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ISSUE 10.04
Jan. 28, 2011

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

Index

News :
Illegal immigration re-reform
Legislative Agenda :
Unions, immigration, more
Radar Screen :
Union vote fight not over
Commentary :
When backers of Big Government are Republican
Spotlight :
AIA South Carolina
My Turn :
Make it easier to vote, not harder
Feedback :
From Medicaid to taxes
Scorecard :
From thongs to spice
Stegelin :
Wanna bet?
Megaphone :
Shake, shake, shake ...
Tally Sheet :
Dozens of bills introduced
Encyclopedia :
Magrath and secession

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NUMBER OF THE WEEK

10.7%

That was the state’s unemployment rate in December, a modest increase from the month before. The good news was that the state’s economy is adding more and more jobs that may soon offset that month’s setback.  More.

MEGAPHONE

Shake, shake, shake ...

"I went back (into the governor's office today) and all I did was shake white people's hands. That's offensive."

-- State Rep. Leon Howard, (D-Richland), a member of the Black Legislative Caucus, complaining about what he saw as a lack of diversity in Gov. Nikki Haley’s cabinet. Haley nominated her last cabinet member this week, Duane Parrish, to head up the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism. The only person of color in Haley’s cabinet would head up Probation, Parole and Pardon Services, an agency that Haley, who is of Indian descent, wants to merge with another department, according to Howard and her past statements. More.

TALLY SHEET

Dozens of bills introduced

Members of the Senate and House introduced dozens of bills over the last week.  Among the highlights in the Senate:

Provisos. S. 418 (Leatherman) is a placeholder for budget provisos.

Other funds. S. 419 (Setzler) calls for an oversight committee to be created to review and examine “other funds” that come into the state.

Judicial money. S. 423 (Malloy) calls for a constitutional amendment that would dedicate 2 percent of general fund revenues to the courts. S. 425 (Malloy) is a similar measure in bill form.

School consolidation. S. 432 (Jackson) calls for a study committee to look at the feasibility and cost effectiveness of consolidating some school districts in the state.

School flexibility. S. 433 (Hayes) calls for various measures to give flexibility to local school districts from state regulations and more.

Chandler’s Law. S. 448 (Hutto) calls for regulation of all-terrain vehicles with age requirements and more.

School snacks. S 452 (Jackson) calls for health info to be on snacks sold at schools, with several provisions.

Angel investing. S. 460 (Thomas) calls for the SC Angel Investment Act to provide income tax credits for qualified investments, with several provisions.

Solar credit. S. 474 (Reese) calls for a 35% tax credit for installation of solar energy equipment, with several provisions.

Car tax. S. 475 (Rankin) calls for changes in assessing taxes on sales and leases of motor vehicles.

In the House:

Higher ed. H. 3410 (Owens) calls for a sweeping law to recast higher education in the state to be more efficient and better run with several provisions. H. 3418 (Merrill) would limit terms of members of higher ed boards to three terms.

CIO restructuring. H. 3411 (Loftis) calls for a Department of the State Chief Information Officer.

Energy. H. 3412 (Loftis) calls for a new state Department of Energy.

Health exchange. H. 3413 (Sandifer) calls for a S.C. Health Information Exchange with a council and several provisions.

“Taxpayer fairness.” H. 3419 (Merrill) calls for the Taxpayer Fairness Act to require the state to strictly interpret tax statutes.

DAODAS. H. 3421 (White) would kill the state Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services and wrap it into the Department of Mental Health.

Smoking and driving. H. 3427 (Clyburn) would make it illegal for anyone to smoke in a car when a child was present.

SCETV. H. 3437 (Crawford) calls for dissolution of the SCETV commission and put ETV in the Department of Education.

Sea Grant. H. 3440 (Crawford) calls for the Sea Grant Consortium to be made a division of the state Department of Natural Resources.

Judicial elections. H. 3451 (Delleney) sets Feb. 2, 2011, as the time to elect judges.

State parks. H. 3468 (Pitts) calls for transfer of state parks to the state Department of Natural Resources.

