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ISSUE 12.01
Jan. 04, 2013

RECENT ISSUES:
12/04 | 11/27 | 11/20 | 11/13

Index

News :
Here we go ... again
Legislative Agenda :
Roll calls ahead
Radar Screen :
The beat goes on
Palmetto Politics :
We'll miss him
Commentary :
The myth of big government
My Turn :
State should keep promise to local governments
Feedback :
Gun stance is reasonable
Scorecard :
Bowled over and more jobs; down on revenue, nukes
Stegelin :
Gunning for the plan?
Megaphone :
Slight oversight
Tally Sheet :
Take a look at pre-filed bills
Encyclopedia :
The Bartrams, early naturalists

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NUMBER OF THE WEEK

833

That’s how many people died on South Carolina’s roads last year, according to the state Highway Patrol, and increase of six from the year before. More.

MEGAPHONE

Slight oversight

"There is more information within that organization than just tax information, or taxpayer information … It requires a high level of security and a high level of management and oversight. And that fell very short."

-- Scott Shealy, former Department of Revenue computer security chief to House members Thursday. More.

TALLY SHEET

Take a look at pre-filed bills

State lawmakers filed more than 300 bills in December in preparation for the beginning of the 2013 session.  Click the links below to learn more.

ENCYCLOPEDIA

The Bartrams, early naturalists

John Bartram was born in Marple, Pennsylvania, on March 23, 1699, the son of the farmer William Bartram and his wife, Elizabeth Hunt. Beginning around 1727, Bartram became interested in botany, a subject in which he was largely self-taught. Through a London correspondent and fellow Quaker, Peter Collinson, Bartram became a participant in the international world of botanical exchange, sending seeds, bulbs, and cuttings of American plants to Europe and receiving payment or other botanical specimens in exchange.

Bartram’s skill became recognized in the learned communities of America and Europe. The great Swedish natural historian Carl Linnaeus is said to have referred to Bartram as the finest natural botanist in the world. Bartram contributed specimens to enable Mark Catesby, then in London, to finish hi
s Natural History of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands (1731–1748) and exchanged seeds and bulbs with Martha Logan, the owner of a famous Charleston garden.

Bartram’s first botanizing trip to South Carolina occurred in 1762, when he explored the interior of the state. It was followed by a longer trip to the southeastern British colonies in 1765, when Bartram was appointed King’s Botanist. This appointment shocked the Scottish physician and botanist Alexander Garden, Bartram’s Charleston friend, who found it “rather hyperbolical” that Bartram, a collector rather than a learned botanist, should be appointed to such a position.

Regardless of Garden’s shock, Charleston, with its port facilities and active scientific community, was a logical departing point for Bartram’s expedition, and he arrived there in July 1765 on his way to Florida. He also spent some time in Charleston in 1766 on the way back, purchasing equipment and slaves for a rice plantation that his son William Bartram was trying to set up in Florida, a venture which proved a total failure. Bartram’s account of his trip,
The Diary of a Journey through the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida: From July 1, 1765 to April 10, 1766, not published until 1942, is principally of botanical interest. John Bartram died on September 22, 1777, in Kingsessing, Pennsylvania.

William Bartram was born on April 9, 1739, in Philadelphia, the son of John Bartram and his second wife, Anne Mendenhall. William’s keen interest in botany and natural history was manifest early in his life, causing his father to despair of finding a remunerative career for the young man. He was a gifted illustrator and accompanied his father on his trip to the southeastern colonies in 1765.

William Bartram is best known for his narrative of a series of expeditions in southeastern North America from 1772 to 1776, Travels through North & South Carolina, Georgia, East & West Florida, the Cherokee Country, the Extensive Territories of the Muscogulges, or Creek Confederacy, and the Country of the Choctaws Containing an Account of the Soil and Natural Productions of Those Regions, Together with Observations on the Manners of the Indians (1791).

This trip was sponsored by Bartram’s patron, the Englishman John Fothergill. Charleston again was the starting point for the expedition. Bartram’s friends there included Alexander Garden and Dr. Lionel Chalmers, who furnished Bartram with introductions to prominent persons in the Southeast. Bartram arrived in April 1773, staying in Charleston only a few days before leaving for Savannah. Bartram’s travels in South Carolina, unlike his father’s, were restricted to the area of Charleston, the coast, and the area of the South Carolina–Georgia border. He returned to Charleston in the fall of 1774 to stay over the winter and again in 1776 before returning to the Philadelphia area, where he spent the rest of his life.

