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ISSUE 11.50
Dec. 14, 2012

RECENT ISSUES:
11/07 | 10/31 | 10/24 | 10/17

Index

News :
Senators debate change on fast-tracking bills
Legislative Agenda :
Slow goings at the Statehouse
Radar Screen :
Bethune plate to be unveiled in February
Palmetto Politics :
Exclusion brings intrusion
Commentary :
Haley is pressing all of the media’s buttons
Spotlight :
Richardson Patrick Westbrook & Brickman
My Turn :
Senate rules impede reform
Feedback :
Special election would be needed
Scorecard :
More up than down
Stegelin :
Who's the fairest of them all?
Megaphone :
Join the crowd
Tally Sheet :
Highlights of 260 prefiled bills
Encyclopedia :
Mary McLeod Bethune

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NUMBER OF THE WEEK

$10 million

That’s how much Experian wants in order to continue offering victims of the state’s Department of Revenue cyber-hacking copies of their credit reports for a second year. The state had already contracted with the firm for $12 million for the first year. More.

MEGAPHONE

Join the crowd

“I would've been wonderful. I wanted to, like, actually go down to South Carolina and like stumble around Columbia, the capital, like pantless with a bottle of Jack Daniels and try to get arrested.

-- South Carolina native and basic cable pundit Stephen Colbert, who is currently leading in one poll to replace the retiring U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), on how he would have ended his presidential campaign in South Carolina last year. More.

TALLY SHEET

Highlights of 260 prefiled bills

A peek into the 2013 legislative session occurred this week when House members and senators prefiled more than 260 bills. At the bottom of this column, you can find links that list all of the bills. Below are some highlights.

Major Senate prefiled bills

Voting access. S. 2 (Campsen) calls for the “Equal Access to the Ballot Act” which would correct a snafu from this year that kept more than 250 off state and local ballots. It would allow candidates to only file electronic candidate forms. S. 70 (Malloy) relates to online filings.

Bingos. S. 3 (L. Martin) would clarify that allowed bingo, raffles and special events aren’t exceptions for state gambling laws, with other provisions. H. 3025 (Henderson) is similar.

Early voting. S. 4 (Scott) would establish early voting procedures , with several provisions. S. 67 (Malloy) also calls for early voting. H. 3005 (Sellers) and H. 3153 (Clyburn) are similar.

Jaidon’s Law. S. 5 (Peeler) calls for approval of “Jaiden’s Law,” a proposal to amend provisions related to custodial rights and visitation, with provisions on child abuse and substance abuse. H. 3102 (Forrester) is similar.

Common law marriage. S. 11 (L. Martin) calls for the end of common-law marriage, with exceptions. 

Leadership PACs. S. 13 (Rankin) calls for prohibition of political action committees organized by certain statewide officials, with other provisions.

Highway fund. S. 14 (Grooms) calls for a “Palmetto Highway Improvement Fund” with credits deriving from revenue surpluses.

Fairness. S. 15 (Grooms) calls for the “Taxpayer Fairness Act” to limit the state Revenue Department’s interpretation of tax laws. H. 3020 (Merrill) is similar.

Ballot initiative. S. 16 (Grooms) calls for a constitutional amendment for initiative petitions and referenda to repeal or enact laws.

Heirs property. S. 18 (Hayes) calls for reform of the state heirs’ property laws.

Hygiene. S. 21 (Ford) calls for school instruction to students on personal hygiene.

Restructuring. S. 22 (Sheheen) calls for state restructuring by adding a Department of Administration with several other provisions. S. 28 (Campsen) is a different version of the same concept.

Identity theft. S. 26 (Sheheen) would establish an identity theft reimbursement fund because of the Department of Revenue computer hacking that compromised identities of virtually all South Carolina adults. H. 3028 (Merrill) calls for the state to fund identity theft protection for five years. H. 3029 (King) would allow taxpayers to get a tax break on purchases of ID theft protection.

Trust funds. S. 40 (Campsen) calls for a constitutional amendment related to how state trust funds can be used.

Wetlands. S. 48 (Campsen) calls for the Wetlands Restoration Act to for repair of some impoundments.

