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ISSUE 10.49
Dec. 09, 2011

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

Index

News :
Abortion endgame not in sight
Legislative Agenda :
Getting an early start
Radar Screen :
Election year blues
Palmetto Politics :
House GOP caucus to offer tax reform
Commentary :
Zais needs to be education leader, not ideologue
Spotlight :
S.C. Association for Justice
My Turn :
SC's electric cooperatives connect with state's Greatest Generation
Feedback :
Want to vent? Have a policy proposal?
Scorecard :
From credit rating to educrats to Colbert
Stegelin :
They come in droves
Megaphone :
A rose by any other name ...
Tally Sheet :
Newly-introduced bills
Encyclopedia :
The Iodine State

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NUMBER OF THE WEEK

$497,712.31

That’s how much the state Department of Education said it would cost to compile and provide to state Sen. Phil Leventis (D-Sumter) all the printed information available on Superintendent of Education Mick Zais’s personnel policies, contracts and activities. Actually, that’s how much they say it would cost someone other than a state senator or representative who made such a Freedom of Information Act request, as Leventis and other lawmakers don’t have to pay.  (See Thumbs Down below.) More.

MEGAPHONE

A rose by any other name ...

“Buford County”

-- That’s how the S.C. Democratic Party referred to Beaufort County in a recent press release regarding a push to have a state Supreme Court ruling re-heard. Dale Carnegie held that “a person's name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” So much for winning in “Buford” County in the near future, Dems.

TALLY SHEET

Newly-introduced bills

Here's a summary of the major bills pre-filed in the House and Senate this week:

DOT reform. S. 1022 (Peeler) calls for major DOT reform to make the state Department of Transportation become a cabinet agency under the governor and get rid of the DOT commission, with several provisions.

TERI. S. 1027 (Elliott) seeks an advisory referendum on the 2012 ballot on whether voters believe the TERI program should be closed to new participants. S. 1038 (Campsen) would close the TERI program.

More reporting. S. 1034 (Elliott) would require local governments, agencies, organizations or individuals that receive state or local tax funds to provide periodic expenditure reports.

Saliva tests. S. 1036 (L. Martin) would allow a person’s saliva to be used in chemical tests for whether alcohol or drugs are in his system.

Power. S. 1039 (Ford) is the “Electrical Utility Deregulation and Competitive Power Act.”

Budgeting. S. 1045 (Thomas) would establish a Zero-Base Budget Committee.

Helmets. S. 1046 (Anderson) would require anyone riding a two-wheeled motorized vehicle to wear a helmet.

Texting. S. 1047 (Sheheen) would make it unlawful to drive through a school zone when on a cell phone or texting if the school’s warning lights are on.

Home grown. S. 1048 (Verdin) calls for state policies that encourage use of state farm and food products by state agencies, facilities and partners.

Half a year. S. 1049 (Campbell) would disqualify someone getting jobless benefits from receiving them after 26 weeks if they haven’t applied for work, accepted it or accepted community service.

Cervical cancer. H. 4497 (Sellers) would allow DHEC to offer the cervical cancer vaccine series to female seventh graders if approved by a parent to help prevent cancer, with several provisions.

Keep your emails. H. 4498 (Butler Garrick) would require preservation of electronic communications by public officials for five years. H. 4502 (Cobb Hunter) is similar but would also repeal a law on discretionary destruction of public records.

Sales tax exemptions. H. 4506 (Butler Garrick) would delete all sales and tax use exemptions, except those in the constitution, and allow legislators to distribute revenues to state agencies.

Gas tax. H. 4507 (Sellers) calls for a lower gas tax, with several provisions.

Jobs tax credit. H. 4512 (Stavrinakis) calls for an employment tax credit of $100 for employers who hire unemployed individuals, with several provisions.

  • To view all of the House pre-filed bills, go here.

  • To view all of the Senate pre-filed bills, click here.

ENCYCLOPEDIA

The Iodine State

The chemical element iodine derives its name from the violet color of its gaseous form. A rare element (sixty-second in global abundance), it occurs naturally as a trace chemical in certain soils, rocks, seawater, plants, and animals. In humans, it is largely found in the thyroid gland, which secretes iodine-bearing hormones responsible for regulating metabolism. A deficiency of iodine causes an unsightly swelling of the neck and jaw known as a goiter.

