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ISSUE 10.52
Dec. 30, 2011

12/04 | 11/27 | 11/20 | 11/13


News :
Top news for 2011
Palmetto Politics :
Neighborhood duds
Commentary :
2011 offers lesson for 2012 policy priorities
Spotlight :
S.C. Policy Council
My Turn :
South Carolina has bright spots in education
Scorecard :
Voter ID to "great day" to the Admin
Stegelin :
Video: Best of Stegelin 2011
Search :
Search our site
Megaphone :
It's been fun, but ...
Encyclopedia :
More on railroads

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Happy New Year!

Let us wish you a happy and safe 2012. With this issue, we’ve completed 10 full years of publishing Statehouse Report. Just as in our first issue, our goal is the same: to provide our hundreds of readers with a timely, weekly legislative forecast that outlines what’s going to happen in South Carolina policy and politics. 

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That’s the number of traffic fatalities through midnight Wednesday.  The number already tops the 803 traffic deaths from 2010. Twenty more people (102) died in motorcycle wrecks than in the previous year, while the state recorded 21 more pedestrian deaths (110) than in 2010. Motor vehicle deaths were at 560 as of Wednesday, compared to 592 at the same time the previous year. More.


It's been fun, but ...

"Since I have enjoyed this work and your friendship, this was not an easy decision. I know you're proud of how much has been accomplished on every front in 2011."

-- David Black, the former director of the S.C. Department of Insurance, in an email to employees about his resignation this week. No reason was given for the resignation. MoreAnd more.


More on railroads

(Continued from last week)

The last decades of the nineteenth century saw considerable railroad development. By the end of the century, South Carolina boasted nearly four thousand miles of track. These new lines, which reached every county, resulted from several railroad-building strategies. Interstate “system building,” which swept the region in the 1880s and 1890s, became the most important.

Three outside companies, the result of an array of corporate mergers, leases, and construction, became dominant: Atlantic Coast Line (ACL), Seaboard Air Line (SAL), and Southern (SRR). By World War I the ACL covered the Lowcountry, with its main line connecting Wilmington, North Carolina, with Savannah, Georgia, and serving Charleston and Florence. The SAL operated its principal stem between Hamlet, North Carolina, and Savannah, which served Columbia. This busy artery, made possible by the construction of ninety-one miles of new track between Cheraw and Columbia in 1900, largely superseded the earlier SAL route via Charleston. The main line of the Southern between Charlotte, North Carolina, and Atlanta, Georgia, sliced through the upstate with major facilities at Greenville and Spartanburg. But the SRR controlled a web of additional track that included the South Carolina Railroad and a Charlotte-Savannah line via Columbia.

Even though system building dominated, some earlier and even later short-lines remained outside the orbits of the “Big Three.” The Pickens Railroad, for example, chartered in 1892 to build a nineteen-mile road between Easley and Olenoy Gap via Pickens, in 1898 completed only a ten-mile segment between Pickens and Easley, where it connected with the SRR. The Pickens remains an independent short-line.

Another illustration is the Lancaster & Chester Railway. This twenty-nine-mile short-line, which still served the communities of its corporate name as of the early twenty-first century, began in 1873 as the Cheraw & Chester Railway, one of only three narrow-gauge common carriers built in South Carolina. Although planned as a fifty-five-mile route between Lancaster and Cheraw, the company, like the Pickens Railroad, failed to realize its intended goals. After it was reorganized in 1896 as the Lancaster & Chester Railway, its owners wisely converted their property to standard gauge six years later and benefited from traffic generated from local cotton mills.

South Carolina experienced another type of short-line, the “tap” road. These pikes were usually not common carriers but were affiliates of a single industrial operation, likely associated with timber or turpentine production. Examples abound. In order to serve its mill in Summerville, the D. W. Taylor Lumber Company in 1880 built a fourteen-mile private railroad to reach stands of trees in the Wassamassaw Swamp of Berkeley County. Until abandonment in mid-1920s, this tap road expanded and contracted under various corporate banners.

