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ISSUE 11.13
Mar. 30, 2012

12/05 | 11/28 | 11/21 | 11/14


News :
A step to the right
Legislative Agenda :
Double furloughs
Radar Screen :
Audit has tongues wagging
Palmetto Politics :
School compromise(d)
Commentary :
Back-door school voucher bill defies logic
Spotlight :
Time Warner Cable
My Turn :
SC needs a Reproductive Bill of Rights
Feedback :
Remembering Judge Waring
Scorecard :
Employment up; vouchers, guns down
Stegelin :
The real agenda
Number of the Week :
Megaphone :
Uncool for schools
Tally Sheet :
New bills introduced
Encyclopedia :
Fish camps

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That’s how much more was spent on tourism in South Carolina in 2011 than in 2010, according to state figures. The total amount spent in the state for tourism in 2011 was $15 billion. More.


Uncool for schools

“A New Yorker has won because he’s sent enough money down here to convince you that what you have done here is the right thing … so, I applaud you… for doing an idiotic thing.”

-- Rep. Joe Jefferson (D-Pineville), this week scolding those in the House who voted this week for a $4,000 tax credit for families with kids in private school. More.


New bills introduced

Among the bills introduced over the past week:

Retirement study. S. 1371 (Rose) would establish a retirement study committee for legislators, constitutional officers and judges.

Ethics jurisdiction. S. 1373 (Rose) would change the ethics reporting agency for state lawmakers to the state Ethics Commission.

Bike exemption. S. 1375 (Campsen) would create an exemption for bikes and pedestrians on certain controlled access roads.

College funding. S. 1397 (Gregory) is a joint resolution calling for the Commission on Higher Education and college presidents to support the General Assembly’s efforts to establish accountability-based funding.

Movie incentives. H. 5079 (Merrill) calls for eligibility criteria for incentives for movies made in SC, with several provisions.

Presidential primary. H. 5081 (Harrell) seeks to codify a law to ensure SC will have the first presidential primary in the South.

Guns in businesses. H. 5084 (Pitts) would delete provisions that prohibited guns from being taken in certain businesses, including some that sell alcohol, with several provisions. H. 5097 (Pitts) is similar but has a lot more provisions related to unlawful possession of guns.

Cigar bar. H. 5092 (Quinn) would allow smoking in cigar bars.

The “Occupy” bill. H. 5099 (D.C. Moss) would make it unlawful to trespass, damage or deface certain property, with several provisions.

Under oath. H. 5104 (McLeod) would require all testimony before General Assembly committees and subcommittees to be under oath; with penalties.


Fish camps

While the term designates a campsite ideal for anglers throughout much of the Palmetto State, “fish camp” for upstate South Carolinians refers to a family-style seafood restaurant serving reasonably priced dinners to a local clientele. Fish camps differ from the calabash restaurants of the coast in that they serve both salt- and freshwater seafood, and from more upscale seafood restaurants in their prices and decor, which frequently consists of uncovered wooden tables, ladder-back chairs, and walls decorated with taxidermic fish.

With strong ties to the tradition of community fish fries, the restaurants prepare fish (usually flounder and catfish) deep-fried in a cornmeal-based coating. Menus are augmented with additional offerings such as deviled crab, shrimp, and oysters, and all come with hush puppies, fries, and coleslaw on the side. A few fish camps, such as Old MacDonald’s in North Augusta, offer a lowcountry boil or a side of grits, an apparent nod to Lowcountry culinary traditions.

Generally, fish camps are located near rivers or lakes, such as the Little River Fish Camp in Saluda and the Lake Wylie Fish Camp in York County. The earliest were established along the Catawba River in South and North Carolina in the 1930s and 1940s and began as sheds where anglers could fry their fresh catches. And while most restaurants purchase their fish from seafood wholesalers and farms, fish camps continue to be found along waterways.

Catering to a loyal, local clientele, many fish camps serve as gathering places, hosting local club meetings and family celebrations and providing many patrons with a regular opportunity to gossip, talk politics, and discuss current events. Politicians have apparently recognized the importance of these restaurants to their constituents and regularly make formal or informal visits.

