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ISSUE 10.50
Dec. 16, 2011

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

Index

News :
Getting greener
Legislative Agenda :
No major meetings
Radar Screen :
Countdown to a showdown
Palmetto Politics :
Haley's comet
Commentary :
Letter to Santa: Help South Carolina
Spotlight :
The South Carolina Education Association
My Turn :
A new app for political campaigns
Scorecard :
Four up, three down
Stegelin :
La la la la laaaa, la laa laa laaaa
Number of the Week :
118.6 percent
Megaphone :
Suffering in silence
Tally Sheet :
Few bills prefiled
Encyclopedia :
Heyward-Washington House

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EDITOR'S NOTE

Correction

In last week's commentary [Zais needs to be education leader, not ideologue], columnist Andy Brack erred in describing the state Board of Education as a "GOP-appointed board."  The board is, in fact, appointed by legislative delegations, some of which have Democratic majorities.  We regret the error.

NUMBER OF THE WEEK

118.6 percent

That’s how much corporate income tax collections were up this November compared to November 2010.  Other numbers: General fund revenue, up 6 percent; personal income tax collections, up 4 percent; sales tax collections, up 4.9 percent. More.

MEGAPHONE

Suffering in silence

“ … ”

-- That was Gov. Nikki Haley “response” this week when asked why she hadn’t turned over emails as part of a Freedom of Information request earlier this year regarding her role in potentially affecting how an independent panel performed. When asked this week in the hall of a state building after a Budget and Control Board meeting, she stared blankly at an unopened elevator door, refusing to answer. See this story. 

TALLY SHEET

Few bills prefiled

State senators prefiled seven bills on Wednesday; House members didn’t have a prefiling opportunity over the past week. These may be of interest:

Music therapy. S. 1057 (Leatherman) is the “Music Therapy Practice Act” and calls for a state Board of Music Therapy to regulate music therapy, with several provisions.

Bonds. S. 1058 (Cromer) would prohibit school districts from issuing general obligation bonds for general operating expenses, similar to a bill introduced last week.

DNR. S. 1059 (Cromer) would add a new member to the state Board of the Department of Natural Resources to reflect the addition of a new congressional district, with other provisions.

  • To view all of the House prefiled bills, go here.

  • To view all of the Senate prefiled bills, click here.

ENCYCLOPEDIA

Heyward-Washington House

Owned by the Charleston Museum and open to the public, the Heyward-Washington House at 87 Church Street, Charleston, was built in 1772 by the rice planter Thomas Heyward, Jr., who later became a signer of the Declaration of Independence. President George Washington stayed in the house during his visit to Charleston in 1791. The three-story brick double house features four rooms plus a central hall on the first floor.

The second floor features a drawing room and a smaller withdrawing room in front and two chambers in the rear; additional chambers are found on the third floor. In the 1880s the Fuseler family converted the property to a bakery, radically altering the first floor of the house to include a storefront. It was saved from destruction by the Charleston Museum and the Society for the Preservation of Old Dwellings in 1929. Architectural research aided restoration of the first floor, while a study of Charleston gardens led to the creation of a period parterre (an ornamental garden with paths between the beds) in the rear lot. The house museum is furnished with period furniture and appointments, including Charleston-made furniture.

Thomas Heyward sold the property in 1794. Archaeology and documents reveal a long history of occupation, both before and after Heyward. A wooden house and outbuildings built in 1730 by the gunsmith John Milner burned in the Charleston fire of 1740. Milner and his son continued the smithing business with the aid of eleven slaves. In 1749 John Milner, Jr., built a brick single house and outbuildings. Thomas Heyward razed the single house but kept Milner’s kitchen and stable.

Excavations by the Charleston Museum revealed the houses, activities, and artifacts of the Milners, the Heywards, the antebellum owners, and the enslaved African American occupants. The house was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1970.

-- Excerpted from the entry by Martha A. Zierden and Ronald W. Anthony. 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

Getting greener

Is the future of S.C. schools in Kentucky?

By Bill Davis, senior editor

DEC. 16, 2011 -- After traveling to see a Kentucky elementary school that spends nothing on electricity, state Sen. Phil Leventis now envisions schools of green for future generations.

In recent weeks, Leventis (D-Sumter) and state Rep. Doug Brannon (R-Landrum) were guests of a national program that sent legislators from throughout the country to small country school building near Bowling Green that seems to have done the impossible.

Richardsville Elementary in Warren County, Ky., has become the nation’s first net-zero cost school in the nation. Employing a series of wise and green architectural and engineering moves – like building much of the school around the gym to insulate what is usually the most expensive area to heat and cool – the school’s power demand was cut by roughly four-fifths.

The final fifth was mitigated by the use of an array of solar panels along the roofs that generate power to be sold back to the utilities at a higher cost than they normal – which is offset by the utility because it won’t have to build more energy-generating plants in the future.

Green schools don’t cost more

But the rub with green buildings has been the long-held misperception that they are too expensive to design and construct -- that their exotic materials and shapes to costly to maintain. Until now.

And here is where Leventis and Brannon, who was equally blown away, want to see the impossible become commonplace in South Carolina’s future.

According to the National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities, the average cost of building a primary school in the United States in 2011 is $200 per square foot.

Richardsville Elementary’s per-square-foot cost was $182, Leventis was told, thanks in part to a federal grant that covered a big chunk of the solar array. Without the grant, Leventis said it was only $208 per square foot.

 Add to that better air quality for kids, parents, teachers and vendors, and Leventis sees not only a space that educates, but inspires.

Another upside of smarter design and conservation is the energy cost savings, which thrills Leventis as much as it does Brannon, “no tree hugger” by his own admission.

For every million dollars in energy savings each year a county enjoys -- and schools are big power eaters -- Brannon said as many as 20 teachers could be employed.

Also, by not aligning the school with the road in front of it, but the sun’s path, Brannon said the school was able to capture more solar energy. “If they do that in Kentucky, not to be rude, we can do it in South Carolina,” said Brannon, who said he desperately wanted to drive the hybrid bus that the school carried the legislators in to the school.

Brannon, who serves on the House Education and Public Works Committee, said it would be tough passing a bill in Columbia instructing districts in South Carolina to follow suit. “I could see the ‘home-rule’ people screaming,” he said.

Trying to educate folks about green schools

LEARN MORE

Conservation Voters of South Carolina today launched a new Web site devoted to evangelizing the importance of building green schools.

You can visit Palmetto Green Schools Network to learn more about practical steps for embracing natural resource and energy conservation in schools.   Among some suggestions that can generate savings without additional costs:

  • Turn off unnecessary lights
  • Use energy-saving features of computer equipment
  • Use laptops over desktops
  • Use email instead of paper documents

More information.

You also can learn more in “Better Buildings,” a chapter in “Getting Greener,” a policy book by the Center for a Better South.

Ed Falco, who used to work on energy-saving projects within the S.C. Department of Education, is still trying to educate the Palmetto State on how to be green like the Bluegrass State.

As project manager of the Palmetto Green Schools Network by the Conservation Voters of South Carolina, Falco wants to build a green “grassroots to grass-tops” movement, where students behaviors and building policy becomes as verdant and lush as the countryside. The network today launched a new Web site (see box.)

Big school districts, like Greenville County, the largest one in the state, spend between $17 million to $18 million a year on energy alone, Falco said.

Falco said minimal upfront investment in design and materials, even in retrofits of existing schools, could result in major cost savings to schools. Too many times, Falco has seen cash-strapped school systems start out with green intentions, but prevailing politics and economic realities weigh-down projects, and the greener/leaner elements get “value-engineered” out.

Green schools may be a hard sell

Even with the energy cost savings, green buildings may still be a hard sell in rural, poorer districts, that don’t have the tax base to construct anything above the bare minimum, according to S.C. School Boards Association spokesman Debbie Elmore.

Elmore said this is a touchy subject, as the amount the state puts forward for construction is “minuscule” and shrinking, with most, if not all, money for new schools and retrofits coming from local tax coffers.

Elmore called for legislators like Leventis and Brannon to put forward bills offering incentives to school districts wanting to go green and to create an additional infrastructure bank for smaller districts to dip into for these kind of projects.

Crystal ball:  As the state’s economy continues to recover, there will be more money, and potentially legislative support, for greener schools. But education will have to come first. People will just have to get over uninformed sticker-shock fears before communities can reap the benefits of big-time energy savings.

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

RECENT NEWS
Legislative Agenda

No major meetings

With the winter holiday season upon us, the legislature has no major meetings scheduled next week.

Radar Screen

Countdown to a showdown

Expect legislators to become more aggressive with Gov. Nikki Haley, a lightning rod for criticism across the state the last two weeks, at the end of March. That’s when lawmakers will know whether they’ll face reelection opponents. And that’s when the gloves will come off, as no legislators, err ... incumbent, wants to anger her tea party supporters at this time.

Palmetto Politics

Haley's comet

Gov. Nikki Haley is having a hard time when it comes to transparency.