Constitutional officers. S. 50 (Campsen) calls for a constitutional amendment to remove the state comptroller general from being a constitutional officer. S. 51-S. 54 (Campsen) calls for the same for the S.C. secretary of state, adjutant general, state superintendent and state agriculture commissioner. S. 109 (Bright) relates to the state superintendent.

Party registration. S. 59 (Fair) calls for voting registration by party for participation in primaries.

Board of Regents. S. 68 (Malloy) calls for a state college and university Board of Regents to oversee state colleges and replace individual boards of trustees, with several provisions. H. 3132 (G.M. Smith) is similar.

Voter ID. S. 69 (Malloy) would amend state voter ID laws to allow voters to cast provisional ballots, with several provisions. H. 3003 (Rutherford) would permit photo college IDs to be used for voter identification.

Judicial funding. S. 72 (Malloy) calls for a constitutional amendment to appropriate a fixed percentage of state appropriations to fun the state’s judiciary.

False claims. S. 73 (Malloy) calls for the S.C. False Claims Act to define liabilities and more for false or fraudulent claims, with several provisions.

Sex change. S. 80 (Bright) would prohibit state funds from being used for prisoner sex change surgery.

Abortion politics. S. 84 (Bright) calls for the “Personhood Act of South Carolina” that establishes life begins at fertilization. S. 87 (Bright) is a measure calling for life to begin at conception.

Higher ed funding. S. 86 (Bright) calls for a constitutional amendment to fund higher education institutions “on a uniform and nondiscriminatory per pupil basis.”

Magistrate exclusion. S. 88 (Bright) would prohibit state senators, family members and legal associates from representing people before magistrates the senator recommended.

Term limits. S. 97 (Cleary) calls for term limits in the House (12 years) and Senate (16 years).  H. 3006 and 3007 (Clemmons) are similar. H. 3008 (Ballentine) calls for a constitutional amendment on term limits.

Religious freedom. S. 103 (Bright) would prohibit restrictions on free speech or religion during any government meeting.

Shorter session. S. 108 (Bright) calls for shorter sessions for the General Assembly.

Unemployment benefits. S. 112 (Bright) would keep part-time workers from receiving unemployment benefits.

Major House prefiled bills

Lobbying. H. 3002 (King) would prohibit the governor’s office from using public funds to lobby the General Assembly.

Dual degree. H. 3016 (Bowen) calls for a cooperative dual credit program to allow students to work on a high school diploma and college degree at the same time.

Drug crimes. H. 3037 (Rutherford) calls for drug-related offenses to be excluded from “No Parole Offenses.” H. 3050 (G.M. Smith) would revise definitions for “No Parole Offenses.”

Public safety. H. 3043 (Pitts) calls for restructuring the Department of Public Safety with many provisions. H. 3120 (Crosby) would create a state police department, with several provisions.

Behavioral health. H. 3054 (G.R. Smith) calls for restructuring of the Division of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services and Department of Mental Health into the Department of Behavioral Health Services, with many provisions.

Magistrates. H. 3056 (Rutherford) would require magistrate candidates to be screened by the Judicial Merit Selection Commission before they are appointed.

Home invasion. H. 3067 (Gilliard) would create the “Home Invasion and Drive-by Shooting Accountability and Protection Act,” with many provisions.

Supreme Court. H. 3090 (Pitts) calls for a constitutional amendment to add two justices to the state Supreme Court.

Obamacare. H. 3096 (Clemmons) would prohibit a state health benefit exchange from being established or operated by the state.

Sex abuse. H. 3104 (Stavrinakis) would require the state Board of Education to develop training materials and programs about sexual abuse, with other provisions.

Earned income tax credit. H. 3107 (Cobb-Hunter) calls for a refundable earned income tax credit based on the federal credit.

Pay raise. H. 3108 (King) calls for a pay hike for state lawmakers to $50,000 a year, with several provisions.

Zero-based budgeting. H. 3109 (Crosby) calls for the state to use zero-based budget reviews.

Senior exemption. H. 3113 (Spires) would exempt all seniors from property taxes.

Remove food tax exemption. H. 3114 (Spires) would delete the state sales tax exemption on unprepared food.

Fair tax. H. 3116 (Taylor) calls for enactment of the fair tax, with many provisions.

Info restructuring. H. 3117 (Loftis) would establish the Department of State Chief Information Officer, with several provisions.

