Keeping pollution at "bay"
By Bill Davis, EditorAPRIL 6, 2012 -- South Carolina’s environmental geography can be ironic when viewed from above.
Consider that Rep. Nelson Hardwick (R-Surfside Beach) is the primary author on a House bill that could strip private citizens from being able to sue individuals and corporations that pollute the environment, from rivers to pristine Carolina bays.
In contrast, Rep. Paul Agnew (D-Due West), who hails from the hilly western corner of the state, about as far removed from the ocean without living on a mountainside, is hard at work making sure that Hardwick’s bill fails.
Hardwick’s bill would amend the state’s 1976 Pollution Control Act and would give the ability to state government to sue polluters for damages.
Agnew contends that Hardwick’s bill overly restricts who can seek damages in instances of pollution, while Hardwick intimated that Agnew is just another attorney looking to expand his caseload and that his amendment would be to inclusive as to who could sue.
But by the same thinking, it should be pointed out that Hardwick, who holds a master’s degree in environmental engineering and is a former district director for the state Department of Health and Environmental Control, is these days a real estate developer and consults on subdivision projects.
Agnew tried to quash the bill two weeks ago with an amendment, but sensing it would be trounced in a floor vote, he pulled it at the last second. The bill passed easily and has been sent to the Senate, where a companion bill by Majority Leader Harvey Peeler (R-Gaffney) awaits.
Agnew said this week that he hoped that his amendment, which would allow for citizens to sue alleged polluters of their land, among other items, would get a fairer hearing in the slower-paced Senate.
It may not receive a warmer welcome, even though the Senate is known as the more contemplative chamber compared to the faster-paced House, in part, because Peeler sits as chair of the Medical Affairs committee where both bills have been referred for debate next week.
Agnew said he hopes the Senate will be more amenable because of what he sees as a logical problem in Hardwick’s stance. Agnew believes that those in the House and Senate wanting to oppose DHEC’s recent permitting of Georgia dredging the Savannah River may strip themselves of the statutory power to do so if they pass a version of Hardwick and Peeler’s bills.
Hardwick says his bill would not curtail citizens’ common law rights to sue. Hardwick said both he and Agnew are as split as the state’s Supreme Court on the issue, which last year on a related case deadlocked 3-3.
Ann Timberlake, executive director of the Conservation Voters of South Carolina, says defeating the bills is a priority among the state’s environmental community.
Timberlake says the measure, a updated version of similar past attempts, threatens the state’s “iconic” Carolina bays, small inland bodies of water that are rich in a diverse swath of flora and fauna. The sponge-like bays range in size from “nearly puddles in a field” to several square miles like Lake Waccamaw in North Carolina.
They are vulnerable to pollution by development, in part of their isolation from other, larger bodies of water, and that they are surrounded by land, increasing the possibility of pollutants leaching into them.
Timberlake said she and fellow conservationists understand the concerns developers have regarding Carolina bays, and have pushed forward an amendment of their own. That amendment calls for citizens to be allowed to sue, but limits what can be sued over.
For instance, Timberlake said developing around Carolina bays less than a half-acre in size is fair game, and that similar bays located in the middle of farming areas should be exempt from protection, too. Agnew incorporated those in his withdrawn amendment.
“It’s not about going backwards,” said Timberlake, praising the greening of the state accomplished by Republican and Democratic lawmakers and administrations.
Crystal ball: There’s a 50-50 chance that Hardwick’s or Peeler’s bill will make it into law this legislative session, according to a Senate insider speaking on conditions of anonymity. That's not because development-friendly legislators or green lawmakers don’t want to, but because of timing. In short, the clock is ticking fast in the Senate, which now has the beefy budget on its plate and host of other, more powerfully supported House bills to contend with. Additionally, senators likely will be ever-mindful of their coming reelection campaigns and might not want to get bogged down in Carolina bay issues, and prefer spend more time campaigning at home. This could very likely become an issue moved to the top of the legislative agenda in 2013, but it will be important to keep abreast of the rhetoric and small battles in the rest of the session.
Bill Davis is editor of Statehouse Report. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
One in, one off
With the House out on furlough for another week, the Senate will be focusing on budget hearings in subcommittee meetings throughout the week.
- Senate Finance. The full committee will meet at 3 p.m. Tuesday in 105 Gressette. No agenda has been released, but next week is when testimony from state agencies and review of provisos was scheduled to begin. Click here to see a full schedule of Senate meetings next week.
- Senate Judiciary. The full committee will meet at 3 p.m. Tuesday in 308 Gressette with bills to be discussed to include ones dealing with child custody cases, making the state’s insurance commissioner an elected official and tort reform. Agenda.
- Senate Judiciary. A subcommittee will meet at 9 a.m. Wednesday in 307 Gressette to discuss an agenda that includes a House bill that would allow former state officials, elected or otherwise, to be prosecuted for ethics violations for up to four years after leaving office. Agenda.