Probation, Parole and Pardon Services. H. 3469 (Pitts) calls for the state Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services to be merged into the state Department of Corrections, with several provisions.

Classroom priority. H. 3484 (Stavrinakis) calls for school districts to spend at least 65 percent of operational expenses in classrooms, with several provisions.

Deficit prevention. H. 3486 (Parker) would prohibit state agencies from running deficits unless recognized by the General Assembly, with several provisions.

Telecom. H. 3508 (Gambrell) is a complicated measure that focuses on government-owned telecommunications service providers.

To find out more on any of the bills in the General Assembly, go here.

ENCYCLOPEDIA

Magrath and secession

Andrew Gordon Magrath was born in Charleston in 1813, the son of the Irish merchant John Magrath and Maria Gordon. After his graduation from South Carolina College in 1831, Magrath briefly attended Harvard Law School, but he acquired most of his legal training in Charleston under the tutelage of James L. Petigru. He was admitted to the bar in 1835. From 1838 to 1841 Magrath represented the city parishes of St. Philip's and St. Michael's in the state House of Representatives. On March 8, 1843, he married Emma D. Mikell of Charleston. The couple had five children. Around 1865 Magrath was married again, this time to Mary Eliza McCord of Columbia. They had no children.

Magrath

In 1856 Magrath was appointed a federal judge to the District Court of South Carolina, which brought him national attention and controversy. His tenure coincided with increasingly strident calls from some southern nationalists to reopen the African slave trade. Although opposed to the trade personally, Magrath nevertheless handed slave-trade proponents a signal victory in 1860. In a decision associated with the cases surrounding the Echo and the Wanderer, ships seized for illegally transporting African slaves, Magrath stated that the 1820 federal statute on piracy did not apply to the slave trade.

"The African slave trade," he declared, "is not piracy." In rejecting the piracy statute, which carried the death penalty, Magrath's decision took some of the teeth out of federal slave-trade laws and was hailed by proslavery and states' rights advocates. Immediately following the 1860 election of Abraham Lincoln, Magrath resigned his judgeship. On Nov. 7 he told a crowded Charleston courtroom that the "department of Government, which I believe has best maintained its integrity and preserved its purity, has been suspended." Admirers later claimed that Magrath's resignation was "the first overt act and irrevocable step" toward secession.

A cooperationist earlier in his career, Magrath supported secession by 1860, feeling "an assurance of what will be the action of the State." He sat in the state's Secession Convention and briefly served as the South Carolina secretary of state. In 1862 he was appointed as a Confederate district judge. His decisions generally opposed the concentration of authority by the Confederate government in Richmond.

In December 1864 Magrath was elected governor of South Carolina, the last one chosen by the state legislature. During his brief tenure Magrath was affiliated with other southern governors who criticized the administration of President Jefferson Davis. By 1865 Magrath had become disenchanted with the "moral atrophy" of the southern people. "It is not an unwillingness to oppose the enemy, but a chilling apprehension of the futility of doing so, which affects the people," he wrote at the time.

Following the collapse of the Confederacy, Magrath was arrested on May 25, 1865, and imprisoned at Fort Pulaski, Georgia. Released in December, Magrath returned to Charleston and rebuilt his lucrative law practice. He died in Charleston on April 9, 1893, and was buried in Magnolia Cemetery.

-- Excerpted from the entry by Paul Christopher Anderson. 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

Illegal immigration re-reform

Issue gathers momentum in Statehouse again


JAN. 28, 2011 -- Like a border crosser jumping a fence at night, illegal immigration reform has once again sneaked back into the front of the legislative agenda in the General Assembly.

Three years ago when the legislature was criticized for passing little more than a state budget, lawmakers approved an illegal immigration reform bill that largely penalized employers for knowingly hiring and using undocumented workers.

Hailed by supporters as a state solution when the federal government was failing, critics contended it was a moot issue, since the feds are really in charge of securing the nation’s, and by extension, South Carolina’s, borders.

But this year, two bills are being pushed to the top of agendas in the House and the Senate that would, largely, give law enforcement officers the “flexibility” to ascertain a person’s immigration status upon arrest. Those found to be in the country illegally would be transferred to federal authorities to be deported or otherwise handled.

