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ISSUE 12.06
Feb. 08, 2013

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

Index

News :
Education funding vexes leaders
Legislative Agenda :
House on furlough, Senate to be busy
Radar Screen :
Conservative policy showdown?
Palmetto Politics :
Pointing at a dead horse in a ditch
Commentary :
State making security strides; more work needed
Spotlight :
ACLU of South Carolina
My Turn :
Pay state employees fairly for all that they do
Feedback :
Letters back Brack on Episcopal Church schism
Scorecard :
Up for speed, five downs
Stegelin :
Put a sock in it, Todd
Megaphone :
Flabbergasted
Tally Sheet :
ID theft, tax, ethics bills introduced
Encyclopedia :
Gov. Patrick Noble

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NUMBER OF THE WEEK

$23,000

That’s how much a political action committee aligned with House Speaker Bobby Harrell (R-Charleston) paid a Charleston public relations firm that was doing work in support of completing a controversial roads project in the Lowcountry. The money was labeled as an “elections expense.” Hmmmm. More.

MEGAPHONE

Flabbergasted

"If it was not possible to detect what was going on because the logging systems were not adequate, then I will take responsibility for that … I am flabbergasted it was not discovered."

-- Mike Garon, former chief information officer at the state Department of Revenue testifying before a House subcommittee about the events surrounding the hacking of his former department’s computer records, called the largest such incident in American history.

TALLY SHEET

ID theft, tax, ethics bills introduced

State lawmakers introduced a bunch of bills this week with the most prominent being those dealing with identity theft, taxes and ethics reform. Key bills for the week were:

Solar credit. S. 329 (Reese) seeks tax credits for solar energy systems through 2018.

Identity theft. S. 334 (Leatherman) is an omnibus identity theft protection bill that would create a new state agency, authorize an identity theft unit for consumers and create a tax credit for text monitoring services following the hacking of 6 million records in 2012. H. 3528 (M.S. McLeod) is a proposal to toughen information security through a new agency, with several provisions.

Ethics reform. S. 338 (Hayes) calls for major ethics reform related to lobbyists, investigations, required documents, misconduct and more. S. 346 (Hayes) calls for a constitutional amendment related to shift some ethics oversight powers from the General Assembly to the State Ethics Commission. S. 347 (Hayes) is related, but not a proposal for a constitutional amendment.

Pulse oximetry screening. S. 341 (Alexander) calls for all newborns to get the screening at any licensed birthing facility, with several provisions.

Santee Cooper study. S. 344 (Ford) calls for a study on the feasibility of privatizing Santee Cooper, with several provisions.

Notaries. S. 356 (Alexander) calls for notaries to be able to vote, and read and write in English, with other provisions.

No surcharge. H. 3477 (Powers Norrell) would prohibit a surcharge to a consumer who uses a credit card in lieu of cash or check.

Home schooling.  H. 3478 (Brannon) would delete the BSAP test from statewide testing required of home-school students, but require other testing.

Vet law. H. 3492 (Hiott) is a complicated, confusing bill that appears to seek restructuring of state law regarding veterinarians and animal ordinances. 

Gas tax. H. 3498 (Skelton) seeks to increase the gas tax by 26 cents per gallon, with several provisions.

Business growth. H. 3505 (Loftis) seeks to enact the “High growth small business access to capital act” to provide nonrefundable income tax credits to qualified investors, with several provisions.

Drones. H. 3514 (Hamilton) seeks to prohibit drone aircraft, with penalties and exceptions.

LLC liability. H. 3521 (Finlay) seeks to change LLC law so that members cannot be held personally liable for a company’s obligations, with several provisions.

Sales tax exemptions. H. 3522 (Stringer) seeks to eliminate some sales tax exemptions and dedicate revenue to the general fund; it also calls for a joint committee on taxation to do a cost-benefit analysis of exemptions.

Prayer in schools. H. 3526 (Williams) would allow prayer in public schools if students who didn’t want to listen were allowed to leave the room.

ENCYCLOPEDIA

Gov. Patrick Noble

A native of Abbeville District, Patrick Noble (ca. 1787-1840) was the son of Alexander Noble and Catherine Calhoun. Throughout his formative years, Noble enjoyed an enviable education, first studying under the tutelage of Dr. Moses Waddel and later graduating from the College of New Jersey (Princeton) in 1806. Returning to South Carolina, Noble studied law in Charleston under the supervision of Langdon Cheves and later in the office of John C. Calhoun at Abbeville Court House. Admitted to the bar in 1809, he briefly practiced in partnership with Calhoun before establishing his own lucrative law office in Abbeville District. On Sept. 5, 1816, Noble married Elizabeth Bonneau Pickens, a union that produced seven children.

In 1814 Abbeville District elected Noble to the S.C. House of Representatives. Reelected to the next four sessions, Noble also served as Speaker of the House from 1818 to 1823. In 1824 Noble declined another term and made an unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Senate. Returning to his law practice, Noble took a hiatus from public life until 1830, when he was chosen lieutenant governor. Abbeville returned Noble to the House in 1832, where he again occupied the Speaker's chair from 1833 to 1835. In 1836 Noble was elected to the S.C. Senate, where his parliamentary experience led to his immediate selection as president of the senate. Reelected two years later, Noble resigned his seat upon his election as governor of South Carolina on Dec. 8, 1838.

An ardent proponent of states' rights, Noble advocated public resistance to the expansion of federal power, which he deemed "highly dangerous, and subversive of our excellent frame of Government." In particular, Noble opposed the national tariff and called on southerners to insist that duties be laid for revenue, not for the protection of northern industry, and only for an amount required by "the economical wants of the Government." He further warned of the growing abolitionist movement in the northern states and urged the legislature to "invigorate" the state militia and prepare South Carolinians "to defend their firesides against the unholy machinations of those who would drench our fields in blood, and sweep our land with the besom of destruction."

Noble had the misfortune of occupying the office of governor in the aftermath of the Panic of 1837, which ruined countless cotton planters and left the South Carolina economy in shambles. Like many Carolinians, Noble placed the burden of blame on state banks, all of which suspended specie payment during the crisis. Noble took the suspensions as a sign that "adherent vices" existed in the banking system and he called on legislators to "probe the evil to the bottom" and thereby "bring back these moneyed corporations, to a healthy performance of their functions." But Noble would not live to complete his term. After a brief illness, he died on April 7, 1840, and was succeeded by Lieutenant Governor Barnabas K. Henagan. Noble was buried in his family cemetery at Oak Hill Plantation, Abbeville District.

Excerpted from the entry by Tom Downey. 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

Education funding vexes leaders

Act 388 is thorn in side of policymakers

By Bill Davis, senior editor

FEB. 8, 2013 -- How South Carolina funds its K-12 public schools again is a hot topic in Columbia, albeit behind closed doors.  And interestingly, the state’s superintendent of education won’t enter the fray.

Gov. Nikki Haley last week made good on a State of the State promise to sit down with Statehouse brass for a frank, private discussion about what could be done to improve the state’s K-12 education funding structure.

For all of the important issues apparently raised, some major players are avoiding direct questions on discussions that could impact state education funding policy for years to come.

Haley’s office did not respond to a request for comment on the meeting that took place in her mansion. Superintendent of Education Mick Zais, through his spokesman, has made it clear that the money fight is more the purview of the Department of Revenue than his.  And Senate President Pro Tempore John Courson (R-Columbia), who chairs the Senate Education Committee, directed questions and comments to another senator, Wes Hayes (R-Rock Hill), who chairs the Finance subcommittee on K-12 education.

What has emerged, though, is a continuing deep division within the Statehouse over what to do about the current funding structure as laid out six years ago by Act 388. It codified a tax swap to cut taxes on owner-occupied property and replace them with an extra penny in sales tax.

Catch-388

Hayes squarely pinned blame for the vexing matter of reforming funding for public education on Act 388. It, he said bluntly, is the biggest mistake the legislature has made since he came into state office 28 years ago.

As the nation’s economy tumbled after the 2007 implementation of Act 388, the tax swap threatened the solvency of school districts through state funding cuts, hamstrung local efforts to improve schools and put an additional tax burden on the business community as it shouldered the effects of the increased tax and had to continue to pay higher local commercial property taxes.

But, Hayes says there is virtually nothing to be done about it.

“Simply put, there is no political will in the Statehouse to get rid of Act 388,” said Hayes. Why? He said the political toll would be too high for legislators who want to stay in office to take away a tax break from homeowners, the majority of voters. More importantly, he said there were few options outside of changing Act 388.

To rub more salt into education’s wounds, Hayes said he didn’t know when, if ever, the state would “catch up” with mandated per pupil funding levels. For the past five years, the legislature has voted for special one-year laws to cut about a third of mandated per-pupil funding levels.      

Amazing

Hayes’ position echoed with others in the Statehouse, which  amazes Roger Smith, the executive director of the S.C. Education Association, a statewide teachers’ organization.

“If it is such a mistake, then why can’t they take any action?” said Smith.

Smith said there were what amounts to two 400-pound gorillas in the wings, which could provide legislators with impetus enough political to address Act 388.

The first is the outcome of the Abbeville vs. State of South Carolina lawsuit, filed years ago on behalf of a swath of poorer school districts across the state. That lawsuit has been simmering in the S.C. Supreme Court for years and there are signs it could be resolved soon. A decision could force the state to provide a more “adequate” education to all K-12 kids in South Carolina and could carry with it extreme increases in education funding.

The second shoe waiting to fall is another lawsuit. This one would force the state to address its myriad of sales tax exemptions, which leave literally billions of dollars in potential taxes on the table every year.

A new state tax?

Debbie Elmore, spokesman for the S.C. School Boards Association, said she hoped future discussions would include her association’s plan for a 100-mill statewide property tax to go directly fund K-12 education.

Elmore also said as Act 388 continues to play out, it would create bigger divides in local funding abilities, since the values of properties have been since been capped, making “richer” districts and counties look poorer than they really are.

But Hayes said there is little political will for that plan, either.

But other education-focused legislators, such as Rep. Lester Branham(D-Lake City), think the only solution is for the state to take on the mantle of education funding. That way, he said, poor rural districts, like one in his district, would have a shot of leveling funding inequities.

“Some of these districts across are able to build these new schools with campuses that look like colleges and universities,” said Branham, and that is a far cry from what poorer districts can manage.

Staying out of it

State Superintendent of Education Mick Zais is staying well clear over the flap of how school districts get their money.

“He is the superintendent of Education – not the director of the Department of Revenue,” said Education spokesman Jay Ragley.

Ragley said Zais would continue to fight for whatever money does come his agency’s way to more follow the student, regardless of what school or district they receive their education.

Crystal ball:  It’s yet to be seen if Haley’s closed-door sit-downs will lead to substantive policymaking. And that’s probably a good thing. For now, that is. In the initial stages of this discussion, the leaders should have some latitude to speak frankly, without the fear of angering constituents. But at some point, somebody has to do something, lest this state, which trails so many in education attainment, falls further behind.

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

Legislative Agenda

House on furlough, Senate to be busy

Next week, the House, in the words of a certain staffer, “won’t screw anything up.” Because? It’s on furlough. Badabump.

In the Senate:

  • Senate Judiciary. A subcommittee will meet Wednesday at 10 a.m. in 105 Gressette to discuss a bill that would allow concealed weapons in businesses that serve alcohol. Agenda.

  • Senate Banking. A subcommittee will meet Wednesday at 11 a.m. in 308 Gressette to discuss identity theft and other issues. Agenda.
Radar Screen

Conservative policy showdown?

The announcement last week that former U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint was working to create a new conservative policy research organization may lead to a showdown with the state’s current heavyweight in that field, the S.C. Policy Council.

Palmetto Politics

Pointing at a dead horse in a ditch

A House panel this week was not beating a dead horse when it requested former state Department of Revenue Chief Information Officer Mike Garon to testify this week on the historic hacking incident that took place there last fall.

Rather, it was one of two things: a committed effort to get to the bottom of what went wrong so it won’t happen again or indulgent finger-pointing.

There’s an old saying in the country: sometimes it doesn’t matter how a pig got into the ditch, but how to get the pig out of the ditch. Apparently, the legislature is mired in the muck between finger-pointing and getting the pig out the ditch, as it is apparent what happened at Revenue.

Garon, who resigned at the end of last year, assumed some of the blame for the massive leak of information, which included vital private information for 6 million state residents and businesses. Garon said he had presented the cabinet agency’s leadership with a security plan over the years, but was ignored.

But he refused to name names as to who should have noticed the massive file transfers that were taking place. Garon claimed to have been asked to step down for being verbally abusive and not for issues related to the hacking incident, called the worse such incident in American history.

Sens. Hugh Leatherman (R-Florence) and others filed a bill this week that could present structural administrative changes at Revenue, but it looks like there may be more fingers pointing to come.

Garon reportedly has not filed a wrongful termination suit, but if he did, some Statehouse insiders worry that his testimony in front of the House panel this week may bolster a case, should he file one.

Obamacare positioning continues

Gov. Nikki Haley was playing downfield this week by announcing a plan to help rural hospitals financially, as the outcome of the state’s fight against federal health care reform could directly affect poorer facilities in the hinterlands.

Some experts have worried that Medicaid expansion, favored under Obamacare, would more directly benefit hospitals in more densely-populated counties and could end up closing regional hospitals. Haley’s announcement was an enhancement of what her plan to “opt out” of looming federally mandated health care expansion in South Carolina.

Commentary

State making security strides; more work needed

By Andy Brack, editor and publisher

FEB. 8, 2013 -- Four months ago, the state discovered a hacker broke into the Department of Revenue database and stole personal information of 3.8 million taxpayers, 1.9 million dependents and 700,000 businesses. To date, it is the largest hack of a government database in the nation’s history.

This huge, embarrassing blunder will cause South Carolinians to look over their financial shoulders for the rest of their lives.  To make amends, the state is offering one year of free credit monitoring through Experian.  So far, only 1,252,802 people have enrolled in the service for which enrollment ends on March 31. 

So four months into this mess, how’s South Carolina doing?

On one hand, the breach seems to be slowly changing bureaucratic culture. But on the other, a majority of individuals still have not signed up for the credit monitoring service, despite millions of letters, hundreds of thousands of emails, education seminars and stories in the media. 

Senior state officials rightly worry about three particularly vulnerable populations -- children, the elderly and college students. For children, private information may remain dormant for years until someone uses hacked information to take out loans, get credit cards or buy vehicles. Meanwhile the elderly, victim to lots of financial scams, may find themselves targeted increasingly. And college students need to be careful that somebody doesn’t use hacked information to take out loans in their names or worse.

Carri Grube Lybarker, administrator of the S.C. Department of Consumer Affairs, says her office encourages South Carolinians to take advantage of the financial tools that are available, including the Experian monitoring, and the ability to freeze credit reports and invoke renewable fraud alerts. 

“The monitoring service is not a silver bullet,” she said. It will minimize security problems for consumers but it essentially alerts them once someone already has started or tried to use their personal information wrongly. “We are trying to educate people because if they aren’t aware, they can’t use the tools to protect themselves.”

 PROTECT YOURSELF

State officials say there are specific things you can do to protect your personal information, but you need to keep vigilant:
 
CREDIT MONITORING
Sign up for free Experian credit monitoring for a year to review your credit for any identity theft. Enrollment expires March 31.

FREEZE YOUR CREDIT REPORT
Bbusinesses generally want your credit report when you seek money.  But if you freeze reports, you will greatly thwart the ability of thieves for illegally use your info.  You can temporarily "thaw" reports when you need loans or more credit.
 
START FRAUD ALERTS
You can get renewable fraud alerts with the three credit agencies to learn about any fishy situations that may not be revealed through the Experian monitoring.
 
MORE INFO
Contact the S.C. Department of Consumer Affairs for questions: 1-800-922-1594.
State Sen. Kevin Bryant, R-Anderson, emphasized the security predicament: “I’m having a hard time having folks remember that Experian tells you [that] you are a victim of identity theft.”  

Bryant, Senate Finance Chair Hugh Leatherman and others introduced a bill a few days back that would create a new agency, a Department of Information Security, to be vigilant continually across all state agencies about computer security. The bill also calls for an identity theft unit at the Department of Consumer Affairs and an income tax deduction for people who pay for credit monitoring after the free year is over.

But the state still needs to do a better job to get its house in order to prevent future problems. Bryant said he’d give the state a grade of a “D” so far because security of personal information still doesn’t seem to be taken seriously across state government. 

“There’s just a culture in government that if you’re not made to do it, you don’t do it. Why the governor didn’t issue an executive order ordering her cabinet to encrypt all data, I don’t understand.”

Rob Godfrey, Gov. Nikki Haley’s spokesman, emphasized the governor is working to make the state more secure and continues to urge people to sign up for monitoring. “Most recently, we sought to extend the deadline to sign up for protection because we're focused on providing the people of our state with the best protection available.”

