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ISSUE 12.12
Mar. 22, 2013

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

Index

News :
The changing face of the S.C. Policy Council
Legislative Agenda :
Quiet days ahead
Radar Screen :
Lawyers, guns and money
Commentary :
Envision SC offers good guidance for state
Spotlight :
Time Warner Cable
My Turn :
Give parents school choice, not private school
Feedback :
Them versus us
Scorecard :
Not much good happening this week
Stegelin :
Forget-me-not
Megaphone :
Hacked off
Tally Sheet :
New bills introduced
Encyclopedia :
Heyward-Washington House

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NUMBER OF THE WEEK

8.7 percent

That was the state’s unemployment rate in January, a slight increase from December, and mirrored national unemployment rate increases. More.

MEGAPHONE

Hacked off

“I haven’t seen this much creation since Genesis.”

-- Senate Majority Leader Harvey Peeler (R-Gaffney), reacting this week to a bill passed out by a Senate committee that would create several new state entities to safeguard state government’s computer system. More.

TALLY SHEET

New bills introduced

State lawmakers introduced dozens of bills over the past week. Key bills included:

Clemson. S. 535 (Peeler) would allow Clemson University to establish an enterprise division exempt from state procurement regulations with several provisions.

Renewable energy. S. 536 (Gregory) calls for the “Energy System Freedom of Ownership Act” to allow third parties to sell renewable energy without regulation as a public utility, with other provisions.

Parent empowerment. S. 556 (Ford) calls for a new law that lets parents of children attending below average schools turn schools into charter schools or other models, with several provisions.

Insurance. S. 569 (Davis) calls for reform to state insurance laws, particularly for the way coastal homes are treated for insurance purposes, with many provisions.

Bar membership. H. 3828 (Cobb-Hunter) calls for a new way to become an attorney -- via a license, rather than only membership in the Bar, with several provisions.

Solar tax credits. H. 3834 (Loftis) calls for extending solar tax credits through 2018, with several provisions.

Alternative education campuses. H. 3853 (Owens) would authorize such campuses with charter school sponsors, with many provisions.

Sexting. H. 3857 (Erickson) would create the offense of sexting, with several provisions.

No cell phones. H. 3858 (Bowen) calls for no cell phones and other devices to be used while driving, with several provisions.

Rural schools. H. 3871 (R.L. Brown) seeks to keep Charleston County school administrators with rules on how to proceed if they want to close rural schools.

ENCYCLOPEDIA

Heyward-Washington House

Owned by the Charleston Museum and open to the public, the Heyward-Washington House at 87 Church Street, Charleston, was built in 1772 by the rice planter Thomas Heyward, Jr., who later became a signer of the Declaration of Independence.

President George Washington stayed in the house during his visit to Charleston in 1791. The three-story brick double house features four rooms plus a central hall on the first floor. The second floor features a drawing room and a smaller withdrawing room in front and two chambers in the rear; additional chambers are found on the third floor. In the 1880s the Fuseler family converted the property to a bakery, radically altering the first floor of the house to include a storefront.

It was saved from destruction by the Charleston Museum and the Society for the Preservation of Old Dwellings in 1929. Architectural research aided restoration of the first floor, while a study of Charleston gardens led to the creation of a period parterre (an ornamental garden with paths between the beds) in the rear lot. The house museum is furnished with period furniture and appointments, including Charleston-made furniture.

Thomas Heyward sold the property in 1794. Archaeology and documents reveal a long history of occupation, both before and after Heyward. A wooden house and outbuildings built in 1730 by the gunsmith John Milner burned in the Charleston fire of 1740. Milner and his son continued the smithing business with the aid of eleven slaves. In 1749 John Milner, Jr., built a brick single house and outbuildings. Thomas Heyward razed the single house but kept Milner's kitchen and stable.

Excavations by the Charleston Museum revealed the houses, activities, and artifacts of the Milners, the Heywards, the antebellum owners, and the enslaved African American occupants. The house was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1970.