During the 2000 election, the Catawba Fish Camp in Fort Lawn was a key campaign stop for then-candidate George W. Bush, and in 2002 the same fish camp hosted a campaign rally for Democratic governor Jim Hodges. Other popular fish camps include Tall Tales and Wagon Wheel in Cowpens, the Roebuck and Pioneer restaurants of Spartanburg County, Bailey’s in Blacksburg, and Wateree in Pageland.

-- Excerpted from the entry by Stephen Criswell. 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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A step to the right

Tea party wishes to wash away Senate’s moderate "stain"

By Bill Davis, senior editor

MARCH 30, 2012 -- Libertarians and tea party faithful around the state are working hard to tip the balance of power away from the mainstream “country club” Republicans in the Senate., a hub for statewide dissatisfaction with mainstream Republicans, has identified five GOP state senators it wants to see removed from office. [Senators marked with an asterisk (*) started out in state politics as Democrats]:

  • Mike Fair of Greenville
  • Larry Martin of Pickens
  • David Thomas of Greenville
  • Luke Rankin of Conway (*)
  • Jake Knotts of West Columbia

Tea partiers have held “retirement” parties for both Thomas and Fair. Fair made a surprise visit at his fete, confronting his “Christian” brothers for not having approached him first with their complaints, and answering other criticisms. Here’s a link to the first in a series of videos.

Talbert Black, a Lexington software engineer and self-proclaimed libertarian who has sent a number of FOIA requests to Knotts, said Friday he’d lengthen the list of RINOs – a slur for Republicans In Name Only – that need to be sent packing to include Sen. Hugh Leatherman (R-Florence), chair of the Finance Committee.

The mainstream Republican faction, derided by some as the “mushy middle,” consists, arguably, of the five targeted above, as well as:

  • Leatherman (*)
  • Harvey Peeler of Gaffney
  • John Courson of Columbia
  • Greg Gregory of Lancaster
  • Wes Hayes of Rock Hill (*)
  • Thomas Alexander of Walhalla (*)
  • William “Billy” O’Dell of Ware Shoals (*)

According to observers and several senators, the tea party/libertarian faction of the state Senate is a redressed version of what some have called “William Wallace” caucus that came to the Senate during the Sanford administration. (If you recall, Mel Gibson portrayed Wallace in the movie, “Braveheart.”) This group now, arguably, includes:

  • Tom Davis of Beaufort
  • Kevin Bryant of Anderson
  • Lee Bright of Roebuck
  • Phillip Shoopman of Greer
  • Shane Martin of Spartanburg
  • Shane Massey of Edgefield
  • Mike Rose of Summerville.

Several senators are more like “free agents” in that they sometimes vote with the Wallace crowd, but generally vote along mainstream party lines, observers say:

  • Chip Campsen of Isle of Palms
  • Paul Campbell of Goose Creek
  • Ray Cleary of Murrells Inlet
  • Ronnie Cromer of Prosperity
  • Danny Verdin of Laurens
  • Larry Grooms of Bonneau.

What does it all mean?

A switch of five “moderate” or mainstream Republican senators for more conservative or libertarian senators would be enough to upset the current power paradigm. What’s interesting to many, though, is that that some of those who are targeted, such as Fair and Thomas, are recognized as pretty conservative senators.

Triangulating the three wings of the GOP Senate -- mainstream, Wallace and the free agents -- creates an opportunity for the libertarians to seize more power, potentially pushing the remaining mainstream Republicans into the arms of the Democrats serving in the Senate, according to some.

But would it be welcome and willing arms? Not so, according to Sen. Vincent Sheheen, (D-Camden). “If the right-wing of the Republican Party came to power in the Senate, I fear that we would have less cooperation than we do now.”

What two targets say

Knotts paints a picture of a paradise lost for Republicans in the state -- not surprising since his given names are John Milton Knotts. Knotts, the former lawman, remembers a time when Republican rallies in the Columbia area would draw thousands. Now, he says, that has dropped to hundreds.