William Blume, the retired corporate accountant who Haley appointed to clean up the mess at the Department of Revenue, says his job is to change the agency’s culture and restore people’s confidence in it.

“Taxpayer information is a non-negotiable requirement,” he said this week. “If there is a choice of us having to spend money on business updates or security, security wins out. We’ve got to have security woven into the fabric of what we do, not as just another kind of thing sitting out there.”

Bottom line: South Carolinians will be especially vulnerable to identity theft for the rest of their lives, regardless of any monitoring. But at least the state seems to be getting the message to clean up its security act. It’s a shame taxpayers were the bait.

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

Spotlight

ACLU of South Carolina

The public spiritedness of our underwriters allows us to bring Statehouse Report to you at no cost. This week's spotlighted underwriter is the American Civil Liberties Union.  The ACLU of South Carolina’s National Office in Charleston is dedicated to preserving the civil liberties enshrined in the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights. Through communications, lobbying and litigation, the ACLU South Carolina’s National Office works to preserve and enhance the rights of all citizens of South Carolina.  Foremost among these rights are freedom of speech and religion, the right to equal treatment under law, and the right to privacy.  More:  http://www.aclusouthcarolina.org/
My Turn

Pay state employees fairly for all that they do

By Carlton Washington
Special to Statehouse Report

FEB. 8, 2013 -- South Carolina’s first goal of government restructuring, streamlining or reducing the number of state employees has been accomplished. 

Just look at the numbers. In 1994, the state’s population was approximately 3.7 million and the state appropriated funding for approximately 42,000 FTE (Full Time Employee) positions, nearly 95 percent of the annual limitation. In 2012, the state’s population was more than 4.7 million and the state appropriated funding for approximately 32,000 FTE positions, a reduction of almost 50 percent of the annual limitation.

Unfortunately, the state’s second restructuring goal -- appropriately compensating employees for meeting the challenge of doing more with less -- has not been accomplished. Conservative estimates place state employees at least 20 percent or more behind inflation adjusted earnings. According to the U.S. Census, average monthly earnings for state employees in South Carolina are more than $1,000 dollars below the national average. The demand on employees to do more with less, absent the second tier of reform, significantly alters the state’s ability to support more than a million new consumers.  

According to the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control Accountability Report (FY 2011-2012), “Increased environmental pressures, demands for health and environmental services, along with staff shortages for emergency response, challenge the agency’s ability to accomplish its mission to promote and protect the health of the public and the environment.” 

The report further advises, “DHEC’s ability to ensure that facilities and services meet minimum standards is compromised by having fewer and less experienced staff.” According to the report, competitive pay is one of the main barriers to employee recruitment and retention. “It is not unusual to lose employees to the private sector with salary offers of 30 – 40 percent more than they currently earn.”    

Similarly, the annual accountability report from the S.C. Department of Social Service advises, “Caseloads in the CSED (Child Support Enforcement Division) remain the highest in the nation with 927 cases per FTE. The national average is 280 cases per FTE, according to the FFY 2010 Preliminary Report issued by the Federal Office of Child Support.” This report also cites competitive pay as one of the major barriers to employee recruitment and retention. 

"After failing for more than two decades, establishing salaries commensurate with responsibilities should be a priority. This goal is integral to the success of government restructuring. The goal is sensible and straightforward."
The annual accountability report from the S.C. Department of Corrections (SCDC) presents similar concerns. In 2011, the SCDC hired 855 new security officers. Within one year, the department lost approximately 50 percent of those new hires. According to the report, “
Current difficulties are those relative to budget constraints in that salaries being offered are not competitive with comparable salaries offered by other State and local agencies in South Carolina.” The report further advises, “SCDC identifies the continued loss of accumulated employee knowledge as a barrier to effectiveness.”

Recent salary increases for employees in the Office of the Governor highlight the value of competitive pay to government restructuring. Since taking office, Gov. Nikki Haley has never once officially proposed a pay increase for all state employees. In an interview with The Post and Courier, Haley spokesman Rob Godfrey offered that “the raises and shifts in responsibilities within the office, which have taken place as each former employee departed, were part of an effort to make sure the office runs as effectively and efficiently as possible.” 