Excerpted from the entry by Martha A. Zierden and Ronald W. Anthony. 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

The changing face of the S.C. Policy Council

Some say it pushes reform, others division

By Bill Davis, senior editor

MARCH 22, 2013 -- Until five years ago, the S.C. Policy Council played along with the system -- writing “white sheet” position papers and providing policy research from a conservative, free market perspective.

And then the council’s board and its president, Ashley Landess, came to a realization.

“None of our hard work had resulted in a single piece of legislation,” Landess said this week. Nothing, from organization’s perspective, was being advanced beyond rhetoric -- on restructuring, accountability, transparency, tax reform … nothing. And that, she thought, wasn’t good enough.

So the Policy Council, which says it’s the nation’s first state-level think-tank based on the national model of the Heritage Foundation, went on the offensive. Press conferences. Heightened visibility on statewide articles. Creation of its own legislative investigative cyber-paper, thenerve.org.

And judging by recent comments from leading South Carolina conservatives, the Policy Council’s efforts have shaken things up and offended more than a few Republicans.

House Speaker Bobby Harrell (R-Charleston) has been downright aggressive in his negative comments about the think tank, which he once relied on.  Last month, he called allegations filed by Landess, whom he had removed from a state board, to be part of a “personal vendetta.” Landess has alleged Harrell misused more than $300,000 in campaign funds and his office for business and personal benefit, allegations now being investigated by the State Law Enforcement Division.

Across the Statehouse lobby, Sen. Wes Hayes (R-Rock Hill), more known for his measured speech and quiet whispery tones, likened the new Policy Council to “a pit bull” and “an attack dog” recently.

Landess said many of the Policy Council’s new detractors are just angry because it is no longer producing position papers they can agree with publicly and then ignore when they start writing laws and policy.

Winthrop political scientist Scott Huffmon said that with the Policy Council becoming a “player” in the body politic, instead of just a researcher, it’s natural to see some of the politicians feel threatened.

Hayes’ comments delighted Landess because for her S.C. Policy Council 2.0, it’s all about being effective.       

And it’s going to have to be effective, because there’s a new challenger for its niche as the state’s leading conservative think-tank.

In the beginning …

Ed McMullen, the organization’s president prior to Landess, said the genesis for the S.C. Policy Council came about after then-President Ronald Reagan said what the country needed was the Heritage Foundation in every state.

Working at Heritage, McMullen was dispatched to South Carolina to help set up a piece of Reagan’s vision. But, he stressed, that was a different time and the Policy Council was operating under a different set of parameters.

“Missions change, focus changes, needs change over time,” said McMullen. “In the 1980s and 1990s, it was different climate in South Carolina, where the thought of a Republican majority was not thinkable. We were a cause in the wilderness.”

Nowadays, thanks to proliferation of conservative think tanks throughout the nation and the readiness of answers on the Internet and Google, McMullen said state politicians no longer need that pure research that the Policy Council had been providing.

Now, McMullen said, Landess and her board have to find a way to make the Policy Council relevant and find its niche. And, he said, that could get tougher with the reemergence of the Palmetto Policy Forum, recently reenergized by former U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint, who is also currently heading up the Heritage Foundation.

The emerging face

According to McMullen, who now heads up his own communications firm, direct parallels could be drawn between the rising aggressiveness of the Policy Council and Heritage taking on the more bombastic DeMint as its leader.

But Ellen Weaver, president and chief executive officer of the Palmetto Policy Forum, said DeMint’s demeanor and style would be very different on a state level than it was on a federal level. Back home, Weaver said DeMint has championed state and local level solutions that “one-size-fits-all” Washington, D.C., can’t supply.

Weaver said the embryonic Forum would look to create “best practices” policy solutions for state leaders to use in writing laws.

But the mere presence of a second conservative think-tank will make it harder for both organizations to raise money and further carve out their niche, according to McMullen.

Huffmon said the Policy Council getting as involved in the “body politic” as it has of late “takes away from its legitimacy as a think-tank, but will result in an increase in efficacy.”

Policy Council spokesman Barton Swaim insisted that in keeping with its 501c3 nonprofit status, it will not tell people to call their legislators about certain bills or anything else along those lines, “but we can tell them the outcome and results of those bills.”