Knotts says the impact of the libertarians, whom he refers to as members of the political “fringe,” has left his county “real” party in “shambles.”

Knotts says that while he likes and respects all his colleagues in the Senate, he finds more and more of them becoming entrenched too easily over “unrealistic” demands and positions.

Black said he welcomed Knotts calling him names because he wore that as a badge of honor. “I’m sure King George considered the original American patriots on the ‘fringe.’”

Fair complained that mastery of social media, like YouTube, could help a few disgruntled souls come off as bigger group of voters. He likened it to a 100-pounder punching like a heavyweight. 

Both Fair and Knotts lamented the differences they’ve had with tea party faithful as they both say the groups have some solid ideas, such as fiscal conservatism, that they wholeheartedly agree with. But Knotts said people like Black were using limited resources to bottle up his office and intimidate his voting choices.

One Senate odds maker, speaking on anonymity, said of the six Republicans that have been targeted, Thomas appeared to be the only one in real trouble in the coming election -- not for any vote he’s ever taken, but for having been in office so long. It doesn’t help Thomas either that he is facing a challenger this year who outpointed him in a 2010 GOP congressional primary.    

Grooms said none of the targeted five should be too concerned. “Shoot, they were after me, Alexander and Hayes last month.”

Crystal ball: Mainstream House Republicans ran scared from tea party/libertarian candidates two years ago when governmental dissatisfaction among conservative voters helped bring Gov. Nikki Haley into higher office. Senate GOP senators probably hoped that their power among the populace had waned. Maybe it has, but it won’t be as powerful as it was two years ago. The economy is improving in South Carolina and around the country, which will likely steal some of the tea party fervor. And Haley has proven to be a disappointment to some of her “fringe” support. But if the William Wallace Caucus (“They may take our lives, but they’ll never take our … transparency!") should grow, the power shift in the Senate will make for an uncertain and potentially volatile mix for the future.

Bill Davis is editor of Statehouse Report.  He can be reached at:

Legislative Agenda

Double furloughs

With both the House and Senate on furlough next week, there are no major legislative committee meetings scheduled. The House will be on furlough the following week, too.

Radar Screen

Audit has tongues wagging

Tongues wagged this week in Columbia after news that the IRS was looking into the books of a Sikh temple where the parents of Gov. Nikki Haley are leaders. Haley strongly denied any link to the temple’s IRS audit. Read more.

Quick tip:  Vague attack broadsides on the governor serve no purpose. Flash back to the gubernatorial election when a Republican operator and a lobbyist each claimed to have affairs with Haley, but offered little sticky proof. The result? Haley, emboldened by what some saw as smoke but no fire, rallied to defeat serious, entrenched competition in both parties to take office.

Palmetto Politics

School compromise(d)

The House this week voted, for the first time ever, to support a K-12 bill that would give a $4,000 tax credit to families that send a child to private school.

Critics yammered that the bill, which will likely die in the Senate, pulls money away from still-refilling state coffers and is smokescreen for the ongoing fight for school vouchers.   Supporters hailed the bill as a compromise, especially considering how much more private school education tuition costs, and was fairer to families choosing to pull their kids from public schools.

The bill was designed to end the fight for a decade, but could be but a stepping-stone for more controversy. In the Senate, Sen. John Courson (R-Columbia) vowed to quash the bill earlier this year when he was only the chair of the Education Committee. Now, as president pro tempore, expect this bill can expect a quicker death.


Back-door school voucher bill defies logic

By Andy Brack, editor and publisher

MARCH 30, 2012 -- If you ever thought the folks at the Statehouse take voters as “April fools,” just delve into a newly-passed House bill that seeks tax credits for parents who have kids in private school.

The House of Representatives has passed a so-called “school choice” bill that supporters claim gives parents more choice in education. Over the last few years, proponents have received more than $2 million to push the legislation from New York millionaire Howard Rich. 

Meanwhile, opponents say the measure is a voucher in disguise -- a harmful way to siphon public money from public schools to weaken them more than they already are. 

