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ISSUE 12.08
Feb. 22, 2013

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


News :
Standoff may be ahead on budget board
Legislative Agenda :
Sweepstakes and breathalyzers
Radar Screen :
Time to get inventive
Palmetto Politics :
Where's the outrage?
Commentary :
Time for legislature to do something courageous
Spotlight :
S.C. Senate Democratic Caucus
My Turn :
We still need the Voting Rights Act
Feedback :
Bottle bill would help South Carolina
Scorecard :
Down for health care, sequestration, Harrell, guns
Stegelin :
Luv gov: Yes, "mistakes" were made
Number of the Week :
$163 million
Megaphone :
On the (Appalachian) trail of redemption
Tally Sheet :
Few standout proposals this week
Encyclopedia :
Dizzy Gillespie

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$163 million

That’s how much more in estimated tax revenue collections the state Board of Economic Advisors said should be added to the state budget’s bottom line for the coming fiscal year, increasing its General Fund base to $6.9 billion.  Columnist Andy Brack suggests how it should be spent below in Commentary. More.


On the (Appalachian) trail of redemption

“… (W)e can learn a lot about grace, a God of second chances, and be the better for it.”

-- Former Gov. Mark Sanford (R), in his first television campaign ad for run for the congressional seat vacated by U.S. Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) More.


Few standout proposals this week

State lawmakers introduced more than 50 pages of proposals over the past week, but only a few stood out:

Drones. S. 395 (Davis) would prevent state agencies from using drones.

Regulations. S. 396 (LCI Committee) would approve modular building codes and associated regulations. S. 397 (LCI Committee) would approve some Manufactured Housing Board regulations. S. 399 (LCI Committee) would approve regulations for counselors and others. 

Medicare supplements. S. 400 (Peeler) would establish requirements for issuing Medicare Supplement policies, with many provisions.

Vehicle tax credits. S. 402 (Peeler) would link a state vehicle tax credit to federal credits, and provide for a tax credit for the purchase of hybrid and other vehicles, with several provisions.

State bonds. S. 411 (Setzler) calls for issuance of up to $500 million in transportation infrastructure bonds.

Campaign reporting. S. 412 (Thurmond) would require electronic campaign reporting during the 20-day period before an election for more than $250.

Handgun purchase. S. 412 (Gregory) would prohibit a person judge as mentally incapacitated or committed to a mental institution from buying a handgun, with many provisions. H. 3560 (Tallon) and H. 3564 (M.S. McLeod)  is similar.

No texting. S. 416 (Alexander) calls for texting to be illegal when people are driving.

Liability. H. 3537 (Whipper) calls for actions involving proportionate liability with multiple defendants to be filed in particular courts, with several provisions.

Booze on election day. H. 3539 (Rutherford) would allow sale of alcoholic liquors on statewide election days.

Adjutant general. H. 3540 (Harrell) would add the adjutant general to the list of constitutional officers that could be removed by a governor for specific reasons. H. 3541 (Harrell) calls for a constitutional amendment to make the adjutant general an appointed, not elected, office.

Abortion. H. 3584 (Putnam) seeks approval of right to life legislation.

Golf carts at night. H. 3594 (Herbkersman) seeks to allow golf carts with lights to be able to ride on state roads at night.

School protection. H. 3601 (Barfield) seeks approval of the “School Protection Officer Act,” with several provisions.


Dizzy Gillespie

John Birks Gillespie was born in Cheraw on Oct. 21, 1917, the son of James Penfield Gillespie, a bricklayer and amateur musician, and Lottie Powe. He began instruction on trumpet and trombone at age twelve and by fifteen was proficient enough to sit in with visiting professional bands. In 1933 he entered the nearby Laurinburg Institute in North Carolina, where he played in the school band. He left two years later without receiving his high school diploma to join his mother in Philadelphia, where she had recently moved.


Leaving Philadelphia for New York in 1937, Gillespie played with sundry groups for two years before joining the popular Cab Calloway Orchestra. Playing with Calloway, he began to display the first elements of a personal style. In his off-hours, Gillespie participated in jam sessions with such forward-looking young players as saxophonist Charlie Parker and pianist Thelonious Monk. Their informal experimentation with advanced harmonies and complex rhythms eventually led to the first modern jazz style, called bebop (or bop), which remains in the twenty-first century the foundation of most jazz performance.

