Send your feedback:
feedback@statehousereport.com

ISSUE 8.17
Apr. 24, 2009

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

Index

News :
Slim pickings
Legislative Agenda :
Budget still on Senate floor
Radar Screen :
Blowing more than hot air
Palmetto Politics :
Budget stalled in Senate
Commentary :
Better mortgage rules should help SC blacks, women
My Turn :
Vouchers are subsidies for private schools
Feedback :
Debt commentary is effective, reasonable
Scorecard :
Thumbs up and down for the week
Stegelin :
Give us a little credit...
Megaphone :
Legislative “do do”
In our blog :
In the blogs this week
Tally Sheet :
Bills added to hopper
Encyclopedia :
New Era Club

© 2002 - 2018, 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

11

THE CLUB OF 11.  That’s the number of state House members failed to file taxes at least once between 1997 and 2007, according to a list produced by the state Department of Revenue. No names have been released.  More: Greenville News.

MEGAPHONE

Legislative “do do”

“Sometimes what we don’t do is as important as what we do do.”
 
-- House Majority Leader Kenny Bingham (R-Cayce), defending this legislative year’s smaller than usual number of legislative accomplishments.

IN OUR BLOG

In the blogs this week

Grooms. Earl Capps blogged this week about the gubernatorial ambitions of Sen. Larry Grooms (R-Bonneau):
 
“While there is much to give naysayers reason to believe that Grooms may have little chance, given the current field of candidates, it is important to note that Grooms has run for office where most Republicans would fear to tread – and won.”
 
Disappointed. Cracker-friendly libertarian site FITS News was disappointed by legislators not rushing to Gov. Mark Sanford’s side in the stimulus debate:

“And while S.C. Republicrat lawmakers are bitching and moaning about ‘cuts to core services,’ they’ve also been busy adding a Capital Police Force, paying for a new ‘vegetable marketing’ agency, creating some bogus new taxpayer-funded dental program and bringing back ‘competitive grants’ - all while continuing to pour cash into literally hundreds of totally unnecessary government programs.”
 
Dark side of tea. Sacraments Wholesale found a dark side to the success of last week’s anti-tax tea parties:
 
“But here's the rub: the GOP cannot control this anger. After all, people know that the past 3 decades of conservative rule (including that of pseudo-liberal Bill Clinton) have led us to the meltdown in the world economic system.”

TALLY SHEET

Bills added to hopper

Bills added to hopper

With the House back in session after a two-week furlough, there were dozens of bills introduced in the legislature. Among the top bills now in the hopper are:

Corrections. S. 725 (Fair) calls for the Temporary Emergency Act for Corrections to allow the State Department of Corrections to close prisons and release prisoners early to deal with budget cuts, and other provisions. S. 726 (Fair) calls for a law that would allow the state Department of Probation, Pardon and Parole Services to develop policies to allow early parole termination for some prisoners, with several provisions. S. 218 (Fair) calls for restoration of good-time in the prisons.
 
Adjournment. S. 729 (McConnell) is a resolution that calls for adjournment of the General Assembly on June 4, but would allow House and Senate leaders to call lawmakers back into session.

Local government. S. 735 (Rose) would allow local governments to reduce their support to state mandated programs by a percentage that matched its losses from state funding to local governments.

Landfills. S. 748 (Scott) relates to construction of water lines near private landfills, with several provisions.

Railroads. S. 749 (Cleary) would establish a Division of Railroad Transportation in the S.C. Department of Transportation, with several provisions.

Tobacco prevention. S. 752 (Cleary) calls for the Youth Access to Tobacco Prevention Act of 2009 to strengthen requirements on tobacco sales.

Medically fragile. H. 3917 (Harrell) calls for the state to maintain its medically-fragile children’s program, with some provisions.

Housing Commission. H. 3919 (Mitchell) would establish the S.C. Housing Commission to provide recommendations on safe, affordable housing for state residents.

Wireless ID. H. 3922 (Gunn) calls for a law to require people who sell prepaid wireless telephone to verify the identity of the purchaser, with several provisions.

Stimulus funds. H. 3923 (Gunn) and H. 3962 (J.E.Smith) would require the governor to apply for stimulus funds, with several provisions.
 
Lobbyists. H. 3927 (Loftis) would require lobbyists who practice law to disclose the name of their law firm, among other things.
 
Cutting costs. H. 3930 (Harrell) would keep members of the House from using more than $100 from their telephone and postage allotment.