Landess said the Policy Council would continue its latest charge against the “real” problem in Columbia – the structure of state government. She said seniority and archaic leadership selection processes in the House and Senate have led to a “tyranny” of a few entrenched politicians, who wield, in her view, virtually unchallenged power in state government.

Harrell and Senate Finance Chairman Hugh Leatherman (R-Florence) top her list.

“We have to take power away from the tyrants, and give it back to the people,” Landess said with all the zeal of a reformer. “They hate us because we want to take away their power, because we exposed them for talking about weak legislation as ‘reform.’”

Beyond the alleged misdeeds she filed against Harrell, Landess pointed out that 31 counties have received nothing from the state Infrastructure Bank, while expensive roads project pop up constantly in Charleston.

For now, this is just a war of words. But it ain’t over yet.

DISCLOSURE:  The Policy Council is one of more than a dozen underwriters of Statehouse Report.
Bill Davis is editor of Statehouse Report.  He can be reached at:  billdavis@statehousereport.com. Recent news stories include:
Legislative Agenda

Quiet days ahead

With members of the House and Senate furloughed next week, there is scant little scheduled in the ways of legislative meetings. But with staff not furloughed, research will be done in the Senate regarding the coming budget fight. And in the House, charitable fund-raising models will be researched. On the calendar:

  • Senate Judiciary. A subcommittee will meet Tuesday at 11 a.m. in 308 Gressette to discuss a bill that would block a mentally ill person from possessing a firearm. Agenda.
Radar Screen

Lawyers, guns and money

When the General Assembly reconvenes in two weeks, the Senate will be working on bills that would allow citizens to carry concealed weapons into bars and restaurants that serve alcohol. But the real focus will be on the budget, which goes to the full Finance Committee the third week in April, and will be reported out that week or the first week in May.

In the House, atop the myriad of nullification bills floating around, the first big fight will be over early voting – deciding whether a month or eight days is enough time before election day.

Commentary

Envision SC offers good guidance for state

By Andy Brack, editor and publisher

MARCH 22, 2013 -- South Carolina needs more visionaries and dreamers to engage South Carolinians of all shapes and sizes in ways we can leap forward.

That’s exactly what the College of Charleston’s George Benson and consultant Phil Noble are doing with Envision SC, a “bold experiment” through which people can have their say about the state’s direction.

“Envision SC is unique in that it uses new technology to connect everyone -- individual citizens, media companies, students, businesses, colleges -- to all share their individual visions so that we can create a shared South Carolina vision of what our state’s future can be,” Noble said. “No state has ever used the new technology to try and do this before. This is just the beginning -- and no one knows what will happen.” [See video.]

Benson, whose college is sponsoring the project, adds, “Envision South Carolina is intended to help us take action -- to think about how South Carolina can be a leader on the world stage.”

Envision SC offers videos from a dozen state leaders on their dreams and ideas of how the state can move forward. It also allows people submit ideas through the Connect-Learn-Share project, which must be submitted by April 15. In the middle of May, the project will celebrate what it’s churned up.

Through the project, world-class cyclist George Hincapie [video], who has ridden in a record 17 Tour De France races, tells why he picked Greenville as his home.

“When you get here to South Carolina, you immediately see that the communities are so friendly,” he said.  “It’s a great place to raise families. The cities are so full of culture. We have big international companies like Boeing and Michelin that also bring in culture and smart, successful people.

“There’s just so much the state has to offer. I think the state needs to do a better job of putting that message out worldwide and promoting what we have more. I could live anywhere in the world that I want to. I’m not really tied to South Carolina or Greenville, but I can’t imagine living anywhere else.”

Charles Bolden [video], the retired Marine Corps general and astronaut whose hometown is Columbia, says South Carolina made him who he is.

“I tell people all of the time, despite the segregation I faced, the standards of living, respect and discipline were just incredible.” Bolden currently is the administrator of NASA, the nation’s space agency.

Emmy-award winner Kerri Forrest [video], back in her hometown of Charleston, observes the state needs to deal with remnants of segregation to become world-class.