In the late 1920s, the South Carolina Natural Resources Commission began a public relations campaign to advertise the high iodine levels found in fruits and vegetables grown in the state. Even South Carolina milk was promoted as containing extraordinarily high levels of iodine.

Promotional tracts sought to expand the national market for South Carolina produce by warning Midwestern and West coast residents of the consequences of iodine deficiency in the young, including enlarged thyroids, mental and physical birth defects, and even sterility. The campaign placed the motto "Iodine" on South Carolina automobile license plates in 1930, then expanded the phrase in subsequent years to "The Iodine State" and "The Iodine Products State."

Columbia radio station WIS took its call letters to promote the "Wonderful Iodine State." Even Lowcountry moonshiners around Hell Hole Swamp jumped on the iodine bandwagon, advertising their brand of liquid corn with the slogan: "Not a Goiter in a Gallon."

Despite the promotional gimmicks, South Carolina agriculture saw little benefit from the iodine campaign. With the advent of iodized salt in the 1940s, Americans had a convenient dietary supplement and demand for foods high in iodine content declined.

-- Excerpted from the entry by R.T. Oliver. 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

Abortion endgame not in sight

By Bill Davis, senior editor

DEC. 9, 2011   -- There are two things you can count on being debated every year in the South Carolina Statehouse -- taxes and abortion. And sentiment is mixed on whether the state should change its approach in either of these two sticky areas of the law.

But every legislative session, state Rep. Greg Delleney (R-Chester) seems to introduce a bill that would limit abortions in the state as much as possible without disallowing them, which is blocked by federal law.

In 2010, attorney Delleney managed to wedge in the issue of abortion in the House’s end-of-session debate agenda, getting it major consideration.

Then in March, he shepherded passage of the “Healthcare Freedom of Conscience Act” through the House. It calls for protection of medical personnel from being fired or disciplined by their employers for refusing to perform procedures they may find unconscionable.

If passed by the Senate, which shelved the bill in its Medical Affairs Committee in March, it would also protect facilities that refuse patients seeking those procedures. The act spells out procedures related to “developing” children in and out of the natural womb, and others, all of which are loosely or directly related to abortions.

Tell Them, a South Carolina grassroots coalition that focuses on health education and reproductive health issues for young women, contends the bill would “allow physicians to reverse the standard of medical care” for patients right in front of them; violate the Hippocratic oath; refuse patients “who need reproductive health care, with no exception for circumstances”; and discriminate against rural women, who would have to travel further for legal services.

Delleney said this week that if he had a “magic wand” to wave, he wouldn’t wave it over South Carolina, “but all over the country, so that we could all go back to the time when we respected life and the sanctity of life.”

Delleney’s attempts in the past have not fared well in the Senate. He said he has not pre-filed any other abortion-related bill for the 2012 session, which reopens in January, but refused to comment on what he may do later in the spring if his Freedom of Conscience Act fails, other than to say he was considering “a lot of areas.”

“South Carolina cannot be a Petri dish” for the issue of outlawing abortion, said Delleney, who added the U.S. Supreme Court has preempted the issue with its rulings.

Sen. Brad Hutto (D-Orangeburg) sits on the Medical Affairs Committee and said he has heard all this before. “It’s a core issue and I’m sure that some sort of bill will pass.”

Hutto said he understands abortion is an issue dear to many hearts, but that it can be tough to have a rational discussion over such an emotionally-divisive issue.

Hutto said fuel for the debate, unfortunately, has been provided by lobbying groups who get their money by ginning up interest and furor over the issue, and as such, the Statehouse will likely not see an end to groups trying to “chip away” at a woman’s right to choose.

Hutto did criticize some of the rhetoric coming from those siding with Delleney as being more “pro-fetus” than “pro-child.”

Crystal ball: It’s important to note that while no one thinks the issue of abortion is going anywhere, few seem to be talking about the endgame of passing anti-abortion bills beyond health and civil rights. One area Delleney especially did not want to talk about was birth control education or the possible need for increased health and education funding if fewer abortions resulted in the state having more children.  Many social conservatives who decry abortion do not support sex education in schools, as it relates to condoms and other forms of contraception.

