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ISSUE 11.09
Mar. 02, 2012

RECENT ISSUES:
10/10 | 10/03 | 9/26 | 9/19

Index

News :
Golden years
Legislative Agenda :
Restructuring, budget on tap
Radar Screen :
Battle lines
Palmetto Politics :
No safe harbor
Commentary :
The $700 million problem
Spotlight :
ACLU of South Carolina
Feedback :
Enjoyed article about modern South
Scorecard :
From exports to Ard, Sponseller
Stegelin :
Not buying it
Megaphone :
Remote control
Tally Sheet :
Several key bills introduced
Encyclopedia :
Early baseball in SC

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NUMBER OF THE WEEK

21 percent

That’s how much the state’s exports grew in 2011, compared to 2010.   Just how much stuff did we export?  Almost $25 billion in goods to 198 countries, according to press reports.  More.

MEGAPHONE

Remote control

“She has told me she’s going to be there (in Columbia) the majority of the time.”

-- State Sen. Gerald Malloy (D-Darlington), commenting on why he voted to confirm Catherine Templeton to become the next head of the state Department of Health and Environmental Control, despite her request she be allowed to work from her offices in the Charleston area. More.

TALLY SHEET

Several key bills introduced

Mixed in with the dozens of congratulatory resolutions introduced this week were several major bills. Of key interest:

Mammograms. S. 1266 (Lourie) would require supplemental coverage for breast ultrasound screening if a mammogram reflected certain conditions, with several provisions.

School district choice. S. 1267 (Hayes) calls for a school district Choice program and open enrollment within the state’s public school system, with many provisions including a voluntary pilot testing program.

Retirement benefits. H. 4898 (Merrill) seeks to change the way retirement benefits are calculated for some members of the SC Retirement System, with several provisions.

School report cards. H. 4904 (Bingham) would allow the state Department of Education to stop printing District and School report cards and replace them with information provided online, with several provisions.

DUI rules. H. 4907 (Cole) calls for changing some driving under the influence laws that requires recording of a person’s conduct, with several other provisions.

Cockfighting. H. 4914 (Long) would increase penalties for cockfighting, but keep minors from being charged under certain sections.

Missing persons. H. 4931 (Mack) would create a Missing Person Information Center, with several provisions.

Penn Center. H. 4932 (Hodges) is a House resolution to congratulate the Penn Center on St. Helena Island for its 150th birthday.

Straight-party voting. H. 4937 (Funderburk) would eliminate straight-party voting.

Donations. H. 4938 (Funderburk) would prohibit lobbyists’ principals from offering, making or facilitating a campaign contribution for the first six months of a year.

Coyotes, armadillos, feral hogs. H. 4943 (Lowe) would allow hunting of the animals on private property at night.

Telemedicine. H. 4944 (Crawford) would enact the SC Telemedicine Insurance Reimbursement Act,” with several provisions, including requirement that the provider be reimbursed the same as an in-person visit.

Internet registration. H. 4945 (Funderburk) would allow people to register to vote online, with several provisions.

ENCYCLOPEDIA

Early baseball in SC

Union troops introduced baseball to South Carolina during the late stages of the Civil War. The game soon blossomed into a major social and athletic event in many rural and urban communities during Reconstruction. Both Columbia and Charleston formed local teams that played against the northern occupation forces. By the time Wade Hampton III became governor in 1877, the game was firmly established. In a game played the following year in Charleston between the “Carolinas” and the “Palmettoes,” attendance was so large that fans disrupted play by crowding onto the field. Spectators’ interest also included wagers on their favorite side.

By 1886 professionalism had come to South Carolina’s game. Charleston’s Southern Association team reportedly paid its players as much as $2,000. Its biggest rivals in these early years were Georgia teams. Some Charleston fans even paid 15¢ to follow away games telegraphed, play-by-play, into Hibernian Hall. Amateur and semiprofessional baseball had equally large followings. By 1889 Camden was the site of a “flourishing Base Ball Association owning a park where the best amateur games of the State are played.” Two years earlier, a lively game in Greenwood between the “Columbias” and the “Greenvilles” was so competitive that a riot nearly ensued after the Greenville team won, 7 to 6.