No texting. H. 3118 (Gilliard) would prohibit drivers from texting while driving.

No talking. H. 3121 (Bowen) would prohibit drivers from driving and talking on the phone at the same time, with several provisions.

Regulatory reform. H. 3128 (Bedingfield) calls for reform of the say the state handles regulations by deleting automatic approvals, among other things.

No lobbying. H. 3152 (Merrill) would prohibit use of public funds for lobbying.

ENCYCLOPEDIA

Mary McLeod Bethune

The daughter and sister of former slaves, Mary McLeod Bethune was born the fifteenth of seventeen siblings, near Mayesville on July 10, 1875. After emancipation, her father and mother, Samuel McLeod and Patsy McIntosh, worked on plantations for wages until they managed to buy land for cotton farming and build a small cabin for their family.

Bethune gained an educational opportunity rare for black children of the time when the Trinity Presbyterian Mission School opened in 1885 about five miles from her home. She attended for three years when she was not needed in the fields, absorbing learning in both industrial and academic subjects. She also learned domestic arts from her mother, whom Bethune later credited with holding the family together and with engineering their successful transition from slavery to self-sustenance.

With a scholarship from a teacher in Colorado, Bethune continued her education at Scotia Seminary for Negro Girls (later Barber-Scotia College) in Concord, North Carolina. As a student there, she particularly honed her public-speaking and singing skills. On graduation in 1894 she entered the Bible Institute for Home and Foreign Missions (later Moody Bible Institute) in Chicago with hopes of preparing for an overseas mission assignment. When she graduated a year later, however, she discovered that the Mission Board did not make overseas appointments to African Americans. Instead, she began the career as an American educator that would bring her national acclaim and provide her a platform for activism in racial equality.

As a teacher at the Haines Institute in Augusta, Georgia, Bethune found a role model and mentor in Lucy Craft Laney, the first African American female to found and manage a major secondary school. Bethune left Haines after one year to teach at Presbyterian-sponsored Kendall Institute in Sumter, where she met Albertus Bethune, a native of nearby Wedgefield, whom she married in May 1898. The couple moved to Savannah, Georgia, where Albertus had found work and where their only child, Albert, was born. By 1899 they moved to Palatka, Florida, where Bethune was urged by the Presbyterian Church to establish a mission school. In 1904, in the resort community of Daytona, she opened the Daytona Normal and Industrial School for Negro Girls.

An expert fund-raiser and eloquent speaker among the wealthy northerners who visited Daytona Beach, Bethune developed her small school into a major institution. By 1910 more than one hundred students attended the all-grades school to study academic, industrial, and religious subjects. In 1911 Bethune founded the McLeod Hospital to provide the first local medical opportunity for African Americans and to train African American health-care professionals. Her school also ran a large farm and various social service outreach missions. The Methodist Episcopal Church affiliated with the growing school in 1923 and merged it with the Cookman Institute, a coeducational Methodist school in Jacksonville. Bethune soon added a junior college; and in 1929 the institution became Bethune-Cookman College, with Bethune serving as its president until 1942.

Bethune’s widespread influence on behalf of African Americans began with her presidency of the Florida Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs (1917–1924). She later served as president of the Southeastern Association of Colored Women, president of the Florida State Teachers Association, president of the National Association of Colored Women, founder and president of the National Council of Negro Women, member of President Herbert Hoover’s Commission on Home Building and Home Ownership, vice president of the National Urban League, and vice president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. With these local and national platforms, her influence ranged from establishing community welfare projects for African Americans to convincing U.S. Army officials to include black women at all levels in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC).

Bethune gained her greatest national renown when President Franklin Roosevelt tapped her as an adviser on New Deal programs and spokesperson to and for African Americans concerning his administration’s reform policies. In 1936 he appointed her director of the Office of Negro Affairs in the National Youth Administration, a post she held for eight years and from which she was able to assure that thousands of black youths received a fair share of government-supported college funding, job training, and employment opportunities.

As an educator and civil rights activist, Bethune was recognized with numerous national awards and honorary academic degrees. Among the first of these was an honorary master of science degree from South Carolina State University. She also received an honorary LL.D. from Howard University and honorary doctorate degrees in humanities from Bennett College, West Virginia State College, and Rollins College. Bethune spent most of the last five years of her life in retirement at her home on the Bethune-Cookman College campus. She died of a heart attack on May 18, 1955, and was buried at Bethune-Cookman.

-- Excerpted from the entry by Katherine Reynolds Chaddock. 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

Senators debate change on fast-tracking bills

Decide to keep status quo rule

By Bill Davis, senior editor

DEC. 14, 2012 -- Fewer “frivolous” bills will likely be debated on the floor of the state Senate in the coming legislative session thanks to a seemingly innocuous rules vote in that chamber’s pre-session organizational meeting this week.

At issue: Senate Rule 33, which requires two-thirds of senators on the Senate floor to vote for any bill to be placed on a quicker “Special Order” agenda and leapfrog over other bills still mired in committee. But a procedural question that came up Wednesday was whether to keep the ratio at two-thirds, or drop it to a simple majority.

On Wednesday, the Senate voted in near unanimity to maintain the status quo to fast-track a bill to the chamber’s Special Order agenda.

The lone vote to change the rule came from state Sen. Lee Bright (R-Spartanburg), a self-identified conservative member of the “William Wallace Caucus,” who has in the past has proposed a bill that would require the state to issue its own currency due to the perceived imminent default of the federal government.

Winthrop political scientist Scott Huffmon said such a lopsided vote indicated an arranged and pre-agreed-upon vote to keep more “frivolous” bills at bay.         

Three fights emerge over one issue

Rule 33 reportedly caused a three interwoven political fights: Senate Democrats versus Senate Republicans; moderate Republicans versus conservative Republicans; and, according to several sources, Gov. Nikki Haley versus the Senate.

On one hand, the Senate’s Democratic Caucus was concerned that a drop in the ratio, or hard number, could cede more power to the Republicans, who hold a 28-18 advantage.

If, as was first suggested, that simple majority vote be allowed to fast-track a bill, then Democrats worried publicly that 24 votes would be easy for Republicans to get and place their agenda front and center in the Senate.

Phil Bailey, political director for the Senate Democratic Caucus, said “The Senate was the winner today with this vote.” Bailey said a high threshold was needed to make sure only bills worthy of widespread support be moved up ahead of other potential legislation.

Bailey said if the Senate had passed the change, it would have been “one step closer to becoming the House of Representatives.” Those in the Senate have long quipped that the state House is like car race, in which anything can get passed.

Recently, though, a compromise threshold of 28 yea votes was floated. Observers and politicians speaking not for attribution said that this was the favorite of the Haley administration, since it would be easy for her to track which GOP senator had strayed.

Haley has pledged publicly to help create a more conservative legislature that is more in line with her agenda so she could place additional pressure on “wayward” Republicans come the next election or primary. Despite repeated requests for comment, Haley’s office didn’t respond.

The view from the middle

State Sen. Larry Martin (R-Pickens), widely considered a moderate, said that he opposed a 28-vote threshold because of the difficulty of getting to that number.

Martin, who chairs the Judiciary Committee, said the Senate has moved some items to the fast-track agenda with votes of 20-10 in the past due to the number of senators available to vote. However, he added that often some Democrats vote with the Republicans for fast-tracking, depending on the issue.

“They’ll never take our freedom”

The third fight was within the Republican Caucus in the Senate between moderate “Chamber of Commerce” Republicans and the aforementioned William Wallace Caucus.

William Wallacer state Sen. Kevin Bryant (R-Anderson) complained recently that Democrats and “mainstream” Republicans had banded together under the two-thirds requirement to stifle his smaller caucus’ bills.

“It happened every day, last session,” complained Bryant.

Bright has vowed to continue to “fight a guerrilla war” until he and his more conservatives get the rule-change help they need. “I work in the Senate,” he said. “I know what the numbers are.”

Bright has continued his practice of introducing headline-grabbing bills that may be short on widespread support. This week, for example, he introduced a bill that would stop the state from paying for sex-change operations for inmates.

Martin said Corrections has never paid for such a procedure, and was incredibly unlikely to do so in the future “considering the number of calls I get from families of inmates needing knee replacements and other non-life threatening procedures.”

