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ISSUE 12.22
May. 31, 2013

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

Index

News :
Last call for change
Legislative Agenda :
Last week of session ahead
Radar Screen :
Summer interrupted
Palmetto Politics :
Ford rolls out
Commentary :
Numbers show S.C. still has a long way to go
Spotlight :
Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina
Feedback :
Got a beef?
Scorecard :
Up for ethics reform; down (and out) for Ford
Stegelin :
But we're having so much fun!
Number of the Week :
About $20,000
Megaphone :
Goodbye, Robert
Tally Sheet :
Search for legislative bills
Encyclopedia :
Indian mounds

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NUMBER OF THE WEEK

About $20,000

That’s how much in campaign funds that state Sen. Robert Ford (D-Charleston) may have diverted for his own use, according to testimony in an ethics hearing on allegations leveled against him. He resigned Friday. More below. More.

MEGAPHONE

Goodbye, Robert

“I don’t take no money from my campaign for me.  Every penny went for projects.”

-- Former state Sen. Robert Ford (D-Charleston), defending himself Thursday during a Senate Ethics Committee hearing into allegations that he diverted tens of thousands of campaign donations for his personal use. Ford resigned Friday. More.

TALLY SHEET

Search for legislative bills

Find any bill through these links:

ENCYCLOPEDIA

Indian mounds

Dotting South Carolina's streams and rivers are vestiges of her prehistoric past. These mounds offer fragmentary evidence of the cultures that thrived before the Europeans arrived. Five of South Carolina's Indian mounds are listed in the National Register of Historic Places: Adamson Mounds (Kershaw County), Blair Mound (Fairfield County), Lawton Mounds (Allendale County), McCollum Mound (Chester County), and Santee Mound (Clarendon County).

At least sixteen Woodland mounds and nineteen Mississippian mounds have been identified in South Carolina that are at least fifty percent intact. Another eleven known sites have been destroyed or are underwater. Woodland period mounds are located primarily along coastal rivers, while Mississippian mounds are found along inland rivers near the fall line. Beaufort County has the largest concentration of mounds, followed by counties located in the Midlands. Similar mounds are found in Georgia and North Carolina.

In the late prehistoric period and early contact period, some of South Carolina's mound builders were part of vast Mississippian chiefdoms. South Appalachian Mississippian ceramics indicate that a similar culture embraced South Carolina, Georgia, and neighboring areas. These mounds, built between c.e. 1200 and 1500, were ceremonial, cultural, or administrative in nature and at times were associated with villages and burials. Some of them were also associated with the Pee Dee, Lamar, or Irene culture that flourished ca. c.e. 1400-1700.

Historical evidence suggests that as many as 150 mounds were present in South Carolina at the time of European contact. In 1540 Hernando de Soto encountered the mound dwellers of Cofitachiqui on the Wateree River. The accounts of his journey are important documentary sources for understanding the mound dwellers. During the Revolutionary War, the British recognized the strategic potential of the mounds. They built Fort Watson on the Santee Mound, which patriot forces captured in 1780. Erosion and looting threaten the survival of South Carolina's Indian mounds.

Excerpted from the entry by Alexia Jones Helsley. 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

Last call for change

Restructuring state government hits another snag

By Bill Davis, senior editor

MAY 31, 2013 -- -- This was supposed to be the year that state government went through big, structural changes.

A new-cabinet level department, Administration, was to be created to help run and oversee other agencies for a more efficient and transparent form of state government.

A passel of statewide elected offices, from superintendent of education to adjutant general, were to be taken off ballots and their selection to be placed in the hands of future governors. Many of those state officers went on record saying they would welcome the change this year.

Gov. Nikki Haley pushed hard for both. Legislators politicked on those issues, having made election-year promises to get something moving, to change state government.

And then … nothing.

Creation of the Department of Administration, which would replace the current Budget and Control Board, is snarled in limbo between the House and Senate, thanks in part to parliamentary procedure and thanks in part to politics.