By the end of the nineteenth century, some of the state’s most loyal baseball fans were found in South Carolina’s mill villages. In the 1870s and 1880s, when the textile industry began taking root in the upstate, mill-sponsored baseball clubs emerged, and they were thriving by the start of the twentieth century. Initially, mill teams consisted of the best players in each local workforce. But as the rivalries between mill towns grew, owners sought better talent and recruited talented players from outside the community, sometimes snatching the best players from rival mills. Mill baseball provided textile communities with both entertainment and a source of pride.

One of the earliest mill champions was the Piedmont team led by Champ Osteen. In 1899, after beating most of the local opposition, the Piedmont squad received a challenge from a team from Augusta, Georgia, which they also defeated. Until the twentieth century, mill leagues were informal and focused on local tournaments and other games throughout the summer months. Some of the first organized mill leagues appeared in 1908 with the formation of the South Carolina Mill League and the Greenville Mill League.

During the next half-century, regional mill leagues developed throughout the upstate and the Midlands, including teams from Anderson to Gaffney and Graniteville to Winnsboro. Hundreds and sometimes thousands of fans attended local games. Hotly contested matches sometimes led to fights both on and off the field. Perhaps the greatest triumph for any mill town came in 1936, when the Spartanburg American Legion team won the state’s first national championship in any sport by defeating a Los Angeles team in a five-game series (some twenty thousand fans attended the fifth and deciding game). Mill leagues continued to thrive into the post–World War II era. But by the early 1950s, automobiles and televisions undermined mill league baseball’s following. Attendance dwindled, and by the early 1960s the textile leagues had virtually ceased to exist.

(To be continued ...)

-- Excerpted from the entry by Fritz Hamer. 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

Golden years

House subcommittee works to protect state coffers, retirees

By Bill Davis, senior editor

MARCH 2, 2012 -- A new bill introduced this week in the House could outline a blueprint for how the legislature will change the state retirement system’s structure to make it more solvent.

MerrillFormer Majority Leader Jim Merrill (R-Daniel Island) is the primary author on the bill that was created in a series of meetings of an ad hoc committee he chaired for the better part of the past year.

Last week, the House leadership ended the committee’s ad hoc status, making it a full permanent subcommittee under the Ways and Means Committee.

What the bill would do

The bill that emerged, H. 4898 has received praise and criticism.

The current retirement system includes more than a half-million people and is valued at $22 billion. Not just state employees can join the retirement system, as enrollment has been extended to municipal workers, such as police officers, and teachers.

Currently the retirement system has an unfunded mandate of somewhere between $13 and $17 billion, depending on which state official’s numbers are being used.

The bill calls for returning to two past retirement practices that changed over the last decade. The first would be once again to require new hires to work 30 years, instead of the current 28, before becoming fully vested in the program and able to receive full benefits. [updated for accuracy, 3/6/12]

The second would be to reduce the expected rate of return on investments would once again drop to a more conservative 7.5 percent from the current 8 percent.

The new bill also makes other changes. First, new hires would not be able to take part in the TERI program, which allows vested employees to “retire” from their positions and receive retirement benefits while continuing to work in their original jobs.

And second, new hires, under the bill, would have to wait until they were 62 to begin receiving benefit checks.

The sliver of the bill that may receive the most scrutiny when it is debated, perhaps as early as Tuesday on the House floor, is the provision that does away with the current 1-percent annual cost of living adjustment for retirees already receiving benefits.

In its place will be what has been termed a “benefits adjustment” that is driven by an economic formula. It could, according to committee member Jim Battle (D-Nichols), mean retirees would get extra money when returns on investments were higher.  But it also would mean that they would not get more money if investments didn’t earn a certain level.

Merrill bridled at the suggestion that state retirement enrollees would be paying in more, waiting longer to get benefits and getting less in return. He said it was unsustainable for a system that pays out benefits for people living on average 30 years after retirement while only paying in 28 years.

With this bill, born of the committee’s work and recommendations, Merrill argues there will be a solvent retirement system for generations to come.

Critics say problem isn’t dire

The S.C. State Employee Association has stated it does not believe the situation with the retirement system is as “dire” as it has been portrayed, pointing to the nearly 15 percent it made on return on investment last year and the nearly 18 percent it is earning this fiscal year.

Wayne Bell, a retired social worker from Lancaster and president of the State Retirees Association of South Carolina, said he didn’t “have a dog in the hunt” when it comes to new hires and their retirement benefits.

