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ISSUE 12.04
Jan. 25, 2013

12/04 | 11/27 | 11/20 | 11/13


News :
Re-do or do-over?
Legislative Agenda :
Restructuring, ethics debates ahead
Radar Screen :
Infrastructure improvements ahead
Palmetto Politics :
Restructuring battle looms
Commentary :
Nullification talk is irresponsible
Spotlight :
Maybank Industries
My Turn :
An agenda for South Carolina
Feedback :
Thanks for column on tailgating
Scorecard :
Three up, two in the middle, one down
Stegelin :
Tough to swallow
Megaphone :
Nullify this
Tally Sheet :
Bills introduced on ethics, vouchers, more
Encyclopedia :
Gardening through the years

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That’s how many candidates have filed to run for the 1st congressional seat vacated by U.S. Sen. Tim Scott. That’s good luck, right? More.


Nullify this

“My objective over the next four years, every day I walk into that Senate chamber, is to find another way I can thwart federal encroachment … This state has a proud tradition of leaders stepping up and holding aloft the candle of liberty at a time when things are darkest. … We have to rise to that challenge now.”

-- State Sen. Tom Davis (R-Beaufort), quoted this week in the Washington Post from comments he made earlier this month at a “nullification” rally held in response to the federal Affordable Care Act. More.


Bills introduced on ethics, vouchers, more

State legislators this week introduced dozens of bills, with key measures involving school vouchers, ethics reform and early childhood education. Among the measures introduced this week:

College funding. S. 266 (Gregory) calls for the Commission of Higher Education and college presidents to support establishment of accountability-based funding for public colleges.

Music therapy. S. 277 (Leatherman) seeks to regulate the practice of music therapy.

Vouchers. S. 279 (Grooms) seeks to establish a tax credit voucher for parents who send their kids to private schools, with several provisions.

Firearms liberty. S. 285 (Grooms) seeks to keep any gun, accessory or ammunition made in S.C. from federal regulation, with several provisions. See Andy Brack’s nullification column.

First Steps. S. 291 (Fair) seeks to redefine the First Steps program for school readiness, with many provisions. H. 3428 (Allison) is similar but also calls for a long-term First Steps strategy and other provisions.

Beach preservation. H. 3390 (Sottile) seeks to enact a law to allow municipalities to charge accommodations fees to preserve beaches, with several provisions.

S.C. State. H. 3393 (Sellers) seeks a new board for S.C. State University.

Guns. H. 3399 (Huggins) seeks to nullify any presidential executive order to control guns. See Brack’s nullification column.

DSS audit. H. 3400 (Merrill) seeks to require the state Department of Social Services to provide more data and get audits every three years, with several provisions.

Ethics. H. 3406 (Bernstein) seeks a constitutional amendment to move ethics authority from legislative committees to the State Ethics Commission, with several provisions. H. 3429 (Bingham) would broaden membership for House and Senate Ethics committees.

PACs. H. 3407 (Bernstein) seeks to eliminate political action committees formed by legislators or statewide officials, with many provisions regarding ethics.

Hair braiding. H. 3411 (R.L. Brown) seeks to regulate hair braiding, with several provisions.

Medicaid. H. 3413 (Bales) would require the state to provide Medicaid coverage for certain people from 2014 through 2016. The bill is an obvious attempt to thwart GOP efforts to ax Medicaid extension.

No drones. H. 3415 (K.R. Crawford) seeks to enact a measure to prohibit law enforcement agencies from using drone surveillance aircraft without a search warrant, and several other provisions.

No questions. H. 3416 (Putnam) would prohibit a health care provider from asking a gunshot victim whether he owned a gun.

Ethics conflicts. H. 3422 (Lucas) seeks to revise ethics and campaign laws involving using public positions for private gain, with many provisions.

4-year-old kindergarten. H. 3424 (J.E. Smith) would change the Child Development Education Pilot Program for four-year-old kindergarten for at-risk kids into a permanent program, with several provisions.

Renewable energy. H. 3425 (J.E. Smith) seeks to enact a measure to allow third parties to sell electricity from a renewable energy facility, with several provisions.

Bus fuel. H. 3432 (R.L. Brown) calls for a pilot project to study using biofuel and alternatives in state buses.


Gardening through the years

The first great boom in home horticulture had to await the coming of accessible education, after which ordinary people could read seed and plant catalogs, seed packets, and later, farm magazines. Until that time, most ornamentals were spread around families and neighbors as "passalong plants" that one could see growing and did not need to read about.

