Send your feedback:
feedback@statehousereport.com

ISSUE 11.42
Oct. 19, 2012

RECENT ISSUES:
10/17 | 10/10 | 10/03 | 9/26

Index

News :
Power for the people
Radar Screen :
Playing with fire?
Palmetto Politics :
Ethically challenged
Commentary :
Remembering Peatsy
Spotlight :
S.C. Senate Democratic Caucus
My Turn :
More work to do for better voting
Feedback :
Enjoyed article on Haley's options
Scorecard :
Charleston, Vick, S.C. State
Stegelin :
Into the void
Megaphone :
Making the most
Tally Sheet :
Find legislative bills
Encyclopedia :
South Carolina's judiciary

© 2002 - 2014, Statehouse Report LLC. All Rights Reserved. South Carolina Statehouse Report is published weekly.

News tips or calendar info?
E-mail
the editor.

Phone: 843.670.3996

Send
General e-mail

Credits.

UNDERWRITERS

SEARCH THE ARCHIVES

powered by

NUMBER OF THE WEEK

1

Rank of Charleston on the list of top tourist city in the world, according to a reader survey by Conde Nast Traveler magazine.

MEGAPHONE

Making the most

“[W]e shouldn’t wait for another Operation Lost Trust to have this happen. We should be in front of it.”

– Gov. Nikki Haley, unveiling her ethics reform committee this week, commenting on the need for clearer rules for publicly elected officials. More.

TALLY SHEET

Find legislative bills

This year's legislative session may be over, but you can still find information about bills and new laws online through the links below.

ENCYCLOPEDIA

South Carolina's judiciary

Continued from the previous edition

The other appellate court is the South Carolina Court of Appeals. This entity was established in 1983 to take some of the workload off the state supreme court. It consists of a chief judge and eight associate judges who are elected to staggered six-year terms by the General Assembly. The court usually decides cases in panels of three judges each, but it may meet collectively (en banc) to adjudicate extremely important matters.

Since its creation, the S.C. Court of Appeals has become the appellate court workhorse in the state. It reviews about 2,500 cases each year, and issues full opinions in about one-third of those disputes. Virtually any matter may be appealed to the court from the trial courts, including many procedural questions concerning the selection of jurors, the impartiality of judges, and the competence of legal counsel provided to indigent defendants.

The remaining courts in the state are all trial courts. The most important are the circuit courts, which are the trial courts of general jurisdiction. They hear all civil cases exceeding $7,500 in value, and criminal cases in which the possible penalties are greater than $1,000 or thirty days in jail. Consequently, anyone accused of a serious crime, or suing another person for a significant amount of damages, will appear before a circuit court judge. Most proceedings in circuit courts are decided by juries.

Circuit courts are divided into two divisions, General Sessions for criminal cases, and the Court of Common Pleas for civil litigation. South Carolina is divided into sixteen judicial circuits consisting of between two and four counties. Circuit court judges are elected by the General Assembly to six-year terms. Each circuit has one or more resident judges, and the remaining judges are subject to rotation among the other circuits depending on workload demands.

Family, probate courts

Two types of specialized courts complement the work of the circuit judges. The family court system consists of fifty-two judges who are elected by the General Assembly to six-year terms. There is one family court per judicial circuit. These are the sole forum for cases pertaining to marriage, divorce, separation, child custody, visitation, termination of parental rights, alimony, and name changes. They also have jurisdiction over juveniles who are charged with crimes, except for most traffic and hunting offenses.

Probate courts, in contrast, are organized differently. Instead of being arranged by circuit and elected by the General Assembly, probate judges are popularly elected within each county to four-year terms. Thus, there are forty-six probate judges (equal to the number of counties), as well as a number of associate probate judges who are appointed in populous counties to help with the case burden. These courts resolve all cases involving wills, estates, and trusts. Probate judges also supervise the estates of incapacitated individuals and rule on involuntary commitments of citizens to various forms of supervision (alcohol dependency, mental incapacity).

Magistrate, local courts

The final two judicial bodies in South Carolina are called limited jurisdiction courts due to the relatively insignificant nature of the cases they resolve. Magistrate courts exercise jurisdiction over criminal offenses involving penalties or fines not exceeding $1,000 or imprisonment of thirty days or less. Their civil jurisdiction extends to cases involving up to $7,500. As the most numerous courts in the state, there are more than three hundred magistrates.

Magistrates are appointed by the governor on the advice and consent of the state Senate and they need not be attorneys. Magistrates collectively resolve nearly one million cases per year, about fifty percent of which relate to traffic offenses and twenty-five percent civil disputes. Much of their business is resolved simply by bond forfeitures, in that citizens charged with minor offenses (traffic infractions, leash law violations) often pay their fines without appearing in court. Because they play such important roles in the judicial system—hearing so many disputes, and also holding pretrial and preliminary hearings in cases involving individuals charged with serious offenses—magistrates have increasingly been required to obtain specialized training. Recent changes in state law have also added educational qualifications. By 2005, persons lacking a college degree will be ineligible for an appointment as magistrate.

