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ISSUE 11.11
Mar. 16, 2012

RECENT ISSUES:
9/19 | 9/12 | 9/05 | 8/29

Index

News :
Musical chairs
Legislative Agenda :
Tax bills ahead
Radar Screen :
Sunshine ... on my shoulder
Palmetto Politics :
That was quick
Commentary :
SC provides job security for political columnists
Spotlight :
South Carolina Hospital Association
Feedback :
Great piece on governors
Scorecard :
Pink slime to slimed workers?
Stegelin :
Playing the part
Number of the Week :
$6,500,000,000.00
Megaphone :
What's next?
Tally Sheet :
Tax reform, wetlands bills
Encyclopedia :
J. Waties Waring, civil rights judge

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NUMBER OF THE WEEK

$6,500,000,000.00

That’s how big of a General Fund budget the S.C. House of Representatives passed unanimously this week, comprising less than a third of the proposed state’s $23 billion overall budget, with the rest being provided by federal dollars, as well as fines, fees and other funds. More.

MEGAPHONE

What's next?

“However, I cannot in good conscience offer for re-election to the Senate this year. The timing of this constitutional succession makes it impossible for me to consider any other course.”

-- Newly installed Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell, the former Republican senator from Charleston commenting this week in a press release on his decision to not run for re-election for his vacated Senate seat this year. McConnell succeeded Ken Ard, who stepped down from the lieutenant governor’s office last week in the wake of pleading guilty to seven state ethics violations.

TALLY SHEET

Tax reform, wetlands bills

Among the top bills introduced this week were several tax reform measures from the ad hoc House committee on tax reform and a return of a measure to protect isolated wetlands. Key new bills from the week:

McConnell portrait. S. 1327 (L. Martin) is a Senate resolution expressing appreciation to Glenn McConnell for his service to the Senate and for a portrait to be commissioned of him and put in the Senate chamber. S. 1345 (Ford) calls for McConnell to be able to keep his seniority if he is reelected to the Senate.

SCRA. S. 1331 (Leatherman) calls for clarification of financial responsibilities of the South Carolina Research Authority, more members, and several other provisions.

Ethics and elections. S. 1338 (Leatherman) would prohibit people from running for public office, including reelection, if they owe fines to the State Ethics Commission.

Budget. The House budget bill and capital reserve fund bill were introduced into the Senate and referred to the Finance Committee.

Tax reform. H. 4993 (Stringer) would change personal property tax exemption rates, with several provisions. H. 4994 (Stringer) would eliminate the 4, 5 and 6 percent tax brackets and tax income in those brackets now at 3 percent. It also would delete various sales tax exemptions to lower the sales tax rate and reenact a Joint Committee on Taxation. H. 4996 (Stringer) calls for a reduction in income tax rates on pass-through trade and business income to 3 percent. H. 4997 (Stringer) focuses on eliminating the 4-6 percent tax rates. H. 4998 (Stringer) would reduce real property assessment ratio on commercial and other real property from 6 percent to 5 percent. H. 4999 (Stringer) would eliminate the corporate income tax over four years.

Close the books. H. 5024 (Funderburk) would require a person leaving public office to file a closeout statement of economic interests.

Isolated wetlands. H. 5032 (Hardwick) calls for the SC Isolated Wetlands Act to establish procedures and criteria for the state to regulated so-called “isolated wetlands,” with several provisions.

ENCYCLOPEDIA

J. Waties Waring, civil rights judge

Julius Waites Waring was born in Charleston on July 27, 1880, the son of Edward Perry Waring, Charleston County superintendent of education, and Anna Thomasine Waties. Following primary and secondary schooling at Charleston’s private University School and an undergraduate education at the College of Charleston, he read law with the trial attorney J. P. Kennedy Bryan, a friend of his father. Waring passed the bar and began law practice in his native city. On October 30, 1913, Waring married Annie Gammell, a well-connected woman a year his senior. Two years later they moved into Annie Waring’s house at 61 Meeting Street in the elite section of Charleston south of Broad Street. The marriage produced one daughter.

Waring’s involvement in Democratic politics earned him an appointment in 1914 as assistant U.S. attorney for South Carolina’s eastern district, a post he held for the balance of the Woodrow Wilson administration. He then formed a law partnership with David A. Brockinton, which thrived in the 1920s but fell on relatively hard times during the Depression. Following the election of his political ally Burnet Rhett Maybank as Charleston’s mayor in 1931, Waring won appointment as corporation counsel, or city attorney.