But, he said he was worried about the overall financial health of the system itself, and was particularly disappointed by what he thought was the “gambling man’s” solution to the issue of “COLAs,” or cost of living adjustments.

If the bill passes through the legislature in its current form, then Bell says his “guaranteed” 1-percent COLA will be replaced with the benefit adjustment that, he admitted, could bring him more money in the long run if the stock markets cooperates.

“But I’m not a gambling man; gamblers don’t get into social work or government,” he said.

Bell did allow that he thought this was a good bill that had received bipartisan support and work. In fact, every vote the ad hoc committee had taken was unanimous. He and other retirees knew something had to happen, and outside of his COLA, is generally pleased.

Battle pointed out that current state workers would, under the bill, still be able to retire by June 30 and still reap the advantages of the current system, which allows for more easily increasing the final years of pay through cashing-in vacation time.

Battle admitted there would be concern on how long that some classes of retirees would have to wait before receiving benefits – like the teacher who started working at 22, retired at 52, and would have to wait 10 years before receiving benefits.

“But in this case, timing was of the essence,” said Battle. “To do nothing, to kick the can down the road, would be disastrous for the state.”

Bell pointed out that demographics are playing havoc with the retirement system, too, just like it has done with the federal government’s Social Security program.

“I’m one of the first of the ‘baby boomer’ generation to retire,” said Bell, 63, and that over the next two decades, state employees making relatively high salaries will be retiring, only to be replaced by workers making considerably less, and less able to contribute to the retirement system.

Crystal ball: This might be the best piece of governance to emerge from this year’s legislative session. There’s nothing sexy about investment charts and retiree benefits and demographics, but in an election year Merrill and company have moved swiftly and smartly in putting together a bill that can eradicate a problem before it becomes unsolvable. And compared to the wedge issue-laden agendas lying around the Statehouse, that makes the work even more impressive. By comparison, the Senate merely attached its version of retirement reform to a bill that would create a new Department of Administration.

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

RECENT NEWS
Legislative Agenda

Restructuring, budget on tap

The House will return to the floor next week to further hash out restructuring the Department of Transportation, which stalled on the floor last week. Look for the budget to hit the floor of the House the following week.

In the Senate, subcommittees working on that chamber’s version of the state budget have begun to meet. On the floor of the Senate, a bill to direct more state funds to charter schools will return for more debate.

Also on tap in committees: Ending open primaries, tort reform and small business. More:

  • House Education. The full committee will meet at 3 p.m. on Tuesday in 433 Blatt to discuss DMV-related bills. Agenda.

  • Senate Judiciary.   The full committee will meet 3 p.m. Tuesday in 105 Gressette to take several subcommittee reports, including bills on streamlining government, home invasion protection, drivers’ licenses, DUIs and more. Agenda.

  • Senate Judiciary. A subcommittee will meet Wednesday at 9 a.m. in 308 Gressette to discuss an anti-abortion/right-to-life bill. Agenda.

  • Senate Finance. A subcommittee will meet Wednesday at 9 a.m. in 207 Gressette to begin budget hearings, taking requests from the departments of Mental Health, and Health and Human Affairs. Agenda.

  • House LCI. The full committee will met Wednesday at 9 a.m. in 403 Blatt to discuss a short agenda of bills related to small business. Agenda.

  • House Ethics. A subcommittee will meet at 9 a.m. Wednesday in 516 Blatt to discuss a bill that would close the state’s open primaries. Agenda.

  • Senate LCI. A subcommittee will meet Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. in 105 Gressette to discuss bills that would affect employee rights and unemployment benefits. Agenda.
  • Senate Judiciary. A subcommittee will meet Thursday at 9 a.m. in 209 Gressette to discuss a tort reform bill. Agenda.
Radar Screen

Battle lines

Look for battle lines in the House, and on its Judiciary Committee, to be split between two Judiciary Committee members next year to replace Jim Harrison (R-Columbia) as chairman: Conservative anti-abortion Greg Delaney (R-Chester) and more mainstream conservative Bruce Bannister (R-Greenville).

Palmetto Politics

No safe harbor

Gov. Nikki Haley continues to get battered over her cabinet agency approving Georgia’s dredging permit for the Savannah River. Last week, Haley vetoed a unanimous bill from the legislature that would strip her cabinet of the ability to permit dredging, which critics say will hamper the effort to expand the state’s port facilities in Charleston. This week, the House voted in near-unanimity to override her veto, 111-1. The Senate voted 39-0 to override Haley’s veto.