Last week, a Winthrop poll showed her with lower job approval numbers than President Obama. The legislature is still roiling on her role in the DHEC board granting a water-use permit for the Savannah River to the state of Georgia, which may later affect business levels at South Carolina’s ports. And this week, it came to light that her office did not include emails in response to a Freedom of Information Act request earlier this year from The Post and Courier newspaper in Charleston. That paper was trying to find out her role in affecting the work done by a supposedly independent panel looking into whether the state should take part in federal health care reform.

But a subsequent and similar request of one of her cabinet agencies uncovered an email from the governor that stated that the “whole point of this commission should be to figure out how to opt out and how to avoid a federal takeover, NOT create a state exchange”  before the panel ever met.

When asked by reporters this week why her office didn’t include that email, Haley simply did not respond, or meet reporters’ eyes. For an indication of the chill emanating from the governor, see this video:


Proofreader needed

You’d think that the S.C. Democratic Party would be more careful with their spelling in press releases after last week’s huge faux pas in which they referred to Beaufort County as “Buford County.”

Nope.  The grammar gremlins were around for Dems this week in a news release about Gov. Nikki Haley’s first year.  See if you can find the mistake in this sentence:  “South Carolinians are accustom to living though devastation like General Sherman and Hurricane Hugo.”

Maybe we’re spoiled, but we’re accustomed to better grammar.

Commentary

Letter to Santa: Help South Carolina

By Andy Brack, editor and publisher

DEC. 16, 2011 -- Here’s a letter from the State of South Carolina:

Dear Santa,

Through the years, you’ve heard about South Carolina’s lingering challenges -- a public education system that needs help, persistent poverty, increasing political partisanship, multiple health issues and an antiquated tax system. But you know our state has a lot of good people who want to move beyond how things are and make things better.

This year as you fly around the globe, please consider dropping a few gifts from Walhalla and Rock Hill to Columbia, Myrtle Beach and Jasper County to help things move along in the halls of state government so people in our state can prosper.

Long-term vision. Please inspire our state’s leaders to look beyond short-term political gains and act in a bipartisan manner to reform the state’s tax code. Help them get rid of billions of unnecessary sales tax exemptions to lower our tax burden or better fund necessary programs in education and health care. When faced with overwhelming problems, our state’s leaders seem to put on blinders and focus on small things, not big. The gift of long-term vision will help them.

Focus. Gov. Nikki Haley and her team have rightly focused on bringing thousands of jobs to our state, but South Carolina still has one of the nation’s highest unemployment rates. Help the governor and legislature look beyond manufacturing giants and develop strategies to grow small businesses too. Every election year, politicians tout how small businesses are the backbone of the state’s economy, but they seem to do little that is practical to really help small businesses grow.

Transparency. Haley, however, is mired in escalating criticism over her administration’s transparency. Help the governor mature and become a better leader, not a mute “deer in the headlights,” as one story this week described her reaction to media inquiries. In the near future, things probably are going to get worse for Haley than better, especially with members of her own party swooping in to feast on her foibles. But if you could help wave a wand of more transparency on everyone in government, our state would be better off.

Grace. Please give the spirit of grace to state Superintendent of Education Mick Zais, who, with his minions, seems to want to partisanize education. Remind his leadership team remember that students are not pawns in an ideological game. They need real help -- including any money that the federal government wants to invest in education here. Additionally, please help state legislators invest more in education, particularly early childhood programs that are proven to pay off big dividends in the future.

Responsibility. Environmental degradation of the Savannah River is a very real possibility if miles of deepening is allowed to move forward. Please help people across the state by showering the gift of responsibility on those who want to deal away our natural heritage. We need to act responsibly today so we can leave our earth a better place than we found it.

Wisdom. Help the lemmings of the legislature better understand how state government works so they can step away from easy solutions often offered by cynics. With an eye to the big picture, they can develop innovative solutions to big problems. They can inspire others. They can start leading.

Duty. As influential Republican backer John Rainey noted in recent weeks, we’re South Carolinians and Americans first, not Democrats, Republicans or independents. Our leaders have a duty to do what’s right for everyone in the state, not just friendly campaign donors or big businessmen with big promises. 

Forgiveness. Help us work together by granting the gift of forgiveness to warring cliques across our Palmetto State. If we can stop bickering with each other, maybe we can work together better in the future.

Common sense. When you shimmy down chimneys in the Palmetto State, leave packages of common sense for all to help us work better together.