The “Railway Age” in South Carolina lasted until after World War I. With greater usage of automobiles, buses, and trucks, which traveled over ever-improving public roads, the need for freight and passenger trains diminished. Yet, mileage did not shrink dramatically until the 1960s, eventually declining to fewer than 2,400 miles. The difficulty of winning regulatory permission to abandon lessened with the Transportation Act of 1958 and other legislative measures. Moreover, appendages and even secondary and main lines became less desired by major carriers as a result of corporate mergers, which affected every one of the state’s three primary railroads.

In 1967 the ACL and SAL combined to form the Seaboard Coast Line (SCL), and in 1980 SCL joined with the Chesapeake & Ohio system to create CSX. Then in 1982 the Southern merged with Norfolk & Southern, producing Norfolk Southern (NS). With development of two dominant carriers in South Carolina, CSX and NS, hundreds of unwanted miles were either abandoned or sold to existing or new short-line operators. The Waccamaw Coast Line Railroad is an example. In 1984 CSX wished to dispose of its fourteen-mile branch between Conway and Myrtle Beach. In order to continue movement of forest products and other bulk commodities, Horry County bought the line and leased it to the newly formed Horry County Railroad. Three years later the county leased the property to the Waccamaw Coast Line.

In the twenty-first century, railroads in South Carolina remained vital arteries of freight transport. The few remaining passenger trains, operated by the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak), created in 1971, served principal stations along the former ACL, SCL, and SRR.

-- Excerpted from the entry by H. Roger Grant. 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 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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Top news for 2011

A look back at our best news stories of the year

DEC. 30, 2011 -- Statehouse Report got its start 10 years ago to provide news and information that highlighted trends and focused attention on what’s ahead in South Carolina policy and politics.  Instead of just following the gaggle, we've tried to stay ahead of the headlines to provide useful news that educates as well as informs.

This year was no different. As the state got used to a new governor and her priorities, state legislators grappled with a budget made extra difficult with the specter of high unemployment casting a gloomy pall over South Carolina.  Statehouse Report was here, week after week, providing fresh insights into policy alternatives and their future impacts on the state’s citizens. 

With this end-of-the-year issue, here’s a quick look back at a dozen of our best news stories of 2011 by editor Bill Davis. If you missed any of them the first time around, you might learn something now!

Palmetto Politics

Neighborhood duds

We don’t know the folks in Massachusetts at, but they sure seem to have it in for South Carolina (See the site’s registration info.)

Twice this week, Upstate television stations used information from the site to generate negative stories about the state. 

First came the news report  that  Spartanburg was the nation’s 8th most violent city of 25,000 people or more.

Then came a story  that slammed South Carolina for its schools, saying that 74 of the 100 worst-performing schools in the country were in the Palmetto State.

That, friends, is just hard to believe and stretches all credibility for the site and its ratings. Our schools don't rank high nationally, but there are scores of bad schools across the South and other parts of the country.  Pinning the bulk of them on South Carolina is just plain wrong.

Our advice: Read Phil Noble’s My Turn piece below about bright spots in South Carolina education and just ignore And keep visiting Sparkle City -- especially its Beacon Drive-In, home of one of the best chili cheeseburgers in the nation (something on which Republicans and Democrats can agree!)

2011 offers lesson for 2012 policy priorities

An end-of-the-year review of our annual Palmetto Priorities

DEC. 30, 2011 -- Wow. Talk about a one-two federal punch that landed on South Carolina.

On the Thursday before Christmas, a federal judge blocked three major parts of a poll-driven, controversial immigration law that Statehouse conservatives pushed for two years in spite of budget shortfalls and high unemployment. The next day, the U.S. Justice Department said it wouldn’t put up with the state’s new photo identification law for voting because it was what critics argued: discriminatory.

