Let's welcome in the new year!Editor Bill Davis will be back next week with a peek at the coming session.
Have a safe and happy new year!
Cranking up the machine
While the legislative session will start in full swing on January 8, a few meetings of note occur next week after the New Year’s holiday:
- Judiciary. A subcommittee will meet 10:30 a.m. Thursday in 105 Gressette to discuss a bill that would clarify wording on bingos, raffles and special events related game promotions. Another subcommittee will meet 11 a.m. Thursday in 308 Gressette to discuss a bill that would clarify economic statements of interest requirements for candidates for public office, the very issue that deleted hundreds off the ballot this November. Agenda.
- Hacking. The S.C. Department of Revenue Committee will meet 1:30 p.m. Thursday in 516 Blatt to hear testimony from several agencies, including the governor’s office, on the hacking of private information of 3.8 million South Carolinians from state computers. Agenda.
- Budget. The Joint Other Funds Oversight Committee will meet Friday at 10 a.m. in 105 Gressette to discuss interim budget adjustments. Agenda.
Year of the Advocate ahead?
With all of the frustration about politics in South Carolina stemming from recent controversies about ethics, elections, hacking, guns, education and more, we get the feeling that grassroots advocates will work extra hard in the 2013 legislative session to make their voices heard and hold legislators accountable. While 2012 was the Year of the Incumbent after the state Supreme Court knocked off more than 250 people from ballots, maybe 2013 will be the Year of the Advocate.
Gun politics already on full auto
Looks like any debate about gun violence in South Carolina won’t be rational based on how some politicians are already stoking the fires that the government will take away people’s weapons.
Sen. Lee Bright, R-Spartanburg, prefiled S. 84, the “South Carolina Firearms Freedom Act,” a bill that would exempt firearms and ammunition made in South Carolina from federal law. More.
On Thursday, Gov. Nikki Haley joined the fray with a Facebook comment that guns weren’t the problem -- people with mental health problems were. And she highlighted that she had a concealed weapons permit: “As a CWP holder, I am pro 2nd amendment and pro 10th amendment and will defend both. I would support open carry and reciprocity with any other state. The horrible shootings we have seen over the past few years have been related to individuals with mental health so my administration went right to the source.” As of 9 a.m. today, some 4,714 people had “liked” Haley’s comment.
Strap in. Lots of fear-mongering ahead.
Winthrop University political scientist Scott Huffmon suggests that there will be a lot of GOP soul-searching in the months ahead as conservatives try to find a balance between the tea party side of the party as they try to attract more minorities, who may have more moderate views.
The battle ahead may be between Republicans who want to compromise and those who don’t. For a real look on how that plays out, just watch the state Senate, where the so-called “William Wallace” caucus battles constantly with more moderate, country club Republicans on a seeming daily basis.
Some resolutions for lawmakers’ new year
By Andy Brack, editor and publisherDEC. 28, 2012 -- South Carolina legislators should resolve to do some real good this year for taxpayers -- not just show up in Columbia for the first five months of the year and give lip service to change.
It is far past time for the state of South Carolina to get away from doing things just because that’s how things always have been done. Here are some resolutions for our elected officials to consider:
- Remove sales tax exemptions. South Carolina is losing $3.1 billion in sales tax revenue every year because it exempts more for special interests than it actually taxes in sales. If the state could remove half of the exemptions on the books, it could significantly cut the sales tax rate, which means all taxpayers would pay less in sales tax.
- Increase the gas tax. Our roads and bridges are woefully underfunded because the state’s gas tax hasn’t been increased in more than 20 years. We’ve got a rate that is half of neighboring states. Our penury shows in the pitiful condition of state highways and bridges. Raising the gas tax by 15 cents per gallon -- which doesn’t necessarily mean gas at the pump will rise that much -- will generate more than $350 million a year to fix existing roadways.
- Modernize elections. Not only do state lawmakers need to fix the snarl they created that knocked more than 250 candidates off ballots this year, they need to modernize the process to provide for real early voting, same-day registration and other improvements to make voting more attractive to more people.
- Early childhood education. If we want our children to have a better chance in the global economy, they need to have the option to attend 4-year-old kindergarten across the state, just as more than 80,000 kids do every year in Georgia. Pay for it by dedicating recurring revenues from one year of growth. This is an important investment that we must make for the state’s economic future.
- Get serious with ethics reform. State lawmakers need to change law and increase funding to make the state Ethics Commission become the investigatory agency for legislative ethics complaints. Legislators can still make ultimate decisions on whether to chastise fellow legislators for ethical gaffes, but an outside agency needs to have the power to get the process going.