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

RECENT NEWS
Legislative Agenda

Getting an early start

A couple of key meetings next week:

  • Education. Members from the House and Senate of the Education Oversight Committee will begin meeting at 11 a.m. Monday in 433 Blatt to discuss EIA mechanisms, and then reconvene as a full committee 1 p.m. More.

  • Ways and Means. Members of the health care subcommittee will meet Thursday at 10:30 a.m. in 108 Blatt to discuss agency budgets and proviso requests from the Department of Health and Human Services, as well as from the Vocational Rehabilitation Department. More.
Radar Screen

Election year blues

If the ongoing fights between mainstream Republicans in the Statehouse and the governor’s mansion are any indicator, then the coming elections in the House and the Senate could get pretty ugly, as the different factions of the GOP -- the country clubbers and the tea partiers -- will fight for the soul of their party. Democrats will run, too, and lose. (See Megaphone quote below.)

Palmetto Politics

House GOP caucus to offer tax reform

Since the legislative session ended earlier this year, the 18 members of a House GOP caucus committee met to come up with changes to the state’s tax code. Its chairman, Tommy Stringer of Greenville, said this week the committee would introduce legislation when the legislature reconvenes in January. Stringer has said that part of the committee’s job is to review the Taxation Realignment Commission’s recommendations from the previous year. He also said this week that committee is considering advocating for the creation of an additional committee in the House to assist the Ways and Means Committee in writing the budget.

Ways and Means chairman Bryan White (R-Anderson) said Friday that he did not attend the latest meeting of Stringer’s committee, and that he wanted to hear from Stringer about the nuts and bolts of the proposed committee. “I just want to know where it would be housed, how it would be staffed, would it be a standing committee … and then we could look at the proposal in full,” said White. 

Zais angers state school board

After state Superintendent of Education Mick Zais refused to attend a state School Board meeting this week to discuss his attempts, or lack thereof, to apply for extra federal education grant programs, the board moved to hire a lawyer to look into the possibility of suing the leader of the state’s Department of Education. 

At least twice Zais has refused to apply for millions of federal education dollars, saying the money came with too many strings attached and that the money would be better used paying down the nation’s governmental debt. The board is giving Zais until Dec. 23 to answer questions about potential grant monies and his actions to get them for South Carolina or face potential litigation. This has quickly become a classic battle between limited government supporters and state government services. It has also become a contest of wills between Zais and the board as to who is in charge of whom.

Haley angers some over port decision 

Gov. Nikki Haley’s staffers testified in front of a Senate Medical Affairs panel this week as to whether she had improperly exerted influence over the board of the state Department of Health and Environmental Control’s recent decision to issue a water use permit to the state of Georgia on the Savannah River.

The panel decided that Haley had not unduly influenced the decision, which critics claim could bring an end to a proposed port in Jasper County and negatively impact an effort to deepen and expand the state’s port in Charleston. 

One of the sticking points was an anonymous email purportedly sent by a senior DHEC official to senators that said he and others were pressured to reverse course on the permit, which could allow for an expansion at the Savannah port.

Following the testimony, state Sen. Brad Hutto (D-Orangeburg) claimed that a new timeline emerged in that DHEC officials were ready to defend their initial permitting denial up to 45 minutes before, he still claims, Haley encouraged them to change course. Hutto allowed that Haley, as governor, has the right to run the state, and that “elections have consequences.” But he went on to add that “the law is the law,” and that the DHEC board was intended to be free from politics, despite being named by Haley, and decide permitting issues independently, “like the judiciary,” on the merits of science.

Commentary

Zais needs to be education leader, not ideologue

By Andy Brack, editor and publisher

DEC. 9, 2011 -- Leadership is more than just saying no.

It’s about showing up for work, inspiring people, setting reasonable goals, providing the tools and flexibility to develop innovative solutions and, in many ways, fostering an environment of trust that will lead to future dividends.

Over the last year with state Superintendent of Education Mick Zais at the helm of the state Department of Education, things seems to have gone awry pretty quickly -- from a culture that, while somewhat bureaucratic, seemed to focus on students to one where the leadership plays politics most of the time. So far this year:

  • Early on, Republican Zais refused to apply for federal grant money that could have brought $50 million in Race to the Top funding to South Carolina. Why? Because he said it would cause federal intrusion into South Carolina’s education process. (Most reasonable people understand all money comes with strings and think we should seek as much money as possible to help our ailing schools.

  • In August, Zais refused to apply for $144 million in federal stimulus funding to create up to 3,000 jobs for teachers. Again the reason: Strings by the federal government. Guess which was the only state in the nation not to receive any money through this fund? Yep. South Carolina.

  • Last month, the state Board of Education, a 17-member organization appointed by the state’s Republican governor and Republican-controlled legislature, decided it had had enough. It passed a motion for more transparency for Zais by requiring him to report monthly about available pots of federal money larger than $10 million -- and his reasoning for pursuing or passing on them.

As expected, Zais and his political minions are fighting this one too, saying the board -- yes the GOP-appointed board -- is playing politics and overstepped its legal bounds. His staff says he doesn’t answer to the board, even though there apparently are some old legal opinions that favor the board, which now says it might sue Zais.

With all of this as backdrop, we thought it would be helpful to ask Zais about his accomplishments for 2011. His spokesman, Jay W. Ragley, provided a three-page document outlining his positive deeds for the year. Missing from the list of 27 accomplishments was the biggest news about the agency all year -- about how it didn’t apply for $244 million in funding. Among the highlights of accomplishments provided by the Zais administration:

  • Legislative: Worked to pass six legislative bills, including a public charter school bill and a constitutional amendment that would allow the state superintendent to be appointed.  The only measure listed that became law was a science requirement for graduation.

  • Budget: Cut 15 percent for agency operating expenses and shifted $95 million to raise the base student cost from $1,615 to $1,880; secured $120.5 million in extra special education funding, $20.4 million more for bus fuel and parts; $25 million for the state Public Charter School District; and got $12.4 million in excess lottery funds for school buses.

  • Operational: Zais visited 51 schools and career centers; reorganized the agency; cut 50 agency positions; saved money on computer software and servers; cut cell phone expenses by 3.5 percent; and launched a new agency Web site at no taxpayer cost.

Many of the things on the list can be attributed to a new guy coming in and changing things how he wants, although Zais deserves kudos for figuring a way to raise the base student cost. 

But Jackie B. Hicks, president of the South Carolina Education Association, maintains he’s a disaster, particularly for refusing to apply for federal grants, which steered money for education here to other states. She said Zais has thwarted input from teachers, cut experienced education administrators and installed political hacks. 

“We were seeing increases of achievement from what was developed by previous administrations. Now that is being dismantled. Morale across the state is diminishing because he makes comments that do not support teachers or students.”

Debbie Elmore at the S.C. School Boards Association was just as blunt: “Unfortunately it’s difficult to see what Dr. Zais has accomplished because he is so clouded by political posturing. The tragic result is with all of the economic and social challenges our state is faced with, we will never move forward as long as public education is used to promote personal or political agendas. It’s extremely sad.”

What’s clear is the South Carolina Department of Education has become a place distinguished first by political ideology. What’s lost seems to be a focus on South Carolina children who need more, not less, from their state Department of Education.

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

Spotlight

S.C. Association for Justice

The public spiritedness of our underwriters allows us to bring Statehouse Report to you at no cost. This week's spotlighted underwriter is the South Carolina Association for Justice, a non-profit, non-partisan, professional association dedicated to advancing the rights of individuals and small businesses in the civil and criminal justice system in South Carolina. For more information about how the association works to protect individual rights and keep families safe, go to: www.scaj.com.

My Turn

SC's electric cooperatives connect with state's Greatest Generation

By Mark Quinn
Special to Statehouse Report

DEC. 9, 2011 -- Before I began my current job with The Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina in July, I spent the previous four-and-a half years working for SCETV as host of its weekly television and radio program, The Big Picture.

In recent months, I’ve had the great privilege of sharing some of those past experiences in my new job that works with our statewide family of electric cooperatives. Collectively, 19 of South Carolina's electric cooperatives recently pledged unprecedented support for Honor Flight of South Carolina. It's a $60,000 commitment to underwrite a one-day, chartered trip to Washington, D.C., so more than 100 of our state's World War II veterans can see, first-hand, the memorial that was built in their honor.

