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ISSUE 8.19
May. 08, 2009

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

Index

News :
TERI on chopping block?
Legislative Agenda :
Time is running out
Radar Screen :
Payday or doomsday
Palmetto Politics :
Cigarette tax in peril?
Commentary :
Legislature should do something
Spotlight :
Maybank Industries
My Turn :
Space for vent
Feedback :
Enjoys the Report
Scorecard :
Up, down and in-between
Stegelin :
Yeah, that's the ticket
Megaphone :
More silliness
In our blog :
In the blogs this week
Tally Sheet :
Few bills proposed
Encyclopedia :
'Groovemaster' James Jamerson

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NUMBER OF THE WEEK

31%

LAID OFF: 31 percent. That’s the percentage of state unemployment claimants who were laid off over the past two years, according to a new Department of Commerce study. Also: 20 percent left their jobs due to misconduct and only 8 percent voluntarily quit. So much for the Commerce Department’s Joe Taylor saying it was failed drug tests.  More: Greenville News.

MEGAPHONE

More silliness

"This is one of the silliest things that I have seen proposed in South Carolina."
 
-- Longtime Statehouse veteran Sen. John Land (D-Manning) stating his opposition to the Senate’s cigarette tax increase plan, which would create tax credits for businesses who expand health care offerings to employees, instead of expanding existing state programs. More: The State.

IN OUR BLOG

In the blogs this week

Nikki, Nikki. A former editor at The State, Brad Warthen waxes political about Rep. Nikki Haley (R-Lexington) supposedly running for governor in the 2010 Republican primary as an extension of the current regime:

"I don’t want a nice person like Nikki to run as the 'Sanford candidate.' I don’t want ANYBODY to run as the 'Sanford candidate.' The very idea of there being even the slightest possibility of a continuation of these eight wasted years is appalling."
 
Wind? The Cotton Boll Conspiracy makes the state’s investment into hydrogen powered cars sound like a bunch of hot, wet wind.
 
“If South Carolina needs a nickname for its recently unveiled “Hydrogen Highway,” the 59-mile stretch of road between a pair of hydrogen fueling stations in Columbia and Aiken, SC, “Lonesome Highway” comes to mind. The multimillion-dollar investment in state and local tax dollars that went into the two hydrogen stations certainly won’t suffer from overuse; South Carolina at present has just a single hydrogen-powered vehicle in the entire state.”
 
Voucher alert. From Voice for School Choice, Converse Chellis, the guy in charge of the state’s treasury and not its education, argued this week that “school choice” (re: vouchers) makes financial sense.
 
“We must find innovative approaches that enable parents to choose what is best for their children. The clock is ticking and our economy is in freefall.”

TALLY SHEET

Few bills proposed

With the House out of session for the past week, the few substantive bills introduced during the week came from state senators:

Higher ed. S. 789 (Rose) calls for state-backed colleges to maintain detailed transaction registers of all expended funds and to put the information online.
 
Building codesS. 791 (L. Martin) calls for adoption of seismic and wind maps related to international building codes.
 
Guns. S. 794 (Bright) calls for the S.C. Firearms Freedom Act to provide that firearms made and retained in the state are exempt from federal Commerce regulations.

ENCYCLOPEDIA

'Groovemaster' James Jamerson

James Jamerson was born on January 29, 1936, in Charleston, the son of James and Elizabeth Jamerson. He demonstrated an aptitude for music at an early age, playing piano by age ten, studying trombone in elementary school, and soaking in jazz, gospel, and blues music from local radio stations.

By 1954 Jamerson had moved to Detroit, where his mother had gone the previous year in search of employment. Enrolling in Detroit's Northwestern High School, he took up a new instrument: the upright bass. He began playing with local jazz and blues bands, quickly establishing himself as one of the hottest bassists in the Motor City. He was soon in demand by most of Detroit's recording labels.
 
He then came to the attention of a songwriter and producer named Berry Gordy, the talented and ambitious owner of the fledgling Motown label. Jamerson began session work for Gordy around 1959. By the early 1960s, Jamerson had become "Motown's premier groovemaster." As a cornerstone of Motown's renowned studio band, the "Funk Brothers," Jamerson's skill and style on the bass became legendary. He played on almost every Motown record during its 1963-1968 heyday, providing the groove for such immortal records as "Bernadette," "Ain't Too Proud To Beg," "I Heard It Through The Grapevine," "You Can't Hurry Love," and Marvin Gaye's classic album What's Going On. By some accounts, Jamerson played on more number one records than any musician in the history of rock and roll.
 