In just two days, these “banner accomplishments” celebrated widely by conservative state legislators fell victim to the narrow-minded agenda they buttressed.

There’s a lesson to be learned. Instead of spending countless hours on controversial issues inherently designed to whip up partisanship, divide South Carolinians and score vapid political points, South Carolina’s legislators should work on a consensus agenda to help the state’s residents.

So we again offer Palmetto Priorities, our sweeping list of bipartisan policy objectives first outlined three years ago as a map for legislators to use to work together to make significant changes for  a better South Carolina.  Each priority below also includes a progress report.

JOBS. Develop a Cabinet-level post dedicated to adding and retaining 10,000 small business jobs per year. While the state announced thousands of new manufacturing jobs in 2011, there still is no real plan to grow small business jobs, generally cited by politicians as a backbone of the state’s economy.

SAFETY.Cut the state’s violent crime rate by one-third by 2016.  While there’s no major policy progress in reducing violence against women, cutting hate crimes and moving away from a “lock ‘em up and throw away the key” mentality, the state’s violent crime rate is 5th nationally, down from first two years earlier.

EDUCATION. Cut the state’s dropout rate in half by 2015. Improving graduate rates and cutting dropout rates appear to be a state priority, but turning away millions of dollars in federal aid makes many wonder whether educrats are just giving lip service to improvement while trying to score ideological victories.

HEALTH CARE. Ensure affordable and accessible health care that optimizes preventive care for every South Carolinian by 2015. With Gov. Nikki Haley seeming to decide an outcome for a state health exchange in advance of new federal health care improvements, progress on this objective is murky, at best. Good news: Some 30,000 South Carolinians have access to health care because young adults can stay on their parents’ health plan up to age 26.

ENVIRONMENT. Adopt a state energy policy that requires energy producers to generate 20 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2020. While there’s little state policy progress, the private sector is making inroads in reducing energy consumption.

TAX REFORM. In past years, we’ve had two tax objectives: removing outdated special interest sales tax exemptions and reforming the state’s tax structure by 2012. Now, we’re combining them into one because tax reform should be comprehensive. Lawmakers say they’re looking at changing some of the $2.7 billion in sales tax breaks, as recommended in 2011 by the Taxation Realignment Commission, as well as making other reforms, but the proof will be in the pudding. Only a year to go to fulfill this priority.

ELECTIONS. Increase voter registration to 75 percent by 2015. No progress. Instead of making voting more open, lawmakers tried to chill participation with the now-blocked voter ID law.

CORRECTIONS. Reduce the prison population by 25 percent by 2020 through creative alternative sentencing programs for non-violent offenders. No substantive progress, but there’s hope. The Corrections Department is no longer in the red.

ROADS. Strengthen all bridges and upgrade all state roads by 2015 through creative highway financing and maintenance programs. After a year in which the highway department couldn’t pay its bills on time and lawmakers said they wouldn’t raise the state’s low gas tax, there’s little hope for meeting this priority.

POLITICS. Have a vigorous two- or multi-party political system of governance. Democrats became more vocal in 2011. Now they should try to help govern. And the GOP, which really runs things, should be more inclusive in voices to which they listen.

Andy Brack is publisher of Statehouse Report.  He can be reached at:


S.C. Policy Council

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

South Carolina has bright spots in education

By Phil Noble
Reprinted with permission

DEC. 30, 2011 -- When it comes to education in our state, we expect bad news. We have all had that sinking feeling in the pit of our stomach when we pick up a newspaper or click on the local evening news and we see a story about education.

However, there is cause for celebration, really, because we have some ‘bright spots’ that prove we can do things right.

There are a lot of really smart folks who spend their time trying to figure out how to bring about breakthrough change and improvements – in education, in health care, in job creation, and in society in general. A common theme that runs through their work is to begin by focusing on what they call ‘the bright spots’, those examples of where things are done right, where progress is being made and where there are models that can be replicated on a larger scale.