Supporters, like Eric Bedingfield (R-Mauldin) in the House and Larry Grooms (R-Bonneau) in the Senate, said the bills in many ways mirrored a contentious state law in Arizona. That state’s illegal immigration law’s constitutionality has been challenged in federal courts.  Some key parts of the measure were upheld.  Others were struck down.

Bedingfield’s bill also would allow for the “warrantless arrest of persons suspected of being present in the United States unlawfully” is well as creating a section making it illegal to impede traffic while hiring laborers off of the side of the road.

Sue Berkowitz, an attorney and the director of the S.C. Appleseed Legal Justice Center, quipped that this bill “probably wouldn’t be used to arrest anyone suspected of being Canadian.”

Grooms’ Senate bill doesn’t include the warrantless arrest portion or a section on impeding traffic, but it would also make it illegal for undocumented workers to attempt to find work in the state.

In July, a federal district court judge issued a preliminary injunction against portions of the Arizona bill that would:
  • allow officers, in certain instances, to ascertain immigration status;
  • require the carrying of “alien-registration papers” by certain immigrants;
  • allow for warrantless arrest of suspected “illegals”; and
  • make it a crime for illegal immigrants to look for work.
That state has chosen to appeal the injunctions with the governor vowing to take the issue to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Bedingfield said there were some mild differences in his and Grooms’ bills, “but that will give us something to negotiate over” when and if his bill gets to conference committees, which is where select members of both chambers hammer out compromise.

First, Bedingfield will have to get his bill out of the House Judiciary Committee before it even gets to the floor of the House, which still had bills on the docket like the one requiring voters to show photo identification before being allowed to vote and secret ballot union votes. On the floor, Bedingfield’s bill will likely take some heat.

Heat ahead; economy cited

“This is crap, in my opinion,” said Gilda Cobb-Hunter (D-Orangeburg), when asked this week about her position on the two bills. “Three years ago, we passed an illegal immigration bill that was called one of the toughest in the nation. What’s its status? How has it been implemented?”

Last summer, Reggie Lloyd, who heads up the State Law Enforcement Division, reportedly told Gov. Mark Sanford’s cabinet that legislators had taken a “daft” and “ill-conceived” approach to toughening illegal immigration laws, according to a June 2010 story

Lloyd, who did not respond to a request for comment for this story, reportedly told lawmakers at last year’s meeting that some of that bill had not been implemented.

Cobb-Hunter said bills like Bedingfield’s were “feel-good” legislation, with more invested in passage than implementation.

“It’s intended to get people’s attention off the fact that we, as a General Assembly, have done little about turning this economy around,” said Cobb-Hunter. “It’s a wedge issue to keep people distracted with, and not focused on what we haven’t done about the economy for working people in South Carolina.”


Both Grooms and Bedingfield defended their proposed legislation, saying they pick up where the federal government has failed and would clean up the streets for everyone.

Grooms said he hoped law enforcement would be “sensitive” in implementing any new law until there was enough case law to provide more defined guidelines.

“My bill wouldn’t be an ‘open-ended’ one, but would require reasonable suspicion on the part of the officer,” for which is there is plenty of precedent, said Grooms.

Grooms’ bill was scheduled to be reported out of committee this week, but has voter ID, gaming bills, and charitable raffles bills already ahead of it on the Senate floor agenda.

Worried about implementation

Victoria Middleton, executive director of the state chapter of the ACLU, said this week that her organization was worried about the implementation of either of the bills.

Calling immigration law very complicated, Middleton said the state may be adding to the already confusing “patchwork of competing and contradictory” state laws.

Middleton said employers already faced a hurdle in making sure workers are in compliance with differing state and federal laws and statutes.

She also said that this effort in the Statehouse, if passed in some form, could hinder members of the immigrant community, legally here or otherwise, from coming forward with information to the police, which could hamper serious crime investigations.

Like Berkowitz, Middleton worried that these bills would be used for racial profiling by law enforcement.