Leaving Calloway in 1941, Gillespie spent short periods with a number of ensembles and began to supply arrangements for the orchestras of Woody Herman and Jimmy Dorsey. While a member of the Benny Carter band, he wrote his famous "A Night in Tunisia." By 1945 he had played with numerous large and small groups, including those of Earl Hines, Billy Eckstine, Coleman Hawkins, Duke Ellington, and John Kirby, and led or co-led small bands of his own.

In 1945 Gillespie and Charlie Parker formed a quintet to perform in the new style at a New York club. Later that year, they participated in some of the first small-group bebop recordings. Those recordings led to Gillespie's reputation as one of the most virtuosic, individualistic, and influential trumpeters in the history of jazz.

A devotee of big bands, Gillespie formed several during his career only to return to the small band format when they failed financially. In 1956 the U.S. Department of State sponsored a big band tour of the Middle East and parts of Europe, followed by a similar state-department-sponsored trip to South America. Between big bands, Gillespie led small ensembles or performed with all-star aggregations such as Jazz at the Philharmonic. As a bandleader, he was among the first to introduce Latin musical elements into modern jazz.

Gillespie performed prolifically throughout the world and received numerous honors. He played for the South Carolina legislature in 1976 and two years later sang a duet with President Jimmy Carter at the White House Jazz Festival. In 1989 President George Bush presented him with the National Medal of Arts. He was inducted into the South Carolina Hall of Fame in 1985. The African American Monument installed on the State House grounds in 2001 contains his likeness. Gillespie died of pancreatic cancer on Jan. 6, 1993.

Excerpted from the entry by David Franklin. 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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Standoff may be ahead on budget board

Good management vs. restructuring

By Bill Davis, senior editor

FEB. 22, 2013 -- The General Assembly may soon decide where to place one of its fiscal linchpins, the Budget and Control Board. Or it will get bogged down in a political standoff.

For years, the board has enabled our relatively small and poor state to maintain a measure of moneyed flexibility by allowing the state to respond quickly to mid-year downturns and surges in tax collection.

As a result, cash-strapped South Carolina has earned the praise and good credit ratings for its fiscal management, and has to pay less than most other states when borrowing money.

But since former Gov. Mark Sanford’s time, the board has been in the political crosshairs of conservatives who paint it as a political anachronism.

This week, the state Senate approved a Finance Committee plan to create a Department of Administration, a newly-minted cabinet agency that would take over the lion’s share of the budget board’s duties and budget.

The lone no vote

The lone nay vote on a Finance subcommittee looking into the restructuring maneuver, Sen. Tom Davis (R-Beaufort), could serve as a harbinger for the struggles the bill may now have in the House.

Davis, long in Sanford’s camp when it came to doing away with the board, complained the current bill didn’t go far in parsing out its duties to the executive branch. He pointed out the just-passed Senate bill called for overall dissolution of the five-member  budget board, but then makes an end run by trying to create another board of (wait for it) five members for procurement by the state.

Davis, aligned with Gov. Nikki Haley on this point, pointed out that the current five-person setup – the board is comprised of the governor, the chairs of Senate Finance and House Ways and Means committees, the comptroller general, and the treasurer – isn’t employed in “46 other states” and that it’s not been awarded any major state fiscal management awards.

Critics of Davis’ position point to gubernatorial scandals in other states (think: Blagojevich in Illinois) where control of purchasing and contract-writing has led past leaders to link donations to policy and procurement.

But Haley’s nemesis in the Senate, Democrat Vincent Sheheen of Camden, has made for her odd bedfellow, championing the creation of Administration and the restructuring of the board’s duties and budget.

Sheheen, agreeing with Davis, said that the biggest issue in the fight for the bill’s future is in the issue over procurement.

Sheheen, echoing several Republican senators, said the bill allowed for “enough eyes on the ball,” in terms of oversight, to ensure that the likelihood of monkey business is greatly reduced. Ongoing subcommittees reviewing the proposed department’s  purview throughout the fiscal year would provide legislative oversight, much like in the federal model.

Challenge ahead in the House

Now that the measure goes to the House, it could face a more serious challenge, politically and policy-wise, than it did in the Senate, which approved the measure in a third reading on Thursday.

In the House, there remains a higher level of enmity toward and distrust of the governor, and that, despite widespread respect of Sheheen in that chamber, could doom the measure.

House Ways and Means Chair Brian White, an Anderson Republican who currently sits on the Budget and Control Board, said this week that too many politicians have been focusing on restructuring the wrong agencies.

White said the Budget and Control Board is one of the state’s agencies that is operating well and doing a good job, while other agencies – all cabinet agencies, worth noting – get bad headlines statewide.

