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ISSUE 12.25
Jun. 21, 2013

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

Index

News :
Looking for Mr. Veto
Legislative Agenda :
Already headed back?
Radar Screen :
Hollings to get French honor
Palmetto Politics :
Road to ruin
Commentary :
New party has ideas that could bring change
Spotlight :
Southeastern Institute of Manufacturing and Technology
My Turn :
Let's not shrug at Big Brother
Feedback :
Don't rationalize reports; use them to improve
Scorecard :
From elections to First Steps
Stegelin :
Road work
Number of the Week :
$22.8 billion
Megaphone :
Building from the bottom
Tally Sheet :
Search SC legislative bills
Encyclopedia :
Pawleys Island

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NUMBER OF THE WEEK

$22.8 billion

That’s how big state government’s total budget would be for 2013-14 if the plan the General Assembly sent this week to Gov. Nikki Haley goes untouched.

MEGAPHONE

Building from the bottom

“I think this shows that South Carolina is outrunning our peers in manufacturing and that we’re successfully growing the manufacturing economy in our state.”

– State Commerce Secretary Bobby Hitt, on news that South Carolina led the southeast in economic growth last year, and was above the national average. More.

TALLY SHEET

Search SC legislative bills

While several congratulatory resolutions were introduced during the sine die legislative session this week, no substantive bills were offered.  Look at what's in the hopper for 2014:

ENCYCLOPEDIA

Pawleys Island

Situated on the Waccamaw Neck in Georgetown County, Pawleys Island is one of the oldest summer resorts on the east coast. In the eighteenth century rice planters, their families, and slaves stayed in cottages of cypress and pine near the saltwater to escape malaria. By 1822 cottages appeared on the island, and by 1858 eleven stood on this four-mile-long, one-quarter-mile-wide stretch of sand.

The decline of rice caused a rise in timber harvesting, and Atlantic Coast Lumber Company bought land on the neck. In 1901 the company ran a railroad from the river to the beach, bought or built houses, and created an employee retreat. Others opened homes to paying guests. Beginning in 1905, northerners bought river plantations as winter retreats.

In the early twentieth century U.S. Highway 17, connecting New York to Miami, passed through the community. The Hammock Shop opened on the highway by 1939, as did restaurants and stores. Marlow's Store sold items ranging from caviar to flip-flops. Area residents once earned a living farming, fishing, logging, or commuting to the paper mill or to motels.

In 1954 Hurricane Hazel destroyed many houses on the island, yet spurred an interest in the resort. In the 1980s plantations were developed as golf communities and many visitors made the island their permanent home. In 1985 the town of Pawleys Island incorporated. Hurricane Hugo in 1989 brought major challenges to homeowners and businesses on the Waccamaw Neck.

Pawleys retains an "arrogantly shabby" uniqueness. Creek docks, porches, and lookouts define its skyline. A mixed culture of natives and newcomers and of affluence and poverty, Pawleys has strong traditions. The spirit of the "Gray Man," a local legend, is said to appear to warn islanders of impending storms in this barefoot paradise.

-- Excerpted from the entry by Lee G. Brockington. 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

Looking for Mr. Veto

Haley to spend weekend considering budget

By Bill Davis, senior editor

JUNE 21, 2013 – Gov. Nikki Haley has an interesting decision to make this weekend: to veto or not to veto. Or more specifically: how much to veto and what gets red ink splashed over it.

Earlier this week, the General Assembly met in a special session to finish work on its state budget package for the 2013-14 fiscal year. The result was mish-mash of priorities and compromises that weighed in at close to $23 billion.

It’s a combination of $6.7 billion in state tax collections, $8.4 billion in “other funds” like fines, fees and tuition, and the rest – nearly $7.7 billion – coming from federal coffers.

Chatter of how aggressive Haley would get with her veto pen ginned up after the House this week narrowly voted for the budget with a two-vote cushion. In the Senate, it was a more robust win, 39-5.

The thinking, according to sources and observers, is that Haley may become emboldened because of the House vote and go “veto-crazy,” knowing that a divided House cannot stand against her veto pen.

Or she could become conservative in vetoes, knowing that she is facing a reelection next year and every potential veto could lose her votes, according to political scientist Scott Huffmon, who oversees Winthrop’s influential polling center.

Keeping mum

For now, Haley's office isn't commenting, despite there being a lot of questions. Will she, for example, cut low-lying fruit – like funding for local museums – or cut to a certain budget number?

Statehouse Report asked how the governor felt about the growth rate of state government, and if this will be a year that she focuses on an overall percentage reduction via veto? If so, how much should we look for? $10 million to $20 million or whatever? Or if she would she focus on specific cuts, like to line items in proviso 118.17, where there are hundreds of thousands being requested for local museums.

Haley's office wouldn't answer several questions about her reaction to the legislature's budget, only saying: “The governor laid out her budget priorities in her executive budget, which you have, and we’ll get you the governor’s veto message as soon as it’s ready.”

Not keeping mum was Senate Caucus director Phil Bailey, who sees a mixed bag of political blunders and successes emerging from this year’s GOP-lead budget debate. Bailey, echoing numerous past comments, said the biggest failure of this budget plan was the choice not to expand Medicaid via Obamacare matching funds.

Democrats in both chambers lamented the sliver of the budget that won’t be going for state employee raises, even though state tax revenue collections are continuing to grow and recent years’ increases were eaten up in matching cost increase for health care insurance premiums.