Despite his indisputable genius, Jamerson's increasingly erratic behavior and drinking problems had lowered his standing with Motown by the 1970s. He moved to Los Angeles in 1973 and for a time enjoyed a full schedule of session work, touring, and recording. Alcohol and emotional problems, however, gradually eroded demand for his declining talents. Jamerson died in Los Angeles on August 2, 1983. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000.
 
-- Excerpted from the entry by Tom Downey..To read more about this or 2,000 other entries about South Carolina, check out The South Carolina Encyclopedia by USC Press. (Information used by permission.)

PALMETTO PRIORITIES

Palmetto Priorities Statehouse Report encourages state leaders to develop and implement Palmetto Priorities involving several issues to make the state better a better place. Click the link to learn more about our suggestions for bipartisan policy objectives.

Here is a summary of our Palmetto Priorities:

CORRECTIONS: Reduce the prison population by 25 percent by 2020.

EDUCATION: Cut the state's dropout rate in half by 2020.

ELECTIONS: Increase voter registration to 75 percent by 2015.

ENVIRONMENT: Adopt a state energy policy that requires energy producers to generate 20 percent of energy from renewable sources by 2020.

ETHICS: Overhaul state ethics laws.

HEALTH CARE: Ensure affordable and accessible health care.

JOBS: Develop a Cabinet-level post to add, retain 10,000 small business jobs per year.

POLITICS: Have a vigorous two- or multi-party political system of governance.

ROADS: Strengthen all bridges and upgrade state roads by 2015.

SAFETY: Cut the state's violent crime rate by one-third by 2016.

TAX REFORM: Remove outdated special interest sales tax exemptions as part of an overall reform of the state's tax structure to be completed by 2014.

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News

TERI on chopping block?

Teachers, other state employees in limbo

By Bill Davis, senior editor

NOTE, 5/11/09:  The story below has been changed (in blue) to provide clarification and to correct earlier errors.  Thanks to our readers for their vigilance and patience.

MAY 8, 2009 -- Two programs near and dear to the hearts (and wallets) of many public school teachers may be on the chopping block as Statehouse leaders work to complete the 2009-10 state budget.

But at least one could be reinstalled into the state budget, thanks to support from influential members in the General Assembly.
 
In April, the House of Representatives approved and sent its version of the budget to the Senate. With a tight year coming and one just passed that saw more than $1 billion in mid-year cuts, both programs became vulnerable.
 
The House’s original version called for a drastic reduction in the number of teachers allowed to receive a $7,500 annual National Board Certified Teacher stipend. It also proposed shutting off the Teacher and Employee Retention Incentive (TERI) program to new applicants.
 
After the Senate received the House version of the budget, it voted to reject the entire budget, and ruled the attacks on TERI to be “out of order.”
 
But because the two chambers may soon select members to meet in conference committee meetings to complete work on a compromise budget, both programs should be discussed.
 
National Board certification is a multi-year process that identifies superior teachers. Many states offer pay enhancements to teachers who qualify, and some local communities further sweeten the deal with an additional pay bump.
 
Currently, there are approximately 740,000 American teachers who have qualified as National Board Certified, and close to 5,800 of those are in South Carolina, where teachers can receive the stipend for a 10-year period.
 
South Carolina began the National Board stipend program approximately 10 years ago as a way of rewarding and retaining its best teachers. Full funding of the program, and a connected teacher loan-repayment program, would cost $64 million in the coming year, according to Sandy Smith, deputy superintendent for policy and legislation at the state Department of Education.
 
Martin’s view on board program
 
No one is talking about cutting teachers currently enrolled in the National Board program, according to Sen. Larry Martin (R-Pickens), because of the contracts the eligible teachers signed with the state.
 
“If we were to do that, someone would file a lawsuit and stop us dead in our tracks,” said Martin, whose wife is a board-certified middle school teacher in Pickens. “We’d be obligated to follow through on the contracts by the people across the street,” he said referring to the state’s Supreme Court on the other side of Gervais Street.
 