One senator, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said maintaining the status quo on special order votes was needed because it would also slow crazier bills emerging from the House. The senator specifically mentioned H. 3101, a so-called “nullification” bills that would create criminal and civil penalties for those taking part in federal health care reform.

“Now, how can you advocate that, putting someone in jail for taking part in a legal, federal program?” asked the senator.

In related news, state Sen. Tom Davis (R-Bluffton) has finished work on his own “nullification” bill that would also block federal health care reform in South Carolina.

Crystal ball: This is one of those times that the legislature got it right by doing nothing. If it were easier to fast-track bills in the “more contemplative” chamber, then more extreme views would dominate debate and the hard work of improving state government’s function would suffer.

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

Legislative Agenda

Slow goings at the Statehouse

Holiday gatherings seem to have crowded out many major state meetings next week.

  • Ethics. The Senate Select Committee on Ethics Reform will hold a public hearing on Wednesday at 11 a.m. in 105 Gressette. Agenda.
Radar Screen

Bethune plate to be unveiled in February

South Carolina’s eyes will turn to the late educator Mary McLeod Bethune in February during Black History Month when officials and family members gather to unveil a special state  license plate made in her honor. 

The event, announced by Twin City Outreach Mission of Bethune’s hometown of Mayesville in Sumter County, is to feature a speech by Kevin Shwedo, executive director of the S.C. Department of Motor Vehicles. Former WIS-TV weatherman Joe Pinner is to be emcee for the ceremony, which starts 10 a.m. Feb. 12 in the Statehouse atrium. Members of Bethune’s family, including her grandniece and former mayor Jereleen Hollimon-Miller, will also be present.

Bethune, an educator and civil rights leader, may be best known for starting a school in Daytona Beach, Fla., that eventually became Bethune-Cookman University. An adviser to four U.S. presidents, you can learn more about her in the South Carolina Encyclopedia profile in the right column.

Proceeds from the license plate will be used to build and operate a Bethune museum and restaurant, construction of a nature trail in her honor, and to promote tourism and jobs for Mayesville.

Palmetto Politics

Exclusion brings intrusion

It’s kind of ironic, don’t you think? Gov. Nikki Haley, the great opponent of federal intrusion into state matters, is opening the door for the federal government to run a big chunk of public health care in South Carolina?

Today is the postponed deadline for states to submit their plans for state-run health care exchanges, as a piece of the Affordable Care Act, part of federal health care reform decried by some as “Obamacare.”

With South Carolina “opting out,” it means that the state’s health care exchange will be run and overseen by the federal government. This week, state Medicaid czar Tony Keck debated the move, but held fast to his boss’ line. But what is that line?

That federal expansion of health care is bad, or that federal intrusion is worse?

Finding the right ‘ReplaceMint’

Gov. Nikki Haley is expected to soon give one South Carolinian a plum holiday present – a seat in the U.S. Senate. That gift would be to fill part of the term of retiring U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), who is leaving office (and relative penury) to take over as the well-paid head of the conservative Heritage Foundation.  An election is required in 2014 to fill the final two years of the term.

Haley, who quickly ruled herself out as a potential replacement, has seen her “short list” leaked to the public: Congressmen Tim Scott and Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), former S.C. Attorney General and GOP workhorse Henry McMaster, former First Lady Jenny Sanford and current DHEC head Catherine Templeton.

By most accounts, Scott, the freshman caucus leader, is the most likely choice between him and Gowdy, according to sources and observers, despite not having even completed one term in Congress. Scott is arguably the most conservative of the bunch, and the most likely to continue DeMint’s legislative legacy.

McMaster is the consummate “statesman,” in that he has consistently focused on state issues rather than raise his national profile. As such, insiders tell us that he is probably not the go-to candidate.

Sanford and Templeton’s names on the list were welcomed by some as proof of Haley championing the expansion of political involvement of women in the state politics. South Carolina has one of the lowest female representation in government ratios in the nation.

But while Templeton is viewed by many as an up and comer in political terms, especially after she so quickly rooted out massive problems at DHEC once taking over, Sanford’s inclusion is a bit quirkier. Long rumored to be the “brains” and push behind her former husband’s political rise, the former first lady has no direct elected political experience.

If Brian Epstein was the “fifth Beatle,” then Stephen Colbert may be the sixth possible replacement. A recent poll placed him ahead of the other five, but Haley has already ruled him out because of his lack of knowledge regarding spotted salamanders.