- Senate Education. A subcommittee will meet at 9:30 .am. Wednesday in 105 Gressette to discuss a bill that would allow statewide open enrollment in K-12 schools. Agenda.
- Senate Judiciary. A subcommittee will meet Wednesday at 11 a.m. in 209 Gressette to discuss a bill that would create a statewide system of drug courts. Agenda.
- Senate Medical Affairs. A subcommittee will meet Thursday at 9:30 a.m. in 209 Gressette to discuss a series of environmental bills, including one that would preclude private lawsuits against polluters. Agenda.
The long haul
The budget may have whipped through House floor debate in three days last month, but expect it to take considerably longer in the Senate this year. Even though there is extra money on the table, close to $900 million in unforecasted tax revenue collections, the “more deliberative” chamber is expected to snag itself on issues of how to spend the extra funds and how much, if any, of a raise to give state employees to make up for half a decade of flat salaries. Last year, it took the Senate a full five weeks to come up with its own budget plan.
C of C prof has new Palin bookCollege of Charleston professor Chris Lamb has a new book out that looks at what commentators and cartoonists have said about former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
"The Sound and Fury of Sarah Palin" is sure to put a smile on the faces of liberals and to exasperate tea parties who like her -- and don't mind that she periodically flubs history, facts and details.
In a Monday column in Charleston Currents, Lamb, a communications professor, wrote, "If there's one thing Palin doesn't know, it's how to speak English -- although she would 'refudiate' that. So in the spirit of 'refudiation' of what Sarah Palin wants people to believe, I decided to write about what she says. 'The Sound and Fury of Sarah Palin' examines the two worlds of Palin -- the real one in which most of us live and the one in which she's crafted for the media."
The book, published by Frontline Press in Charleston, is available for purchase online. Cost: $20. More.
Haley’s first book
With the House and Senate on furlough this week, the only game in town was Gov. Nikki Haley, who released her memoir, “Can’t is Not an Option.” Some reviewers have criticized the 250-page retelling of her “American story” as an overly scripted “by-the-numbers” memoir. Conversely, the book has been praised for its “remarkable” story as a 38-year-old Indian-American becoming the first female, and minority, governor in the state’s history. Haley is on a national book tour, in which she has repeatedly stated she would not accept an offer to be political ally Mitt Romney’s vice presidential running mate. If she were selected, it would make for an amazing next chapter in Haley’s life, as Republican presidential candidates generally need little help carrying the “Solid South.”
Option for Haley's book: Take a pass
By Andy Brack, PublisherAPRIL 6, 2012 – Gov. Nikki Haley's new book is sure to cause three differing reactions:
Tea partiers will fall in love with Haley again for wearing their white hat and repetitively incanting the rhetoric of limited government that bashes the political establishment.
Mainstream Republicans and moderates will spend a lot of time rolling their eyes at the 200-plus pages of gratuitous, preening arrogance, inane recollections and my-way-or-the-highway declarations of revisionism.
Liberals won't be able to finish it because it's such an obvious political attempt to propel the governor to Washington, sooner as a vice-presidential candidate (despite lots of protest by her) or later as a U.S. senator.
If you like Haley and want to be pumped up, go ahead and spend $28 for what seems more like a transcribed version of a lot of self-taped conversations than a book. Otherwise, don't bother. Haley is trying too hard to be a real-life fairy tale.
Nevertheless, here are some observations of Haley's “Can't Is Not an Option:”
Childhood tale. The best part of the book is the beginning in which Haley delves into her childhood as a member of the only Indian family in Bamberg. She talks convincingly about challenges, goodness and the American Dream without too much tea party propaganda.
Philosophical insight. When you read about how Haley worked as a bookkeeper as a teen-ager for her mother's store, you get a better understanding of the anti-government rhetoric that fuels her politics. One such lesson:
“I learned early that we couldn't control our revenue stream – we couldn't control who decided to walk in the door of the store and spend their money. All we could control was our expenditures. So we were constantly focused on tightening our overhead. … I noticed how hard it was to make a dollar and how easy it was for government to take it away.”
What rankles about this statement by Haley, a self-professed policy wonk, is its naiveté about government. Unlike business, government can control revenue streams by raising or lowering taxes, or by providing incentives to bring in more businesses, all of which will increase the amount of money put in the state's pot.
Second, government can't always be run like a business, regardless of the GOP talking points. Sometimes, government is the only entity that's large enough or has enough of a cushion to do really big things, such as provide electricity to rural areas, build interstate roads, provide affordable college opportunities to millions, take care of the health of old people and more. For Haley, government is not a pathway to progress, but an impediment that has to be overcome. In the long term, that kind of vision of government isn't in South Carolina's best interest.
Courage. In the book, Haley often describes how she had courage to take on the establishment which “blackballed, demoted and humiliated” her for trying to get recorded roll call votes to boost accountability in the state House. Interestingly, she did not name the leader of the establishment, House Speaker Bobby Harrell, although she cut at him left and right for eight pages. Then in prose that would gag even a teen romance writer, she celebrated a “turnabout is fair play” moment as governor when she signed into law the bill she had pushed while in the House:
“The day didn't belong to me. It belonged to the people. I looked out and saw my parents, and I thought of what they had always taught me: If you fight for the right things, God will take care of the rest. It had taken a little while, but in the end my parents were right. The people had fought. Their cause was just. And now God was smiling down on South Carolina.”
Playing the victim. Haley also complained about people who saw themselves as victims, but within pages she would paint herself as a victim of Harrell, Gov. Mark Sanford or something else. After a while, it got more than a little monotonous.
Bottom line: Plant a garden. It's spring. There are better things to do than read this book.
Andy Brack is publisher of Statehouse Report. You can reach Brack at: email@example.com.
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More South Carolinians needed like Waties Waring
By THE REV. JOSEPH A. DARBY JR.
Special to Statehouse Report
MARCH 26, 2012 -- South Carolina is a better place because of people like the late J. Waties Waring. Judge Waring's evolution from a segregationist to an advocate for civil rights and his judicial rulings that hastened the end of legal segregation are little recognized but noteworthy landmarks along the road to freedom and justice. His life and work also offer good direction as we continue to travel that winding road.
As an African-American, I appreciate and celebrate the courage of Judge Waring and of like-minded white citizens. I get my predictable share of angry letters and editorial criticism for calling attention to societal inequities related to race -- that's expected of a black preacher speaking inconvenient truth. Judge Waring and those like him, however, received stiffer and far more bitter condemnation because they're seen as traitors to their race.
Charleston, South Carolina, and many other Southern cities are chronically afflicted by what I call "raging politeness." Racial barriers to progress are seldom acknowledged or explored because we want to be "polite" to each other and not ruffle feathers. That's true in the traditional black community, where some citizens place acceptance by the majority society above assertive action for change, and especially true in the traditional white community, where any suggestion that racial views need to evolve is often met with amazing hostility.
As a Charlestonian from a very old and established family, Judge Waring was treated by his community with the level of angry disdain and rejection reserved for Southerners who chose to stay loyal to the Union during the Civil War. He was literally driven out of town and lived and died as a Southern expatriate in New York, but he stood his ground and held onto his convictions. When citizens of like mind have the courage to follow his example today, we can bring South Carolina into the 20th century -- and I did mean to say the 20th century -- when it comes to race relations.
We still need people like J. Waties Waring because those willing to stand on principle and not accept the status quo, regardless of criticism, are as rare now as they were in Judge Waring's day. Many citizens -- white and black -- quietly agreed with Judge Waring's views but wouldn't stand with him or defend him out of fear that they too might be threatened or rejected, and many good people are similarly reluctant today. A longtime friend of mine is a Republican elected official, although his personal political views are more in line with those of the Democratic Party. When I pointed that out, he said, "You're right, but I can't be elected as a Democrat in my very white district. My constituents vote by emotion, not on the basis of what needs to be done or is best for them, and although they won't say it out loud, they won't vote for anyone who likes black people."
Those with views like that need to take the risk of being as visionary and progressive today as Judge Waring was in his day. In an era when "cookie cutter" state laws on voter ID's, immigration and "castle doctrine" pander to racial fear and when candidates went on carefully-worded racial rants to gain votes in South Carolina's GOP presidential primary, we badly need more people like J. Waties Waring. We need people who will go beyond old prejudice, old assumptions and old fears and do what's right instead of what's expedient and acceptable to their peers. That kind of courage and vision are timeless and badly needed to make America "...one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all."
Darby is senior pastor of Morris Brown AME Church in downtown Charleston.
What tourism investment might reapTo the editor:
[In response to last week's Number]: Wonder if the tourist "investment" is intended to invite others to see the unemployed workers, the Medicaid recipients living on $107 per month and other disenfranchised and poor individuals living in South Carolina. Soon we will be like countries who "herd" these individuals into holding cages for the duration of visits by those who might be shocked by what they are seeing.
– B.A. Haskell, Clover, 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.
Up on education; in the middle on Haley, transparency
Education. Fourteen teachers from four different South Carolina colleges were included in a list of the country’s 300 best professors. More.
Transparency. Gov. Nikki Haley is all for transparency of legislators’ emails, but her support, oddly enough, may doom a pro-transparency bill. More.
Transparency. Does releasing peer reviews of doctors being sued help the families, or hurt future patients due to the loss of candid criticism of fellow professionals? More.
Haley. Did great hawking her new book, “Can’t is Not an Option,” on native son’s The Colbert Report, but bombed on The View with “women don’t care about contraception” nonsense.
Charleston-ish. The Charleston metro area was the eight-fastest growing region in the country. Jobs, traffic to ensue. More.
Gas. Prices are up across the state, but still lower than most of the rest of the country. More.