Home horticulture began to flourish by the mid-nineteenth century, when great nurseries such as those at Pomaria, South Carolina, and Fruitland in Augusta, Georgia, began to ship easy-to-grow deciduous shrubs and fruit and nut trees. During the first half of the nineteenth century, deciduous flowering shrubs had dominated landscapes, but after the Civil War, the rhododendron species known as "azaleas" and camellias began to bring color to southern landscapes during spring and fall months. The long, essentially green summer hiatus in gardens, seldom broken except by crape myrtles, persisted until the twentieth century when the American garden seed industry opened production on western irrigated lands, making flower and vegetable seeds less expensive and more reliable.

By the 1920s, municipalities began to accumulate enough money to do extensive plantings in parks, but no classical botanical gardens were built in South Carolina until well after World War II. Several gardens have become destinations for tourists from the United States and abroad: Brookgreen Gardens near Pawleys Island, Cypress Gardens at Moncks Corner, Edisto Memorial Gardens at Orangeburg, Kalmia Gardens of Coker College at Hartsville, Magnolia Plantation and Middleton Place near Charleston, Riverbanks Zoo and Botanical Garden at Columbia, the South Carolina Botanical Garden at Clemson University, Blythewood's Singing Oaks Garden, and Swan Lake Iris Gardens at Sumter. Collectively, public gardens have had a huge impact on gardening education through their outreach programs.

Horticultural societies seldom caught on in the South, but garden clubs did. They flourished in nearly every town large enough to support a club. The impact of Master Gardeners on the level of horticultural sophistication in South Carolina became evident beginning in the 1980s, when courses offered to home gardeners allowed them to attain certification level in Master Gardening. Master Gardeners are trained by the Clemson University Extension Service to answer gardening questions and to further their gardening education through community projects.

Home gardening is America's number one hobby, and with its abundant land, good water, and long growing seasons, South Carolina offers one of the best areas in the country for gardening for produce and pleasure. Northerners moving here often feel intimidated by the red clay or sandy coastal soils, and by the seemingly seamless planting seasons, but soon begin enjoying the opportunities they offer for producing year-round color and gourmet food crops.

Excerpted from the entry by Jim Wilson. 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 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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Re-do or do-over?

Senators want big changes to state constitution

By Bill Davis, senior editor

JAN. 25, 2013 -- Looks like the Senate has once again caught “constitution fever” with 21 proposed state constitutional amendments currently filed and more rumored to be on the way.

One of those proposed amendments is a bipartisan call to do away completely with the state’s current constitution, approved in 1895, and replace it with a more modern version.

Of those 21 proposed amendments, 15 directly deal with restructuring government, and would allow for the appointment by the governor of many elected executive branch officials, such as the adjutant general.

Of the remaining six, four deal with funding issues, such as establishing direct monies for state education and its judiciary. One of the remaining two would allow for churches to hold raffles, no big whoop.

But one amendment, Senate Bill 45, is the sexy one. Filed by Sens. Vincent Sheheen (D-Camden) and Tom Davis (R-Beaufort), it calls for a constitutional convention of 124 delegates elected in a non-partisan manner to deliberate about replacing the current constitution.

According to Scott Huffmon, one of the state’s leading political scientists, South Carolina’s state constitution is a very troubled document, even though it is the oldest functioning state constitution in the country. It’s troubled, he says, because it is one of the most amended constitutions in the country. 

330 and counting

Once an amendment is proposed, it has to survive votes in the House and Senate, the governor’s veto pen, and then be approved by voters statewide before it can be added to the constitution.

Huffmon said the process was “moderately hard” compared to other states’ processes. Then again, our document has been amended 330 times in 118 years, he said. [Alabama, by comparison, has more than 850 amendments to its 1901 constitution. About three in four amendments apply to single cities or counties because of vagaries in its constitutional structure.]

Sheheen said the South Carolina constitution’s track record of amendments that have already passed showed a “lack of respect” from legislators.

Sheheen admitted Friday that one of the reasons South Carolina’s is one of the most amended is because it is the oldest. But, he stressed, the current document is so “junked up” by a large number of amendments that inappropriately blend law with policy.

“We don’t need to be setting tax policy or alcohol control policy or gambling policy in the state constitution,” said Sheheen, who added that state should have emulated the federal record of not messing with a good thing.

He did allow that the U.S. Constitution was once muddied with policy with the 18th Amendment during Prohibition and that, he observed, turned out badly.

A little history

Huffmon argued, and teaches that the current state constitution had a troubled birth in 1895, when the state, leery of “radical” Republicans in North Carolina politically befriending former slaves, passed a constitution that limited the powers of the executive branch.

