still has to clear Congress.
More.

Transparency.
Gov.-elect Nikki Haley’s office has not released exact salaries of her staff, since they are temporary workers until she takes office, her lawyer says they are exempt from Freedom of Information Act; of course, once she’s in, the salaries will be released.
More.

Payday lending.
An industry supposedly stripped of loopholes by a new state law last year, has apparently morphed into offering longer-term car title-based loans; the upside, the demand for these micro-loans are still there, so the poor can get money when they need IT, hopefully not at their own financial destruction.
More.

Alvin Greene.
Running again? For the state House? Egads. More.


Diabetes.
State cuts to diabetes funding have some advocates worried that managing the disease will become harder and harder, and gains made may be lost.
More.
Stegelin

Best of for 2010

Talented Statehouse Report cartoonist Steve Stegelin has had a boatload of great cartoons in 2010.  Here are some of the best:
 

2/5/10
 
 
2/19/10
 
2/26/10
 
3/12/10
 
4/2/10
 
5/28/10
 
7/30/10
 
8/6/10

 
9/10/10
 
10/1/10

 
11/12/10


 
12/10/10

credits

Statehouse Report

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

Phone: 843.670.3996

© 2002 - 2018 , 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 http://www.statehousereport.com/.