“I’d prefer we’d not close [the program],” said Martin “It represents, in my mind, one of the things we can do to keep around high-achieving classroom teachers, and get them to remain in the classroom, versus moving onto special education or into administration.”
 
Martin said that South Carolina currently ranked in the top three nationally in the percentage of teachers with board certification. The House plan would be to limit the number of new applicants to 1,100 11,000.
 
Martin said if the board certification were done away with, it wouldn’t answer the question of how the state would manage to keep teachers around at the peak of their profession.
 
DOE’s Smith, concurred, saying that not being able to offer a stipend would serve as a “disincentive” to teachers to stay in their jobs and could affect teacher recruitment. Smith also said that doing away with the current program, but still honoring the contracts, wouldn’t answer whether teachers could “re-up” for a second ten years -- something the first wave of recipients could soon be able to do.
 
Martin said he had hopes the program would be reinstated in the House, as he said Speaker Bobby Harrell (R-Charleston) was a big supporter of the program, a claim backed by Harrell’s office.
 
TERI’s future may be cloudier
 
Now on to TERI, which allows state retirement-eligible employees with at least 28 years of  service to steer their monthly pension checks into a special non-interest bearing account for up to five years.  Envisioned as an incentive to keep experienced teachers and state employees on the job, employees who retire after participating in TERI collect their full retirement package, as well as a handy TERI nest egg.  It’s a complicated program (read more here), but it essentially benefits people who could retire but want to continue working.
 
Since 2001, when TERI was first instituted, roughly 27,000 state retirement-eligible employees with at least 28 years of service have enrolled in TERI, with about half that number coming from K-12 school districts, according to S.C. Retirement System spokesman Michael Sponhour.
 
But Martin’s feeling for TERI are less cuddly.
 
Earlier this session, he signed onto a bill with Sen. Greg Ryberg (R-Aiken) that would close the program to future applicants. Ryberg claimed in an op/ed piece last month that shuttering TERI would save the state $18 million a year. (More: Aiken Standard.) 
 
Originally envisioned as a way to retain older, vested teachers at the prime of the career, it has since been expanded to include other categories of employees, like police officers.
 
Since 2001, the number of state retirement eligible employees that have opted for the TERI program has plummeted, according to statistics obtained by SC Statehouse Report. That year, 63 percent of state retirees took advantage of the program; in 2008, it had dropped to 33 percent, and only 26 percent of those expected to retire in 2009 have signed up for TERI.
 
Sixty-three percent of teachers retiring in 2001 took advantage of TERI, while in 2008, it had dropped to 40 percent. An even more precipitous drop occurred in retiring state agency employees -- only 18 percent of whom took part in TERI in 2008, down from 69 percent in 2001.
 
SCRS spokesperson Sponhour said actuaries who have consulted with the agency have said closing TERI to new applicants would have little to no positive or negative financial impact to the state’s retirement fund General Fund.
 
Crystal ball: If Martin is selected as one of the three on the Senate budget conference committee, or if Harrell names himself to the House contingent, top teachers can likely breathe a sigh of relief. As for state retirement employees wanting to take advantage of the TERI program, it may be too late.
 
Legislative Agenda

Time is running out

With the legislature set to adjourn May 21, time is winding down and there is little room for issues to be finalized other than a handful of bills, so the agenda in the House and Senate will be light next week as they focus will be on the floors of the chambers.
 
In the House, the highlight of the week will be when an Agriculture subcommittee meets Wednesday in Blatt 101 at 8 a.m. to discuss a bill that prohibit the issuance of any new landfill permits until 2011.
 
In the Senate, a subcommittee will meet Wednesday at 10 a.m. in 209 Gressette to discuss a resolution to the federal government regarding the state’s greenhouse gas emissions.
 
Members from both chambers will come together Thursday in separate, joint meetings. The first will be the EIA and Improvement Mechanisms Subcommittee and the Public Awareness Subcommittee of the Education Oversight Committee, which will meet at 10 a.m. in 210 Blatt. At the same time, the Academic Standard and Assessments Subcommittee of the Education Oversight Committee will meet in 215 Blatt.
 
In related news, the state’s Board of Economic Advisors will meet at 3 p.m. Wednesday, May 12, in room 417 of the Rembert Dennis Building.