Preauthorization. H. 3939 (Loftis) calls for procedures to limit the number of medical services and supplies requiring preauthorization by an insurer.

Benefits. H. 3940 (Cobb-Hunter) would amend state unemployment benefits definitions and rules with several provisions.

Lotteries. H. 3943 (Whipper) calls for a constitutional amendment that would end a prohibition on public officers participating in state lotteries.

Tax brackets. H. 3946 (E.Pitts) calls for a measure that would delete a provision limiting inflation adjustments for individual income tax to one-half of the actual inflation rate, with other provisions.
 
Efficiency. H. 3947 (Loftis) calls for the 21st Century Government Efficiency Act to boost efficiency in government.

Coal plants. H. 3955 (Gullick) calls for the Appalachian Mountains Preservation Act that would prohibit an electric public utility that operated a coal-fired power plant from buying coal extracted by mountaintop mining, and other provisions.

Public schools. H. 3961 (J.E.Smith) calls for a constitutional amendment to require the state to provide a “high-quality education” for all children. H. 3963 (Battle) is a very complicated bill that focuses on school funding requirements and pupil costs.

Assessment. H. 3966 (G.M.Smith) calls for assessment of a principal residence to remain at 4 percent following the year a homeowner vacates the property if he or she is trying to sell, with several provisions.

FIND BILLS:  To locate any of the bills noted above, click here and enter the bill number.

ENCYCLOPEDIA

New Era Club

Founded in Spartanburg in 1912, the New Era Club lasted only a short time but was significant as the nucleus of South Carolina’s first statewide women’s suffrage organization. Earlier suffrage efforts accomplished little, and white southerners generally considered the movement to be a threat to southern culture and a challenge to idealized notions of female behavior. Many white southerners also associated women’s suffrage with feminism and abolitionism, which made the movement even more of an anathema. But by the turn of the twentieth century, as prosuffrage actions increased across the country, South Carolina women rallied again, this time successfully.

White and middle-class in its makeup, the New Era Club began disguised as a study group. Thirty Spartanburg women founded the club, they said, “to stimulate interest in civic affairs and to advance the industrial, legal and educational rights of women and children.” They met twice monthly to discuss education, public health, and domestic interests. But they also sponsored a section in the Spartanburg Herald featuring prosuffrage articles by Anna Howard Shaw, president of the National American Women Suffrage Association (NAWSA), and Hannah Hemphill Coleman, president of the South Carolina Federation of Women’s Clubs.

In January 1914 the New Era Club publicly declared its true purpose as a suffrage group by joining NAWSA. Soon after, Charleston and Columbia had suffrage clubs. In May 1914 all three clubs, totaling more than four hundred members, united as the South Carolina Equal Suffrage League. By 1915 there were twenty-five branches across the state. Although it failed to convince the General Assembly to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment, the league nevertheless contributed its voice to the national ratification movement that succeeded in 1920.

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

Slim pickings

Legislative successes bleak so far this year

By Bill Davis, senior editor

APRIL 24, 2009 -- With the end of this year’s legislative session fast approaching and more furlough weeks planned in the House and Senate, the number of major legislative accomplishments this year will likely be few. Other than the contentious state budget, little finished work is expected by session’s end.

Perhaps the paucity of success was to be expected for three reasons. First, state coffers dried up as the state’s economy, fueled in big chunks by the faltering national economy, slowed and slows.
 
Second, the arrival of the Obama Administration’s national stimulus plan threw budget makers into a tizzy as they tried to weed their way through a morass of federal documents detailing how and when and why the money could be released.
 
And third, when Gov. Mark Sanford stood firm on his decision to at least delay $700 million of the state’s stimulus portion, budget writers in both chambers had to re-run funding scenarios, further delaying work on other issues.
 
“Sometimes what we don’t do is as important as what we do do,” said House Majority Leader Kenny Bingham (R-Cayce), who defended the work done this session.
 
Bingham said that because this was the first of a two-year session, many of the bills that don’t make it in 2009 will be tackled in next year’s session.
 
The deadline for many of those bills is fast approaching. Legislators have until May 1 to pass proposed legislation to the opposite chamber without needing a two-thirds vote. There has been a call to wrap up this session as early as May 21.
 
And to complicate matters, the House is to be in session next week, but plans to take off the following week, and the Senate is mulling making good on two more weeks of furlough for senators and staffers in order to save tens of thousands of dollars.
 