Changing of the guard

House Judiciary Committee chairman Jim Harrison (R-Columbia) announced this week that he would not seek reelection to his seat in the next election. Harrison had been an outside candidate to replace Speaker Bobby Harrell (R-Charleston).

Two names have jumped to the front to replace him as chairman from within the committee, Reps. Greg Delleney and Bruce Bannister, according to sources. Bannister, a Greenville attorney, is the chair of the criminal laws subcommittee, has voted along mainstream party lines on subjects like voter ID, abortion and charter schools, but has refrained from voting on immigration and has voted for a tax increase. Chester attorney Delleney has already shown the ability to dominate Judiciary by inserting the abortion issue into the committee’s late-session agenda. Harrison will reportedly return to private practice full-time, as well as work with the House’s legislative counsel helping create final drafts of legislation for consideration.

In related news, Sen. Greg Ryberg (R-Aiken) chair of the Senate LCI Committee, announced that after two decades in office he would not see reelection. Ryberg, a staunch fiscal conservative and supporter of Gov. Mark Sanford’s positions, has consistently been seen as one of the “good guys” in the Senate, able to get along with those of different opinions and political leanings.

‘Chilling’ cooled

On Wednesday, the House returned a contentious voter participation bill to the Judiciary Committee for more debate. 

Critics claim the bill, H. 4549, could have a “chilling” effect on voter participation because it would impose stiff financial penalties on third-party groups conducting voter registration drives. Supporters, like author Rep. Alan Clemmons (R-Myrtle Beach), claim that the bill would increase voter participation by creating a more transparent process.

But critics contend the measure would greatly hinder nonpartisan groups, like the AARP and the League of Women Voters, from getting more citizens involved in the democratic process, as well as further marginalize minority voters. Clemmons’ bill has been lumped with other election-year and election-related bills that could limit voter participation.

Commentary

The $700 million problem

South Carolina's lack of commitment to education

By Andy Brack, editor and publisher

MARCH 2, 2012 -- Despite overwhelming evidence that investing more money in early childhood education will yield huge dividends in the lives of South Carolina’s children, the typical refrain from Republicans who lead the legislature is cold and disheartening: “Well, you just can’t keep throwing money at education. You just can’t.”

Ahem. Yes, you can. And yes, you should.

You can invest more money by paying teachers better than average. You can invest more to give them the support they need so they can teach. You can upgrade technology. And you can get rid of old schools that aren’t good enough to be used as warehouses. 

Yes, South Carolina’s leaders can do more for her children, more than a half million of whom live in poverty.

But what does the legislature do again, year after year? It tries to get education on the cheap. Why? It certainly doesn’t help that we rank 49th from the top in state and local tax burden and 50th in state tax collections per capita, according to the Tax Foundation. All of the wailing and moaning about high taxes in South Carolina is a bunch of ridiculous hooey. We have a stressed-out system of public education because our leaders aren’t bold enough to innovate or courageous enough to do what’s right for the 693,000 children in our schools.

If you asked a financial adviser to characterize a business strategy that relied on tucking away a little money every month for retirement, the adviser would immediately agree that it was a conservative business strategy.

If families can do that for retirement, why can’t our leaders invest in our people -- to ensure them a better chance in life, a chance that would pay off to all of us with lower rates of poverty, incarceration, drug use, welfare and on and on? 

A substantial investment in early childhood education -- making it possible for every 4-year-old in the state to attend some kind of pre-kindergarten program -- would pay off massively. If the state spent just 10 percent of its enormous $900 million in new revenues this year, it could guarantee pre-K programs across the state.

And look at the payoff in reducing poverty and giving more people a chance, according to the Riley Institute’s Don Gordon:

“The Pew Foundation uses national data to show that for every $10,000 spent on high quality pre-kindergarten programs which render children more ready for school and less likely to drop out, we save society a quarter of a million dollars in a dropout’s reduced contribution to society,” he told a group of state leaders at a late February conference.

Furthermore, “According to the Alliance for Excellent Education, if the number of male South Carolina students who graduated from high school increased by just 5 percent, our state’s economy could see a combination of crime-related savings and additional revenue of $151 million each year.”