That structure has been criticized as being tipped too much in the legislature’s favor to this day and has resulted in the calls for state government restructuring echoing for the past decade.

Sen. Gerald Malloy (D-Darlington), who has proposed an amendment to set aside 1 percent of the state’s general fund to pay for the state’s judiciary, said a convention is a good discussion point, showing the importance of the issues at hand, but that’s all.

Malloy’s point was that the state has more pressing current needs, like ethics reform, that trump the need for such a philosophical debate.

Let’s get (meta)physical

Sen. Chip Campsen (R-Charleston), who authored six proposed amendments this year, said he was opposed to a constitutional convention on a “metaphysical” basis.

Campsen worried that current mores would lead to a convention that would look at human nature as benign, instead of greedy and self-serving. His point was that if the convention came at the guiding principles for a new constitution from an unrealistic angle, then the resulting document would be flawed throughout.

Huffmon wondered about the political sanity of Sheheen’s call, as the majority of the state is solidly conservative, and could incur big losses for Democrats.

“Unless he’s figured out some sort of parliamentary trick, the conventional wisdom would give the edge to the Republicans,” said Huffmon, who then echoed Malloy’s sentiments that “calling for something that drastic may be the best way in highlighting what’s wrong with the system” and 1895 document.

Huffmon said that a modern constitution, drafted in the near future, would probably include expanded powers for the executive branch.

Sheheen said the only people in the state who would fear a constitutional convention would be “elitists.” He also defended himself against critics who pointed out that Sheheen was merely being self-serving by fighting for expansion of executive branch powers as he has recently been a gubernatorial candidate.

“I’d like to remind those critics that I lost the election.”

Crystal ball: We probably are not going to have a constitutional convention. Consider that the General Assembly moves at a deliberate pace, more given to glacial advances than overnight successes. Holistically speaking, multiple small annual micro-adjustments have suited the legislature for decades. And that won’t change. But perhaps Sheheen and Davis’s call for a do-over could spark public debate about what ails the state’s government structure.

Bill Davis is editor of Statehouse Report.  He can be reached at: Recent news stories:

Legislative Agenda

Restructuring, ethics debates ahead

In the Senate, the big floor fight next week will be whether a bill passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee to restructure state administrative functions will be debated or head first to the Senate Finance committee, where it could wither and die.

In the House, look for a lively debate over a GOP Caucus plan to do away with legislative ethics committees in favor of an expanded, independent and better funded state Ethics Commission. Look for the House budget debate to hit Ways and Means by the second week in February. Also next week in meetings:

  • House Ways and Means. Subcommittees will be meeting throughout the week. For more information, please refer to this Web page.

  • Senate Banking. The full committee will convene Wednesday at 10 a.m. in 105 Gressette to once again consider Ray Farmer, Gov. Nikki Haley’s appointee to head the Department of Insurance. Agenda.

  • Senate Judiciary. A subcommittee will meet Wednesday at 11 a.m. in 308 Gressette to discuss bills related to early voting measures. Agenda.

  • House Public Works. The full Education and Public Works Committee will meet Wednesday an hour and a half after adjournment to discuss a bill that would make illegal to use a cellular device while driving. Agenda.
Radar Screen

Infrastructure improvements ahead

With so much clamor for state infrastructure improvement – roads, highways, bridges and the like – look for increased transportation funding in the state’s budgets over the next few years. But don’t look for an increased gas tax. Yes, it’s one of the lowest in the country and we finally raised the cigarette tax. But, not everyone who smokes, votes. But close to everyone who votes, drives.

Palmetto Politics

Restructuring battle looms

State Sen. Hugh Leatherman (R-Florence), the longtime chair of the Finance Committee, is working to put the kibosh on a restructuring plan that Gov. Nikki Haley has campaigned for.

Leatherman wants his committee to be allowed to debate a bill that would create an state Department of Administration. He is concerned it would do away with the Budget and Control Board while placing one of the board’s key duties -- procurement -- in the hands of the governor. Critics say that could create a tantalizing opportunity for governors to use state money to payback political supporters and allies via sweetheart deals. The bill has already passed Judiciary and is expected to be debated on the Senate floor next week.

Calendar shortening advances

A House Judiciary subcommittee this week approved a measure that would shrink the legislative calendar by a month at the beginning and end of a session. Instead of running January to June, the proposed bill, which would need a constitutional amendment to codify, calls for the session to run from February to May.

Supporters hold that the General Assembly could still get the same amount of work done in the shorter period, and be more focused in its efforts. January, they say, could be reserved for committee meetings, saving the state the cost of a six-month legislative session. Detractors worried that there wouldn’t be enough time to tackle the legislature's 400-pound gorilla: putting out a budget.