A longevity program is fundamental to retain highly-trained workers and simultaneously reward long-term service. State employees have and continue to develop special skill sets that are desirable in both the public and private sectors. The absence of a longevity program significantly reduces the state’s ability to retain those highly qualified employees and at the same time increases program costs. For instance, each time a prevention specialist employed by the State of South Carolina leaves for other employment, the cost to the state on average is more than $20,000.00. 

Establishing salaries commensurate with responsibilities is fundamental to South Carolina’s ability to meet the ever growing demand for public services.   The state cannot afford to cherry pick between agencies, doing right by one, but ignoring the common interest of all.  Compensating employees in relation to expanded duties should not be reserved exclusively for employees in the Office of the Governor. State employees at all levels deserve the same consideration.  

After failing for more than two decades, establishing salaries commensurate with responsibilities should be a priority. This goal is integral to the success of government restructuring. The goal is sensible and straightforward. 

Carlton B. Washington is the executive director of the South Carolina State Employees Association, SCSEA. He can be reached via email at cwashington@scsea.com.

Feedback

Letters back Brack on Episcopal Church schism

To the editor:

BRAVO and thank you deeply for your article [Brack: "When church politics rises to the level of pure pettiness," 2/1/13] on my church. As a cradle Episcopalian from Grace Church, Charleston, I have watched from afar (Virginia) the deepening strife in my old diocese. If it weren’t serious, these machinations would be high comedy. My son’s family now worships at Grace and I am connected by a number of threads to individuals in the diocese; I watch with sadness this unchristian schism now in full cry.

I was not previously familiar with the Statehouse Report, but my hope is that your reporting will be read as an unbiased description from outside the church of the actions now transpiring. From my admittedly biased perspective, you have told succinctly the account of who is breaking away from whom, and I hope that this rings as truth with the S.C. legal and legislative communities.  I am proud of my roots in South Carolina, and grateful to voices such as yours which point to just resolutions of issues such as this one.

-- Barney Thomson, Vienna, Virginia

To the editor: 

Thank you for your column on church politics. It's great to finally see someone that understands the other point of view in this problem. Most of what I read in blogs and letters to the editor are "conservative" or "orthodox" people crying loudly about the injustice being done to their poor Bishop Mark Lawrence. The invective hurled toward Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori is even worse -- they make her sound like the devil incarnate!

You are absolutely right about the lawyers getting richer. This thing will take years to sort out in court, and the departing side will continue to insist that they are right.

-- John F. Schroeder, Charleston, S.C.

NOTE:  We got a couple of critical letters about Brack's column, but these writers didn't want their letters published. 

SEND US A LETTER.  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

Up for speed, five downs

Gaining speed. Statehouse leaders have quietly admitted that this year’s session has had a slow start, with the focus being on easy fixes like “ballotgate,” while bigger issues like information security and ethics reform have bogged down. But this week, bills have started hitting the floor and clearing subcommittees dealing with bigger issues. Look for debate to really heat up in two weeks, after the House returns from furlough, say observers.

DEW. The state’s unemployment agency plan to soon close 17 different rural offices across the state means federal support dollars are ending because, in part, jobs are more plentiful across the state – but not necessarily for the state employees who will be let go or some isolated citizens. More.

Haley. Pitting rural hospitals versus urban ones as a ruse to win converts to her anti-Obamacare position rings more than a little crass. More.

Nutrition, duh! A Southern diet rich in deep-fried foods might be a reason the nation’s “Stroke Belt” runs through South Carolina, according to a new study. Whaaaaaat?! Next, you’ll find that a diet rich in fruits and veggies is better for us. Oh. More.

Sellers. House Rep. Bakari Sellers admitted this week that he was arrested on DUI charges in October following the USC-UGA football game. He refused a Breathalyzer, paid a fine and has requested a jury trial. Worse still, Georgia lost big. (Go Dogs – Ed.) More.

Viers. A state judge set bail at $25,000 this week for former state Rep. Thad Viers, a Myrtle Beach Republican charged with first degree burglary and petit larceny. More.

GOP. Just when South Carolina doesn’t look like slack-jawed racist yokels, something like this pops up. Thanks, GOP! More.
Stegelin

Put a sock in it, Todd


RECENT STEGELIN: 2/1 | 1/25 | 1/18 | 1/11
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Statehouse Report

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

Phone: 843.670.3996

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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/.