* * *
THE PRO-GUN LOBBY had some critical comments about last week’s column on reducing gun violence. And rightfully so. I could have been more specific and explained things a little better. To wit:
- No guns for felons. I wrote the state should pass a law banning gun ownership for convicted felons and that if any felons are caught with a gun, they should go back to jail. A North Charleston friends notes there are two statutes that prohibit gun possession by people convicted violent crimes. However, that’s not tough enough. A convicted violent criminal found with a gun should go back to jail for awhile, not just pile up another charge that may send them back to jail.
- Assault rifles. The column did not describe that semi-automatic weapons are “one shot per trigger pull.” In calling for a renewed ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, I should have explained better: The government should again ban civilian versions of automatic rifles, such as the AR-15 (based on the M16 rifle) and AK-47 (I have fired this gun.) While these civilian assault rifles are “one shot per trigger pull,” they can be fed with high-capacity magazines and are dangerous. If you’ve seen kids in a video arcade, you know they can pull a trigger two or three times a second. In my view, hunting rifles are fine -- as long as you have to reload an individual cartridge before another trigger pull. Make sense now?
There were several other comments, but the bottom line is that we need to have a reasonable statewide and national debate about guns to protect hunters’ rights to hunt and people’s rights to protect themselves. But a person doesn’t need to have a half-dozen assault rifles in a storage locker because no hunter I know uses them to shoot deer.
Andy Brack is publisher of Statehouse Report. You can reach Brack at: email@example.com.
The Riley Institute at Furman
The public spiritedness of our underwriters allows us to bring Statehouse Report to you at no cost. This week's spotlighted underwriter is The Richard W. Riley Institute of Government, Politics, and Public Leadership, a multi-faceted, non-partisan institute affiliated with the Department of Political Science at Furman University. Named for former Governor of South Carolina and United States Secretary of Education, Richard Riley, the Institute is unique in the United States in the emphasis it places on engaging students in the various arenas of politics, public policy, and public leadership. Learn more about the Riley Institute. Also learn more about the Riley Institute's Center for Education Policy and Leadership.
Leveling the cliff
By former U.S. Sen. Fritz Hollings
Special to Statehouse Report
DEC. 28, 2012 -- The nation has two problems: paying for government; offshoring the economy.
Speaker Boehner exclaims: “The problem is spending.” Given a balanced budget in 2001, President Bush cut taxes, waged wars, added prescription drugs to Medicare, stimulated, bailed out – all without paying for them – increasing the debt $5 trillion in eight years. Boehner supported the spending without paying for it and can’t say now the problem is spending. President Obama increased the debt $5 trillion in four years and can’t say spending is the problem. We haven’t paid for government for twelve years and increased taxes and spending cuts will both be necessary.
We have a rule in the S.C. House of Representatives that any spending bill must be accompanied with a certificate from the Controller that the expenditure is within the revenues. Programs are paid for at the time of adoption. That’s how we’ve maintained our AAA credit rating in South Carolina.
Globalization is nothing more than a trade war with production looking for a country cheaper to produce. 150 countries use a Value Added Tax to compete in globalization because the VAT is rebated on exports. Our corporate tax is not rebated. This is killing manufacture in the United States. A U.S. Manufacturer exporting to China pays the 35 percent Corporate Tax and when exports reach Shanghai is levied a 17 percent VAT. A China manufacturer exports to the United States tax free. This 52 percent difference has every manufacturer looking over his shoulder to see whether his competitor is looking to offshore. If his competition offshores it will put him out of business. You can’t start production. You can’t increase production. The economy stagnates.
To compete in globalization we must eliminate the 35 percent corporate tax and replace it with the 7 percent VAT. Immediately some will react: the VAT is complicated; the VAT is regressive. The VAT is not complicated, not regressive. With computers it is easily implemented. The corporate VAT needs no loopholes for a poor corporation. The VAT closes all loopholes, giving instant tax reform and is self-enforcing so that we can reduce the size of government (IRS). Last year’s corporate tax produced $181.1 billion in revenues. A 7 percent VAT for 2011 would have produced $872 billion. The Main Street merchant or small business is paying the full 35 percent corporate tax. The multinationals have so many loopholes they are getting away with murder. Two years ago, GE and Honeywell paid no corporate tax. All in Congress say they are for tax cuts, tax reform, reducing the size of government, helping small business, creating millions of jobs, paying down the debt and balancing the budget. This tax cut with spending cuts will permit Congress to balance the budget in two years.