To appoint or not

Gov. Nikki Haley’s nominee to head the state  Department of Insurance, lobbyist Ray Farmer, came under fire this week in a Senate Banking and Insurance Committee meeting.

Because of testimony about high insurance rates by a former CEO of a telecommunications company, the committee will review Farmer yet again next week instead of the rubber-stamping nomination.

But Farmer will likely be confirmed, as one senator already handed in his “yea” vote, Sen. John Courson (R-Columbia), president pro tempore of the Senate. The seeming disconnect between what we pay and what, say Mississippi and Louisiana pay, for homeowners’ insurance has certainly piqued the interest of the committee members with constituencies on the coast. If a link for higher inland rates can be established, look for legislators to pressure the department to deal with high insurance rates.


Nullification talk is irresponsible

By Andy Brack, editor and publisher

JAN. 25, 2013 -- You’d think folks would learn.

Especially after numerous court decisions and a civil war with more than 600,000 deaths that tore America apart. 

But talk of nullification of federal laws by the state South Carolina grows. You hear it at conservative rallies. State Sen. Lee Bright, R-Spartanburg, proposes a bill to keep Obamacare out of the Palmetto State. His GOP colleague, Larry Grooms of Berkeley County, has a bill that seeks to exempt the state-made guns or ammunition from any federal firearms restrictions. State Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, proposes to nullify any presidential executive order on the right to bear arms. Nullification is behind past attempts to get the state to reject federal stimulus money and even to mint its own money.

“These nullificationists should take a look at the Supremacy clause of the Constitution of the United States, whose signers for its ratification included four delegates from South Carolina: John Rutledge, Charles Pinckney, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney and Pierce Butler,” historian Jack Bass said.

Article VI says the Constitution is “the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby.” Furthermore, state legislators “shall be bound by oath or affirmation to support this constitution.”

“In other words,” Bass concluded, “any legislator who openly believes in ‘nullification’ should be removed from office as a violation of their oath of office to support the U. S. Constitution. One doesn't have to be very bright to understand this.”

The political theory of nullification, perfected in December 1861 when South Carolina seceded from the union, essentially holds that states are the final arbiters of whether federal laws apply to them. Proponents maintain states formed the country by joining together in a compact and the U.S. Constitution was a document for limited government that delegated some powers to the federal government, but reserved lots of power for states. Under nullification theory, therefore, states can “nullify” or reject federal laws it opposes.

States tried to use nullification in Pennsylvania in 1809 to nullify a federal court decision. The U.S. Supreme Court rejected the argument saying that if states could nullify federal laws and decisions, “the Constitution itself becomes a solemn mockery, and the nation is deprived of the means of enforcing its laws by the instrumentality of its own tribunals.”

In other words, nullification as a remedy would cause chaos. Some entity has to have ultimate authority, otherwise the country and states are like a dog continually chasing its tail on controversial issues.

South Carolina’s John C. Calhoun, whose portrait haughtily stares over the state Senate chamber today in Columbia, perfected the nullification argument in what led to the Nullification Crisis in the early 1830s. At issue was a tariff that favored Northern businesses. South Carolina voted to nullify it and President Andrew Jackson threatened to send troops. A compromise was reached, but nullification became a major argument for years in the Southern fight to keep slavery.

Nullification reared its ugly head the civil rights debate in the 1950s and 1960s. And now it’s back again because of a partisan, political environment that’s more charged than in a long time.

“The current support for nullification seems to be a convergence of two Republican efforts for the past three decades:  support for states' rights and appointment of conservative judges to the federal bench,” said constitutional law professor John Simpkins, a fellow at the Charleston School of Law. “Nullification has been around since the days of Thomas Jefferson and the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions.  Each were rejected in their time and the idea has suffered serial defeat subsequently, from John C. Calhoun to George Wallace.”

Legislative attempts to force courts to deal again with nullification, Simpkins suggested, may be a way to try to get a favorable ruling so the current more conservative U.S. Supreme Court can revisit the issue.

Regardless, all of this nullification nonsense is a big waste of time. As a state, we’ve got better things to do. As much as it may pain nullifiers, our country got its start as an experiment in direct democracy, not as a put-up job by states to keep control. 

Evidence? The first three words of the U.S. Constitution: “We the people.”