When proponents talk about “school choice,” they ignore the fact that public schools today offer more choices than ever before. Not only are there a plethora of charter schools all over the state, but there are magnet schools and programs, vocational tracks, Montessori-style instruction, online schools, arts-based schools and more. 

To suggest that public schools don’t offer choices to parents is outright wrong. But more importantly, the logic behind this move for more “school choice,” is fundamentally flawed. 

Consider how the newly-passed House bill would allow tax deductions for parents’ income in three categories:

  • Up to $4,000 for parents who send their child to private school;
  • Up to $2,000 for parents who home-school their child; and
  • Up to $1,000 for parents who send their kids to a school in a district which is not their own school district of residence.

Now think about that. The measure is elitist on its face. Why? Because you need at least $4,000 in taxable income to take advantage of the tax deduction. But guess what? About half of South Carolinians make so little income -- or have enough tax breaks already -- that they pay absolutely no South Carolina income tax. 

"This House bill is a fraud that takes us all as April fools. Let’s hope the state Senate doesn’t fall for this illogical, vituperative political malarkey."
Let me run that by you again. Of the 2 million income tax returns filed in 2009, some 889,889 returns (43.7 percent) had absolutely zero tax liability. If you add another 131,592 returns where filers’ tax liabilities were $100 or less, then just over half -- 50.15 percent -- of filers paid $100 or less in S.C. income tax, according to the most recent numbers from the state Department of Revenue.

So do you really think people who don’t earn enough money to pay income taxes in South Carolina are going to benefit from a $4,000 tax deduction or have enough money to send their kids to private school? Heck no. But the legislature wants you to believe it is “looking out” for low-income people and trying to give them real choices. 

Hogwash. This Republican-backed measure isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. It’s nothing more than a way to help rich backers who want public money to help pay for private schools.

Jon Butzon of the Charleston Education Network said the House bill will harm public education.

“It’s only going to benefit a few and anybody who gets anything can already attend a private school,” he said. “The bigger issue is the General Assembly has a constitutional responsibility to every child of the state of South Carolina and it’s not meeting its responsibility.”

That responsibility, he said, is to fully-fund public education, as required by the state Education Finance Act. For the coming year, the House passed a $6.5 billion budget that underfunded public education by  $700 million, or $1,002 per student. 

So while legislators plan to abrogate their responsibility to pay for public education as required by the law -- particularly laughable in a year when the state has a $900 million surplus -- they are also trying to sell the education moonshine of the need for tax deductions for people with kids in private school.

“They’ll sit up there and point the finger, but the Constitution says they’re responsible for every child,” Butzon noted. “This bill lets them off the hook to sell the smoke and mirrors that voters deserve a choice. Where is THAT in the Constitution?”

This House bill is a fraud that takes us all as April fools. Let’s hope the state Senate doesn’t fall for this illogical, vituperative political malarkey.

Andy Brack is publisher of Statehouse Report.  You can reach Brack at:


Time Warner Cable

The public spiritedness of our underwriters allows us to bring Statehouse Report to you at no cost. Today, we’re happy to shine the spotlight on Time Warner Cable. The company’s Carolina Region provides video, Internet and telephone services to more than two million customers in more than 400 cities and towns across North and South Carolina. Time Warner Cable is the second-largest cable operator in the U.S., with technologically advanced, well-clustered systems located in New York State, the Carolinas, Ohio, southern California and Texas.  The company’s mission: Connect people and businesses with information, entertainment and each other; give customers control in ways that are simple and easy. For more, visit Time Warner Cable online here:

My Turn

SC needs a Reproductive Bill of Rights

By Emma Davidson
Special to Statehouse Report

MARCH 30, 2012 -- Would you be surprised to hear that every year for the past 10 years legislation has been introduced in our state that would outlaw your right to birth control?

It’s true and just one of many policy attempts that put basic individual rights at risk. Nearly every day I spend advocating on behalf of South Carolinians, I meet citizens who are shocked to learn just how aggressive the attacks on reproductive health have become.  Many of these concerned citizens joined me at the Statehouse this week as we presented lawmakers with a “Reproductive Bill of Rights.”

The “Bill of Rights” calls for uncensored reproductive health education and access to services for all South Carolinians. It was designed to challenge mounting legislation that threatens to take away access to birth control, in-vitro fertilization (IVF), emergency contraception for rape or incest victims, and even undermine the standard of care established with the Hippocratic Oath.

During the last three legislative sessions alone, 41 ideologically-motivated bills related to women’s reproductive health were introduced in the South Carolina General Assembly. This legislation is being pushed by a vocal minority who rely on intense emotional arguments, often based on misinformation, to carry significant political weight when it comes to reproductive health policy.

Our lawmakers are currently debating controversial legislation that undermines a person’s right to make decisions about their own health. Introduced by Representative Greg Delaney (R-Chester), the “Healthcare Freedom of Conscience Act” would allow health care professionals and institutions to use their personal ideology as a reason to deny patients information and services. That means any provider could legally interfere with decisions made by you and your doctor. For example, a pharmacist could legally refuse to fill any prescription (including birth control, HIV medications, and even cancer medications) based on personal values versus what is in the best interest of the patient. Or consider a doctor who could legally withhold information about certain treatment options based on his own moral judgments.

This is just one example of legislation that undermines longstanding health protections for South Carolinians. Moreover, it reveals a true disconnect between what the majority of citizens believe and what a few extremists are able to maneuver through the General Assembly.

Citizens’ views on reproductive health are very clear. Contraception is something that 88 percent of Americans support; something that 98 percent of sexually active women use during their lifetime. It is safe, effective and recommended by every legitimate medical association in this country. And yet an entire decade, not to mention inestimable resources, has been spent attempting to frame it as controversial.

The long-term implications are significant for a state facing alarming statistics when it comes to reproductive health. Consider that South Carolina consistently ranks in the top 10 states for the highest rates of gonorrhea, chlamydia and HIV/AIDS, and struggles with a high number of unintended pregnancies.

South Carolina is not alone. Experts point to a long-gathering movement across the country to restrict health rights, specifically women’s rights. Currently, 13 states allow some health care providers to refuse to provide services related to contraception; 18 states allow some health care providers to refuse to provide sterilization services; and a recent ballot initiative in Mississippi sought to ban many forms of birth control and assisted reproduction like in-vitro fertilization.

This gradual erosion of longstanding health protections has generated considerable national attention in recent months. In South Carolina, it has inspired thousands to take action with a “Reproductive Bill of Rights” that aims to stop this tidal wave of legislation. It’s time for lawmakers to protect these rights and in doing so create a stronger, healthier South Carolina.

Emma Davidson is a program manager for Tell Them, a program of the New Morning Foundation, a statewide reproductive health-focused foundation. More:


Remembering Judge Waring

Enjoyed the piece on Judge Waring. I became interested in him when I found a piece of correspondence from my grandfather, who was a lawyer in Mullins in the 1930s-50s, to Judge Waring complimenting him his courage and support for equal rights in an earlier decision in 1948.

[There was] No case citation, but I assume it was one of the cases dealing with the white primary cases from that era. Judge Waring responded on his District Court stationary and sent my grandfather a hand- painted Christmas card for Christmas 1948.

    -- Chip Brown, Conway, SC
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.

Employment up; vouchers, guns down

Joblessness. For the seventh straight month, South Carolina’s unemployment rate dropped -- this time from 9.3 percent in January to 9.1 percent in February. More. And see this new story.

‘High’ law. The House this week passed a bill that would stop unemployment benefits for those who refuse to take a drug test as part of the interview process for a new job. More.

Vouchers. The House of Representatives took its first real step ever down the slippery slope to school vouchers this week. More.

Ratings. A ratings service only gave the state Infrastructure Bank an “A” rating on a recent bond issue, due to the bank being highly leveraged. Late bill payments probably didn’t help. More.

Guns. The House passed a bill this week that would allow those with a concealed weapon permit to carry their gun into any business that allowed it, including ones that serve alcohol. Oh, this is going to end well … More.


The real agenda

Also from Stegelin: 3/23 | 3/16 | 3/9 | 3/2

Statehouse Report

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

Phone: 843.670.3996

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