“The departments of Employment and Workforce, Revenue, and Transportation are the agencies that need to be fixed; they are the ones we need to be focusing on,” said White.

Why give the governor more power?

White’s focus on existing cabinet agencies is an example of critics’ concerns about restructuring to a more executive branch friendly model of state government: Why, they ask, should we give the governor more power when her own house isn’t in order?

Unlike Sheheen, a key House Democrat, Minority Leader Todd Rutherford of Columbia, has little love for creating a new administration agency if it means ceding more power to the governor. Rutherford said his caucus is suspicious of any move to consolidate power in any one office, especially the governor’s. And especially when it comes to procurement.

“Look, I know everyone is saying ‘the train is on the tracks’ with [Administration],” said Rutherford. But he warned there were still major policy and political decisions and battles to be fought.

Crystal ball: Arguments over who can buy what, sign what contract and what desk reviews which decisions may be interesting only inside the Statehouse. In the real world, White argued, people are more worried about jobs, potholes and the state’s growing budget. He may be right. But if the Budget and Control Board is going to be folded into a new cabinet agency, legislators may have to swallow the pill of increased gubernatorial power to get the desired effects of streamlined, more efficient government that many constituents support. Otherwise, the Budget and Control Board will live through the calendar year probably with a dotted line drawn across its neck.

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

Legislative Agenda

Sweepstakes and breathalyzers

On the House floor next week, a bill dealing with sweepstakes will be debated. Innocuous on the surface, the issue at hand is how McDonald’s restaurants have been allowed to have drawings (read: games of chance) on its food packaging for years, but when another restaurant or bar or business tries to host machines that have sweepstakes games (read: games of chance/video poker), their property is seized.

In the Senate, a bill on the special order agenda would require a de facto breathalyzer be installed into the ignition of cars of those who grossly violate the state’s anti-drunk driving laws. Word has it, though, that the issue could be worked out over the weekend, meaning that early voting may dominate floor debate in the Senate next week instead, with several “nullification” bills waiting in the wings.

  • Senate Judiciary. The full committee will met Tuesday at 3 p.m. in 105 Gressette to discuss appointments to statewide boards, as well as a bill further defining the jurisdiction of state probate courts. Agenda.

  • Aging. A joint legislative committee studying services, programs and facilities for the aging will meet Wednesday at 11:30 a.m. in 408 Gressette. Agenda.

  • Senate Education. The full committee will meet Wednesday at 10 a.m. in 207 Gressette to discuss a host of resolutions, including one encouraging S.C. State to suspend its presidential search until its board is reformed."

  • House LCI. The full committee will meet to receive reports from several subcommittees regarding state regulations. Agenda.
Radar Screen

Time to get inventive

The S.C. Republican Party and its politicians better put on their fancy dancing shoes. For years the darling of medical provider lobbying groups and their donations, now the Grand Old Party is standing up to Obamacare by putting forward a plan in the House that only funds a fraction of what hospitals could get from Medicaid expansion inherent in federal health care reform. Good luck keeping everyone happy.

Palmetto Politics

Where's the outrage?

A Senate Banking and Insurance subcommittee meeting this week was notable for what was not there: outrage over high property insurance rates.

In recent weeks, media reports have focused on why South Carolina’s coastal property insurance rates are much higher than states along the Gulf Coast that are said to be much more vulnerable to destructive hurricanes.

And one of the key criticisms of the state’s Department of Insurance is that staff bloodletting dating back to the Sanford era has left the agency so undermanned that it doesn’t have in-house employees who can oversee and challenge insurance companies’ calculations when setting their rates.

So guess what happened? We got outsourced. Ray Farmer, a former lobbyist and the newly-appointed head of the Insurance Department, turned to an Atlanta-based analyst to review rate differences between the Lowcountry and the Gulf States.

Subcommittee chairman Luke Rankin, a Republican who represents coastal Horry County, told the assembled that coastal residents feel “gamed” by what he said was a “perceived” rate disparity.

But Farmer’s analyst reported that “pockets” of the state were studied and compared. They were found to have reasonable rates paid by property owners and reasonable amounts of profits made by insurance companies.

Sounds like the subcommittee has a little more work to do on the issue. Until then, the rest of the state may continue to be paying higher rates, too, as insurance companies often “smooth” rates across the state to offset areas of high risk, according to experts and observers.


Time for legislature to do something courageous

FEB. 22, 2013 -- Legislators often don’t have the courage to do something really big for the state in one fell swoop. There’s always some kind of excuse: We don’t want to raise taxes. Or it costs too much. Or there are too many other needs.

Now, the state Board of Economic Advisors has a cup of courage: a $163 million surplus this year brought on by higher-than-projected corporate and individual income tax collections. The good news about the surplus is that it can be considered recurring dollars -- money that will continue to flow into state coffers every year, barring some huge recession. Over a decade, that means the state can expect $1.6 billion in extra revenues.

So, what to do with it? Typically, such huge pots are divvied up to pay for lots of comparatively small initiatives to assuage individual politicians and boost their pet projects -- a few million here for a pilot project, a few million there for a new road. In other words, the solution often is political only, not strategic. 

But in a state with a long list of big needs, state lawmakers should direct money into making a big impact. Our suggestion: Spend it all on education to implement a statewide, voluntary pre-kindergarten for 4-year-olds. Business people roundly agree this is the best investment in our future because it will add taxpayers to the workforce, cut crime and cut dependency. The cost to add around 20,000 kids to the 40,000 who already get some kind of pre-K? About $90 million a year. The rest of the money -- more than $75 million -- could be used to boost huge legislative underfunding of per-pupil funding for public education across the board.

For the last four years during the recession, state legislators wrote a special exception to allow a huge cut to mandated per-pupil funding levels. In the current school budget, for example, the law required $2,790 in funds spent on average per K-12 child. But the General Assembly appropriated $2,012 per child. In the budget that lawmakers are now working on for next year, the projected shortfall to legally-required funding for public education is $600 million. 

Many people we asked suggested that the $163 million be steered to education. Historian Jack Bass, for example, suggested $100 million to restore funding cuts, with the rest to restore cuts to higher education and reduce tuition, which would boost the number of students eligible for lottery scholarships. The Rev. Joe Darby of Charleston suggested the money should be directed to equalize staffing, equipment, curriculum offerings and support programs at all public schools so that parents had real choices about schools.

“We should increase support for programs with proven effectiveness in the areas of early childhood education, teen pregnancy prevention, dropout prevention, child abuse prevention, etc.,” said Forrest Alton, CEO of the S.C. Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. “The success of our young people should be a political priority.”

Others, like S.C. Trucking Association CEO Rick Todd, said the money should be directed to the state’s ailing transportation infrastructure, which needs $29 billion in maintenance over the next two decades. “In this no-tax-increase political environment, I can’t think of a better use of monies than a capital program like road infrastructure.”

Other ideas:

Health care: Expanding Medicaid coverage to cover thousands of more people without health insurance, said the AARP’s Patrick Cobb.

Helping people: “We should remove some of the perverse incentives that make it difficult for those getting state assistance to get back on their own two feet,” said George Stevens, president of the Coastal Community Foundation. “Earning a little bit of money sometimes triggers forfeiture of an entire assistance package.  A little creative thinking and cash would correct these unintended consequences.”

Laptops for students: Spend $140 million to provide a laptop or digital learning device to every public school first-grader, said Phil Noble of Charleston.

There are other good ideas -- a high-speed rail line between Charleston and Greenville; restoring $210 million in cuts to local governments; and addressing long-time cuts to mental health programs. [Read more ideas.]

But the point is, regardless of what is done with the new money, the legislature needs to do something that will make a palpable difference.

Andy Brack is publisher of Statehouse ReportYou can reach Brack at:


S.C. Senate Democratic Caucus

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My Turn

We still need the Voting Rights Act

By Victoria Middleton
Special to Statehouse Report

FEB. 22, 2013 -- During the State of the Union address, all eyes in the audience were on Desiline Victor, the 102-year-old African American woman who was forced to endure a six-hour wait in order to vote in the 2012 presidential election. 

Unfortunately, she was not alone. In the Greenville municipal election last month, a 100-year old man was forced to vote with a provisional ballot to comply with our state’s new voter photo ID requirement.  It is outrageous that anyone, let alone a person at his age, should be subject to such a trial to exercise our most fundamental right as an American.

On February 27 at the end of Black History Month, one of the landmark pieces of civil rights legislation in our country’s history will be on trial: the Voting Rights Act (VRA).    The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Shelby County (AL) v. Holder, which challenges the VRA’s Section 5. That critical section requires Alabama, South Carolina and other jurisdictions with histories of discrimination in voting to get approval or “pre-clearance” for any changes in their voting practices to ensure they do not have a discriminatory purpose or effect.

The U.S. Department of Justice is charged with upholding and enforcing the Voting Right Act. If the agency finds that a new voting procedure has a discriminatory purpose or effect, it can deny pre-clearance to stop the discriminatory law before it goes into effect.  And Justice Department can also challenge discriminatory laws in court.