William Bartram’s interests were broader than his father’s. In addition to botany, his book contains a great deal of information about animal life and both English and Indian societies. He was more sympathetic to the Indians than were most Anglo-American writers of the time. Travels through North & South Carolina was more popular in Europe, where it went through several editions and translations, than in the United States, where it was not reprinted until 1928. Its influence was greatest, not among natural historians, but among Romantic poets, most notably Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth. William Bartram, who never married, died on July 22, 1823, at his home near Philadelphia.

-- Excerpted from the entry by William E. Burns. 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

Here we go ... again

General Assembly to resume work Tuesday

By Bill Davis, senior editor

JAN. 4, 2013 -- The 2013-14 legislative session kicks off Tuesday with some obvious priorities and the promise of some interesting back alley intrigues.

The first issue likely dealt with in the legislature will be the host of pre-filed bills to correct the state’s election system, according to several Statehouse sources.

Last year, the names of more than 240 candidates were taken off ballots after snafus cropped up in the state’s financial reporting system.

This should be a pretty easy issue, according to one Statehouse source, who said that everyone in office can relate to it and wants it solved.

The second issue will likely be strengthening state agencies’ computer security in the wake of the hacking incident at state Department of Revenue. After solving “ballotgate” and hacking, though, the issues get a little thornier.

The big three issues to be debated this session will likely be the possible creation of a Department of Administration, responding to federal calls to increase state Medicaid spending, and ethics reform, possible the thorniest of the three.

Administration: Alive and kicking or D.O.A?

Depending to whom you talk to in Columbia, a Department of Administration is either a shoo-in this year or deader than a doorknob.

The hacking incident, as well as numerous problems and other scandals at other cabinet agencies in the past two years, has cut into enthusiasm to create a new agency overseeing state government agencies under Gov. Nikki Haley.

The thinking -- out loud among Democrats and more privately among Republican politicos -- has been that this may not be the time to hand over more power to Haley after a hacker looted the tax information of hundreds of thousands of state residents and businesses in the fall.

But newly-minted House Majority Leader Bruce Bannister (R-Greenville) said the model of a more streamlined and more responsive executive branch-led state government should move forward, regardless of personalities or temporary problems.

“We should look at the Department of Administration on its merits,” argued Bannister, who said its odds of passing were greater over the full two years, and maybe not so much this calendar year due to entrenched opposition in the Senate.

But a Department of Administration may find a powerful friend in state Sen. Larry Martin (R-Pickens), the new chair of the Judiciary Committee, after Haley endorsed him in a highly contested fall campaign.

Ethics reform

It seems like everyone with a desk in the Statehouse, from the governor to the lowliest backbench House member, wants ethics reform.

Haley unveiled a five-part reform packaged late last year in a city-hopping tour with state Attorney General Alan Wilson.

But her efforts and plan were widely criticized and mocked by many, including House Speaker Bobby Harrell (R-Charleston), for addressing only the areas of state ethics law she had been charged with violating while a member of the House.

Then after Harrell’s own suspicious campaign spending was also questioned, his criticism seemed to dim.

Regardless, there are ethics study committees within each caucus in the House and Senate. Interestingly, Senate Democrats may be poised to throw the biggest monkey wrench into the ethics reform movement in Columbia.

According to Senate Democratic Caucus spokesman Phil Bailey, members of the caucus are considering digging in their heels and demanding that whatever ethics reform bill moves forward has to include a deal where House leadership has to give up their political action committees.

House leadership PACs, according to Bailey, invited obvious “favor trading,” and skew the legislative process. The Senate has already done away with leadership PACs via a chamber rule.

Bannister pooh-poohed Bailey’s assertion and said Senate Democrats were merely looking for an excuse to avoid ethics reform.

Medicaid expansion

Bombast and rhetoric are already flowing in the battle over federal expansion of health care through the Affordable Care Act.  There are pre-filed bills making it illegal to take part in the expansion. One bill went so far to offer a five-year prison term for the “felony” of taking part.