Commentary

Haley is pressing all of the media’s buttons

By Andy Brack, editor and publisher

DEC. 14, 2012 -- You’ve got to give it to Gov. Nikki Haley.  Despite sagging state poll numbers that show her as less popular than President Obama, she’s playing the media for all she’s worth in the continuing saga over appointing a replacement for retiring U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint.

But what’s really going on is how Haley is showing herself to be a master of dragging out the announcement of her pick to stay in the headlines, despite repeatedly saying she would make a quick decision.

On Dec. 6, DeMint surprised politicos in Washington and South Carolina with news that he would step down four years early to take over as head of the conservative Heritage Foundation.  Haley thanked him for his service, leadership and friendship.  But speculation started immediately about whether she would try to take the seat herself.

Later that day, she put an end to that speculation by saying she would not resign so she could potentially take the seat.  “My goal is not to make it drag out,” she told a radio reporter of the decision.

The next day, Haley issued a statement that reiterated she’d make a quick decision, but in a “thoughtful and dignified” manner.  Her choice, she said, would be someone cast in the conservative, tea party mold that she and DeMint embrace.

“I will appoint a person who has the same philosophy of government that Jim DeMint and I share,” the statement said.  

Over the weekend, the pundits had a ball, speculating about this member of Congress or that former elected official in DeMint’s position.

By Monday, Haley stepped back into headlines saying she wouldn’t hogtie the nominee by expecting him or her to be a lame duck “placeholder” for a 2014 election when voters will pick someone to serve the final two years of DeMint’s term.  

“I do not want to deprive our state’s citizens of the chance to render their judgment on the appointee’s performance by way of their vote,” she said in another statement.  

With reporters frothing at the mouth Tuesday, Haley teased them at the Boeing plant in North Charleston.  She joked she had a big announcement, which turned out to be nothing about DeMint’s seat, but that “we make planes” at Boeing.  But also that day, someone apparently leaked Haley’s short list of five contenders to the media, which set them off again like a pack of wild dogs.  

“Only my husband knows what’s in my head right now, so I’ll leave it at that,” she later said.  She wouldn’t answer questions about possible choices, noting, “There are numerous good people who could hold this position. South Carolina is not limited on good people.”

And the governor as media puppeteer pulled reporters along more.  She said the decision on DeMint’s replacement likely would be made before Christmas.  “I don’t want this to drag out,” she told a reporter. “I don’t think that is good for the people of South Carolina.”

Result:  More positive stories on Wednesday, which deflected news about a Tuesday poll that showed Haley two points behind her 2010 challenger,  Democratic Sen. Vincent Sheheen, in a mock contest.  

So what happened next?  Haley kept the media in a lather with a comment that her pick wouldn’t need to have political experience.  

“There is no question that I'm looking for a conservative person to fill those shoes, but we are never going to find someone as conservative and staunch as Jim DeMint,” she said after a state Budget and Control Board meeting.

By now if you don’t believe the governor has been playing the media like a fiddle, guess what she did Thursday?  She  released mock vetting documents on Facebook rejecting home-grown comedian Stephen Colbert as a potential senator.

So kudos to Haley for not “dragging out” the process.  

Fortunately for all of us, the grandstanding will be done soon with the big losers being the state’s Democrats, who will have to field two Senate candidates in 2014 when there are few people who are standouts now as contenders.  Just watch the headlines.

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

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My Turn

Senate rules impede reform

By Larry Barnett
Special to Statehouse Report

DEC. 14, 2012 -- I’ve been watching the state legislature for several years now, and I’ve seen the same scenario play out again and again – whether in taxes, government restructuring, education or just about anything else. A sensible bill will make it out of the House, only to languish in the Senate and, weeks or months later, expire. Occasionally a reform will pass the Senate and die in the House, but far more often it happens the other way around.