Andy Brack is publisher of Statehouse Report.  You can reach Brack at:


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My Turn

An agenda for South Carolina

By S.C. Sen. Nikki Setzler
Special to Statehouse Report

JAN. 25, 2013 -- A new year is here and the campaigns, elections and divisiveness that marked 2012 are behind us. It’s time to get to work for the people and state lawmakers begin a new legislative session in Columbia facing their toughest task: crafting a unifying vision to move South Carolina forward.

South Carolina Senate Democrats have elected me to be the leader of a caucus that truly represents South Carolina’s diverse landscape. We seek to work collaboratively to create opportunities for better tomorrows for our residents and enhance the quality of life in all regions of our great state. Senate Democrats know the way forward is by advancing an agenda that works for all South Carolinians.

Our ability to transform South Carolina’s economy – to spur growth and create high-wage jobs – hinges on our investment in our state’s infrastructure, the health of our residents and public education. And, part of our tasks as legislators is to ensure our investments – our decisions – make the most efficient use of taxpayer dollars so our state delivers programs and services in a cost-effective manner. As Senate Democrats, that’s our commitment to the residents of South Carolina.

These are our priorities as we seek support for an agenda to put South Carolina first.

South Carolina has not enacted a bond bill for capital projects in more than a decade. Now, is an ideal time to pass a bond bill to make the major investment to meet current and long-term infrastructure needs.

Right now, our state’s roads and bridges are crumbling. We have neglected much needed maintenance and modernization. But, our infrastructure needs go beyond roads and bridges. For instance, we need water and sewer services in rural areas. As we progress in the 21st Century, we must plan for the technology infrastructure needed to attract industry and bring high-paying jobs. In addition, we must work with industry to identify alternative methods to transport goods across the state.

Our state’s economy is improving, but not as fast as our national economy. Our state must continue to recruit large employers, but we must have an equal focus on small businesses. The state’s Department of Commerce needs a small business division charged with recruiting and supporting small businesses, which create the majority of the jobs in South Carolina. Often, it’s small businesses that are on the cutting edge of technology and South Carolina needs to support these entrepreneurs.

South Carolina needs to ensure access to medical care for its residents. It’s a way to invest in the well-being of our people and maintain a healthy and vibrant workforce. The U.S. Supreme Court has spoken: the Affordable Care Act is the law of the land. Washington politics should not be our politics. As legislators, we need to provide a better quality of life for our residents. By expanding our state’s Medicaid program to cover the poorest of the poor, we can do just that.

Progress for South Carolina can only be built on the foundation of a high-quality public education system that provides our employers a highly skilled workforce and our children hope for a better life. We need to support our teachers and bring their salaries in line with their colleagues in neighboring states. We need a more equitable public school funding system so that a child’s ZIP Code does not determine the quality of education he or she receives. And, the earlier we reach these young minds the better. We need to join our neighbors in North Carolina and Georgia and enact full-day, 4-year-old kindergarten in South Carolina.

All these things are possible this year. We stand ready to work with Senate and House Republicans as well as the governor to make real and lasting progress for our state. Our agenda is not a partisan agenda; it’s a South Carolina agenda.

Setzler represents District 26 in the South Carolina Senate. He is the leader of the Senate Democratic Caucus and he can be reached at


Thanks for column on tailgating

To the editor:

As someone who has been rear-ended, thank you for your column today.

-- Herb Hartsook, Columbia, S.C.

Road rage bad too

To the editor:

I have e-mailed you on occasion, usually when I disagree with you. However I am in total agreement with you concerning tailgaters and speeders.

But I think you left one important subject matter out -- Road Rage. This is a direct result of people tailgating. People get mad. Unfortunate situations can  now arise because of these careless actions others. Just putting in my "2 cents" with yours.

-- Gerry Davis, Ruffin, S.C.

Write us. 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.


Three up, two in the middle, one down

Ethics. House GOP panel champions the right thing: letting an independent body review the ethics of legislators, instead of legislators. More.

Enviro. Finally, a bill has been proffered to ease restrictions on solar power installation across the state. More.

Elections. The Senate has already passed its version of a bill that would correct last year’s election filing fiasco that resulted in 250 candidates getting kicked off ballots. Now to the House. More.

Vouchers.  Congressional candidate and state Sen. Larry Grooms (R-Bonneau) has put up a bill calling for school vouchers. More.

Harrell. House Speaker Bobby Harrell (R-Charleston) is facing criticism from a former ally that he used his position to benefit his personal businesses. More.

Guns. Concealed weapons permit applications are soaring across the state, partially in response to the Newtown, Conn., shootings and the national calls for stricter gun laws. More.

Tough to swallow

RECENT STEGELIN: 1/18 | 1/111/4Best cartoon of 2012


Statehouse Report

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

Phone: 843.670.3996

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