“What it says is that both the House and Senate are dealing with the same cost-cutting realities that other state agencies have to deal with,” said House Minority Leader Harry Ott (D-St. Matthews).

Some accomplishments, leader says
 
Bingham said the accomplishments this year showed that the legislature could do with a shorter session. He said those accomplishments included House Republican Caucus agenda items like passing election laws, tax realignment commission changes and putting the state’s Employment Security Commission in the governor’s cabinet.

(Observers note that none of these things really help people who are out of work and struggling.)
 
Bingham admitted that none of those accomplishments had actually been, well, accomplished. According to the majority leader, elections laws still need to be sent to the Senate, the TRAC bills were still on the calendar in the House, where it’s been tough “pushing” ESC reform.
 
“But this is the same way it is every year since I’ve been up here; the last few weeks are when everything gets finished,” said nine-year Statehouse veteran Bingham, who said that Judiciary just passed 15 new bills, and that he was to attend a full Ways and Means meeting that week.
 
Ott said he was frustrated that the legislature hadn’t moved past the budget, but that realistically everything else would have to wait until it was completed. The Senate adjourned debate on their version of the budget, and will resume debate in the coming week with the hope of getting back to the House by the end of next week.
 
From there, the budget will likely be batted back and forth between the two chambers before representatives from the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance committees in conference meetings.
 
That will be too late for many public school districts, according to Ott, which traditionally send out contracts to teachers for the following year by May 15. “Now, thanks to the delays, school districts are in a precarious position because they’re having to write budgets or hold-up on contracts because they don’t know how much money they’re going to have,” said Ott.

Cigarette tax may come up
 
Ott said once the budget is finally put to bed, he believed there would be time to tackle raising the state’s per-pack cigarette tax. That tax, if passed, could provide affordable health care insurance to tens of thousands of under-employed South Carolinians.

Ott went on to say that even tax realignment may be derailed because he feared House Speaker Bobby Harrell (R-Charleston) seemed to want to focus only on reducing the number of state sales tax exemptions.
 
Many in the legislature, he said, were more interested in using realignment as a springboard to completing a comprehensive tax overhaul that would include addressing property tax.
 
In the Senate, President Pro Tempore Glenn McConnell (R-Charleston) had an equally short list of potential legislative accomplishments.
 
“I think we will see payday lending legislation completed soon, as its own special order,” said McConnell. “But really, it’s all about the budget right now.”
 
McConnell went on to say that he expected completion on bills dealing restructuring the governance of the State Ports Authority and creating a Capitol police department. It should be noted that all three of those issues McConnell mentioned were ones he took a big part in pushing.
 
Crystal ball: Before bashing the legislature for once again not making employment, the environment and education priorities, we should compare this session to 2008. The second of a two-year session, last year’s action was hamstrung by a series of statewide budget cuts. As a result, the biggest legislative battle was over the non-issue of illegal immigration reform. If the legislature’s biggest accomplishment this year is to pass a budget that deals with cutbacks and the stimulus fight AND it passes the cigarette tax increase, it will be a better year than 2008.
 
Now, the bashing: One GOP representative, grumbling about how little (and what) was getting done in the House this year, said, “The state just hit an all-time modern high for unemployment, and the one word you won’t hear mentioned in their today,” he said from the foyer, “ is ‘unemployment.’”

RECENTLY IN NEWS

Legislative Agenda

Budget still on Senate floor

While the vast majority of attention in the Statehouse will be trained on the budget debate on the floor of the Senate, there will be other important meetings, mostly in the Senate. No committee meetings of note for the House were scheduled at publication time.  

In the Senate:
  • Union elections. A subcommittee will meet at 9 a.m. Wednesday in 209 Gressette to discuss allowing union elections to have secret ballots.
  • Sentencing reform. The Sentencing Reform Commission will meet at 3 p.m. Thursday in 308 Gressette.

  • Unborn. A subcommittee will meet Thursday at 9 a.m. in 207 Gressette to discuss a bill that would change legal language that could grant rights to unborn but living children and affect abortion rights.
Radar Screen

Blowing more than hot air

With news this week that the Obama Administration has issued long-awaited rules to boost the development of offshore wind energy, South Carolina is poised to be in the lead pack of states to use offshore wind energy, according to Santee Cooper's Laura Varn.