Haley has remained a stout opponent of the expansion of Medicaid, despite alluring accompanying federal dollars. Health and Human Services head Tony Keck, the state’s Medicaid czar, has remained convinced that expansion is a bad deal for South Carolina, and has been working to “opt out” of it.

But House Democrats, especially, welcome the addition of more children and the working poor onto the rolls of the health care-insured, which makes a fight inevitable. And it will be the most technical debate of the year as the details in the federal plan, some of which are not yet available, will be found in the neighborhood of the Devil. 

And a lot of intrigue

In comedy, as in politics, timing is everything. Right when expected federal sequestration funding cuts hit state governments in two months, the S.C. House will be doing the hard work of crafting the coming fiscal year’s budget.

But potentially gumming up the works may be cable pundits, who may rile -- or “booger up” -- conservatives in the House into taking unexpectedly harsh fiscal stances that moderates may find unwarranted. 

Some other possible fights:

  • Education. Wouldn’t it be intriguing if the S.C. Supreme Court finally delivered a ruling on the ages-old “adequacy” in public education lawsuit? Depending on the ruling, it could have a huge impact on fiscal and political futures and firefights."

  • Teachers. State Superintendent of Education Mick Zais has drawn praise and criticism for a recently unveiled plan to give letter grades to teachers for student progress, as part of his ongoing accountability and transparency campaign. Education fights can be the toughest and bloodiest, because that is where money and race and fairness intersect.

  • Vetoes. And Haley has made yet another push for the ability to attack single lines of the state’s budget, instead of issuing more general and broader vetoes.   Every year she’s been rebuffed, but if she gets it this year, then the quaking would soon begin in the offices of ETV, the Budget and Control Board and other legislatively-protected agencies.

  • Abortion. The anti-abortion movement has had a powerful ally in Rep. Greg Delleney (R-Chester), who has been able to delay budget debates in the past by inserting abortion-related language into budget bills. This year, Delleney has been elected the head of the Judiciary Committee in that chamber and will have an expanded impact on its final agenda.

Crystal ball: Remember, the legislature talks the way a cheetah moves, but acts at the pace of a turtle. So some of the hot topics of this session will likely lapse over into 2014 – the next election year.

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

Legislative Agenda

Roll calls ahead

The 2013-14 legislative session begins Tuesday in the House and Senate. Two meetings of note: 

  • House Ways and Means. The Legislative, Executive and Local Government subcommittee will begin hearing budget requests from various agencies beginning Tuesday at 10:30 p.m. in Blatt 511. Agenda.

  • Senate Judiciary. A subcommittee will meet Thursday at 9:30 a.m. in 308 Gressette to discuss the S.C. Restructuring Act of 2013. Agenda.
Radar Screen

The beat goes on

Today’s announcement of Time Warner Cable’s $24 million expansion in Lexington County that will bring 644 new jobs isn’t expected to be a one-off – the last big deal for a while. We hear through the grapevine that the S.C. Department of Commerce is working to land a dozen big jobs projects in the relatively near future.  Fingers crossed.

Palmetto Politics

We'll miss him

In an August issue, Statehouse Report bemoaned the precipitous drop in news professionals covering state politics and policy. Jim Davenport, an Associated Press reporter considered to be the best covering the same in the state for the past 13 years, passed away Monday after a two-year fight with cancer.

Davenport has been praised for his tenacity, ability to get the big story, and never having an agenda – all AP traits. His passing prompted statements of regret from many in Columbia, including Gov. Nikki Haley, who visited with Davenport last year in his home and awarded him the Order of the Palmetto, the state’s highest award.

Through the years, Statehouse Report appreciated Davenport’s professionalism, help and guidance.  Rest in peace.

Commentary

The myth of big government

By Andy Brack, editor and publisher

JAN. 4, 2013 -- As South Carolina legislators prepare to return to the Statehouse for a new session, they should clear from their minds any notions that the state has “big government.”

It doesn’t. To suggest the state’s departments and agencies are laden with pork, waste and abuse -- and to govern based on that assumption -- has as much validity as a kid believing the moon is made of cheese.