Radar Screen

Payday or doomsday

Next week in the Senate will decide if anything gets done this session on redoing payday lending legislation. When debate adjourned Thursday without a solution in the Senate, it wasn’t clear if the small-amount, short-term lending industry would be allowed to continue self-policing or if further limits would be imposed by the state.
 
Legislators met behind closed doors with industry representatives. Sen. Gerald Malloy (D-Hartsville), a critic of the industry, said he didn’t know what went on behind closed doors. Reached Friday morning, Malloy said he planned to fight for a full debate to begin on Tuesday.
 
Bill watch
 
With the House on furlough over the past week, all the bills that moved ahead were in the Senate, where a Judiciary subcommittee voted for a bill requiring a voter to produce a picture ID and Christmas Eve may soon become a state holiday. 
 
Another bill that cleared a Judiciary subcommittee would allow on-premises gambling in private homes in limited situations. And the full Senate will receive a bill next week that would allow professional mixed martial arts fights to be held in the state.
 
Next week in the House, most of the attention will be spent on the budget, then on second and third readings of a bill to create a Tax Realignment Commission (TRAC), and a bill to retool some of SPA’s governance.

Palmetto Politics

Cigarette tax in peril?

The proposed cigarette tax increase may be in peril. In fact, one source says it’s plain dead.
 
This week, the Senate Finance Committee backed a bill that would hold in reserve for a year the money raised from increasing the state’s per-pack cigarette tax 50 cents from its current 7 cents. The Senate liked the idea of holding the funds back until it saw what the Obama administration accomplished over the summer in its fight for some sort of national health care program.
 
House Speaker Bobby Harrell (R-Charleston) pushed for the current proposal, which gives companies tax credits for extending health insurance to previously uncovered employees. But he was not pleased: “This sets up the potential for government to just tax and spend the money elsewhere instead of using tax credits to help people purchase the health care coverage they need. Simply raising taxes and then waiting around to see what Congress does with a universal health care plan is not the right approach.”
 
Grooms for Gov
 
Surprising few Statehouse watchers, Sen. Larry Grooms (R-Bonneau) announced this week he would officially enter the race for governor, campaigning on a variety of issues, including restructuring.
 
Tenenbaum goes to Washington
 
Former state education czar Inez Tenenbaum will become the next head of the federal Consumer Products Safety Commission. President Barack Obama selected Tenenbaum, who last ran unsuccessfully for federal office, to head up a federal agency critics have contended was too cozy with those being inspected.
 
Jean Toal, Realtor
 
The state Supreme Court issued an order this week halting the foreclosure sales of homes that are mortgaged through Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.
 
The hope is to give some of the homeowners a chance to benefit from a mortgage assistance program that is part of the Obama federal stimulus package. With half of the nation’s homes mortgaged through one of the two federally-backed mortgage houses, that could slow the foreclosure sales market to a crawl. And that could be a good thing for families on the verge of reversing their financial fortunes, but a bad thing for Realtors and home buyers looking for a great deal.

Commentary

Legislature should do something

By Andy Brack, editor and publisher

MAY 8, 2009 -- To get an idea of how the General Assembly has made a difference this year, just look at what may be its most stellar accomplishment so far: passage into law of a measure that  allows school districts to have more flexibility in moving funds around so they can respond to shortfalls. Whew.
 
Oh, and the Legislature approved renaming of the Western Carolina Regional Sewer Authority to “Renewable Water Resources.” And it passed measures to study criminal domestic violence, sentencing reform and “stroke systems of care.”
 
But it hasn’t yet, for example, passed anything on how to get more jobs for the thousands of unemployed people in the state. Or how to dramatically improve schools. Or how to make health care more accessible. Or how to protect special places. 
 
So much for what the state really needs. Instead, legislators and the governor have spent the whole session bickering over the budget and stimulus money. Now with just two weeks left (yes, this year, they’re adjourning earlier than usual), the likelihood that they’ll approve a long-anticipated cigarette tax hike or tougher rules on payday lending or any of a host of other needed measures is rapidly vanishing.
 
But remember, they did actually agree to exempt students in several districts from make-up day requirements and to approve regulations involving the light brown apple moth quarantine. Important stuff.
 
Maybe the thing that will impact people the most is approval into law of a measure that allows establishment of micro-distilleries of alcoholic beverages. This landmark legislation brings two quick thoughts to mind:
  • We’ve gone from minibottles to micro-distilleries. It took decades to get rid of those minibottles at bars. But it only took three years to jump to a new law that will allow establishments to produce small batches of liquor - - gallons of it -- on site.
     