Just last month, Santee Cooper, Coastal Carolina University and the S.C. Energy Office, said they were launching weather buoys to measure wind off the coast of Georgetown and Little River. In about six months, an offshore platform is expected to be installed offshore too to help researchers understand the wind potential off South Carolina's coast.
More
 
Interest in offshore energy is keen because some estimates show that wind may be able to supply as much energy in the future as the electricity that is generated now in U.S. power plants. A Department of Energy estimate that says the country could get 20 percent of its electricity from wind power is called "more realistic" by The New York Times.
 
Not at the last minute
 
Look for some hot debate to break out over a bill submitted by Rep. Nathan Ballentine (R-Irmo) that called for all political contributions to be made public up to 48 hours before election night. Ballentine’s bill would change the current legislation, which pushes back the deadline to 15 days.
 
“This is not a ‘Howard Rich’ bill,” said Ballentine, but rather one that would expose anyone enabling last-minute television ad buys, which are typically more caustic in tone and rhetoric.
 
Bill watch
 
With the Senate bogged down in budget debate this week and lapsing into next week, few bills are moving along. There is growing concern that several bills will not be dealt with this year, including the landfill moratorium bill that would put an end to “mega-dumps” being constructed in the state.
 
Democrats in the House are concerned there won’t be time to fight a Republican amendment to a series of absentee and pre-voting bills that could close the noose around the right to vote.

Palmetto Politics

Budget stalled in Senate

The Senate adjourned Thursday without approving a budget to send back to the House, putting it at least a week behind schedule. Originally, the Senate planned to send the 2009-10 appropriations bill, expected to weigh-in at $5.7 billion, to the House the week of April 28. But with the budget debate resuming Tuesday, that is not going to happen.
 
The biggest decision that the Senate did tackle during this week was to cut $50 million from what was to be given to municipalities, but it did allow for flexibility of spending on a local level. Debate is expected to be lively next week, as GOP Sens. Tom Davis (Beaufort) and Greg Ryberg (Aiken) should return to the pulpit to preach for a no-stimulus fund budget, which is likely favored by the governor.
 
ESC may e-s-c-ape
 
Chances of overhauling the state’s Employment Security Commission may be waning.
 
House Majority Leader Kenny Bingham (R-Cayce) said Democrats and a group of “13 to 14” Republicans in the House were blocking moving the department to the governor’s cabinet due to enmity toward Gov. Mark Sanford.
 
The ESC has gone broke this year as demands for unemployment checks has risen over, Bingham alleged, its weak calls for help. “He’s right, we’re not OK with giving this governor anything,” said House Minority Leader Harry Ott (D-St. Matthews).
 
Tax cheats?
 
“What if you filed an extension, like I did this year?” asked one ranking House Republican, reacting on Wednesday to the news that a list of 11 representatives who didn’t file taxes at least once in the past decade had been released this week by the state Department of Revenue.
 
While there was no proof that all on that list had to file, for reasons like not having made any money, one senator, Aiken Republican Greg Ryberg filed bills that would block tax evaders from appearing on ballots. At least one senator was reportedly already paying back taxes on an installment plan.
 
Spectacle delayed
 
The S.C. Supreme Court decided not to take on the case of an 18-year-old Chapin public school student suing the state to force Gov. Mark Sanford to accept the remaining $700 million chunk of federal stimulus funds reserved largely for public education and law enforcement. The court held (read the opinion)  that since there was no official dispute between the legislature and the governor, it was too soon. But the court may be able to hear the case later, should the legislature write a budget or pass a separate concurrent legislation, instructing Sanford to accept the money.
 
Mug from a Landrum Baptist
 
When the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” it gave focus to a fractious Civil Rights movement. That letter has since been writ large into the fabric of the American psyche. Sometimes, missives don’t rise to that level and end up emblazoned on coffee mugs.
 
Take the time when Rep. Joey Millwood (R-Landrum), a sportswriter, reportedly “tweeted” the following question to the editor of the progressive Indigo Journal, “Why don’t you go back to writing your communist-loving, baby killer, homosexual loving blog?” It’s hard to fit all that  on a single coffee mug, but you can buy one with that message for $12.95. Seriously.
 
Dirty little secret
 
Want to know whether the Senate will go into Friday to debate the budget, and which days will the debate go into the night? According to a couple of longtime Statehouse vets, check out the number of laundered shirts the senators are carrying when they check-in to their Columbia hotels on Tuesday. Three hangers means the debate will end Thursday; four shirts, Friday. As for when debate will go long, check out the fund-raising calendar. If a committee chairman has a fund-raising dinner on Wednesday, they go late on Tuesday and Thursday. This week was a three-hanger job.