After several years of wondering why this was, I decided to study the General Assembly’s parliamentary rules. What I discovered goes a long way toward explaining this anomaly. Parliamentary rules are intended to establish order and fairness. In the South Carolina Senate, however, many rules seem to be there for the sole purpose of giving individual senators more power. Here are a few such rules, and how senators should change them:

First, the Senate operates under an unwritten rule known as the Contested Calendar rule. By tradition, if one senator has any objection to a bill – and virtually every bill has at least one foe among the chamber’s 46 members – he can state that he “wishes to be present” when the bill is debated on the floor; at that point the bill is put on the Contested Calendar. Alternatively, if a bill passes out of committee, one member on the losing side can issue a “minority report” on the bill, and it, too, is put on the Contested Calendar. Once it’s there, the objecting senator has to be present in the chamber when the bill comes to the floor. If he’s not, it goes back to the bottom of the list. In effect, all the objecting senator has to do is leave the floor when the bill comes up, and it won’t be debated.

In South Carolina, one senator has the power to kill a bill or hold it hostage until his demands are met. As far as I’ve been able to determine, this traditional rule is unique to South Carolina, and in recent years it has been abused by many individual senators who simply want to prevent bills they don’t like from getting a hearing.

Just this week, the Senate amended the rule, limiting the number of bills any one senator can “contest” to three. That’s not a serious reform.  The Contested Calendar rule is simply un-democratic and should be discarded altogether.

Another rule (Rule 19) states that committee chairmen are determined by party seniority. This can and does result in lesser qualified people being placed in highly influential and powerful positions. Each chairman should be selected from the majority party by majority vote of those serving on the committees.

Rule 22 is another hindrance to open debate. It allows bills to be “buried” in committee with virtually no chance of recall. Every year, literally scores of sensible bills with wide support die this way. If the committee chairman and a few allies don’t like it, they don’t have to take it up. In order to get the bill out of committee, a bill’s sponsor must persuade half the full Senate (24 members) or, after five legislative days, three quarters of the Senate (35 members) to vote to recall the bill from committee and give it a hearing on the floor. Except under highly unusual circumstances, that is practically impossible – and as a result the bill’s opponents can kill it by never allowing the Senate a vote on it. This rule should be modified to allow the bill’s sponsor to ask for an up-or-down vote at the committee level. The rule could include a reasonable time frame during which the bill would have to receive a committee vote. The principle here is simple: lawmakers shouldn’t have the power to kill legislation simply by ignoring it.

Finally, Rule 7B allows senators to introduce guests to the chamber. Anyone who has ever attended a session of the Senate will know how frustrating it is to see important debates constantly interrupted by these feel-good “introductions” in which senators recognize family members, friends, constituents from their districts, staffers from local chambers of commerce, high school sports teams – you name it. These introductions waste enormous amounts of time and they interrupt important debates for no good reason. Moreover, you can’t help but think this parliamentary “rule” is used as a campaign tool – making people from back home feel important by being recognized from the floor of the Senate. If senators want to campaign, they should do so on their own time – and on their own dime.

My hope is that senators will attempt to make their chamber a more open lawmaking assembly. They should bear in mind: power doesn’t belong to individual senators and committee chairman. It belongs to the people.

Barnett, a retired engineer who lives in Fort Mill, is a member of the South Carolina Policy Council.

Feedback

Special election would be needed

To the editor:

The comment under "Domino Effect" about state legislators currying Haley's favor with regards to "appointing" a replacement for Scott or Mulvaney is overstating the governor's authority.  An immediate special election will be in order.

-- Olin Sansbury, Spartanburg, S.C.

NOTE: Mr. Sansbury is correct. Our news brief was wrong. If a sitting member of Congress is leaves office in the first of a two-year term, a special election is held, as outlined in this link.  Thanks for your eagle eye!

Send us your thoughts.  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

More up than down

S.C. economy. Economists expect stable growth if federal “fiscal cliff” is avoided. More.

Diversity. Kudos go out to Gov. Nikki Haley for floating the names of two women and one black man for possible replacements for Sen. Jim DeMint. More.

Sturgeon. A state court has decided an energy giant has to come up with a new plan for a power plant so it doesn’t mess with a rare fish. More.

Hacking. The Department of Revenue received a $20 million loan to cover expenses related to its recent cyber-hacking. That’s great, but who’s going to pay it back? More.

Guns, guns, guns. The number of federal background checks for firearms more than doubled over the last year in South Carolina. More.

Stegelin

Who's the fairest of them all?


Also from Stegelin: 12/7 | 11/30 | 11/23 | 11/16
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