The biggest remaining issue, which threatens to derail that effort, is who will be in charge of procurement.

Moving state offices into the cabinet is now on the backburner, largely because it is work that can get done more easily next legislative session in plenty of time for the 2014 elections, according to several legislators.

One Senate staffer quipped that senators were asking “why kill themselves” over restructuring the constitutional offices this session as the finishing chute for the legislative year is already littered with big fights like ethics reform. The real clock, they say, doesn’t start really until next year to keep promises before the House elections.

In the Senate last week, a procedural vote to expedite floor debate on moving the superintendent of education to the cabinet failed to get a needed super-majority, meaning it must wait its turn, likely until next year.

Also, two separate House bills moving the superintendent and adjutant general, who oversees the state’s militia, are stalled in the Senate. And so might the entire idea of restructuring, at least for this session.

Who writes the checks?

Major concerns surfaced in the Senate last month about who would control the state’s checkbook and who would be in charge of doling out potentially lucrative state contracts.

Sen. Hugh Leatherman (R-Florence), one of this and other governors’ stiffest opponents in the legislature, has been clear in his displeasure with the House bill creating a new administration department.

The House, easily the more populist of the two chambers, had “heard the voice of the people” and crafted a plan in which a Department of Administration would not only be placed in future governors’ cabinets, but the ability to control procurement, would reside in the chief executives’ hands, too.

That sliver continues to be a non-starter for Leatherman, who argues against a new structure that would ape forms of state governments in places like Illinois where the power of procurement is credited with creating an environment for corruption that helped send two recent governors to prison.

So now the House has come up with a Band-aid -- a special five-member board that would oversee procurement, in much the same way the Budget and Control Board does now.

But according to multiple Senate sources, this bandage isn’t going to stick. And both sides expect the House to shoot down the Senate’s plan. That means that sometime next week, observers expect, three members from both chambers will be selected to negotiate a compromise, if possible, in a conference committee.

House Ways and Means chairman Rep. Brian White (R-Anderson) didn’t sound very optimistic this week. “I have no idea what can be done” if the two sides can’t come to an agreement over procurement, he said.

House Judiciary Chair Greg Delleney (R-Chester) said he believed there was still enough time to deal with the proposed Department of Administration this session, but legislators would have to take up the matter in a special week-long session that could be held in June to deal with expected gubernatorial budget vetoes.

Delleney’s counterpart in the Senate, Judiciary Chairman Larry Martin (R-Pickens), agreed that the conference committee’s work was the best chance for the Department of Administration bill to survive this year.

But House Speaker Bobby Harrell (R-Charleston) worried about how good that “best” chance really was.

Harrell, sitting in a leather House floor chair this week, said that there may not be a compromise, as both chambers appeared deadlocked on the procurement issue. The House, which he said had “strongly and thoroughly” debated the issue, having passed a similar bill last year, knows where it stands.

“This is a major policy difference over which the House and Senate strongly disagree,” warned Harrell.

A Wednesday request for comment from Haley’s office has gone unanswered.

Crystal ball:  Who gets selected to the conference committee by House and Senate brass may be a tip-off as to whether Administration has a chance. All it takes is two hardliners on either side for the effort to die for a second year in a row in the final weeks of a session. But there is hope. In recent years, the Senate has collectively said that it would never accept other efforts like voter I.D. and immigration reforms including employee status verification. Now, the state has both.

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

Legislative Agenda

Last week of session ahead

Thursday is scheduled to be the last day of this year’s legislative session, but with so much unfinished – the budget, ethics reform, restructuring – the legislature will likely return for a special session June 18. Next week, expect typical final-week posturing and naming of appointees to various conference committees.

  • Ballots. A conference committee negotiating enhanced statements of economic interests for political candidates will meet Tuesday at 10 a.m. in the Statehouse third floor conference room. Agenda.
Radar Screen

Summer interrupted

“Hey, Senator Jones, whatcha doin’ this summer?”

“Well, Representative Generic, I’m coming back for a week-long special session beginning June 18 to finish work on everything we didn’t finish during the regular session!”