Crystal ball: If Cobb-Hunter is right that these bills are simply “feel-goods,” and Grooms and Bedingfield are right, too, that they are needed, then both bills will hit the floors of both chambers sometime in the next two weeks. They could easily be passed because the legislature, faced with such an onerous budgeting process, might be desperate for a rare feel-good moment. Just like it did three years ago.  But if they pass, also look for them to be challenged in the federal courts.

Legislative Agenda

Unions, immigration, more

As the juggernaut of House Ways and Means budget subcommittee meetings thunders on, expect floor debate to center on ratifying a constitutional amendment that would require secret ballots for union organization, with another illegal immigration reform bill sitting in the wings (see main story).

The Senate next week will likely tackle on the floor a bill requiring voters to show photo identification before being allowed to vote, and bills clearing the way for raffles for charity and gaming in private homes are also sitting in the wings.

In the House:
  • Ways and Means. A series of subcommittees will meet next week to take in budget requests and proviso information. Click here on the House’s main meetings page for specific information.  Go here.

  • LCI. The full committee will meet Tuesday at 2:30 p.m. in 403 Blatt to discuss several insurance-related bills.  More.

  • Judiciary. The full committee will meet Tuesday at 2:30 p.m., or an hour and a half after adjournment, to discuss a full agenda including bills relating to tort reform.  More.

  • Education. The full committee will meet Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. or an hour after adjournment to discuss a new charter school funding bill.  More.

  • Judiciary. The constitutional laws subcommittee will meet Wednesday 30 minutes after adjournment in 516 Blatt to discuss a bill that would create a state Department of Administration. More.
In the Senate:
  • Judiciary. A subcommittee will meet Wednesday at 11 a.m. in 207 Gressette to discuss two bills that would ask for constitutional amendments to create spending cap limits. More.

  • Judiciary. A subcommittee will meet Thursday at 9 a.m. Gressette to discuss bills that would govern general appropriations, legislative oversight of the executive department, and state agency deficits. More.
Radar Screen

Union vote fight not over

Just because the overwhelming majority of South Carolinians approved a constitutional amendment last year that would require secret ballot voting in union organization elections doesn’t mean it is law yet.

First, it has to be ratified by the General Assembly. And, it has to pass muster with the federal government, whose National Labor Relations Board has already threatened to sue to stop the law. House Speaker Bobby Harrell is ginning up for a fight, openly backing the Repeal Amendment, which would enable states to ignore laws that they don’t agree with if two-thirds of states they disagreed with, like federal health care reform. This one ain’t over.
Palmetto Politics

Tough sell

Everyone knows the legislature is going into the 2011-12 Fiscal Year budgeting process facing at least $800 million in shortfalls, right? State Superintendent of Education Mick Zais has mentioned the possibility of tens of millions in potential cuts in his department, right?

Well, this week at an interesting Ways and Means budgeting subcommittee meeting, Robert Borden, the chief executive officer and chief investment officer for the S.C. Retirement System’s investment commission, asked to basically double his staff and triple its salary budget. Borden has been pushing to further evolve the state’s pension fund by going more into private equity and real estate investments, as well as creating a de facto in-house brokerage house to cut down on fees and costs.

Despite exceeding investment projections for the 2010 and earning even more this year, Borden probably won’t get such an expansion in a time of retraction, even though the tantalizing prospects hangs out there that a bigger staff would bring in even more money. “That would be a tough sell,” said subcommittee member Gilda Cobb-Hunter (D-Orangeburg).

Hayes, Shaw honored

This past week at the 6th Annual Wilkins Leadership awards dinner by Furman's Riley Institute, state Sen. Wes Hayes (R-York) and Minor Mickel Shaw of Greenville were honored for their public service.  The dinner is put on by the Riley Institute at Furman University and is named in honor of former Houser Speaker David Wilkins, who went on to be U.S. Ambassador to Canada.

Hayes, chair of the Senate Ethics Committee, received the award for excellence in legislative leadership, while Shaw received the first-ever award for civic leadership. Past legislative winners included former Sen. John Drummond (D-Greenwood), House Speaker Bobby Harrell (R-Charleston), state Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter (D-Orangeburg), Senate Finance chair Hugh Leatherman (R-Florence), and Ways and Means Chair Dan Cooper (R-Piedmont).