“Laws are in place to put down overt segregation and we’re still fighting some of that today. But what I think concerns me more is this subconscious segregation that ‘we can’t do that,’ or ‘we can’t hang out there,’ or ‘we can’t go there,’ or ‘we can’t achieve this, unless someone gives us permission to do it.’ And the reverse of it is ‘they don’t come here, so we shouldn’t worry about them.’ A lot of people move down from the north and love Charleston and automatically get separated into these two groups or social circles and very rarely do they ever mix.”

Several interviewees pushed the need for better education as a linchpin for the state’s future success. Business leader Linda Ketner [video] of Charleston suggests the state’s leaders need to do more than pay lip service to education.

“First, we need to stop selling ourselves to business and industry as ‘we’ve got a cheap labor force,’ and start being and selling ‘we have a highly educated workforce.’ The source of our economic problems, our poverty problems, our crime problems begins with education. ...

“I think the political body doesn’t understand education as the source of the problem. They would rather give tax breaks to a company to come here, which costs us as taxpayers to fund those tax breaks, than focus on the source of the problem. In order to take advantage of our natural resources and have a long-term economic success story, we must without a doubt have laser focus on the part of the political body to fix the educational system. I don’t see that happening.”

Send your dreams for South Carolina to Envision SC today.

Andy Brack is publisher of Statehouse Report, which is a media partner of Envision SCYou can reach Brack at: brack@statehousereport.com.

Spotlight

Time Warner Cable

The public spiritedness of our underwriters allows us to bring Statehouse Report to you at no cost. Today, we’re happy to shine the spotlight on Time Warner Cable. The company’s Carolina Region provides video, Internet and telephone services to more than two million customers in more than 400 cities and towns across North and South Carolina. Time Warner Cable is the second-largest cable operator in the U.S., with technologically advanced, well-clustered systems located in New York State, the Carolinas, Ohio, southern California and Texas.  The company’s mission: Connect people and businesses with information, entertainment and each other; give customers control in ways that are simple and easy. For more, visit Time Warner Cable online here: http://www.timewarnercable.com.

My Turn

Give parents school choice, not private school

By Jackie B. Hicks
President, The South Carolina Education Association
Special to Statehouse Report

MARCH 22, 2013 -- Two approaches to school choice are now being debated in the legislature. One would give parents and corporations vouchers to send their children to private schools at taxpayers’ expense, and the other would allow parents the opportunity to send their children to any public school with the capacity to accept them.

The South Carolina Education Association strongly supports legislation that would provide families the opportunity to have public school choice within and across districts. The governor and state superintendent opposed that bill because it did not provide vouchers in the form of tax deductions for families choosing to send their children to private, religious, or home schools. Because The SCEA has sought sponsors for a public school choice bill, the association wanted to know which approach South Carolinians want.

The SCEA commissioned Abacus Associates, a public opinion research firm, to survey South Carolinians to see which proposal had more support: 1) tax deductions for families choosing to send their children to private, religious, or home schools, or to public schools outside their district; or 2) providing families the opportunity to have public school choice within and across districts.

The results of the survey were stunning. When South Carolinians were asked which of the two proposals they prefer, they overwhelmingly choose the public school choice over the tax deduction proposal by a ratio of nearly three-to-one (68 percent to 24 percent). 

When we break out results for public school parents, support for public school choice over tax deductions is even more overwhelming (86 percent to 13 percent).

Another survey done last year by another independent research firm also asked how South Carolina residents felt about this choice. A whopping 64 percent of residents in that poll oppose vouchers. Instead of vouchers, voters said they want school reforms proven to work.

Specifically, they said we must find ways to increase families’ involvement in their children’s education. The SCEA agrees heartily.

Voters said, and The SCEA agrees heartily, that we need to improve teacher training.

The SCEA puts its beliefs into action. That’s why we created The SCEA Children’s Foundation. Through it, we are offering high quality professional development to teachers across the state.

Private school vouchers mean millions of tax dollars will go to private schools at taxpayers’ expense. Instead of taking money out of public schools for private schools, we need to focus on those reforms that will get our children ready for the jobs of the future.

For example, voters said, and The SCEA agrees, we need to reduce class sizes, especially in kindergarten through third grade.

The bottom line is that teachers want what parents and voters want—school reforms that work.