Commentary

Better mortgage rules should help SC blacks, women

By Andy Brack, editor and publisher

APRIL 24, 2009 - - If you’re a low-income to moderate-income black South Carolinian, there’s a pretty good chance you paid more for a mortgage loan than a comparable white South Carolinian.
 
That’s according to a July 2008 study by the National Community Reinvestment Coalition which found racial disparity on home loans in the Charleston-North Charleston metropolitan area to be the fourth highest in the country. According to 2006 data, some 51.7 percent of loans to low- to moderate-income blacks in the Charleston area were high-cost loans, compared to 18 percent to similar white borrowers. 
 
The disparity was high in other parts of South Carolina too. Of the top 50 highest metro areas for these high-cost loans, six were in the Palmetto State, including Florence (ranked 12th), Spartanburg (21st), Columbia (29th), Myrtle Beach (32nd) and Greenville (46th). Not far behind were Sumter (69th) and Anderson (70th).
 
Perhaps even more chilling, the study highlighted how rural blacks of all incomes in South Carolina had to pay for more high-cost loans than anywhere else in the country:
 
  • Of the 1,281 loans made to low- to moderate-income blacks in rural South Carolina in 2006, 64.1 percent were high-cost loans. For similarly-situated whites, 28.5 percent were high-cost loans.
 
  • Of the 1,613 loans made to middle- and upper-income black borrowers in rural South Carolina in the same year, 54.2 percent were high-cost loans, compared to 18.7 percent for whites.
Whew, what eye-openers. They’re just more instances of where we’re at the top of lists we don’t want to be on. 
 
But what it really means is all the more stunning - - that when you compare people with similar incomes, African Americans in South Carolina are getting a raw deal in trying to buy a home - - even if they have a high income in rural areas. 
 
Says the NCRC: “Significant levels of high-cost lending unnecessarily impede wealth-building in minority communities. High-cost loans have contributed to the current foreclosure crisis, wiping out hundreds of millions of dollars in mortgage equity.
 
“The overwhelming and unexplained prevalence of high-cost lending in minority communities suggests that some level of discriminatory behavior continues in the mortgage finance market, as has been shown by other studies.”
 
 
Next month, the NCRC is expected to release another report that has new figures. It also will have data that show how women receive different treatment in getting loans than men, which doesn’t particularly surprise Jennet Alterman, executive director of the Center for Women in Charleston.
 
White women, you see, on average earn 72 percent of what men do in comparable jobs. Black women earn even less - - 65 cents on the dollar in South Carolina, Alterman said. 
 
“There is a problem [with borrowing to buy a home],” she said. “Women are going to have less collateral, less to put down and probably have accumulated more credit card debt. That is going to affect a woman’s ability to get a mortgage.”
 
State lawmakers have been working for a few years to stop predatory payday loans, but it’s clear they also need to take a very close regulatory look at discriminatory high-cost loans, which frankly are less likely to exist today because many people are having a hard time getting loans at all to buy homes. 
 
One step in the right direction is for legislators to give final approval to the proposed S.C. Mortgage Lending Act, which would require mortgage lenders to get annual education and be regulated by the state Department of Consumer Affairs. Currently, only mortgage brokers are under such scrutiny.
 
On Wednesday, a House committee approved the proposal, which is slated to be on the House floor in the coming week. The measure remains in a Senate committee.
 
Now is the time to fix the rules and the culture of loans in South Carolina so that when the market becomes more robust, it will operate in a color-blind and gender-blind manner. And then, more black and female South Carolinians will be able to enjoy the benefits of home ownership without being robbed.
 
RECENT COMMENTARY
 

My Turn

Vouchers are subsidies for private schools

 By Sheila C. Gallagher
The S.C. Education Association
Special to SC Statehouse Report

APRIL 24, 2009 -- South Carolina’s public schools deserve continuing support. Most South Carolinians want increased investment in what works in the classrooms – quality teachers, smaller classes and high expectations for all students. The last thing South Carolina’s schools need is a liberal subsidized entitlement program that competes for scarce resources.
 
The Educational Opportunity Act (S520) is really about subsidies. The issue is about whether taxpayers should subsidize existing private schools and encourage the emergence of new subsidized private schools without adequate assurance of quality and accountability. South Carolina cannot afford where that path leads.
 
Vouchers or tax credits become a tool for cultural division. Private schools will naturally arise from preconceived academic, social or economic status, religious preferences, or political philosophy.   Such schools have always existed, but not at taxpayer expense. During the last half century, we have reduced segregation and enhanced equal opportunity in public schools.
 
