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ISSUE 10.42
Oct. 21, 2011

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

Index

News :
Counting the vote
Legislative Agenda :
Meetings on tap
Radar Screen :
The era of shortfalls?
Palmetto Politics :
Paying for presidential primaries
Commentary :
Occupy, tea party movements show frustration
Spotlight :
S.C. Association of Counties
My Turn :
New USC building part of sustainability solution
Feedback :
Legislators need to reduce their retirement benefits
Scorecard :
The 2-2-3 report
Stegelin :
Rock the block, err, block the rock?
Number of the Week :
$29,000,000,000
Megaphone :
Crystal
Encyclopedia :
Voting Rights Act of 1965
In our other publications :
Learn more about SC, Charleston

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NUMBER OF THE WEEK

$29,000,000,000

That’s how big of a shortfall the DOT revealed this week it is facing over the next 20 years. More.

MEGAPHONE

Crystal

"Let me be clear. I have briefed many of the legislators and they told me, 'Don't tell me to raise the gas tax. You tell me what your needs are.' "

-- State DOT Secretary Robert St. Onge this week after revealing his agency was facing a $29 billion shortfall over the next 20 years. More.

ENCYCLOPEDIA

Voting Rights Act of 1965

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was enacted to reverse the effects of state disfranchisement and secure equal voting rights for all citizens. The legislation was a victory for racial minorities, especially African Americans in the South, because many had experienced social opposition to their voting.

After Reconstruction, the Ku Klux Klan and other organizations used violence and intimidation to limit African American voter turnout. South Carolina’s African Americans faced legal challenges as well. Beginning in 1882, the Eight Box Law functioned effectively as a literacy test. In 1896 statewide party primaries that barred African American participation were introduced. With South Carolina firmly under white Democratic control, African Americans were excluded from politics, and voter registration plummeted: in October 1896 only 5,500 African Americans were registered to vote in the state.

In the presence of a growing national civil rights movement, President Lyndon Johnson issued a call for strong voting rights laws in 1965. The Voting Rights Act, signed into law in August 1965, suspended literacy tests and provided for the appointment of federal examiners with the power to register qualified citizens to vote. South Carolina immediately challenged the law’s constitutionality in South Carolina v. Katzenbach. South Carolina, supported by briefs from other states, argued that Congress could not authorize federal officials to impose themselves on state affairs in the manner outlined by the act. The United States Supreme Court rejected that argument by an eight-to-one vote, declaring that Congress acted within its authority to enforce the goals of the Fifteenth Amendment. For the court’s majority, widespread discrimination constituted “exceptional conditions” that allowed Congress to pass legislation to protect voting rights.

On being signed into law, the act had an almost immediate impact. In South Carolina the number of American Americans registered to vote rose dramatically. In 1964, 38.7 percent of voting-age African Americans were registered. Four years later that number climbed to 50.8 percent. There were also gains in African American political participation. Twelve black South Carolinians attended the 1968 Democratic National Convention as delegates. In 1970 three African Americans were elected to the General Assembly, the first black legislators since the 1890s. Less than a decade after the passage of the act, the number of African American legislators had risen to thirteen.

Despite important gains, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 did not completely solve the problems of would-be voters and political participants. First, the time after the passage of the act also saw an increase in white voter registration, which counterbalanced the power of African American voters. Second, some South Carolina counties combated black voters by choosing county officials via at-large elections, which “diluted” African American votes. Third, under a reapportionment plan approved in 1966, the General Assembly established multimember senatorial districts, which allowed white majority districts to elect multiple senators. The Voting Rights Act was amended in 1970 and in 1975 to fight these newer challenges to voting rights; the law was renewed for another twenty-five years in 1982.

--Excerpted from the entry by Kevin Fellner. 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.)

IN OUR OTHER PUBLICATIONS

Learn more about SC, Charleston

If you want to read some good news and views involving Charleston, take a look at CharlestonCurrents.com, our sister publication.  In the most recent issue, you'll find information about a new Charleston sustainability film, what it's like to be on the campaign trail, perfect rice and what the Union fleet was up to in October 1861.
 
If you want to get the latest daily news about South Carolina, consider SCClips.com.

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

Counting the vote

Outdated machines are cause for concern, some say

By Bill Davis, senior editor

OCT. 21, 2011 -- Barbara Zia has seen enough miscounts.

As the president of the state chapter of the League of Women Voters, Zia is fighting for the state to replace its outdated voting machines in hopes of preserving another layer of security for democracy in South Carolina.