Sure, there may be some functions of state government today that some legislators might not like, such as providing a high-quality public education to all students or having an agency to look out for the state’s health and environment. But after 10 years of rhetoric about fat by Gov. Mark Sanford and his successor Gov. Nikki Haley as well as a legislature obsessed with tax cuts fueled by a GOP love fest with anti-tax think tank guru Grover Norquist, the idea of a bloated government is nonsensical. They’ve cut and cut and cut.

Look back at the state’s budget during the tenure of GOP Gov. Carroll Campbell, surely no fan of big government. Back in 1989-90, the state’s General Fund budget -- the funds that come from state taxes -- was $3.363 billion. If that number were adjusted for inflation, the equivalent number in 2012 dollars would be $5.924 billion. And the General Fund budget for the current year? Almost the same at $6.088 billion. But remember, the current year’s taxes are supporting services to 4.6 million people, compared to the 3.5 million who lived here in 1990.

In other words, the state’s tax dollars have grown with inflation, but are serving 31 percent more people. That doesn’t sound like a lot of bloating. Rather, state government has adapted to the resources it has.

"State government isn’t the huge slug perpetuated by lawmakers."
Another indicator state government isn’t the huge slug perpetuated by some lawmakers: In Campbell’s day, the state employed more than 80,000 people. Now, it employs less than 58,000, according to Carlton B. Washington, head of the S.C. State Employees Association. 

But while the number of state employees has gone down significantly, taxpayers continue to demand services from those who remain. 

“That need [for government services] exists because taxpayers are not interested in taking their families to eat at a restaurant that is not inspected by DHEC, nor are they interested in traveling on South Carolina’s roads and highways without the oversight and protection afforded by South Carolina troopers,” Washington said. “Taxpayers are not advocating closing the Department of Social Services and consequently the invaluable protection the agency provides, especially to abused and neglected children and seniors.”

If you want to really take a look at how the concept of bloated government is false, just look at how some agencies have fared over the last 23 years. 

  • State Treasurer: The agency had 71 full-time equivalent employees (FTEs) in 1990, compared to 40 today. Back then, the budget was $3.5 million, which would be $6.2 million in 2012 dollars. Today’s actual budget: $1.5 million.

  • Attorney General:   Had 152 FTEs in 1990 paid for with General Fund dollars; has 107 FTEs today. The 1990 budget was $10.8 million, which would be worth $19 million now. Today’s actual state-funded budget: $7.4 million.

  • Health and Environmental Control: Had 2,236 FTEs in 1990; has 1,165 FTEs today paid with state funds. Its 1990 budget was $88.2 million, which is worth $155 million now. Today’s actual budget: $93.6 million.

  • Insurance: Had 119 FTEs in 1990, compared to 37 today paid with state funds.  Its 1990 budget was $5.2 million, which is worth $9.2 million now. Today’s actual budget: $3.6 million.

The above agencies, like many across state government, have far less money and employees than they did in 1990. DHEC is half its size. The Attorney General’s office has one third of the state funding it once had. The Treasurer’s office is a quarter of its size in terms of dollars.

Sure some agencies -- the House, the Senate, Corrections, the Judiciary, PRT (Parks, Recreation and Tourism) -- kept up with or exceeded inflation over the years. But overall, state government is smaller, leaner and more efficient.

As lawmakers gear up for the session, they should make policy decisions based on fact, not myths of spin-doctors trying to convince them of something that doesn’t exist.

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

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My Turn

State should keep promise to local governments

By Charles T. Edens
President, S.C. Association of Counties
Special to Statehouse Report

JAN. 4, 2013 -- As the federal government weaves a net to cushion its self-created fall from the “fiscal cliff,” local taxpayers may be unaware that another fiscal cliff looms for property taxpayers.

Last year, the Local Government Fund (LGF) state-shared revenues with cities and counties in the budget, was funded at 1999 levels, almost $41 million below the statutory formula.  It is imperative that the General Assembly fully fund the LGF this fiscal year.  The state budget continues to grow out of the recession, but restrictions placed on local governments at the state level have severely limited the ability for local government to raise funds to fill all the holes created by this loss of revenue.  Additionally, local taxpayers are saddled with the responsibility to pay property tax dollars for items statewide in nature. The continued underfunding of the LGF will result in property taxpayers paying more in taxes but receiving less in services.