Unfortunately, South Carolina legislators continue to underfund public education, year after year. State law requires K-12 education to receive “base student funding” calculated through a long-accepted formula that may be due for an overhaul.   But based on that formula over the last 20 years, state lawmakers have fully-funded education only five times.


Last year, for example, the formula called for $2,790 in base student funding, but lawmakers provided about two thirds of that with $1,880 in funding, an improvement because the original plan was for funding to be $1,788 per student. (They upped the formula funding by moving around some funds and adding some one-time monies.)

 For 2012-13, the House Ways and Means Committee is calling again for a base student cost of $1,788, which is $1,002 per student less than what is called for fully-funding education. If you extrapolate that to reflect the 693,431 students projected to be in public schools next year, lawmakers are considering a budget that would underfund South Carolina education by a whopping $694,817,862 less than the law requires.

Wow. And you wonder why South Carolina’s students lag the rest of the nation? Not investing $700 million a year certainly is one big reason. We can do better.

Andy Brack is publisher of Statehouse Report. You can reach Brack at: brack@statehousereport.com.

Spotlight

ACLU of South Carolina

The public spiritedness of our underwriters allows us to bring Statehouse Report to you at no cost. This week's spotlighted underwriter is the American Civil Liberties Union.  The ACLU of South Carolina’s National Office in Charleston is dedicated to preserving the civil liberties enshrined in the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights. Through communications, lobbying and litigation, the ACLU South Carolina’s National Office works to preserve and enhance the rights of all citizens of South Carolina.  Foremost among these rights are freedom of speech and religion, the right to equal treatment under law, and the right to privacy.  More:  http://www.aclusouthcarolina.org/
Feedback

Enjoyed article about modern South

To the editor:

Well, my son the history professor (Colby College in Maine) says I'm wrong about this [Darlington] area being more conservative than Greenville, and I keep thinking about it periodically. I suppose living in the "Furman bubble" for many years -- and watching the school change greatly during that time -- may be responsible for my misperception. Greenville changed, too, becoming much more cosmopolitan and shaking off much of the Bob Jones influence.

Here in Darlington, admittedly, the demographics are very different, and I think racism is still somewhat alive and well -- perhaps in part as a result? If I had an ACLU sticker, I would frankly be loathe to display it on my car (although not sure if I would have in Greenville either).

At any rate, I thoroughly enjoyed your article about the South's not being what it used to be; in fact, I forwarded the newsletter to the son in Maine (who would love to be living here rather than there) so he could read it. Keep up the good work.

-- Sarah Fallaw, Darlington, SC
Says only Southern if born here

To the editor:

I disagree with you, Andy [2/24: "American South is different than it used to be"].

1.  The South is always the South no matter who lives there.

2.  By the grace of God, I was born in South Carolina. I do not care where you came from. If you were not born here, you will never be a true South Carolinian. Just like if you are another race, you will never be white. If both your parents were not U.S. citizens and you are born in the USA, you will never be a natural-born citizen. Just because you live here does not make you a Southerner.

3. Southerner is a heritage, not because you or your parents moved here.

4. This is not racial, just pure fact and no one can ever make a law to change these facts.

-- David Whetsell, Lexington, SC

Drop us a line.  We love hearing from our readers and encourage you to share your opinions.  But you've got to provide us with contact information so we can verify your letters.
Letters to the editor 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.  Please include your name and contact information.

Scorecard

From exports to Ard, Sponseller

Exports. South Carolina now leads the nation in exporting cars and tires. More.

Redistricting. While there remains at least one more lawsuit over redrawing the state’s political boundaries following new 2010 U.S. Census data, it was largely as bloodless affair. Surprising. More.

Sponseller. Tom Sponseller’s suicide was bad enough; now, the investigation into the circumstances and the search for the hospitality lobbyist is making it, unfortunately, worse. More.

Ard. The ongoing criminal investigation into alleged ethical improprieties by Lt. Gov. Ken Ard (R) has dragged on so long that even Democrats are calling for the grand jury to wrap it up or turn it loose. More.

Stegelin

Not buying it


Also from Stegelin: 2/24 | 2/17 | 2/10 | 2/3
credits

Statehouse Report

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

Phone: 843.670.3996

© 2002 - 2014 , 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/.