The keynote speaker was Gov. Nikki Haley, who urged the state to let her “honeymoon” period with the legislature continue for the good of all. She also raised a few legislative eyebrows in her short speech, when she seemed to castigate senior members of the House for holding her back, and for including the line, “Imagine a South Carolina where the legislators are inspired.”
Commentary

When backers of Big Government are Republican

By Andy Brack, editor and publisher

JAN. 28, 2011 -- Trying to figure out what’s going on with South Carolina Republicans at the Statehouse might just be an exercise in futility because the tent seems to be bigger than ever with different kind of Republicans.

The old split between the country club Republican who wanted less government and lower taxes versus the religious Republican who wanted more morality in government seems to have evaporated. 

Instead there seem to be three kind of Republicans scooting through the Statehouse in Columbia, any of which might become manifest at any time in the same lawmaker.

First is the typical Less Government Republican who wants government out of the way of business, family and everyday life as much as possible. This year, these folks are backing efforts for term limits and shorter legislative sessions. In their souls, they want lower taxes, although you don’t hear as much about that these days with an $829 million budget hole that has to be plugged.

Next are old-time Republicans who pay lip service to the venom of the tea party and rhetoric of Gov. Nikki Haley, but who really probably just want to retain grips on power. So they push beyond mere calls for less government by introducing measures that sound like they’re going to tighten the fiscal grip on the state. These are the flurry of bills calling for more accountability and transparency. And bills seeking larger reserve funds and caps on spending. And measures that call for removal of legislative leadership by structural changes that would provide for supermajorities to be needed for tax changes or for ballot initiatives to be served up from the public so legislators didn’t have to promote controversial ideas. In essence, this second group might best be called the “We Don’t Trust Ourselves” Republicans.

But the strangest group of Republicans working these days at the Statehouse is the duplicitous bunch that claims to be for less government but that wants to use Big Government tools to get their jobs done. They’ve been promoting measures to expand, not reduce, the role of government:

  • Immigration reform: In the zeal to tighten immigration in the Palmetto State, some state lawmakers are pushing an Arizona-style measure that erodes civil liberties and makes local police become immigration agents who can ask anyone for their identification. This smacks of Big Brother government and racial profiling. It uses the strong arm of Big Government to make white people feel safer about people who don’t look like them.
  • Voter identification: By forcing 178,000 South Carolinians to get new voter identification cards, Big Government Republicans are actively using government to solve a problem that doesn’t exist: the notion of voter fraud. In the last 10 years, media reports indicate there has been no voter fraud in the state. But don’t let that get in the way of a method to chill voting. Instead of solving a problem that doesn’t exist, state Republicans should pursue voting machines that give receipts to voters, instead of questionable machines that continue to have problems.

  • Abortion: There are several new proposals by Big Government Republicans who seek to use the power of government to control what a woman can do with her body. These state leaders, obsessed in an unhealthy way about the act of conception, call for new waiting periods, new ways to define “person” and new limitations on employers in areas related to abortion.

  • Tort reform: Big Government Republicans continue to fiddle with state laws to change how the tort system works. While they see lowering the potential for punitive damages as a way to help businesses reduce liability and costs, there’s another way to look at tort reform: changes that help business may be changes that take away the rights of individuals to sue and receive compensation from businesses that don’t play by the rules. In other words, all of this “tort reform” may take away citizen rights in the almighty pursuit of more help for business.

Saying one thing and doing another is nothing new in politics. But the cognitive dissonance emanating from the halls of the Statehouse today is way too shrill.