The league, praised for its non-partisan concern for voting rights and access, recently commissioned an independent study of the state’s voting technology after snafus in the 2010 elections continued to appear.

According to Zia, the new report found three basic problems with the current system. One, the iVotronic machines were aging and replacement parts were no longer being manufactured.

Two, that the machines were too complicated for the committed poll managers to use, whom Zia said were basically “volunteers” working from before dawn to after daylight in some cases.

And three, the electronic touch-screen machines do not provide enough of a paper trail to ensure truly correct elections.

Zia said that not only did the state need machines that provide a paper printout for poll managers and election officials to double-check, but voters need a printout of their vote on premises so they could make sure their vote was being correctly recorded.

Zia, who lives in Mount Pleasant, is concerned that continued goof-ups could shine a negative light on South Carolina, with the first in the South 2012 presidential primary looming.

“We’ve got to get this right,” she said.

It may take some time

The league has formed a task force to look into what kind of technology needs to be purchased to quickly replace the iVotronics system.

But “quickly” may be in the eye of the beholder.

S.C. Election Commission spokesperson Chris Whitmire said this week that the current system, which cost $34 million originally, was only “halfway” through its useful lifespan.

Paid for with the help of a federal monies in 2004, the system was fully implemented statewide in 2006. Whitmire said the current machines could see action as late as the 2016 elections

But in September of last year, the commission’s executive director, Marci Andino was quoted as saying the system was graying and that it would be “fiscally” irresponsible for the state to put any more money into add-ons to keep it absolutely current.

Andino, according to Whitmire, still stands by that statement, but he pointed out that none of the problems from last year’s election – including the certification of at least one incorrect election result – were the machines’ fault.

A Senate subcommittee chaired by Sen. Chip Campsen (R-Charleston) looked into the matter and found, along with the election commission, that it was operator error.

State Sen. Larry Martin (R-Pickens), who serves on the Judiciary Committee which oversees elections, said that none of the mistakes last year, or from any year the machines have been used, amounted to an election needing to be thrown out.

Zia said she hoped there would increased political will in the legislature to replace the system going into an election year.

“Incumbents’ votes could be on the line, too,” she said.

Little interest?

But state Rep. James Smith (D-Columbia), the first vice chair of the House Judiciary Committee, said he hasn’t seen a lot of interest in the legislature currently for an upgrade. Additionally, he said he didn’t see a lot of interest in the legislature in 2004 to pay for the upgrades for the aforementioned three concerns.

Because of cost and advances in technology, there has been some interest in moving elections to the “cloud,” or putting them online in a secure Web site.

Smith, not completely sold on the idea, said it would be easier for members of the armed services to be able to vote overseas. But he’s not sure taking elections online would provide needed “election integrity.”

Again, “secure” may be in the eye of the beholder.

“It’s been said that there are two kinds of computers in this world; ones that have been hacked and ones that no one has tried to hack … yet,” said Duncan Buell, the USC computer science professor tapped by the league to help put together its voting machine report.

For similar reasons, both Campsen and Martin oppose online voting.

Crystal ball: Yes, South Carolina needs to upgrade its voting machine system to one that creates paper trails for officials and voters, is easier to use and has spare parts available. Are we going to get them soon? No. Money’s tight in Columbia still, and it may be too early to panic about recording mistakes that can be eradicated with election commission training seminars.

Bill Davis is editor of Statehouse Report.  He can be reached at:  bill@statehousereport.com.

RECENT NEWS
Legislative Agenda

Meetings on tap

BEA. The next quarterly meeting of the state’s Board of Economic Advisors will be Wednesday at 11:30 a.m. in room 335 of the Rembert Dennis Building, Columbia.

Retirement. A Senate subcommittee hearing on the state’s retirement system are being held across the state with a Wednesday hearing at 5 p.m. at the first floor conference center of the Southeastern Institute of Manufacturing and Technology at Florence Darlington Technical College.

Radar Screen

The era of shortfalls?

With the state Department of Transportation estimating this week that it faces a $29 billion shortfall over the next two decades, shortfalls may become the permanent paradigm in South Carolina.

As government coffers and programs shrink, Libertarians will likely rejoice. But will this be what the rest of the state wants? We might be on the cusp of finding out. And we might find out how serious Gov. Nikki Haley was when earlier this year she said that she wouldn’t allow for another cabinet agency deficit (right after pushing for a bailout of the DOT).

Palmetto Politics

Paying for presidential primaries

Four big counties – Beaufort, Chester, Greenville and Spartanburg -- this week sued the state over its decision to cover the cost of holding a Jan. 21 GOP presidential primary.