There are many education bright spots in our state and here are just three big ones that we should all know about.

Two Top 100 High Schools: Recently US News and World Report magazine did a study of over one thousand top quality high schools in the country and came up with a list of the Top 100. South Carolina had two schools on the list; the Academic Magnet School in North Charleston was ranked 15th and the Governor’s School for Math and Science in Hartsville was 39th. Both of these schools had a 100 percent graduation rate and the average SAT score at the Governor’s school was ranked second. That’s right, the average SAT score of a South Carolina high school was the second highest of these Top 100 high schools in the county.

Some skeptics will say that these schools are highly selective and they get lots of attention and they don’t really give a fair picture of what is possible. There may be some truth in this but these schools’ performance is still impressive.

No Excuses Schools: If you were making another type of list with the school districts in the state that had the most going against them, Darlington schools would be on it . The Poverty Index is a whopping 81 percent, yet their overall ranking on the state’s District Report Card for 2010 was 12th out of 85 school districts.

Overall, the district rating was “excellent.” They have a four-year graduation rate of 88 percent and the parents are deeply involved, with 95 percent of parents attending conferences with teachers. And it’s not just about money — per pupil spending was $8,779 in the Darlington district or $361 below the state media average.

These stats are for a whole school district and not just one school – and the difference has been leadership. The district’s superintendent, Dr. Rainey Knight, has been providing strong leadership for eleven years and she has a “no excuses” philosophy of education. Clearly, these kids have a lot going against them but Knight believes in expecting a lot from her students and providing the support they need to succeed, not excuses.

SmartState is smart:  In 2002, the SmartState program was created by the legislature to recruit top quality researchers at Clemson, USC and the Medical University in Charleston in the hopes of spurring innovation, economic growth and jobs. It’s working. These schools receive state grants of $2 million to $5 million in state lottery funds per school that must be matched by private dollars. The program has created over 40 endowed chairs and Centers of Excellence to lead research teams in such fields as biomedicine, automotive engineering, advanced materials, future fuels and nanotechnology. This seed funding has generated over $1 billion in investment and created 7,000 jobs.

In simple dollars and sense, the return on investment has been tremendous and the jobs they are creating are knowledge and tech jobs that are focused on the industries that will help make South Carolina competitive in the global economy of the 21st century.

Success breeds success and these bright spots, and lot of others in the state, give us something to build on and to be proud of. We can replicate and expand these successes to all parts of our state – especially in those school districts that have suffered the most from years of neglect.

If we as a state are smart enough to focus on these bright spots, then perhaps the next time you see an education story in the news, instead of your stomach sinking with sadness, it will flutter with excitement.

Phil Noble is a businessman in Charleston and president of the SC New Democrats, a reform group started by former Gov. Richard Riley.


Voter ID to "great day" to the Admin

Voter ID. Thumbs up to the U.S. Department of Justice for blocking implementation of a controversial new law that would have required voters to show a photo ID to get to the polls. All along, proponents have said the law was needed because of voter fraud, of which there are basically no reported cases. Bottom line: This was a blatant attempt to chill voting, not make it easier. More.

“Great day.” It’s a great thing that Gov. Nikki Haley’s required telephone greeting by state agencies -- “It’s a great day in South Carolina” -- is getting national scrutiny. It’s not so great we again look like the Homer Simpson of states. More hereAnd here.

Haley administration. State Department of Insurance chief David Black resigned this week for unexplained reasons -- the latest black eye for the Haley administration. More.

Traffic fatalities. It’s not good news that traffic fatalities are up on South Carolina roads because of a spike in motorcycle and pedestrian deaths. Maybe it’s time to start looking at that helmet law. More.


Video: Best of Stegelin 2011

Also from Stegelin: 12/23 | 12/16 | 12/9 | 12/2

Statehouse Report

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

Phone: 843.670.3996

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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