The General Assembly passed an allocation of 10 percent of the state income tax to county governments in the 1943 budget. This allocation would become the LGF.  Headlines describing the 1943 legislative session proclaimed, “Property Owners to Benefit from Legislative Acts.”   The General Assembly that passed this measure heralded the move as important property tax relief.  Speaker Sol Blatt said of the 1943 session, and specifically of this allocation, “…more beneficial legislation has been passed this session than by any other legislature – provided relief to property taxpayers and enacted a ninth month for schools.” In 1991, the General Assembly passed legislation requiring the LGF to be funded at 4.5% of the previous fiscal years general fund.

In 2009, the General Assembly cut the LGF by $50 million and has failed to fund the LGF at the statutory formula level since that year. Last year, despite having a significant increase in revenues, the legislature appropriated $41 million less to the LGF than statutorily required. This represented a loss of $41 million of promised tax relief to the taxpayers of this state.

Regardless of the level of funding received through the local government fund, counties must comply with state mandates. Certain statutory mandates require counties to serve as an arm of state government, while other mandates impact counties in their role as a local service provider.

 READ THE REPORT

You can read the new report by the S.C. Association of Counties by clicking this link:
 

The South Carolina Association of Counties enlisted the assistance of Clemson University’s Strom Thurmond Institute of Government and Public Affairs, Francis Marion University and the University of South Carolina’s Institute for Public Service and Policy Research to undertake a study to determine the financial impact certain state mandates have on county governments. Some of the mandates included in the study are: required funding of animal shelters, libraries, magistrates salaries and offices, the Medically Indigent Assistance Program, the public defender, and elections and voter registration.

In FY2009‐10, county governments in South Carolina expended a reported $604 million to comply with state directives. Revenue from statutory fees and state‐shared revenue only partially covered these costs, leaving counties to shoulder an unfunded mandates burden of $130 million in FY2009‐10 alone. Absent additional funding of the LGF, the burden for these mandates falls upon the county property taxpayers.

Recent newspaper articles promise burgeoning state revenues of at least $100 million extra dollars this fiscal year. However, local governments are still struggling under various revenue limitations and tax base losses adopted by the state. For most counties, this means a failure to fully fund the LGF cannot be made up by a millage increase. Many counties have imposed hiring freezes, mandatory furloughs, reduced staff, and reduced services to their citizens in order to make up for these losses.  The net result to county taxpayers is likely service reductions with no corresponding decrease in taxes.

State-shared revenue, and the LGF in particular, represents an important form of property tax relief.  Despite decreases in state shared revenues, local taxpayers continue to foot the bill for state mandates at the local level.  It is important that the General Assembly renew its commitment to the LGF and the promise they made to the property taxpayers of this state.

Charles T. Edens, president of the S.C. Association of Counties, is a member of Sumter County Council. 

Feedback

Gun stance is reasonable

To the editor:

Thank you so much for your report in the Greenville Journal. It was a pleasure to read your article! It is great to finally read an article that express the voice of reason. I own a shotgun for hunting and a pistol for target practice and I see no reason why anyone should own an assault weapon and high capacity magazines!

I sent letter to Senator Graham and Congressman Gowdy urging them to reinstate the ban on these weapons but have not received a response. I did, however, see something on the news that Mr. Gowdy feel that we should not impose on people's Second Amendment rights.  That is not the point -- the founding fathers didn't have to deal with automatic weapons and 30-round clips.  Get real Mr. Gowdy!
--William Seibold, Simpsonville, S.C.

Send 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

Bowled over and more jobs; down on revenue, nukes

More jobs. Hats off to Statehouse Report underwriter Time Warner, which is investing $24 million and adding 644 jobs in Lexington County.

Bowled over
. Congrats to Clemson and South Carolina for their bowl game victories over LSU and Michigan, respectively. 

Elections. The Richland County elections chief who oversaw the “ballotgate” debacle in last year’s General Election will step down as of Jan. 12, but will remain with the department. More.

Revenue
. The cabinet agency’s mistakes in the hacking scandal seem to be getting deeper and deeper after its former computer security chief told a House committee yesterday how the agency bungled easily corrected security measures he championed. More.

Nukes.
Construction of a waste treatment plant at the Savannah River Site is more than three years behind schedule and hundreds of millions of dollars over budget. More.

credits

Statehouse Report

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

Phone: 843.670.3996

© 2002 - 2018 , 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/.