A comparable judicial organization exists in the approximately two hundred locations in which municipal courts have been created by the local governing bodies. Judges in these courts have no civil jurisdiction, and are solely intended to hear violations of state statutes and municipal ordinances subject to a fine not exceeding $1,000 or imprisonment not exceeding thirty days.

-- Excerpted from the entry by Steven W. Hays. 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.

SUBSCRIBE FOR FREE

Subscriptions to Statehouse Report are now free. Click here to subscribe.

YOUR COMMENTARY SOUGHT

Every week in our new My Turn section, we seek guest commentaries on issues of public and policy importance to South Carolina. If you're interested, click here to learn more.

OPPORTUNITY

Become an underwriter

Statehouse Report is an underwriter-supported legislative forecast with new added features that provide more information about what’s going to happen at the SC General Assembly and in state government.

Organizations and companies that underwrite the publication receive a host of exciting benefits through branding, information spotlights and more.

To learn more about our exciting transformation and how your organization or business can benefit, click here. Or give us a holler on the phone at: 843.670.3996.

Statehouse Report -- making it easier to learn more about state politics and policy.

News

Power for the people

Leaders disagree about state’s power needs

By Bill Davis, senior editor

OCT. 19, 2012 – Depending to whom you talk, South Carolina's energy future will be a cornucopia of plenty with overly expensive electricity or a parched field filled with “rolling brown-outs” caused by a lack of enough power production capacity.

Sen. Paul Campbell (R-Goose Creek) this week defended comments he made earlier this month that two planned nuclear reactors in Jenkinsville won’t generate enough electricity to provide the state with all the energy it will need in the coming years once the economy rights itself.

But observers like Robert Guild of the state’s Sierra Club hold that Campbell is missing the point on the inherent economic and environmental costs of nuclear power.

Sticking to the story

Three weeks ago, Campbell, admittedly no fan of “global warming rhetoric,” said that when those two reactors come online, they likely wouldn’t provide but a quarter of the likely growing power demands of the state. He said that the state could start seeing some real power-supply problems in as early as 15 years.

But according to state records, “request for proposals” for utilities providing that power in South Carolina only peers into the future for 10 years. But, current federal projections run until 2035.  More.

Doing some “back of the envelope” math, Campbell said, calculator in hand, that assuming a relatively conservative state population growth of 2 percent a year, then the state could see as much as a 49-percent increase in power demands. Campbell said his calculations didn’t include likely demand escalators, like the likely proliferation of juice-hungry widescreen televisions and electric cars.

The senator said a mixture of every available power generation source, from “clean” coal to nuclear to renewable energy sources like solar and wind to natural gas, would be needed to make sure that the state’s economic recovery doesn’t stall.

Hungry, hungry hippo

Currently, according to federal figures, the state chewed through 1,048 trillion BTU’s of energy resources in 2010, from every kind of generation source. Only 14 percent of power generated in South Carolina is exported to other states.

Guild, the national delegate for the state’s Sierra Club, said Campbell’s former employer, Alcoa, proved that nuclear wasn’t the way to go, when it negotiated a quiet deal for cheaper electricity for its state facility, which provided by a natural gas power-generating plant.

Guild argued that by building the new reactors in Jenkinsville, the state would be purposely “hitching its wagon” to the wrong technology. He said cheaper forms of power generation, like natural gas, are easier to set up and break down, offer less maintenance and operation costs over the coming millennia, and provide cheaper up front and construction costs.

Campbell, on some of the points, agreed.

“If I was buying power right now, I’d be using as much natural gas (generated) power as I could,” said Campbell, who had been the regional president of the aluminum manufacturing giant. “But, that’s only because natural gas is cheap right now – I don’t think it’s going to remain that inexpensive in the future, even in five years.”

Staying competitive

Campbell, who said he desperately wanted offshore wind farms to take root in South Carolina, said there are plenty of power generation options, including nuclear plants, to help ensure that more industry and manufacturing concerns will keep South Carolina as an option for expansion or relocation.

But Guild argued that with costs outstripping projections on the Jenkinsville reactors, the state would more likely become less competitive because of the likelihood that electricity will become more expensive as utilities have to pay down increased construction costs.

Both men agreed that the future solution for the state’s power problem would be in combining increasingly efficient power generation sources with efficiency and conservation efforts. Guild pointed out that South Carolina currently ranked a lowly 46th nationally in efficiency, according to a watchdog group .

Crystal ball: Getting conservationists and conservative politicians on the same side of the energy debate is a tough job. But recent revelations that the state’s utilities actively and legally opposed third-party groups expanding the use of solar energy collecting arrays ( show that much has to be done to get the state out of a 19th century, monopoly-dominated power generation paradigm.

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

Legislative Agenda

Two on tap

  • Education. The state’s Education Oversight Committee will meet Monday at 10 a.m. in 433 Blatt. Agenda.

  • Finance. The Joint Bond Review Committee will meet at 10:30 a.m. in 105 Gressette. Agenda.

Radar Screen

Playing with fire?

If it comes to light that Gov. Nikki Haley encouraged or turned a blind eye  to surrogate groups to donate heavily against powerful Senate incumbents [Nikki Setzler (D-Lexington), Jake Knotts (R-Lexington), Larry Martin (R-Pickens) and Wes Hayes (R-York)] and if any of those guys get reelected,then the governor’s agenda is dead for her final two years in office, according to Statehouse insiders.

Palmetto Politics

Ethically challenged

Gov. Nikki Haley took her war on ethics – or the presumed lack thereof – up a notch this week when she introduced a blue ribbon commission to prepare an ethics reform plan for the legislature to consider in January.

Last month, Haley flew around South Carolina on the state plane (which she now wants to sell) to tout her five-point reform plan, which she said would clear up ethical questions for seated members of the legislature.

This week, she introduced her commission that, while not Abraham Lincoln’s Team of Rivals, showed solid bipartisanship. Not only did she include a former gubernatorial primary opponent, former Attorney General Henry McMaster, but a former Democratic Attorney General, Travis Medlock. The commission also included current USC J-School head Charles Bierbauer, CNN’s former senior Washington, D.C., correspondent.

Haley's timing is solid, as there are smaller, less formulated ethics reform commissions in the House and Senate. Additionally, ethics complaints have been voiced recently over the actions of House Speaker Bobby Harrell (R-Charleston) and S.C. Rep. Ted Vick (D-Horry County), not to mention the scandal-plagued resignation earlier in the year of now former Lt. Gov. Ken Ard.

Look for a combined plan to emerge sometime in the next legislative session, as no one in either chamber will be facing reelection and can focus on an important, and complicated, issue like ethics.

Commentary

Remembering Peatsy

OCT. 19, 2012 – South Carolina has lost Peatsy Hollings, perhaps the Palmetto State's best unelected ambassador of her generation.

Peatsy, wife of retired U.S. Sen. Fritz Hollings, served as the gold standard of a senator's wife. Not content to simply write thank you notes for social occasions, she was a full participant in Hollings' political career, his most trusted advisor. Peatsy "grounded" Fritz -- she kept him in touch with what people felt, what they dreamed. She did it with aplomb and a streak of humor that served well as she and her husband traveled the halls of power and backroads of South Carolina.

A campaign story from when Hollings ran for president in 1984 serves as an example. Seems the senator had an appearance on a national morning news show. As people on the East Coast were starting to rise, the phone rang in the wee hours in the Hollings' California hotel room. When Peatsy answered, the caller asked, "Umm, is Senator Hollings there?" Without missing a beat, Peatsy replied as if talking to the senator, "Honey, your name Hollings?"

Born Rita Louise Liddy on the last day of 1935, Peatsy became a teacher. Often at events in Washington or Charleston, former students would approach "Miss Liddy," grasp her hand and tell her how much she meant to them and how she made civics come alive during classes at St. Andrews High School.

In the late 1960s, then an aide to Hollings, she helped research and edit what became a groundbreaking policy book by Hollings, "The Case Against Hunger." That book helped change the debate about need for maternal feeding in the country and led to the creation of the Women, Infants and Children, or WIC, supplemental nutrition program for low-income pregnant and breastfeeding women. It has provided help for millions of American children and gave them the fuel to allow their brains to develop as babies. Today, WIC serves 53 percent of all infants born today in the United States.

Married to Hollings in 1971, Peatsy helped with numerous charitable causes, such as the American Heart Association, March of Dimes and American Cancer Society. From 1990 to 2000, she co-chaired an annual gala salute at Ford's Theatre for the President and First Lady. In 1991, President George H.W. Bush nominated her to a four-year position on the National Advisory Mental Health Council, which she tackled with enthusiasm and passion.

Anne McCracken, a former Hollings press secretary, recalls how Peatsy charmed senators and presidents with her outgoing ease. When a new president and first lady came over for dinner in 1993, “the Secret Service asked her what catering company would be preparing the food so they could get sealed dishes for the President and Mrs. Clinton. As Peatsy continued to stir a pot, she answered with a sly smile, 'You're looking at the caterer.'”

Columbia public relations executive Bud Ferillo remembers how Peatsy wrote him a letter every week while he was serving in Vietnam in the late 1960s. “She was the mother hen to many of my generation, teaching history and sharing her love of politics.”

In fact, public education was always Peatsy's chief passion. As related in a 2004 story on how Peatsy redefined the role of being a senator's wife, she didn't hold back when asked what issue she would trumpet if Hollings became president: "Public education. I am definitely against a tax exemption for private schools. Private schools are one reason people are unequal -- they don't take everybody and most people can't afford them. Public schools should be the main concern of this nation because they teach different types of people how to live with each other. Certainly the cutbacks in education are criminal."

Soon after Hollings retired from the Senate in January 2005, Peatsy started a long struggle with Alzheimer's Disease. For years, she'd be with him in an office on Calhoun Street at the Medical University, where the senator continues to champion funding for cancer research. In later years, she enjoyed drives through the countryside.

Rita Louise Liddy Hollings, 1935-2012. You enriched the lives of South Carolinians. We'll miss you. Rest in peace.

Andy Brack, a former press secretary to Sen. Hollings, is publisher of Statehouse Report.  You can reach Brack at: brack@statehousereport.com.

Spotlight

S.C. Senate Democratic Caucus

The public spiritedness of our underwriters allows us to bring Statehouse Report to you at no cost. This week's spotlighted underwriter is the S.C. Senate Democratic Caucus. Organized almost 25 years ago, the Caucus has played an important role in many of the historic issues facing our state. As a vibrant minority party in the Senate, its role is to represent our constituents and present viable alternatives on critical issues. The SC Senate Democratic Caucus remains a unique place for this to occur in our policy process. Learn more about the Caucus at: www.scsenatedems.org.

My Turn

More work to do for better voting

By Victoria Middleton
Special to Statehouse Report

OCT. 19, 2012 -- It is a good thing that South Carolina voters will not face the unnecessary hurdle of producing government-issued photo IDs on November 6 of this year, but our work to protect voting rights can’t end with this.  While some traditions are worth holding onto, customs that impede our right to vote – a right essential to democracy – should be relegated to history.   

Our politicians should acknowledge (as Election Commission professionals do) that it is burdensome to vote only on the first Tuesday of November while our friends in over 30 states nationwide and other advanced countries have far more flexible options for early voting. 

We should consider allowing Election Day registration at the polls, like some other states, to accommodate recent arrivals in South Carolina and voters whose addresses have recently changed.  Certainly we can take more proactive steps to restore voting rights to the many voters in our state who have been disfranchised by over-incarceration in the last 40 years.   And why doesn’t ‘one person, one vote’ translate to a better, less elitist system than the ‘winner takes all’ of the Electoral College?

Instead of investing in any or all of these reforms, the state spent $3 million, by its own estimate, to defend a Voter ID law that was unfair to a significant group of South Carolina voters – as the state’s own data showed -- who lacked government-issued photo IDs.  The judges’ October 12 opinion indicated that the law “certainly would have been more restrictive” if the Department of Justice and the U.S. District Court in Washington, DC had not intervened.  They halted implementation of the law in its original form and expanded the interpretation of the “reasonable impediments” a voter might face to obtaining a photo ID. 

Certainly the Voter ID lawsuit demonstrated not only that there was no evidence of voter fraud in our state, but that the Voting Rights Act remains important.  South Carolina was required by Section V of that Act (which Congress reauthorized most recently in 2006 by an overwhelming margin in a bipartisan vote) to get approval of this change to our voting laws.  If not for this, the Voter ID law might have had a greater discriminatory impact on many voters in our state.  We are glad that, for the present, it will not.

Victoria Middleton is executive director ACLU South Carolina office in Charleston.

Feedback

Enjoyed article on Haley's options

To Statehouse Report:

I must say that your most recent article,Haley Can't Ignore Her Options,was quite well done! I was rather critical of an article you wrote many months ago and you seemed sure that I felt better, having gotten it off my chest.

I am always amused at the left wing of our country and I always look forward to getting a copy of  "West Of"' when I visit Charleston to read your column.

-- Harry Waddington, Dataw Island, S.C. 

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

Charleston, Vick, S.C. State

Charleston. Travel giant Conde Nast named the Palmetto State coastal city as its top tourist destination … in the world. More.

Vick. Embattled Chesterfield Democratic state Rep. Ted Vick has been accused of accepting illegal campaign contributions from the state Republican Party, which is in the hole several hundred thousand dollars itself. Vick was arrested earlier this year on DUI and gun possession charges in downtown Columbia with a recently graduated coed in the car, leading him to drop out of the race for the state’s newly-created 7th Congressional District seat. More.

Joblessness. The state’s unemployment office is going to layoff 136 of its own workers as federal stimulus money dries up. More.

S.C. State. Great: two different people claim they are the real chair of the school’s trustee board. Just what this school needed – more controversy. More.
Stegelin

Into the void


Also from Stegelin: 10/12 | 10/5 | 9/28 | 9/21
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/.