For four years, the state has slashed our school budgets. As a result, class sizes have swelled. Our students have lost instructional time. And many important educational programs have been entirely eliminated. We cannot afford to lose more programs and teachers that our children need.

The SCEA supports school choice of several kinds. We believe families should be able to choose which public schools their children attend, and we have found sponsors for legislation that would allow that.

But vouchers do not increase parents’ choice. They increase the private school’s choice of students. Private schools can choose the cream of the crop. They can avoid the kids who aren’t good students or athletes, and those with special needs. Private and religious schools are free to discriminate against children on the basis of their race, religion, gender, ethnicity, conduct or disability. Thousands of students who are rejected by private schools would attend public schools weakened by the loss of badly needed funds. Even after admission, a private school can expel students, unlike public schools, which must accept all students, and have limited options for expelling disruptive students.

If voucher proponents are serious about providing more choice, they could make their cause more credible by demanding that all private schools receiving tax-funded vouchers admit all students, regardless of physical or learning disabilities, limited English proficiency or past behavior problems. 

In short, vouchers take money out of public schools and send it to private schools at taxpayers’ expense, they add to the cost of education without improving education, and they prioritize the rights of private schools over the rights of students and families. 

Jackie B. Hicks is president of the South Carolina Education Association.

Feedback

Them versus us

To the editor [re: Brack: "Eating on $35 a week isn't a gimmick"]:

People should be able to make their own choices with their own money, not with mine or the taxpayers.  And if junk "food" is available and they spend it on that It leaves less to spend on better choices. 

Even convenience stores have canned tuna and beans and nuts and peanuts, though [they are] much more expensive there.

But where can they ship in junk that they cannot ship in real food? If junk is not purchased, the stores would not stock it.  Junk food is addictive. Sugar increases blood glucose. It gives a sugar high, which makes the pancreas overwork to get it out of the blood stream, which then gives a sugar low and the craving of sugar til the pancreas wears out and then you have type 2 diabetes.

Insulin is the fat storage hormone, so it stores as fat the sugar it has to get out of the bloodstream, increasing the obesity and making everything worse.

Like any addict, education is not the total answer. For the same reason they cannot spend food stamps for alcohol and tobacco. If they want that, they must use their own money.

It would be so much harder for education on the evils of addiction to those things to make a difference if it were mandated that someone else had to pay for that too.

I myself am a type 2 diabetic working hard to decrease my sugar addiction and make better choices. and decrease or eliminate my need for insulin.   If somebody else is paying for me to have a candy bar or goes to the trouble and expense of buying me a birthday cake, it is much harder to resist.

We spend our own money much more wisely than we spend somebody else's . So why not add junk to the list of things that they already cannot buy?

-- Martha Lair,  Florence, S.C.

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Scorecard

Not much good happening this week

FOIA. A bill that could reform the state’s open records act has been sent back to committee from the House floor, meaning it isn’t yet dead, but soon could be. More.

Nullification. The battle for this state’s rights over the power of the federal government never ends in the South Carolina Statehouse. We obviously have met the enemy, and he is a better-looking version of us who can win a bigger election and go to Washington, D.C. More. Read Andy Brack’s Jan. 25 column on the time-wasting nullification juggernaut.

Chumley. So rabid is the cause for nullification in the House right now that state Rep. Bill Chumley (R-Spartanburg) not only arranged for the state plane to fly in Rush Limbaugh’s guest-host and pundit to “testify” on Obamacare, but Chumley is refusing to reimburse the state. More.

Waste. A Senate subcommittee voted this week to block counties from limiting how much out-of-town (or -state) waste gets dumped in their landfills by big waste companies. Yeech. More.

Weapons. A Senate panel passed on a bill that would allow people to carry weapons in public without training or a permit. Just what we need. More.

Nukes. The cost of a project at the Savannah River Site that would recycle weapons-grade plutonium keeps going up and up and up, according to a new federal report. Worse still, the report shows they are still considering building it here. Awesome. More.

Stegelin

Forget-me-not


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Statehouse Report

Editor and Publisher: Andy Brack
Senior Editor: Bill Davis
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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/.