"Cowabunga, dude!”

Palmetto Politics

Ford rolls out

State Sen. Robert Ford, a Charleston Democrat who is a much-lauded veteran of the civil rights movement, resigned today in a letter.

Ford has been the focus of a Senate Ethics Committee hearing this week into allegations he diverted close to $20,000 of campaign donations for his personal use. Eight ethics allegations included accusations that he had used donations to pay down a car loan as well as to buy items at adult sex stores.

Admitted to the hospital for chest pains Thursday night, Ford did not attend the second day of hearings on Friday. His lawyer had consistently defended Ford, saying he was overwhelmed on accounting issues, and that there had been no malice in his client’s actions.

Sen. Wes Hayes (R-Rock Hill), a member of the committee and the author of the state’s major ethics reform package, declined to comment.

“The committee hasn’t come up with a final decision, so it would inappropriate at this time,” Hayes said today.

S.C. Democratic Party chairman Jaime Harrison praised the thoroughness of the investigation and said Ford “was right to resign.” He added that the “culture of corruption in South Carolina has to stop.”

Because it so early in the process, it is not yet known whether the committee’s findings will be turned over to law enforcement officials.

Ethics reform challenged

State ethics reform still has a chance, albeit a dimmed one, of passing this year, according to Democrats and Republicans in the General Assembly.

This week the Senate voted to place an ethics reform bill on a fast-track, but there is still plenty that could go wrong between now and Thursday, the scheduled last day of the session. On Wednesday, an effort to fast-track debate on a bill nullifying Obamacare to the Senate floor failed to get a super-majority, placing it on the contested calendar.

Had the nullification bill made it to the floor, GOP senators worried that Democrats would be able to “talk out” the session, killing ethics reform. Now, ethics reform is on the fast-track, but nullification could be recalled from the slower, contested calendar.

Protecting the earth or its dirt

Environmentalists are claiming a big victory this week after members of a House committee voted to keep their hands off the state’s Conservation Bank’s millions.

At issue was $9 million that the House set aside in its 2013-14 fiscal year budget plan for the bank and whether half of it could be spent on beach renourishment. Renourishment usually means a digger ship extracting tons of sand from just off the coast and having it pumped back onto the beach.

Many of the state’s pricey beaches are located on barrier islands, and the fight is always between protecting the environment and protecting developer and beachfront property owners’ bottom lines.

A Senate plan for providing renourishment funding from increased hospitality taxes caused a flurry of action in the House, where an amendment to a bill was proposed to set aside almost half of the bank’s $9 million in state funding. The amendment was turned back and the earth was saved. For now.

Renourishment will likely remain an issue going forward as scientists say accretion, basically erosion of beaches, will continue to accelerate off the coast as communities up and down the eastern seaboard continue to construct artificial groins that disrupt the cyclical flow of beach sand.

Commentary

Numbers show S.C. still has a long way to go

By Andy Brack, editor and publisher

MAY 31, 2013 -- The news on poverty in South Carolina isn’t good: We’ve overtaken Mississippi.

The Great Recession has taken its toll here. South Carolina now ranks third highest in poverty in the country, according to the detailed Current Population Survey (CPS) of the U.S. Census Bureau. It shows some 19 percent of South Carolinians -- about 874,000 people -- live at or below federal poverty levels. At the top of the list: New Mexico (22.2 percent) and Louisiana (21.1 percent). Mississippi tied with Texas as 7th highest in poverty with a 17.4 percent rate.

South Carolina surged to third highest in poverty in the most recent report after the Census Bureau apparently revised how it collected data for its in-depth CPS study. In 2010, South Carolina ranked 10th on the report with 773,000 people living at or below the poverty level. That’s the same rank the state had in 1980 when 534,000 people lived in poverty.

But rankings aside, the important number is that another 100,000 people were considered to be living in poverty in 2011, compared to a year earlier. And over three decades as South Carolina’s population grew, so did the number of poor -- by 340,000 individuals.