Spotlight

AIA South Carolina

The public spiritedness of our underwriters allows us to bring Statehouse Report to you at no cost. This week, we shine our spotlight on the South Carolina chapter of the American Institute of Architects. The organization is the voice of the South Carolina architectural profession and the resource for its members in service to society. The association facilitates dialogue and the dissemination of knowledge that inspires and enables architects, policy makers and the public to engage creatively and credibly in promoting a better environment and future for all. Learn more: AIASC.
My Turn

Make it easier to vote, not harder

By Barbara Zia
League of Women Voters of South Carolina
Special to Statehouse Report

JAN. 28, 2011 -- South Carolina is experiencing the worst fiscal crisis in years; citizens are struggling with job losses, budget cuts, and loss of critical services. So what is the first priority of the state legislature this session? Voter photo ID that would require voters to obtain and show a valid government-issued photo ID when they exercise their constitutional right to vote. The House passed H 3003 this week; the Senate is considering similar legislation, S 1. These bills carry huge price tags, instantly increase the state’s already staggering deficit, “fix” a nonexistent problem, and stand on shaky legal grounds.

What is the estimated cost of implementing voter photo ID? According to the fiscal impact statement attached to the House bill, if it becomes law H 3003 will cost state taxpayers $1,345,000 in the first year and $260,000 in annual recurring costs plus an unspecified loss of revenue to Non-Federal Aid Highway Fund until voter registration cards with photos are fully implemented for all voters. Estimated costs associated with the Senate version, S 1, is $1,185,000 in the first year and $650,000 thereafter.  Not included in the estimates are significant on-going costs for state and local governments, as well as indirect costs for citizens applying for the ID, and costs to defend the legislation against court challenges.

Photo ID is a prime example of wasteful use of taxpayers’ money. Voters sent a clear message in the November 2010 election: They want responsible, cost-efficient government. Squandering precious taxpayer dollars to pay for photo IDs when our state has effective identification procedures already in place and not one prosecuted case of voter impersonation, will be seen by voters for what it really is-- politics as usual at a time when we are cutting essential state government services.

Photo ID requirements are one of the most serious threats in decades to our efforts to ensure the right of every eligible American to vote. Research shows that they encourage racial and ethnic discrimination at polling places, prevent eligible voters from participating in our democracy, and limit turnout.

These requirements would potentially disenfranchise tens of thousands of registered voters without a valid photo ID and thousands of college students who want to vote locally. Who are these South Carolina voters with no valid photo ID? More than 27 percent are aged 65 and over; 26 percent are 45-64 years of age; 36 percent are minorities; 64 percent are white; many have disabilities; and almost all live in poor, rural areas with little or no access to public transportation. 

The burden will be greatest for citizens for whom it is most cost prohibitive or inconvenient to take off work, get transportation, stand in line, and apply for documentation. Often these individuals don’t have the underlying documentation that is needed to get an ID. Thus, this requirement would disenfranchise the very people who currently must work the hardest to vote.

We expect every legislator to fully understand the fiscal impact of the legislation before voting. A “Yes” vote would be a statement that “fixing” a nonissue -- voter impersonation — is more important than education, social services to children, people with disabilities and the elderly, public safety, and many other essential services. A “Yes” vote would call for initiating a new government program to pay for voter photo ids when we have the largest state budget deficit on record.

State government should be in the business of making it easier for citizens to vote -- as our neighboring states have done -- not adding costly restrictions and hassles that will negatively impact all voters. The League is hard at work at the Statehouse advocating for the common good and common sense. Voter photo ID fails to meet either of these standards.

Barbara Zia is president of the League of Women Voters of South Carolina.

Feedback

From Medicaid to taxes

To Statehouse Report:

Without engaging in the mind numbing detail a full explanation would require, I'd like to point out that the Medicaid shortfall is due in large part to our "improved" cabinet government.  It wasn't Emma Forkner's idea to move Medicaid to the private sector where a profit had to be added to Medicaid costs to attract private sector players; and when she alerted her boss and the legislature to the pending shortfall, it wasn't she who directed the response to be moving everybody into managed care.  

Yes, with a cabinet form of government, the governor is able to get state agencies to react more quickly, which can be a good thing.  When the governor is wrong, as in this case, being able to dictate that action with little or no input from elsewhere can lead to catastrophic consequences.  Just some food for thought.   

-- Laura Morris, Mount Pleasant, SC

Battle over Medicaid not new

To Statehouse Report:

Medicaid cost are not new.  We battled over them when I was there and never, I felt put in enough match money to get all we could from the feds.  Now Haley, who by the way is a transparent as a 50 cent window shade, wants to tell the feds we won't bother you just stay away.   Since the civil war it doesn't work that way.