  • Keeping the electorate drunk.  What a quick change this is on the fears about alcohol in society. If you were a cynic, you might think they want to keep us drunk to ignore what they’re not doing!
State Sen. Phil Leventis, D-Sumter, offers this observation on how the General Assembly is stuck. According to Senate rules, only three bills at any time can be set for “special order,” which moves them to the top of the list to be considered. The reasoning is that sometimes the Senate needs to take up something quickly because it is important to the state.
 
One of the three bills now on special order is a measure to call on Congress to follow the Constitution’s Tenth Amendment, which you might recall says powers not granted to the federal government or prohibited to the states are reserved for the states.
 
“Can you see how bad off we are when we say, ‘Please obey the law,’ to the members of Congress?” Leventis asked. “That’s really, really out of touch with what’s going on in the state when we have people out of work and the Employment Security Commission about to run out of money again for unemployment checks.”
 
State legislators should start thinking about why they’re in Columbia in the first place – to make a positive difference in people’s lives, not to enjoy the trappings of power for power’s sake. Instead of fiddling with different silos of state government, they should start looking at what’s best for the state as a whole. It might be time to again review our Palmetto Priorities offered earlier this year:
 
  • Add and retain 10,000 small business jobs a year.
  • Cut the state’s dropout rate.
  • Increase the cigarette tax.
  • Ensure affordable and accessible health care.
  • Adopt a state energy policy.
  • Remove special interest tax exemptions.
  • Reform and stabilize the state’s tax structure.
  • Increase voter registration.
  • Reduce the prison population through alternative sentencing.
  • Strengthen bridges and upgrade roads.
  • Invigorate the political system.
You can learn more about these priorities at: www.statehousereport.com/priorities.htm.
 
Spotlight

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My Turn

Space for vent

If you want some space to blow off some hot air, consider sending something to MY TURN, our weekly op-ed feature.  We reserve the right to edit for length and clarity. One submission allowed per month. Submission of a My Turn comment grants permission to us to reprint. Please keep your comment to 600 words or less:
 
 
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Feedback

Enjoys the Report

To Statehouse Report:

I often appreciate how you weave in ‘non-political’  historical information into your Statehouse Report. I suspect you are an appreciator of the finer qualities of our South. I just read a lovely article written by Charles Seabrook on favorite southern trees posted at Like The Dew, and thought you might enjoy it. Charlie was the science and environmental writer for years at the AJC.  As the article indicates, he grew up in SC on John’s Island and has a great fondness for the gifts of the state. Thought you might enjoy the story.

-- June Deen, Lawrenceville, Ga.

Scorecard

Up, down and in-between

Toal. Yes, it’s probably a bully move to stop foreclosure sales of Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac mortgaged homes until the Obama stimulus package helps out, because families in homes are always better than kids in shelters. More: Post and Courier.
 
Swine flu. So far, 29 reported cases in South Carolina; the good news is that outside of the elderly and the already weakened, it’s kinda just … the flu. More: Greenville News.

Craigslist. S.C. Attorney General Henry McMaster threatened to charge “Craig” for not doing enough to remove sex worker advertising and solicitation on Craigslist’s South Carolina portal; but can he do anything about all these darn pop-ups? More: The State.

Payday lending. Finish the beast: Come up with a new law that allows for it in a limited sense, and then tell the industry vultures who’d been gouging the poor they’ll have to go into something less addictive for big profits … like crystal meth.
 
SPA. First they swear they’re not trying to lure new train lines to its North Charleston port facility, upsetting neighborhoods, and then this email surfaced.  More: Greenville News.
 
Coal ash. One out of 50 South Carolinians living next to one of the state’s 200 ponds that have coal ash could get cancer; the Bush Administration knew it and apparently sat on the report. Good move, nimrods.  More: The Post and Courier
 
MMA. Hey, video poker, biker rallies and payday lending just weren’t tacky enough; let’s back a law in the Senate that allows for professional mixed martial arts (e.g. Ultimate Fighter). Can anyone say, “Myrtle Beach?”

Stegelin

Yeah, that's the ticket


Also from Stegelin: 5/14/24 | 4/17 | 4/10 | 4/3 | 3/27 

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/.