Success. Founding father Benjamin Franklin highlighted a key to future success when he said, “Idleness and pride tax with a heavier hand than kings and parliaments. If we can get rid of the former, we may easily bear the latter.”

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

Spotlight

The South Carolina Education Association

The public spiritedness of our underwriters allows us to bring Statehouse Report to you at no cost. This week's spotlighted underwriter is The South Carolina Education Association (The SCEA), the professional association for educators in South Carolina. Educators from pre-K to 12th grade comprise The SCEA. The SCEA is the leading advocate for educational change in South Carolina. Educators in South Carolina look to The SCEA for assistance in every aspect of their professional life. From career planning as a student to retirement assessment as a career teacher, The SCEA offers assistance, guidance, and inspiration for educators. Learn more: TheSCEA.org.
My Turn

A new app for political campaigns

Technology developed in SC to launch next week

By Dr. Gordon Jones
Special to Statehouse Report

DEC. 16, 2011 -- My first foray into South Carolina politics was as a student of the University of South Carolina as an officer of the USC Young Republican and a volunteer on Henry McMaster’s first public office bid for lieutenant governor (you guess the year.) I was also fortunate enough to represent USC in the South Carolina Collegiate Student Legislature and the state of South Carolina as a senator to the United States Intercollegiate Congress (where we created a Southern Coalition and threatened secession) – all lots of fun!

One of the things I remember most as a volunteer campaigner was always talking about how we best spread the word about our candidate, muster the troops and get the vote out on Election Day. Well, back then, it was all traditional TV and radio advertising, phone banks, stuffing envelopes for mailings, and placing campaign posters strategically surrounding our competitors’ signs in the median or street corner throughout the district.

As we all know today, much of that tradition is still with us but augmented with the greatest of new networking tools such as Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, etc. (just ask the Obama team) and some really cool mobile and Web-based applications that are  very useful for gaining the attention of voters. For reasons that are too long to write about here, I have created a mobile application called WikiObserver.  It is a new micro-video a crowd-sourcing app at taps into a smartphone’s capabilities, including GPS functionality, to effectively engage an audience on the go.

We created WikiObserver to let people “show and tell” where and what they are up to using their iPhone or Android mobile device and share it immediately with their friends and family via Twitter, Facebook and email. We have developed many categories of reports including Outdoor Adventures, On Campus, At Work, Parties, Utilities, and most importantly Emergency Reports. We even have a special Christmas category (notice the Santa Pin below) to celebrate our launch coming next week!  

 

I have specifically developed a category for political campaigns to video events happening at campaign rallies, and when the politician is attending a town hall meeting, is out in the district, or at the capitol working.

My questions to you are:

  • “Do you think you would find these mobile apps useful to your campaigns?”

  • “Can such an app be an effective tool in helping you get the word out to your constituents and prospective voters?”

I believe this article will be out before we get the Web, iPhone and Android apps out to the public, but if you are interested to learn more and stayed tuned, please send an email to gordon@wikiobserver.com and I will make sure to let you know when everything is available the week of Dec. 19.

Dr. Gordon Jones of Aiken County, a graduate of The Citadel, USC and MUSC, has been working for 20 years to bring new technologies into U.S. health care and emergency management. He is founder of GuardianWatch.com, a mobile app development company. 

Scorecard

Four up, three down

Economy. Year-to-date overall state tax collections are up 4.8 percent compared to last year’s numbers. More.

Diversity. It is truly an era of the melting pot in South Carolina, as this week, the state’s Indian female governor, Nikki Haley, endorsed a Yankee Mormon -- former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney -- for president. (But after the week and poll numbers she’s enjoyed, does Romney want it?)

Protesters. A judge has ruled that Occupy the Statehouse can camp out at the Statehouse. More.

Boeing. The National Labor Relations Board has dropped its complaint against the aerogiant in South Carolina. More.

Transparency. It came to light this week that Gov. Nikki Haley had not included potentially important emails she had sent to and received from her staffers regarding her role in directing a supposedly independent panel looking into alternatives to enrolling in the federal health care reform. And this from the candidate who campaigned on transparency? More fallout expected. More.

SLED. The FBI sanctioned the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division for not properly monitoring its criminal records, and could block the agency from access to national criminal databases, which could mean SLED might miss out on crucial information on criminals wanted in other states. More.

Taxes. The state, already missing out on $2.7 billion annually because of existing sales tax exemptions, is also missing out on $400 million annually because it won’t raise the its gas tax. More.

Stegelin

La la la la laaaa, la laa laa laaaa


Also from Stegelin: 12/9 | 12/2 | 11/25 | 11/18
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/.