These numbers are among a series of statistics that highlight the struggles that many people living in South Carolina continue have. As we highlight every couple of years, many South Carolinians still have significant challenges related to health care, economics, education and safety.

HEALTH.  South Carolina has among the worst health rates for a variety of conditions: Diabetes (3rd highest adult rate among states), chlamydia (5th highest), stroke (5th highest), hypertension (7th highest) and obesity (8th highest). One in 10 babies are born with low birth weights, the fourth highest rate in the country. In 2012, KidsCount ranked the Palmetto State as the eighth worst place for kids to grow up. None of these numbers is dramatically better -- or worse -- than a few years back.

ECONOMY.  In addition to having a high poverty rate, South Carolina has the fifth lowest median income, according to Census figures. In 2011, the nation’s median average household income was just over $50,000. But in South Carolina, the figure was 20 percent lower at $40,084 a year. 

 

Before you get too depressed, the state’s unemployment rate has been dropping. The rate is about to slide out of the nation’s bottom quartile. While it was among the top in the nation during the recession, it now is 12th highest at 8 percent in April. Our unemployment rate, which was at 5.7 percent in 2007, has dropped almost 4 full percentage points since 2010.   

Other measures of economic health: Our business climate is 22nd best, according to a Forbes magazine study in December. Our tax burden is 10th lowest, according to the Tax Foundation, with 8.4 percent of income going to state and local governments. But hunger is comparatively high with almost 19 percent of South Carolinians -- 870,000 people -- saying they are “food insecure,” according to Feeding America.

EDUCATION.  On education, South Carolina ranks a lot higher than many think at first blush. According to the respected Quality County annual survey in 2013 by Education Week magazine, South Carolina ranked 26th highest in education. KidsCount, however, ranked the Palmetto State 11th from the bottom on education  in its 2012 survey. South Carolina’s on-time graduation rate is fourth from the bottom, but of the kids who graduate and attend college, we have the sixth highest rate in the country.

SAFETY.  South Carolina also is comparatively unsafe. It has the third highest rate of domestic violence, is fifth highest in violent crime, has the highest rate of deadly alcohol-rated accidents and has most dangerous roads, according to various sources.

The bottom line of all of these surveys and studies is that we in the Palmetto State still have a lot to do to get off the bottom lists that we shouldn’t be on. But to do that, we need to demand more of our leaders -- and ourselves -- to start working on our big problems and to stop playing around the edges.

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

Spotlight

Electric Cooperatives 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 Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina. More South Carolinians use power from electric cooperatives than from any other power source. South Carolina’s 20 independent, consumer-owned cooperatives deliver electricity in all 46 counties to more than 1.5 million citizens. As member-owned organizations, cooperatives recognize their responsibility to provide power that is affordable, reliably delivered and responsibly produced. More at www.ecsc.org or www.scliving.coop.
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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 ethics reform; down (and out) for Ford

Ethics reform. Thanks to Senate fast-tracking, there is still hope for reform this session. More.

Debt. The state’s unemployment office is making an early debt payment on a massive federal loan used to prop up the formerly insolvent agency. More.

Taxes/Columbia. The state's tax system is “broken,” according to influential state economist Harry Miley. More.

Irony. Only in South Carolina can a Cuban-born man with ties to a supposed “white supremacist” group work as a political organizer for a governor of Indian ancestry who has claimed to be white in the past on state forms.

Ford. Former Sen. Robert Ford is alleged to have spent big chunks of campaign donations on himself, including trips to sex shops and for “male enhancement” pills.  He resigned today. More.

Foreclosures. Up and maybe still rising across the state. More.

Transparency. Citing legal requirements of a multi-million dollar settlement with an investment house sued for allegedly mishandling state pension investment money, state retirement commission lawyers required representatives of state pension beneficiaries and reporters to leave a briefing of the settlement. More.
Stegelin

But we're having so much fun!


RECENT STEGELIN: 5/24 | 5/17 | 5/10 | 5/3
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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/.