In 2006, the Princeton economist Alan Blinder estimated that in ten years the U.S. would offshore 30 to 40 million jobs -- an average of 3 to 4 million jobs a year. We continue to offshore more jobs than we create. The Wall Street Journal (12/13/12) headlines: “Fed ties rates to joblessness.” The economy is not suffering from a lack of consumer confidence or demand. It’s a lack of consumer payrolls. We’ve offshored our research, technology, production, jobs, payrolls -- the economy.
Corporate America offshores to China and we need it to onshore or invest in the U.S. Free trade won’t do it. China completely controls it’s market and world trade. We’ve got to protect those items vital to our defense and strong economy. We’ve had trade laws to protect our defense and economy for years. In 1961, President Kennedy enforced the Defense Production Act of 1960 to save the textile industry. In 1971, President Nixon imposed a 10 percent surcharge on imports when our trade deficit was a miniscule of what our trade deficit is today. Our trade deficit in 2011 of $559 billion cost us four million jobs per year. In 1984, President Reagan protected steel, motor vehicles, computers and machine tools vital to our economy. Both Presidents Bush and Obama have been lax on enforcing trade law. Both refuse to enforce the Defense Production Act. Last year we were begging Russia for helicopters for Afghanistan. If both had imposed a tariff on imported automobiles, like Nixon, the bailout of Detroit wouldn’t have been necessary. Both refuse to penalize China for devaluing its currency. The Nation can’t survive with China controlling its market and world trade. Already China takes U.S. technology, slightly alters and patents it, with the China product becoming the article in trade. In two years, China will become the largest market in the world.
The Congress must determine those items vital to our defense and economy and the President must vigorously enforce the laws.
Hollings, who retired from the U.S. Senate in 2005 after 38 years of service, knows a little about budgets. Not only did he serve as Senate Budget chairman in his career, but he is co-author of the landmark Gramm-Rudman-Hollings deficit reduction act. More: FritzHollings.com.
Get your facts straight
To the editor:
I just read your article on gun control. I cannot tell whether you are ignorant on the subject or just willing to perpetuate a much believed lie. The laws of the United States forbid the ownership of a firearm that is automatic, i.e., fires more than one bullet per pull of the trigger. Most modern handguns are semi-automatic and require one pull, one bullet. Most modern rifles are semi-automatic and require one pull, one bullet. Even the old revolvers of 100 years ago were one pull, one bullet.
Many handguns have more firepower than so called “assault rifles.” That is a term coined by anti-gun politicians to fool the public into thinking they are automatic weapons. Assault rifles are nothing more than standard semi-automatic rifles “tricked out” to LOOK like a military rifle. They still fire one bullet per pull, just like my 75-year-old 22 rifle! True military rifles are the only ones that fire in automatic mode and they are already illegal in the civilian population.
I hope you will clear this up for your readers who may believe we are surrounded by automatic weapons.
-- Ed Dixon, Florence, SC
More about guns
All of these assault weapons ARE semi automatic ( one shot per trigger pull ). You have to have a special license for full auto. Google “Remington 7400.” This is a semi-auto deer rifle that has been around a long time. It will shoot 5 bullets as fast as you pull the trigger, just like an AR or AK but looks " friendly " as opposed to the mean looks of an AK-47.
At any gun show I have been to, they always check any weapon before bringing in. Also, when buying a gun at a gun show, you go through the same background check (SLED) you would at any store and have to fill out all the paperwork. Occasionally someone will be selling their own personal guns and this is a "private sale" where you don't have to do background check but most sellers do the checks.
No argument, just a couple thoughts.
-- Paul Worthington, Florence, S.C.
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It's the bottom of the 2012th: Two up, two down
Taylor. Thumbs up to Rep. Bill Taylor, an Aiken Republican who used to be a newspaper reporter and TV anchorman, for his bill to strengthen public records laws. More.
Horne. Hats off to Rep. Jenny Horne, R-Summerville, for taking on the state Department of Social Services, which can use a little attention after its lack of attention to taxpayers. More.
Road deaths. Be careful out there. Traffic deaths are up in the last part of the year, confounding better stats earlier in the year. More.
Hacked again. While officials at the state Department of Employment and Workforce say no personal data was taken last Saturday when someone changed the homepage with a message, “This site was hacked,” DEW officials need to admit it was hacked, not just “defaced.” More.
Cartoon of the year
Our talented cartoonist, Charleston's Steve Stegelin, outdid himself with his terse Nov. 23 cartoon that summed up the hypocrisy of Americans now obsessed with tough immigration policies. It's our Cartoon of the Year. Thanks, Steve!
Others on our Top 10 list of 2012 cartoons: