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ISSUE 12.10
Mar. 08, 2013

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

Index

News :
Spreading the wealth
Radar Screen :
One ... or the other
Palmetto Politics :
House to debate $6.9 budget
Commentary :
Haley has duty to people, not politics
Spotlight :
S.C. Coalition for Healthy Families
Feedback :
Early voting bill would erode absentee voting
Scorecard :
College -- up and down
Stegelin :
Money on trees
Megaphone :
Classy, as always
Tally Sheet :
From sexting to taxes to Scouts
Encyclopedia :
Medical Society of South Carolina

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NUMBER OF THE WEEK

54 percent

More than half of the state’s older adults believe, contrary to Gov. Nikki Halley’s position, that South Carolina should go along with Obamacare and expand state Medicaid programs, according to a new AARP poll. More.

MEGAPHONE

Classy, as always

“I’ve never cheated on my wife, and I’m not going to.” 

-- Former state senator and current congressional candidate John Kuhn, skewering former Gov. Mark Sanford at a Charleston forum. In fairness, Kuhn did get into a yelling fight with the former First Lady when she endorsed his opponent in a GOP primary years ago. More.

TALLY SHEET

From sexting to taxes to Scouts

Over the last two weeks, legislators have introduced some 270 bills dealing with everything from sexting to tax breaks. Of the 270 bills, some 60 were by Rep. Alan Clemmons, each of which recognized a specific Boy Scout for attaining the Eagle rank. Here are other highlights:

In the Senate

Mammogram coverage. S. 422 (Lourie) would require health insurance to provide extra mammogram coverage, with several provisions.

Beer breweries. S. 423 (Campbell) would limit sales of half-gallons of beer at breweries to 64 ounces a day and not to exceed 14 percent alcohol by weight, with other provisions.

Owner occupied property. S. 437 (Cleary) would change the classification of owner-occupied property for tax purposes and allow properties rented less than 101 days a year to receive 4 percent property tax rates, with several provisions.

Child care. S. 439 (Fair) would prohibit anyone convicted of unlawful conduct toward a child, cruelty to children or child endangerment from working in a childcare facility.

Sexting. S. 441 (Fair) would create the misdemeanor offense of “sexting” with several provisions.

Adjutant general. S. 444 (O’Dell) seeks a constitutional amendment to make the adjutant general appointed, not elected. S 445 (O’Dell) is a bill that seeks the same. S. 466 and S. 467 (Setzler) are related.

Joint ticket. S. 446 (Massey) seeks a bill to ratify a constitutional amendment for the governor and lieutenant governor to run on the same ticket.

Meth. S. 447 (Fair) is an extensive proposal to criminalize methamphetamine production.

Tax-free private schools. S. 451 (Bright) would require private childcare facilities, private schools and home schools to be taxed like public schools.

Guns in colleges. S. 454 (Bright) would allow people with concealed weapons permits to carry guns on college campuses, with several provisions. H. 3627 (Gagnon) would allow out-of-state residents with CCW permits to have them in S.C.

Abortion. S. 457 (Bright) seeks to make define life as beginning at fertilization.

Beach preservation. S. 503 (Thurmond) would allow municipalities to charge an accommodations tax to preserve beaches.

Public integrity. S. 505 (Hayes) calls for establishment of a state Public Integrity Unit to coordinate ethics probes.

In the House

PEBA claims. H. 3624 (Herbkersman) calls for the state to defend members of the board of the state Public Employee Benefit Authority against claims and suits, with several provisions.

Identity theft. H. 3628 (Toole) would allow certain representatives to place a security freeze on consumer credit reports to safeguard people from becoming victims of identity theft, with several provisions. H. 3723 (Funderburk) calls for a new law to prohibit digital impersonations.

School prayer. H. 3634 (G.A. Brown) would allow schools to open school with a prayer, with several provisions.

Insurance commissioner. H. 3642 (Stavrinakis) calls for the state Insurance Commissioner to be elected statewide, with several other restructuring provisions.

Raise the gas tax. H. 3645 (Stringer) calls for the gas tax to increase by 21 cents per gallon and require annual adjustment of the fee, with several provisions. H. 3640 (Bales) is similar.

Restructuring. H. 3646 (G.R. Smith) calls for a state restructuring act to create a Department of Administration, devolve the duties of the State Budget and Control Board, with many provisions.

Collaborative Law Act. H. 3715 (J.E. Smiths) calls for approval of collaborative law as an approved alternative dispute resolution process.

Junk food. H. 3726 (Sellers) calls for fat, calorie and sugar content standards for foods sold in schools, with several provisions.

State budget. H. 3710 (Ways and Means) is the FY 2014 state budget proposal. H. 3711 is the capital reserve fund budget.

Virtual schools. H. 3752 (Patrick) calls for a revamp to the state’s virtual education program and remove limits of online credits awarded through the program.

Bingo. H. 3765 (Herbkersman) calls for a new Charitable Bingo Advisory Committee, with several provisions.

Drug court. H. 3768 (D.C. Moss) calls for the state Drug Court Program Act to establish drug courts statewide.

Ethics. H. 3772 (Bingham) would restructure the state Ethics Commission and increase its powers in several different ways, with many provisions.

ENCYCLOPEDIA

Medical Society of South Carolina

The fourth-oldest medical society in the United States, the Medical Society of South Carolina was founded in 1789 to "improve the Science of Medicine, promoting liberality in the Profession, and Harmony amongst the Practitioners." Though Charleston physicians predominated, membership was open "to any gentleman of merit in the medical profession." Peter Fayssoux served as the organization's first president.

The society quickly acquired a leading role in medical and public health issues. In 1790 the organization planned a dispensary for the relief of the sick and indigent, which evolved into the Shirras Dispensary and served the Charleston community until merging with Roper Hospital in 1921. The society established a medical library in 1791, which helped physicians stay abreast of current literature. In 1801 the Charleston City Council requested that the society form a board of health, and the society appointed officers and a port physician to serve in this capacity. From 1805 to 1815 the society operated a botanic garden to promote "the study of that valuable branch of Science." In 1817 the General Assembly entrusted the society to serve as an examining committee to license physicians and apothecaries, though a license was not required until 1895.

The Medical College of South Carolina was founded by the society in December 1823, with society members constituting six of the original seven faculty members. The school become a state institution in 1913 and the Medical University of South Carolina in 1969. The society opened Roper Hospital in Charleston in 1856. Although management of the facility passed to CareAlliance Health Services in 1998, the society continued its interest in the hospital as a founding member of the CareAlliance corporation.

The Medical Society of South Carolina provided leadership in the founding of the American Medical Association (1847), the South Carolina Medical Association (1848), and the Charleston County Medical Society (1951). In the early twenty-first century the Medical Society of South Carolina remained an active organization, whose interests and activities continued to respond to ongoing evolution of the medical profession.

Excerpted from the entry by Jane McCutchen Brown. 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

Spreading the wealth

GOP education funding plan fostering debate

By Bill Davis, senior editor

MARCH 8, 2013 -- For legislators, fixing South Carolina’s K-12 funding problems is like a family trying to get a rabid wolverine out of a kitchen cabinet: everyone knows it has to be done, but no one wants to stick their hand inside to do it.

Sometime in the next two weeks, state Rep. Jenny Horne (R-Summerville) is going to stick her hand into that cabinet. Willingly.

Horne, a third-term legislator, has been hard at work this session crafting a bill that could change the way the state funds its public schools, or at least keeps the topic on the table.

She has been consulting with older, more experienced hands within her caucus, such as Reps. Rita Allison (R-Lyman), who has served on the state Commission on Higher Education, and Brian White (R-Anderson), who has in intimate knowledge of funding issues as the chair of the Ways and Means Committee.

The crux of Horne’s plan would be to mitigate for the wealth disparities of various school districts across South Carolina – which have led to some education opportunity disparities – by having state government collect and then redistribute local education tax dollars.

Similar to the S.C. School Boards Association’s statewide millage property tax to directly fund schools proposition, Horne said it was crucial that something be done to the state’s antiquated funding structure.

Horne wants school districts get more of the collected money if their ability to pay for education was lower than other districts. She also calls for more weighting for students from poorer backgrounds.

Additionally, her yet-to-be-filed bill would simplify state funding streams, of which there are roughly 70, to a handful and allow school districts to spend that money as they see fit.

As laden with “local control” and “home rule” as the second tine of her plan may be, one Senate leader has already declared it “dead on arrival.”

A work in progress in the House

House Education Chair Phil Owens (R-Easley) agreed the state’s education funding method is “broken, but the question is which way to go to fix that system.”

Any kind of statewide collection of property taxes for schools would put Horne’s concept “in trouble” in the House, Owens said.

Horne said she knew which problem would arise first: that there would some counties would be sending some of its tax base to support poorer counties’ school districts.

She said her bill, still a work in progress, would likely include a period in which it would be phased in to mitigate its immediate effects, and a “hold harmless” portion, to allow some school districts a further measure of fiscal protection.

Owens said he liked the idea Horne is including of having more of the money following the student, versus going for administrative costs. But, he said, the local tax money for students in a district is already in that district, and that is likely where it will stay.

House Democratic leader Gilda Cobb-Hunter of Orangeburg applauded Horne for addressing what she called the issue of “gap funding.” But she worried that bundling the money into unregulated chunks could lead to the state once again having to take over school districts if school boards misspent the money.

But Cobb-Hunter also said that there still wasn’t the political will in the legislature to attack the real 400-pound funding gorilla in the room: doing away with Act 388, which switched the primary source for school operations funding from local owner-occupied property taxes to a 1-cent increase of the state’s sales tax. 

Stumbling blocks in the Senate

Sen. Brad Hutto, a senior Democrat from Orangeburg, said that “inevitably” the General Assembly would have to address ways to make sure poorer school districts aren’t left behind.

Sounding more like a politician than a policy hound, Hutto said the state won’t get its collective act together until a governor tackles education funding.

Hutto, who serves on the Senate Education Committee, praised Gov. Nikki Haley’s recent effort of convening her own study committee, but added that nothing substantively positive happened for K-12 education during former Gov. Mark Sanford’s eight years.

Like Owens, Sen. Wes Hayes (R-Rock Hill) praised the idea of simplifying the main chunk of the state’s education funding process, which has entered its fourth decade.

But Hayes, who chairs the Senate Education Committee’s K-12 subcommittee and unsuccessfully introduced his own funding change bill a few years ago, said that Horne’s bill was a non-starter.

“It’s dead on arrival,” according to Hayes, because of the idea of state government collecting local taxes and then redistributing them to other counties. Hayes said K-12 can have all the flexibility it wants with state funds as is appropriate, but federal dollars are already spoken for and designated, and no one in the Senate was going to be comfortable with the “Robin Hood” effect of taking from one county to send to a poorer one.

Crystal ball: Horne’s call for flexibility has obvious appeal to conservatives in the legislature, which has let loose of some of the fiscal reins during the Great Recession. But will it be attractive enough to sway them to sending local money around the state? In a word: "$%@! no." But as Horne points out, there could be more political will mustered if the S.C. Supreme Court passes down a tough ruling on the so-called “Corridor of Shame” education adequacy lawsuit that has been hanging over the state for decades. And with Chief Justice Jean Toal’s winding down her tenure on the bench, practically everyone in the Statehouse is aware that their hands may soon be forced … into that wolverine’s ersatz den under the sink.

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

Legislative Agenda

Budget time

The House will start floor debate and votes Monday on its FY 2014 budget plan. As a result no committee meetings have been scheduled next week for the House. In the Senate, the budget process will continue in committee meetings. 

On the floor of the Senate, however, the issue of restructuring will continue, as a bill that would make the state Superintendent of Education as an appointed position instead of an elected one will be debated beginning Tuesday.

Work should go fast for the next two weeks, as both the House and Senate will be off the weeks before and after Easter, March 31.

Also on tap:

  • Senate Finance. Subcommittee meetings will be held throughout the week for budget hearings for the coming fiscal year. For a more complete list, go here.

  • Senate Finance. The constitutional subcommittee will hold a hearing on Tuesday at 10 a.m. in 207 Gressette that will welcome the state’s treasurer, attorney general adjutant general and Ethics Commission to present budget requests. Agenda.

  • Senate Education. The full committee will meet Wednesday at 10 a.m. in 308 Gressette to discuss a bill that would create “open enrollment” between schools in various districts. Agenda.

  • Nukes. The governor’s Nuclear Advisory Council will meet Thursday at 1 p.m. in 209 Gressette. On the docket will be an update of projects at the Savannah River Site, followed by 10 minutes of public comment. Agenda.
Radar Screen

One ... or the other

This year, 2013, may be the Year of the Snake in the Chinese zodiac. But it will be the Year of the Health Care Expansion in the General Assembly. Either South Carolina will figure out a way to incorporate/avoid incorporating federal health care reforms under Obamacare – or the legislature will make a complete hash out of it. You know the old Chinese curse -- May you live in interesting times? Yeah? Well, that really applies this year. More in Andy Brack’s commentary below.

Palmetto Politics

House to debate $6.9 budget

The House next week begins in earnest debating the budget package by its Ways and Means Committee for the coming fiscal year. For the past week, printed copies of the budget sat on the desks of representatives. Who read it all? Who knows?

On Monday, the House will open a day earlier than usual to begin debate on how to allocate the now $6.9 billion General Fund budget portion, as well as the larger two-thirds of the budget, which is comprised of federal pass-though funding and “other” monies, such as fees, tuition and fines.

The biggest fight will be over the issue of whether to expand state Medicaid programs to fall in line with Obamacare health care reforms. Republicans generally look at expansion as anathema, while Democrats see it as a chance to uplift the lower third of the state’s population. While there may be some skirmishes over education funding, buoyed recently by increased tax collection expectations, the frontline issue will remain what to do about Medicaid.

Taking trash

Conservative senators have gotten into trashing out-of-state trash again, this time using “home rule” as its ideological fulcrum.

The problem in South Carolina, ironically, may be too much of a free market when it comes to trash dumps. The vast majority of dumps across the state are privately owned. That means under current state law, they can accept most kinds of trash from outside South Carolina. And that means the state could become home to unwanted detritus, in addition to the glowing stuff generated elsewhere but stored at the Savannah River Site.

These days, there’s a push to pass a bill that would give strip local governments of the ability to control the flow of trash into dumps located within its environs, public or private. This creates an interesting quandary for the conservatives not always on the side if conservation: Should they stand tall for private property rights or for not living in someone else’s trash heap? [Correction added, 3/9/13]

Gubernatorial season gets going?

State Sen. Vincent Sheheen (D-Camden) held a press conference this week to say that he is supporting Medicaid expansion under Obamacare.

Big deal, right? That a Democrat would side with President Obama, another Democrat, on a major issue isn’t really a story, right? Policy-wise, no. But what it does show is that the gubernatorial election campaign season is already in full swing.  Sheheen lost by 4 percentage points to Republican Gov. Nikki Haley, a strong opponent of Medicaid expansion, in what is usually a solidly GOP state.

Commentary

Haley has duty to people, not politics

By Andy Brack, editor and publisher

MARCH 8, 2013 -- In five years, we probably will look back at the debate over whether South Carolina should accept $11 billion in federal money to expand Medicaid and we’ll wonder: What in the world were we thinking?

As part of the Affordable Care Act, South Carolina, like other states, can accept the federal tax money that we’re already paying to expand the Medicaid program. By taking the federal tax dollars, some 250,000 low-income residents in South Carolina would be able to get health insurance for the first time.

But in an act of purely political theater, Gov. Nikki Haley has drawn a line in the sand and said no. She continues the bombast that the state shouldn’t accept the free money because costs to the state would eventually rise -- even though the feds cover 100 percent of the program costs for the first three years and 90 percent through 2020. Her position is made even more ludicrous when you realize that regular Medicaid dollars accepted already by the state are reimbursed only at a 70 percent rate. 

Haley’s recalcitrance is designed to burnish her ambitions for a bigger national role and to be able to tout in next year’s gubernatorial campaign how she stood strong against the federal government. 

It doesn’t matter to Haley and her cronies that a quarter million of South Carolina’s neediest and working poor will be hurt because they won’t get the insurance that people in other states will get. Other states with anti-Obama governors -- Florida’s Rick Scott and Arizona’s Jan Brewer to name two -- saw the light when they realized they had a duty to people, not political posturing, first.

It doesn’t matter to our governor that the business community will be hurt and less competitive than other states because those with 50 or more employees will face fines if the low-income workers seek a subsidy to take part in a federal exchange for health insurance.

It doesn’t matter to Haley that hospitals across the state will lose federal payments they get to treat poor people for free. And because they won’t have a replacement revenue source from the Medicaid money, health insurance rates on everyone will go up and hospitals will have to reduce services. 

All of this mess can be avoided. All it will take is a legislature with the courage to do what’s smart and right -- and stand up to Nikki Haley by including the Medicaid expansion dollars in the state budget and then overriding her expected veto.

Presumptive Democratic gubernatorial candidate Vincent Sheheen, a state senator from Camden at right, backed accepting Medicaid expansion dollars at a Thursday press conference in Charleston.
If push comes to shove, the state Senate could probably muster the votes to override a veto of Medicaid expansion dollars. But the House of Representatives is a different question because many Republicans there live in fear of retaliation by the tea party, although publicly they say they need more information on the program. They worry they’ll get challenged in 2014 if they vote against the governor -- even though a statewide poll shows the strength of the tea party has dropped to under 10 percent of voters and a couple of high-profile senators last year beat tea party threats.

Quiet word floating around the Statehouse is that some Republicans are sick and tired of being held hostage by Haley and the tea party.  Some in the Statehouse even think that there are enough votes -- 63 -- among Democrats and moderate Republicans to approve Medicaid expansion. The problem is they need 20 more votes to be able to override any vetoes -- and that’s not expected to happen unless something changes.

What could change is increased pressure by hospitals, advocates and the business community. A new AARP poll shows a majority of older South Carolinians agree with Medicaid expansion. And business groups, like the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce, are starting to go on record to support accepting the $11 billion.

One health care advocate noted, “No one can deny $11 billion coming into the state over seven years will not have a positive impact.”

Yet when politics takes precedence over people, doing the dumb thing often wins. 

Let’s not be dumb this time. Governor, legislature: let’s do something smart for a change.

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

Spotlight

S.C. Coalition for Healthy Families

The public spiritedness of our underwriters allows us to bring Statehouse Report to you at no cost.   This week, we’re happy to shine our spotlight on the S.C. Coalition for Healthy FamiliesAmidst the highly political debates over reproductive health, the Coalition takes a non-partisan position. It advocates for equal access to affordable, high-quality reproductive health care, medically accurate, age-appropriate family planning education, freedom to make informed and responsible life decisions, and privacy in matters of personal health.

Feedback

Early voting bill would erode absentee voting

To the editor:

 

Good story on early voting (News, 3/1).

 

But the Clemmons bill also unnecessarily restricts absentee ballots. There was no justification (that ACLU and League of Women Voters in South Carolina can see) for cutting back on reasons why a voter might need an absentee ballot and raising the age limit from the current 65 years to 72. If, for example, you were on business/government travel and unable to vote in person during the 10-day early voting period OR on election day, or if you were on vacation during the same …. you couldn’t get an absentee ballot. This makes no sense:

A) A qualified elector may vote during the early voting period pursuant to Section 7-13-25.

 

(B) A qualified elector in any of the following categories must be permitted to vote by absentee ballot in all elections (emphasis added):

(1) students, their spouses, and dependents residing with them;

 

(2) members of the Armed Forces and Merchant Marines of the United States, their spouses, and dependents residing with them;

 

(3) persons serving with the American Red Cross or with the United Service Organization (USO) who are attached to and serving with the Armed Forces of the United States, their spouses, and dependents residing with them;

 

(4) physically disabled persons who are, pursuant to certification by a physician, unable to vote in person because of their physical disability at either a polling place or early voting center;

 

(5) overseas citizens;

 

(6) persons seventy-two years of age or older (emphasis added); or

 

(7) persons confined to a jail or pretrial facility pending disposition of arrest or trial."

This is another reason to oppose the Clemmons version, we think.

-- Victoria Middleton, executive director, ACLU South Carolina, Charleston, S.C.

Mentally ill also are victims

To the editor:

I want to commend you for your excellent editorial, "Time to connect dots on mental health funding," which I read in the Florence Morning News (Commentary, 3/1).  I would like to add just one point.

You said that "because people throughout our communities aren't getting the treatment they need, they pose a risk to the general population. Like the Newtown killer." However, individuals with mental illness are far more likely to be the victims of violence than the perpetrators of violence. They may become victims of suicide or they may become victims at the hand of others if they are forced into a homeless situation, which frequently happens.

Untreated individuals with mental illness are already victims -- they are wasting lives that, with treatment in many cases, could experience a stable recovery and become productive members of the community.

The solution is, as you also stated, more and better mental health treatment options, either in inpatient facilities or in the community. Thank you for your contribution to the much needed dialogue on this problem.

-- Louis Hanna, Florence, S.C.

Scorecard

College -- up and down

College! South Carolina ranks near the top, 6th, nationally in college graduation rates! SOUTH CAROLINA!  Woo-wee!  More.

HPV. A bill to help vaccinate young girls from the HPV virus before it grows into cervical cancer advanced in a House subcommittee; the bad news it will get struck down again on the floor once conservative “Christian” representatives vote, because the virus can be sexually transmitted. More.

Zais. Superintendent of Education Mick Zais’s plan for teacher evaluations has been cleared by the feds. More.

College. Lander University is phasing out some programs and classes to offset $1.2 million shortfall. More.

Stegelin

Money on trees


RECENT STEGELIN: 3/1 | 2/22 | 2/15 | 2/8
credits

Statehouse Report

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

Phone: 843.670.3996

© 2002 - 2018 , Statehouse Report LLC. Statehouse Report is published every Friday by Statehouse Report LLC, PO Box 22261, Charleston, SC 29413.
Excerpts from The South Carolina Encyclopedia are published with permission and copyrighted 2006 by the Humanities Council SC. Excerpts were edited by Walter Edgar and published by the University of South Carolina Press. Statehouse Report has partnered with USC Press to provide readers with this interesting weekly historical excerpt about the state. Republication is not allowed. For additional information about Statehouse Report, including information on underwriting, go to http://www.statehousereport.com/.