Glenn McConnell can cry in the papers all he wants to but this problem has been with us and will be as long as we have dependent people.  The scriptures tell us that "the poor you will have with you always."   Each body has been dealing with the same problems every time they go through the budget process. 

The reason we are where we are is that legislators want to spend all new monies on reoccuring projects or hiring new people instead of paying down debt. I could go on and on about the way things happen and listen to members cry to media because it sounds good back home.  "Just let me spend some money back home on a pork barrel deal so I can come back next time"

-- Charlie Sharpe, Wagener, SC

Note: Mr. Sharpe is a former member of the S.C. House and the state’s former agriculture commissioner.

Leave Act 388 alone

To Statehouse Report:

While it’s evident South Carolina needs to overhaul its tax system, ACT 388 must be left intact. There was and still is a need to control the local school property taxes. ACT 388 came about as a result of runaway taxing by the local school systems. It was far easier for the school systems to raise property taxes than to operate more efficiently. There was and still is too much waste in school operations, and far too much money spent on administrative cost.

I don't think our founding fathers meant for homeowners to lose their homes to a sheriff’s sale due to nonpayment of property tax, where the larger portion of the tax goes to support schools. Remember, government for the people and by the people. Keep ACT 388, and save tax dollars by operating our schools in a more efficient way, and making the administrators more responsible for the way they spend our tax dollars. An example of waste: Spartanburg SC has seven school districts. That's seven administrators and seven assistant administrators. Want to define waste here?

-- Dave Luttrell, Cowpens, SC

Great commentary

To Statehouse Report:

Great commentary on taxes, Andy. Hope you can get the right people to read it.

-- Fred Sales, Charleston, SC

Wrong about Act 388

To Statehouse Report:

“An appropriately maligned tax swap called Act. 388 took away school operating property taxes for an extra two cents in sales taxes. Instead of being revenue neutral, it has started costing the state in a big way.” From Brack commentary, 1/21/11

This is not a true statement. The sales tax was raised 1 cent on the dollar. Part of the 1 cent was used to do a tax swap and remove school operating off the primary homeowers [sic] tax bill (about 1/2 of the total bill ). The other part of the 1 cent increase was used to offset sales taxes on food that is covered by the food stamp program. The schools have recieved [sic] what they were surpose [sic] to receive including increases to CPI plus growth. The schools are hurting because the State and Federal governments have given less due to the bad economy. The schools want Act 388 repealed because they can not put the shortfalls on the backs of the homeowned [sic] like they could do before Act 388. They can, if they really wanted to, with a loop hole left by the Legislators,but it would have to be increased on all 12 different types of property taxes.

-- David Whetsell, Lexington, SC

Reply: Mr. Whetsell, while you may not like the impact of the statement about Act 388, you should also do more homework. Because of the Great Recession, the amount of money from sales taxes that was supposed to cover school operating property taxes is about $100 million short a year – which means Act 388 actually “has started costing the state in a big way” because sales taxes dedicated in Act 388 aren’t enough to cover the school part as originally envisioned.

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Scorecard

From thongs to spice

Budget and Control Board. The state Supreme Court ruled this week that then-Gov. Mark Sanford did not have the right to line-item veto funding for the state’s financial oversight board; this is good for the state’s fiscal future and its credit rating.  More.

Thongs.
He may have had problems as governor, but Mark Sanford seems to be having a good time with his girlfriend on the beach. Play, playa, play. 
More.

Voter ID passes House.
It’s not so good that the bill requiring citizens to provide photo identification before being allowed to vote passed 74-45 in the House this week, due to concerns of alienating some African American voters; but at least it didn’t take up it too much time, like it did last year.  More.


Economy.
Unemployment may still be high, but signs from all over the state are pointing to a modest recovery afoot. 
More.

Haley.
Tone down the rhetoric (Wilkins speech, see above), but at the same time turn up the “spice” in your almost lily-white cabinet. 
More.
Stegelin

Wanna bet?


Also from Stegelin: 1/21 | 1/14 | 1/7 | Best of 2010
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