Why did we need the VRAPoll taxes and literacy tests were among the many discriminatory laws that were enforced to keep African Americans from voting.   To tear down these historical barriers and to protect the guarantee that the right to vote is not denied “on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude,” on Aug. 6, 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law.

The Act has been renewed and amended by Congress four times, the most recent being a bipartisan 25-year extension signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2006. Some 15,000 pages of evidence documented the continuing need for this measure that defends against the disfranchisement of minority voters.

Why do we still need the VRA? If the challenge to Section 5 of the VRA succeeds, it will be easier for politicians to redraw districts in ways that prevent minority neighborhoods from having a say in who represents them. It will make it harder for elderly Southerners, who were born at home to midwives and lack a birth certificate, to vote.  (Our plaintiffs in our recent suit against the South Carolina Voter photo ID law can attest to this.)  It will make it harder to register new voters, particularly those of color, and easier to eliminate ballot access measures like early voting, which make it possible for single working parents to cast a ballot.

In South Carolina, as in Alabama and other “covered jurisdictions,” people have fought hard and made sacrifices to protect the right to vote. Although we have made significant gains in voting rights, discrimination at the polls persists today and cannot be dismissed as a relic of the past. After record minority voter registration and turnout in 2008, we saw widespread efforts to suppress the vote targeting minority communities.  These include modern-day voting restrictions like photo ID requirements, restrictions to registration and cuts to early voting, all of which target voters who have been historically disenfranchised.  

The Voting Rights Act has been an indispensable tool for protecting the right to vote of racial minorities in our modern history.   We can all look forward to a day when everyone’s right to vote is guaranteed and discrimination is a relic of the past. But until that day comes, we need the Voting Rights Act.

Victoria Middleton is executive director of the ACLU of South Carolina.


Bottle bill would help South Carolina

To the editor:

I recently encountered reference to HB 3235, the Beverage Container Recycling Act submitted by J.E. Smith, thanks to the Waste and ReCycling News site. The bill was referred to the Committee on Agriculture.

My 20 years of experience with Michigan's “bottle deposit law” makes me an extreme advocate for the law. Those who drink soda or beer pay a 10-cent deposit per bottle, which is returned in total when the empty container is produced to any stores selling such drink. Michigan's consumers return some 95 percent to 97 percent of the containers. The others leave the state or join landfills.

In 2011 the difference was $17.8 million dollars. Seventy five percent of those funds were deposited into the Cleanup and Redevelopment Trust Fund, while retailers shared $4.5 million for their services as required by law. Some 80 percent of that goes to the Community Pollution Prevention Fund while the rest remains in the trust fund to be used for environmental clean-up. I recall news reports of the now 27-year experience being a “win for the state, a win for retailers, and a win for Michigan's residents.”

Michigan pickup truck beds act as storage bins for empty beer bottles. South Carolina's highway aprons and forests do the same. It does not need to be this way.

I am challenged to comprehend why “Keep the Midland's Beautiful” type organizations ignore the “win-win-win” nature of Michigan and 10 other states with bottle deposit laws.

-- Tim Houghtaling, Lexington, S.C.

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Down for health care, sequestration, Harrell, guns

Real estate. Home sales are up big-time, compared to this time last year. More.

State pensions. The beleaguered state retirement system’s pension fund either gained $3 billion or lost $1 billion this past fiscal year, depending on to whom you talk. More.

Polling. Statewide results are, pun intended, all over the map, with Gov. Nikki Haley’s approval rating surpassing her disapproval mark for the first time in nearly a year. More.

Health care. House GOPers have put forward an under-funded alternative to Obamacare. Want to guess who gets richer and who gets sicker? (You guessed it: The poor get sicker.) More.

Sequestration. If a federal budget deal isn’t reached in Washington soon, South Carolina could wave goodbye annually to $156 million in U.S. Army expenditures, $17.7 million in wages from the U.S. Air Force furloughs, and so on. More.

Harrell. It doesn’t look good when the state’s lead prosecutor, Attorney General Alan Wilson, returns $7,000 in political donations to a PAC tied to House Speaker Bobby Harrell (R-Charleston). More.

Guns. A Senate panel voted to allow customers to bring their anatomical extensions, errrr, concealed weapons into businesses that sell alcohol. More.

Luv gov: Yes, "mistakes" were made

RECENT STEGELIN: 2/15 | 2/8 | 2/1

Statehouse Report

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Senior Editor: Bill Davis
Contributing Photographer: Michael Kaynard

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