The total cost is expected to hit $2 million, with about a third of that coming from the state. The state GOP has stated it will cover the rest, but the counties aren’t comfortable they won’t be left having to shell out some of their own limited funds.

The suit begs the question; does the state have any business funneling tax dollars into the primary in the first place? Furthermore, should taxes of independents, non-voters or Democrats go to fund a private organization’s efforts? Or as the two-party system holds sway in much of the country, is this really just an appropriate fiscal supporting of democracy? Those are the questions now faced by the S.C. Supreme Court, which agreed this week to hear the case.

School of Ard knocks

Wanna see Lt. Gov. Ken Ard’s brother, Sammy, charge a TV reporter a few days after reportedly giving testimony to a state grand jury about his embattled brother’s campaign fundraising? Interesting report. Go here: WIS-TV.

Commentary

Occupy, tea party movements show frustration

By Andy Brack, editor and publisher

OCT. 21, 2011 -- Boy, does politics run in cycles, or what?

The latest incarnation, the “occupy” movement that has spread from Wall Street to Charleston and Columbia in South Carolina, reflects the frustration of a new crowd of people who have been quiet for awhile. 

It’s similar to the frustration that fueled the rise of the tea party after voters elected a black man president in 2008. And a version of the sentiment that same man tapped into with his campaign of hope that led to his election.

Thanks to pervasive televised media, the Internet, iPhones, iPads and more, we’ve become an iAmerica that seems to be constantly on the prowl to vent. The political cycles are getting shorter. The “occupy” movement is the latest incarnation, a move to restore a balance from the ire stemming from tea partiers. If the occupiers are able to keep their passions going as the tea partiers have, we could be headed for a heck of a clash next year during the fall presidential campaign.

When the tea partiers got going, they seemed mad at just about everything involving the government, especially the federal government and its spending. They ranted so much that congressional candidates, mostly Republican, listened and co-opted their rage. As the country headed into a longer and longer recession, new tea party congressmen flexed their muscles over debt ceilings and spending, which stalled long-term solutions for economic recovery and getting out of the spending addiction. 

So now comes another side of America -- young college graduates losing hope that they can have a good job, family, nice home, two newish cars in the garage and the American dream. Instead, they may still live with their parents and work dead-end jobs without adequate health care and a rosy retirement package. They’re wondering where the America of their parents went.

Now they’re mad and they want to occupy the spotlight for a bit to vent their rage at the corporatization of America -- the seeming takeover of everything for corporate profit and the lack of real government leadership to limit unfettered capitalism for the common good.

Conservative critics dismiss occupiers as “socialists” who want something for nothing. First, that’s not true because occupiers don’t want the government to control the means of production, as socialists do. Second, occupiers want jobs and a stronger America, not the free ride that corporations and the rich got from handouts and policies aimed at building their wealth, not that of the middle class.

“I want to see the tax code reformed -- the federal one, and the state could use it too,” one Summerville woman said at Occupy Charleston on Thursday. “I’d like to see the legs of K Street lawyers [in Washington] chopped off.”

Charleston County Councilman Vic Rawl, a former circuit judge, gave an Economics 101 teach-in to about 20 people Thursday along Brittlebank Park. He outlined how the country was going through an ideological battle between the Keynesian economics of common good and the Friedman economics of free-market capitalism that sought little regulation.

Rawl said Friedman’s followers, who have been winning the upper hand with more and more corporate deregulation for years, were “turning government and the taxpayers into a opportunistic grab-bag for private business.”

The occupiers, he said, were focused on jobs and the economy, while tea partiers “don’t have enough intelligence to understand the people they’re supporting caused this problem. ... Remember the ‘trickle down’ theory [of economics]? I ain’t seen no trickle.”

Mount Pleasant attorney William Hamilton said occupiers weren’t another part of a cycle of politics, but instead a vacillation “indicative of a system on the verge of failure.”

One thing is for sure, occupiers and tea partiers are shaking up the status quo politics in new ways that reigning politicians are having to scamper to figure out how to respond.