This tuition tax credit is bad economic policy, and it’s bad social policy. There is never a good time to implement a policy that takes precious resources away from already under-resourced, “nickel-and-dimed” school districts. The best bet is to work to improve our public schools—which serve all—and not cut revenue in the name of recreating a system that as we know from the dark days of the past, benefited only a few. If the tuition tax credit comes to be, we’re tying our own hands by reducing revenue and creating an “Abbeville” of the 21st Century.
 
This tuition tax credit program reads like every family will have access to a private school education. That is simply not true. First of all since it’s taken as a deduction from taxes paid, one would have to have the financial means to ‘front’ the costs of a private education. Not likely to be a whole lot of the families Senator Ford says he’s aiming to reach. But it is right for those already sending their children to private school. Now you have a tuition tax credit that looks less like a leg up for the downtrodden, and more like a subsidy for the middle and upper class.
 
The negative economic and social consequences of the legislation (S520) are so interconnected that they simply can’t be ignored. By definition, a private school can admit or reject at its discretion. Funny, when citing the superiority of private education over public education, the fact that private schools tend to be academically homogeneous vs. public schools’ more academically diverse, yet no less deserving student body doesn’t seem to matter at all. But it should matter because herein lies the promise and possibility of public education—and the problem with tuition tax credit. Public education aims to provide every child—despite zip code, socioeconomic background, or station in life—with the chance to a brighter future. It levels the playing field, evens out the scale of justice and helps to right past wrongs. Public education is about ensuring a society of strong communities and productive citizens. It is every child’s basic right, and every citizen’s responsibility.
 
The tuition tax credit undermines that mission which is why it is bad for South Carolina. If supporters of this tuition tax credit had their way, we’d be making winners and losers of our students at an economic and social cost we simply can’t afford. We should not embrace a system that could reverse what we have worked hard to achieve.
 
The Senate K-12 Education Subcommittee should vote “no” on S520 because the challenges that remain for our public schools cannot be fixed by supporting public dollars for private institutions. Rather the General Assembly must concentrate on listening to the public school administrators, teachers and education support professionals who work every day to make our public schools great for every student.
 
Sheila C. Gallagher is state president of The South Carolina Education Association and an educator at Williams Middle School in Florence.

RECENT MY TURNS

Feedback

Debt commentary is effective, reasonable

To SC Statehouse Report:
 
You are all over it [Commentary, “Using numbers to mislead,” 4/17]. Your comments and remarks concerning our state's debt is the most effective and reasonable contradictions of our governor’s actions that I've read anywhere thusfar.
 
This struggle has been horribly articulated in the media with far too much emotional fodder and not enough serious debate. Hats off to you on this one.
 
-- Ken Ard, Florence, S.C.

Scorecard

Thumbs up and down for the week

 

Orangeburg.  Kudos to native son Eugene Robinson, a political columnist with The Washington Post, won a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. More: Orangeburg Times and Democrat.
 
SCANA. The state’s only Fortune 500 business climbed from 500 to 455 this year.  More: Greenville News.
 
Budget. Sen. Tom Davis (R-Beaufort) reintroduced a second possible state budget plan on the floor this week that could break the $700 million stalemate between the governor and the legislature. It won’t and the devout Sanford ally has apparently scrapped the genial nature he used when initially presented the budget in committee.
 
$3.5 million. That’s how much the Senate Finance Committee offered to cut in state retiree debt in the budget it presented to the full body, in response to Gov. Mark Sanford withholding $700 million in federal stimulus package funds in exchange for debt reduction. More: The Post and Courier
In related news, in a poor attempt to appease the governor, the House has passed a bill to form a committee to look into cutting $350 million in spending from the state budget.
 
Utilities. State power-generating companies still seem more concerned [The State] by how much a carbon pollution tax would increase their costs than how much coal plants are hurting our environment, that is, when they’re not underestimating the cost of building another coal plant. More: The State.
 
GOP. The Greenville County GOP has sued the state in an effort to stop anyone, like independents or (gasp!) Democrats, from voting in their primaries. Too much like a democracy? More: The State
 
Fire. Thumbs down for all of the homes and lives threatened by acre after acre of wind-fueled forest fires.

 

Stegelin

Give us a little credit...


Also from Stegelin: 4/17 | 4/10 | 4/3 | 3/273/20 | 3/13 | 3/6

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/.