In that position, Waring continued to maintain close political ties with Maybank, U.S. senator Ellison D. “Cotton Ed” Smith, and other powerful Democratic politicians. In late 1941, when the U.S. district judgeship became vacant in Charleston, Maybank, by now a U.S. senator, helped to engineer President Franklin Roosevelt’s nomination of Waring for the position. “Cotton Ed” also supported Waring, and on January 20, 1942, the Senate confirmed the choice without objection.

Waring’s first two years as judge of the federal district court for South Carolina’s eastern district were largely uneventful. In 1944, however, he began handing down decisions equalizing the salaries of black and white teachers, ordering the state to desegregate its law school or create an equal facility for blacks, and rebuffing South Carolina’s efforts to salvage its all-white Democratic primary. The judge’s rulings angered white South Carolinians. In addition, his 1945 divorce from his wife of more than thirty years, followed almost immediately by his marriage to Elizabeth Hoffman, a twice-divorced northern matron, enraged his family and former friends.

Waring later attributed what he called his growing “passion for justice” to his new wife’s liberalizing influence and the increased awareness of southern racism he acquired on the federal bench. But white Charlestonians, including his nephew Tom, the editor of the Charleston News and Courier, contended that the judge was simply seeking revenge against a society that had refused to accept his divorce and second wife.

Whatever Waring’s motivation, he and Elizabeth broke completely with his segregationist past. They entertained prominent blacks in the Meeting Street house the judge had purchased from Annie Waring, spoke to African American and racially mixed audiences in Charleston and throughout the nation, and scorned the “decadence” of the white southern “slavocracy.” Unabashed racists were not the only targets of their wrath. Most southern liberals favored improvement in the economic conditions of blacks as a prelude to desegregation. Such “gradualists,” the Warings charged, were even worse than avowed segregationists. When two members of a three-judge district court, in Briggs v. Elliott (1951), rejected a challenge to South Carolina’s segregated public schools, Judge Waring registered a vehement dissent, declaring, several years before the Supreme Court’s Brown ruling, that segregation was “per se inequality.

Well before his Briggs dissent, the Warings had become pariahs in his native state. Responding to petitions from thousands of constituents, L. Mendel Rivers and other members of South Carolina’s congressional delegation campaigned unsuccessfully for the judge’s impeachment. A cross was burned on their lawn and their house stoned in incidents that white Charlestonians attributed to teenage pranksters but that the judge and Elizabeth—taunted as the “witch of Meeting Street” by locals—declared to be the work of the Ku Klux Klan.

In 1952 Judge Waring—eligible for retirement at full pay and increasingly disenchanted at the prospects for southern racial reform—retired from the bench, and he and Elizabeth departed Charleston for a life of “exile” in New York City. There they enjoyed for a time the adulation denied them by most white South Carolinians and were active in a variety of civil rights efforts. But they also remained contemptuous of the fainthearted in such struggles.

Judge Waring died on January 11, 1968. Elizabeth died in late October of that year. His body was returned to Charleston for burial, which was attended by more than two hundred blacks but fewer than a dozen whites. But time and politics healed wounds and blurred memories. White politicians began vying for black votes, and some of the Warings’ African American friends became active in the community’s civic affairs. In 1981 a sculpture honoring Judge Waring’s memory was placed in the city council chamber, overlooking the federal courthouse in which he had once presided.

-- Excerpted from the entry by Tinsley E. Yarbrough. 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

Musical chairs

Leadership in the Senate is on the move

By Bill Davis, senior editor

MARCH 16, 2012 – South Carolina’s 2010 statewide election was supposed to shake up the status quo in Columbia with “outsider” Nikki Haley ascending from the House doghouse to the Governor’s Mansion.

And in a way it did, as it also cemented the tea party’s faithful some spots in the Senate’s back row. But that shake-up didn’t compare in breadth and depth that the stepping down of Ken Ard from the office of lieutenant governor caused over last week.

Ard’s resignation and subsequent guilty plea to seven counts of state ethics violations kicked off an epic game of musical chairs.  Many argue Ard’s resignation hastened more change than Haley’s election.

Implicit in the state Constitution and required by statute, Senate President Pro Tempore Glenn McConnell (R-Charleston) was supposed to succeed Ard -- which he did, but not before much handwringing as to if he would and how long he would stay in the office.

Some worried that McConnell, a master of parliamentary procedure and the Senate rules, would install a patsy as president pro tem, resign his position -- but not his elected seat -- and return quickly to the top of the Senate heap.

But when that didn’t happen, wagging tongues and rumors started again -- that McConnell would run for his Senate seat again. State Sen. Robert Ford, D-Charleston, even put in a bill this week that proposed for McConnell to keep his seniority if reelected.

McConnell, however, stanched the gossip Thursday when he issued a statement that said he would stay on as lieutenant governor through the current 2012 election cycle and would not seek reelection to the Senate. 

Incidentally, candidates for his office have until the end of the month to declare for the regularly scheduled election for his office, and those wishing to run for the rest of his unexpired term can announce beginning March 30.

Several senators, both Democratic and Republican, said McConnell’s health played a role in his decision to leave the Senate. McConnell spent several weeks at home and in the hospital in Charleston after “insect bites” reportedly caused him severe problems.

McConnell, busy all week moving and taking meetings in his new digs, could not be reached for comment.

With McConnell now only in the Senate as presiding officer (the major constitutional role of any lieutenant governor) and out of its leadership, two positions were open -- president pro tem and chair of the Judiciary Committee. Longtime GOP ally Sen. Larry Martin was quickly voted into McConnell’s former spot as the head of Judiciary.

Sen. John Courson (R-Columbia) was elected President Pro Tempore over Majority Leader Harvey Peeler (R-Gaffney) with the help of substantial support from Democratic senators.

Martin, who is not a college graduate according to his Statehouse bio, had been the chair of the Rules Committee. By becoming Judiciary chair and vacating his slot on Rules, Sen. Jake E. Knotts (R-W. Columbia) being elected chairman of Rules.

Courson can remain chair of the Senate Education Committee while president pro tempore, as McConnell did as chair of Judiciary.

New Jack City

But what the vote for Courson over Peeler showed, according to observers and senators not wanting their names attached to their comments, is that a coalition is forming between Democrats and mainstream-Chamber of Commerce Republicans. Democrats voted overwhelmingly for Courson, with a majority of Republicans trying to carry the day for Peeler.

Sen. Phil Leventis, the lone wolf Democrat from Sumter who is also retiring at the end of this session, spoke about the oddly growing collegiality between Democrats and mainstream Republicans. Leventis, who often stood alone in his positions in the Senate, said that a third party has emerged in the Senate.

Some call them the “tea party.” Leventis referred to them as “wing-nuts.” Others in the Senate and the Statehouse confirm growing concerns about the remnants of the Sanfordites, who are now loyal to Haley and the “tea party’s” conservative ethos.

As such, Leventis and others said to expect more cooperation between GOP regulars and the Democrats, especially with Sen. Brad Hutto (D-Orangeburg) expected to take over for the retiring Minority Leader John Land (D-Manning). “Brad is practical, in the best sense of the word,” said Leventis, adding that he hoped that some of the most strident “wing-nuts” don’t win reelection.

Paradigm shift

Ard’s resignation also resulted in another power shift in Columbia. Just a few years ago, the state’s governor, lieutenant governor, treasurer, House speaker and president pro tempore all called the Lowcountry home. Now, the Lowcountry is only home to McConnell and House Speaker Bobby Harrell (R-Charleston).

State Democratic Party chairman Dick Harpootlian has been hard at work with multiple press statements that seek to persuade the electorate to switch voting patterns after Ard’s career went down due to legal issues, as did former Treasurer Thomas Ravenel’s, and with allegations that Gov. Nikki Haley had fiscal improprieties on the campaign trail.

Symbolic and real

The departures of Land and Leventis will start a new game of musical chairs that will deliver Sen. John Matthews (D-Bowman) to the front row of the Senate chamber. Sitting on the front row physically represents how a senator is a member of senior leadership. With Matthews on the front row, it will be the first time a black member has sat there since Reconstruction, according to Leventis, who has the option of allowing Matthews to take his front-row seat this session.

Crystal ball:  Will Courson be able to control and manage the Senate as well as McConnell did? Several senators said no -- that Courson didn’t have the people or political skills that McConnell possesses. And where McConnell was fixated on the details and nuances of Senate procedures and rules, which he used to wield power, Courson is seen as more of a “big-picture guy” by several of his colleagues. But his stay may be short-lived, as McConnell, with 31 years in the Senate, could return in two and a half years when he fulfills the rest of Ard’s term.  Meanwhile, tongues will continue to wag.

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

Legislative Agenda

Tax bills ahead

With the budget debate over, look for discussion on the floor of the House to focus on a series of taxation-related bills (see Tally Sheet at right above). In committee work, smaller housekeeping issues will dominate.

The Senate will return, at least for the first of the week, to a bill that would expand and alter how charter schools are created, constructed, and funded.   The Senate is expected to take up the budget  at the end of April.

Also on tap:

  • House Ways and Means. A series of subcommittees will meet next week on Tuesday to discuss a series of bills regarding smaller tax issues. There are too many to succinctly list here. Go here to look for a full list.

  • House 3M. The full committee will meet Wednesday at 2:30 p.m. or an hour and a half after adjournment to discuss recommendations from subcommittees, including regulations for dieticians, lifeguards, massage therapists and more. Agenda.

  • House Education. The full committee will meet Wednesday at 9 a.m. in 433 Blatt to discuss recommendations from subcommittees, including measures on smoke-free college campuses and changing vehicle fees. Agenda.

  • House Judiciary. A subcommittee will met Thursday at 9 a.m. in 516 Blatt to discuss a series of bills that would make gold and silver legal tender in South Carolina, and would require families seeking financial assistance from the state undergo drug testing. Agenda.

Radar Screen

Sunshine ... on my shoulder

Even after “Sunshine Week” ends for local media to tout the importance of open records laws, look for more stories and editorials to continue to appear about governmental attempts to restrict what state and local governments are required to release to the public. Law enforcement will argue it will protect ongoing investigations. The media will argue that proposed changes will lead to protecting governmental mismanagement.

Palmetto Politics

That was quick

Despite warnings that roll-call votes would mire the process of passing a state budget, the House took just three days to pass a proposed $6.5 billion General Fund budget.

Late Wednesday, House unanimously approved a $23 billion package total budget for the upcoming fiscal year that would, if the Senate concurs, include 70,000 new poorer children in state health care programs, give teachers a 2-percent raise and put aside $180 million for three-fifths of the state share to deepen Charleston’s harbor. 

Even though the budget is now on its way to the Senate, the fight in the House over the budget isn’t over, as recommendations from a GOP ad hoc tax reform committee will be introduced in a series of bills in the House next week. Raises are expected to become a sticking point between the House plan and budget work already begun in the Senate, according to sources. House Speaker Bobby Harrell (R-Charleston) praised the work done, saying that it provided tax relief across the board, unlike the executive budget proffered by Gov. Nikki Haley, which, he said, only benefited certain businesses.

Fight! Fight! Fight!

House Democrats and Republicans clashed this week over how to spend $32 million, the state’s portion of a settlement in a nationwide lawsuit against big banks in the wake of the nation’s mortgage crisis of the past few years.

Republicans wanted all of the money to go to the state Department of Commerce for use as “closing” dollars, and to be used to help Commerce recruit and land big companies in the state. Democrats, led by a vocal Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter (R-Orangeburg), argued that the money should go toward shoring up families struggling to keep their homes. Their reasoning? The settlement money was only available because of the damage banks did to state homeowners. In the end, with nearly $300 million already set aside for statewide mortgage support, Republicans prevailed and sent all the money to Commerce.

Commentary

SC provides job security for political columnists

By Andy Brack, editor and publisher

MARCH 16, 2012 -- Pound for pound, South Carolina weighs in more than any other state for the amount of political intrigue and rascally scandal it serves up for free to the national press. By now, the Palmetto State has passed old stalwarts for disgrace like Louisiana and New York.

“Thank you, South Carolina,” comedian Jon Stewart says over and over and over like the Energizer bunny.

Just look what’s happened in the last few days in the latest installment of the political made-for-TV reality show called “South Carolina.” 

On March 9 after months of silence about what was going on with a criminal investigation of campaign shenanigans by Lt. Gov. Ken Ard, state officials engaged in his well-orchestrated resignation, indictment and sentencing within a matter of hours. 

Then Ard’s successor, Senate President Pro Tempore Glenn McConnell (R-McConnell) reluctantly took Ard’s place, an office with far less power than McConnell accumulated over 31 years in the Senate. Speculators whispered left and right about whether McConnell would finish the term and, instead, run to return to his Senate seat. By Thursday, McConnell quashed that talk by saying he couldn’t in “good conscience” put the state through more political throes.

Even the best fiction writers can’t create this kind of political drama.

What brought on the Palmetto State’s latest chapter of embarrassment was Ard’s spending spree following his November 2010 statewide election. Eventually accused of 107 counts of violating state ethics rules, Ard last July paid a $48,400 ethics fine (the second largest in state history), $12,500 to reimburse the state for its ethics investigation and $12,121.35 to his campaign account for personal expenses like clothes, fuel, lodging, football tickets, limo services, cell phones, TVs and computer equipment. 