* * *

If you want to read about something good going on in South Carolina, take a look at an exclusive column below by University of South Carolina President Harris Pastides.  He tells the story of how the university is constructing one of the world’s most innovative green buildings.

ndy Brack is publisher of Statehouse Report and president of the Center for a Better South.  He can be reached at: brack@statehousereport.com

Spotlight

S.C. Association of Counties

The public spiritedness of our underwriters allows us to bring Statehouse Report to you at no cost. This week's featured underwriter is the South Carolina Association of Counties. The SCAC was chartered on June 22, 1967, and is the only organization dedicated to statewide representation of county government in South Carolina. Membership includes all 46 counties, which are represented by elected and appointed county officials who are dedicated to improving county government. SCAC is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that operates with a full-time staff in its Columbia offices. It is governed by a 29-member Board of Directors composed of county officials from across South Carolina. The Association strives to “Build Stronger Counties for Tomorrow” by working with member counties in the fields of research, information exchange, educational promotion and legislative reporting. More: http://www.sccounties.org.
My Turn

New USC building part of sustainability solution

By Harris Pastides
President, University of South Carolina
Exclusive to Statehouse Report

 
OCT. 21, 2011 -- On Sept. 23, 2011, the University of South Carolina broke ground for what we believe will be one of the most innovative and energy-efficient buildings in the country. The Darla Moore School of Business has had an enviable record of academic excellence and its future home promises to reflect the inventiveness and creativity that are synonymous with the history of the school.    

The building’s design will incorporate advanced environmental technologies. For example, the roof will feature green turf to reduce heat and improve energy efficiency. The structure will maximize natural light and shade for cooling, and occupants will benefit from outdoor vistas, pristine air quality, and control of heating, air and lighting in their own spaces. Furthermore, the design incorporates large communal areas in a way that creates dynamic centers for the community. The building will not only be environmentally friendly, but it will also cultivate a social environment, fostering an individual student's relationship with the larger community. At Carolina, our first priority is our students, so it is appropriate that we give them a physical space which enriches their mental development.   

As the president of the University, I am proud to reaffirm our commitment to practices that are ecologically responsible. Still, we also have the task to make sure the developments are financially sound. In the present economy, in the wake of an economic recession, a rigorous cost-benefit analysis must be assessed for every major expenditure. So the question is often asked, quite reasonably, why sustainability? Why now? 

These are fair questions. But we must all acknowledge a few realities: 

1) Developing and industrialized nations consume an exorbitant amount of energy;

2) The planet's energy resources, including water and oil, are being diminished exponentially;

3) As these resources decline, they become more expensive and exclusive. 

If we do nothing, the world we leave to the generations that follow us will be mired in conflict over resource allocation and will be depleted of its natural beauty. We have a moral obligation to ensure that this does not happen and the University of South Carolina is going to be part of the solution. 

Fortunately, the move toward sustainability is cost-efficient and, if done intelligently, could be extremely remunerative. Having spent much of my career in public health, I know the effectiveness of preventative strategies on the front-end, which are nearly always cheaper and lead to a better quality of life for the patient. The same is true for energy. If we invest a little more now, the savings over time will more than compensate for the expenditures we make today.

Whether it is a part of the curriculum, the construction or the social environment of our students, sustainability is becoming a significant element of the Carolinian mindset. We have already seen the benefits of environmental technologies from many of the developments we have made across our campus. The retrofitting of Patterson Hall has resulted in reduced water consumption by 40 percent and a 16 percent decrease of energy output.

At the Hollings Library, a reflective roof, water conservation and energy-efficient insulation have allowed us to create substantial savings while constructing one of the finest libraries for special collections in the southeast. For all future projects, much of the material we will use will come from local suppliers, helping to reduce the fuel consumption and travel costs associated with the transfer of goods, as well as benefitting the local economy. We also plan on being able to recycle 70 percent to 90 percent of all waste we generate. 

As part of our 'Genesis 2015' Initiative, we plan on reducing the carbon dioxide emissions of our vehicles by 90 percent. To reach this end, some of our departments have already begun utilizing greener forms of transportation. In Housing, electric and solar service vehicles serve students just as well as their gasoline counterparts, but at a fraction of the cost. The Division of Law Enforcement now uses electric motorcycles, which require no gasoline and even the battery is 100 percent recyclable. Remarkably, the cost of operation is approximately 1 dollar every 100 miles. 

"This is a new era of environmental responsibility at Carolina. Within the next decade, we hope to decrease energy consumption by 40 percent. Our road is not the easy one. But it is the right one."
-- Harris Pastides
For public transportation, the University has organized the shuttle routes for maximum accessibility. By making the shuttle as convenient as possible, we encourage our students to take advantage of cleaner transportation. Additionally, University shuttles run on bio-diesel fuel to ensure that we are limiting our negative environmental impact as much as possible. 

Infrastructures that incorporate green technologies have been shown to improve the health, productivity, and overall happiness of all occupants. Because of this, we are making it a goal to refit all of our dormitories. As a campus with a large student body, we can use this as an opportunity to research sustainable practices. We can compare similar populations in different environments, allowing for scientific studies to examine the improvement green technologies have on health, academic achievement, graduation rates, and scholastic research.

Ultimately, our goal as a University is to retrofit all buildings with energy efficient features, to make sustainability a priority on every new construction project, and to become carbon neutral in the next 50 years. This is a new era of environmental responsibility at Carolina. Within the next decade, we hope to decrease energy consumption by 40 percent. Our road is not the easy one. But it is the right one.

If we maintain our resolve, we could become one of the first universities to reach the goal of complete energy efficiency. Where our University has succeeded in the past is where we have emphasized the values of creativity, innovation, and leadership. To solve the problem of energy, these are precisely the qualities that will be necessary right now and, I am proud to say, the University of South Carolina is ready and willing to answer the demands of progress. 

Dr. Harris Pastides is president of the University of South Carolina.

Feedback

Legislators need to reduce their retirement benefits

To Statehouse Report:

There have been a lot of "concerned citizens" making suggestions recently on ways to fix the South Carolina State pension system's 'shortages.' The Comptroller General and state retirees want state employees to pay more. Gov. [Nikki] Haley wants to increase the retirement eligibility from 28 to 30 years.

The South Carolina State pension system has been in trouble for years and none of these concerned citizens have offered to make any personal sacrifices for the cause. In 2004, Darla Moore called the state pension system "horrendous" and said its $4.4 billion shortfall was "close to being considered financially unsound." (The Post and Courier, Nov. 8, 2004). Now, seven years later and Statehouse Report says that the pension shortfall is at $17 billion!

In 2005, the South Carolina legislature took steps to create the South Carolina Retirement System Investment Commission, with the responsibility and authority to manage the state pension investments, but they have not had the guts to alter their own state retirement plan.

South Carolina State employees contribute 6.5 percent of their salary and their employers, the agencies, contribute 3.51 percent of the employee's salaries. However, the SC General Assembly receives a much higher rate of state contribution (79 percent) than general state employees. The members of the General Assembly can take advantage of their retirement with only eight years of service, compared to a 28-year requirement for state employees. The members of the General Assembly's retirement is based not only on the annual legislative salary of $10,400, but also the minimum $12,000 they receive annually for expenses ($119 per day for meals and housing for each session day and committee meeting) (Empire Center). USA Today reported SC State Sen. David Thomas, R-Greenville, has used the retirement provision to collect $148,435 more than his legislative salary would have paid since 2005. They have created a system where they can make 300 percent more in retirement than they do in salary (compared to regular state employees who make about 56 percent). And yet, these same legislators have created rules that prohibit a graduate-level college student, who teaches a lab two days a week, to work part-time for another state agency. Because that would be 'double-dipping'.

It is time that the General Assembly, State Comptroller and Governor reduce their own retirement benefits. South Carolina State employees did not create this pension debacle!

-- Byron White, Charleston, S.C.

Want to vent a little?   Send us a letter.  Letters are published weekly. We reserve the right to edit for length and clarity. We generally publish all comments about South Carolina politics or policy issues, unless they are libelous or unnecessarily inflammatory. One submission is allowed per month. Submission of a comment grants permission to us to reprint. Comments are limited to 250 words or less.
Scorecard

The 2-2-3 report

Gun pledge. Some 69,000 students from 119 schools in the state pledged they would never take a gun to school. More.

DHEC. Hats off to the agency for a temporary ban on bath salts and fake marijuana pending probably action by the legislature next year.

Home sales. Home sales rose 10 percent statewide in the third quarter, compared to the same time last year. But reports indicate the number of homes for sale in the state is declining.

Ports. The State Ports Authority’s recent quarterly report shows growing volume, but dropping profits. More.

Voter I.D. This affects black precincts disproportionately!? What! How could this happen? Well, after record minority turnouts throughout the South for Barack Obama, the GOP pushed for a measure that the Justice Department is investigating for possible negative voting impacts to minorities. Surprise, surprise, surprise. More.

Voter I.D. The number of people across the state who may not be allowed to vote in the next election keeps growing and growing. (Hint: Now it’s more than 220,000.) More.

Ports. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers may ignore S.C. worries about deepening Savannah River -- potentially bad news for similar efforts in Charleston. More.

Stegelin

Rock the block, err, block the rock?


Also from Stegelin: 10/14 | 10/7 | 9/30 | 9/23
See Stegelin talk about cartooning at Pecha Kucha 11 in Charleston

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/.