Three years ago, Bill Dukes, founder of Honor Flight of South Carolina, persuaded me to take the trip and document the journey for ETV. Bill deeply believed we would accomplish two things: first, a chance to offer these men the opportunity to share their stories about the contributions they made to a country who called them to service, stories that in many cases had gone untold.  Second, and nearly as important, he thought the program would provide a living history lesson for the rest of us who tend to take for granted so much of what we have today. That if we heard these men and women speak plainly of their stories of dedication and sense of duty, our idea of what it means to be an American would be deeply enriched.  It was the most satisfying day of my career in journalism.

And so it’s humbling to be part of a new effort to make this experience possible for an entirely new group of veterans. At a recent event to announce our sponsorship Sen. Jim DeMint, who made a personal pledge to support our Honor Flight effort. DeMint’s father had flown supplies to help reinforce the Allied forces that drove the Germans out of Northern Africa. In his unscripted remarks that morning, Senator DeMint, I believe, made a salient point when he noted that viewing American history, through the eyes of these veterans, reminded us of "what could be accomplished, and how great a country could be when we all pulled together with a common cause."

The senator also noted what we in the cooperatives hope to highlight over the next several months. That this vast group we refer to as the “Greatest Generation” stepped forward in a time that called for unwavering commitment, perseverance and shared sacrifice. Nearly everyone answered the call.  And when the war was over, and freedom had prevailed, the vast majority of simply wanted to come home and build a better community. And that’s what they did. It was these men and women who not only won a war with unimaginable stakes, but also came back and built modern-day America -- its roads, bridges, ports and yes, its electrical grid. These were people who got things done.

Collectively humble and dignified, this isn’t a generation that elaborates about their profound effect on our country. But I can tell you, watching a group of veterans make an Honor Flight is to see them transformed. They depart walking through waves of family, friends and supporters who come to pay their respect; they’re greeted and thanked by scores of strangers simply walking through the airport or have happened by the World War II Memorial. Every moment of that day is designed to let them know we recognize their unparalleled contributions. It’s a day that gives expression to their sense of quiet dignity, a day filled with pride and patriotism.

As an organization that grew alongside this generation of men and women, South Carolina’s electric cooperatives are proud to be able help recognize these everyday heroes. I think I can safely speak for many of the 2,300 cooperative employees who work in all 46 counties of our state, when I say our support of Honor Flight is a project that has given us a deep sense of pride and mission.

To make this happen, we could use your help. If you know of a veteran who hasn't had the opportunity to take the Honor Flight, please let us know by acquiring an application either online, at www.scliving.org, or by calling and requesting an application at 803-737-3024. In January, South Carolina Living magazine will carry a two-page application insert for the Honor Flight, as well as features of veterans from local cooperative territories.

Mark Quinn is director of public and member relations at The Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina.

Feedback

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Scorecard

From credit rating to educrats to Colbert

Credit rating. For the first time in six years, a leading credit rating agency has restored South Carolina’s AAA rating. More.

Economy. Leading state economists said this week that South Carolina’s economy, while still “fragile,” would grow, with wages and property values to climb modestly. But, unemployment won’t dip much. More.

Transparency. A 37-year veteran of the state DNR claims to have been asked to step down as the agency’s director by the chair of the agency’s board … without the knowledge of the rest of the board. The chair denied the allegations. More.

Stephen Colbert. Pundit and South Carolina native Stephen Colbert attempted unsuccessfully to use his political action committed to buy the “naming rights” of the state’s GOP presidential primary recently, wanting to have it called “The Colbert Nation Super PAC Presidential Primary.” Who does this New York City-based guy think he is, with all his money and power, Howard Rich? And he refers to S.C. Democratic Party chairman Dick Harpootlian as “Dickie Poots.” It’s like he’s making fun of us. More.

Education. It’s a political farce by the idealogues at the state Department of Education that it would cost almost $500,000 to copy information requested by a state senator. Ever hear of a thumb drive? This just sounds like folks who don’t want Democrats to see what Republicans are doing.

Stegelin

They come in droves


Also from Stegelin: 12/2 | 11/25 | 11/18 | 11/11 | 11/4
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/.