Then his case went to South Carolina’s state grand jury to determine whether he broke any state laws. During a second investigation, state officials interviewed 70 people. The grand jury issued 46 subpoenas, heard from 18 witnesses and received 113 documents totaling about 7,000 pages, according to state Attorney General Alan Wilson.

At 10 a.m. Friday, Ard resigned. Three hours later, Wilson detailed a seven-count indictment of him for scheming to “create the false appearance of a groundswell of political support through fictitious or bogus campaign contributions” worth $75,000. Two hours after that, the defrocked and disgraced Ard pleaded guilty to the seven misdemeanors and asked for mercy. A judge sentenced him to probation for five years, ordered him to pay a $5,000 fine and perform 300 hours of community service.

More than likely, it happened so quickly because state Republicans like Wilson want the latest installment of scandal to disappear from voters’ memories as quickly as possible. And who knows? It might work. Just consider that voters continue to kowtow to the Republican Party despite a rollicking recent history of disgrace.   See if you can remember the names of Republican stars who have kept Comedy Central focused on the Palmetto State:

a) The philandering governor who gave a new meaning to “hiking the Appalachian trail” after he made international news for visiting his mistress in South America;

b) The U.S. congressman who disrupted a 2009 speech to Congress by President Barack Obama by yelling, “You lie!”

c) The former S.C. House member who became an assistant attorney general and was arrested at a cemetery while in a parked car with a stripper, Viagra and sex toys;

d) The Republican operative who called First Lady Michele Obama a “gorilla” in an online “joke;”

e) Another former lieutenant governor on the 2010 campaign trail who compared citizens of free and reduced lunch to stray animals; and

f) The incumbent state comptroller general whose steamy email affair with a state superintendent candidate became embarrassingly public.

Those six incidents are since 2008 -- and don’t include the state treasurer (Thomas Ravenel) who had to step down in 2007 after being indicted on felony cocaine charges for which he later served time in prison.

To South Carolina politicians, all that a columnist like me can do is say, “Thanks. Thanks for keeping life interesting and providing me with job security.” This is one time, however, when I’d rather not to have to say thanks.

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

Answers: a) former Gov. Mark Sanford; b) U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson; c) former S.C. House member Roland S. Corning; d) former S.C. Elections Commission chairman Rusty DePass; e) former Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer, currently running for U.S. Congress; and f) Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom.

Spotlight

South Carolina Hospital 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 Hospital Association, the Palmetto State's foremost advocate on healthcare issues affecting South Carolinians. The mission of SCHA is to support its members in addressing the healthcare needs of South Carolina through advocacy, education, networking and regulatory assistance.

Founded in 1921, the South Carolina Hospital Association is the leadership organization and principal advocate for the state’s hospitals and health care systems. Based in Columbia, SCHA works with its members to improve access, quality and cost-effectiveness of health care for all South Carolinians. The state’s hospitals and health care systems employ more than 70,000 persons statewide. SCHA's credo: We are stronger together than apart. To learn more about SCHA and its mission, go to: http://www.scha.org.
Feedback

Great piece on governors

To the editor:
 
What a wonderful piece on great governors [Commentary, 3/9/12], and how true.
-- Name withheld, Columbia, S.C.
Drop us a line:  We encourage you to share your opinions.  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

Pink slime to slimed workers?

Real estate. Home sales are up nearly 17 percent compared to last year, and fewer homes are going up for sale, too. More.

Limehouse. Bully for you, Sen. Chip Limehouse (R-Charleston) for working to ban schools from serving food treated with “pink slime” to school kids. More.

Haley. The federal government announced this week it would not seek return of the $1 million it gave the state to prepare for implementation of the Affordable Health Care Act. Gov. Nikki Haley had been criticized for seeming to influence an independent committee’s efforts looking into the matter. More.

Haley. It’s great her administration has instituted a new, 21st century records retention policy that stores all of her offices’ work. But it should be noted that it has come after she got caught not releasing sensitive emails sent to an independent committee (see directly above), and she is still requesting “guidance and clarification” for state agencies when it comes to emails. More.

Jobs. Unemployment may have dropped to 9.3 percent, but a recent audit reportedly found big trouble with the state’s efforts to stop fraudulent unemployment claims. More.

Unemployment. Extended federal unemployment benefits are being phased out for 80,000 South Carolina workers. More.
Stegelin

Playing the part


Also from Stegelin: 3/9 | 3/2 | 2/24 | 2/17
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/.