Making too much of House vote?

Greg Foster, spokesman for House Speaker Bobby Harrell (R-Charleston), said that too much weight has been given to the vote in the House, noting it was more reflective more on a school funding issue that had been included in a third-round amendment of the budget.

That funding issue, allowing private organizations to receive state credits for paying the private school tuition for children with handicaps, is one of the thornier issues in the legislature’s budget.

Critics contend it is the state’s real first steps toward a voucher system, while supporters contend that it’s about taking the best care of a small group of young students who need specialized education better provided in some communities in private settings.

Haley, with Libertarian and tea party roots, is not expected to offer a veto on this issue, which can be interpreted as providing additional “choice” to families.

Another education wrinkle added this year may draw her veto ire and that’s expansion of the state’s nascent 4-year-old kindergarten programs. Originally only offered in 19 counties due to an ongoing federal educational fairness lawsuit, the legislature would greatly expand the program to more counties.

And this is where Haley’s sense of balance is the key. If she allows it to pass through unmolested, she could anger her base, which has little love for expanding government or its programs.

But if she were to axe it, then she could be perceived as “mean,” according to observers, and alienate voters in counties who could have benefited from the expansion.

“I’ve got to think that she will be looking closely at her vetoes, as they are more likely to be upheld,” said Huffmon of Haley’s probable strategy. “I’ve got to think that she is balancing what she wants to take out versus keeping every potential voter happy.”

One of Haley’s past strategies has been to cut a specific portion out of budgets with her veto pen, in a tip of the hat to her supporters who fret about the pace of state government’s growth and expansion.

Foster said while there has not been a specific amount cut in the past, he has seen a pattern in which she cuts back to an undisclosed spending threshold.

Crystal ball: There is no way Haley is so naïve to think there won’t be a price to pay for wholesale slashing come next year’s election. That being said, there’s no need being naïve to think that she isn’t going to take advantage of a split House, her mentor’s Mark Sanford’s rebirth and her bully pulpit to draw some budget blood.

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

Legislative Agenda

Already headed back?

With the governor’s veto messages expected at any time, legislators are planning to return on Wednesday to the Statehouse to deal with any vetoes.
Radar Screen

Hollings to get French honor

Retired U.S. Sen. Fritz Hollings is scheduled to receive the highest honor from France, the Legion of Honor, during a Monday afternoon ceremony at the Dock Street Theatre in Charleston.
 
During World War II, Hollings served as an officer in the U.S. Army's 323rd and 457th Artillery units.  He received a Bronze Star for meritorious service for support of combat operations in France and Germany.  He also served in northern Africa.  Hollings, a former South Carolina governor, served in the U.S. Senate from 1966 to 2005.
Palmetto Politics

Road to ruin

Don’t listen to your elected officials in Columbia if they call the 2013-14 fiscal year budget a “win” for state roads.

Currently, the state Department of Transportation has identified nearly $30 billion in needed projects, repairs and maintenance to the state’s infrastructure, which includes bridges. There’s already about $10 bill tabbed for roadwork, leaving about $19 billion unfunded. This year, the legislature included a $50 million line item in its budget package, which can grow to $500 million over 10 years through bonded debt. It sounds like a ton of money until you do the math and realize that it’s “only” a half-billion, and represents roughly 2.5 percent of the needed amount, leaving about $18.5 billion.

Huzzah?  Anyone?

Commentary

New party has ideas that could bring change

By Andy Brack, editor and publisher

JUNE 21, 2013 – Two former gubernatorial candidates – one Republican, another Democratic – are evangelizing across the state about the benefits of a new political party for South Carolina, the American Party.

Oscar Lovelace, a Newberry doctor, and Jim Rex, a former state superintendent, say they're frustrated with how our two-party system fails to perform and, instead, ends up perpetuating the same petty politics that have limited the state for decades.

“This system is not going to improve if we leave it up to the duopoly,” or two parties, Rex said at a recent Charleston organizational meeting.  Lovelace added, “If gridlock doesn't work in your home or your business, why should we expect it to work in our government?”

Both men, who said they realized that they agreed on a lot more than they differed when they got to know each other, pointed to multiple problems in government at state and national levels:  the corrupting influence of money, legislative logjams, career politicians, partisanship and the lack of real  transparency and accountability.

“Many Americans have abrogated their responsibility of citizenship – and that is to take ownership of our government and make it work for the common good,” Lovelace said.

He and Rex believe a new party that focuses on four fundamentals can start to bring sanity to the system.  The American Party's four principles include:
  • Legislating and governing for the middle by finding common ground and placing the interest of the nation and states before party allegiance and the desire to be re-elected.

  • Increasing the nation's economic global competitiveness.

  • Curbing career politicians through term limits, limiting the influence of money supporting incumbents and encouraging more people to engage in public service.

  • Holding political parties accountable for candidates and office-holders by punishing violations of campaign fundraising policies and unethical or illegal behavior.
“We really need to be able to have adult conversations,” Rex said.

In many ways, focusing on candidates who agree to principles is a way to inject the rigor of a parliamentary system's loyalty to the party over individual hogging of the limelight, although Rex said American Party legislators would be able to vote their consciences.  He emphasized, though, that the party would expect them to spend most of their time focusing on big issues, not the petty.

Term limits, viewed as problematic in some states because of the empowerment of an unelected management class that really runs things instead of elected officials, would be disruptive, Rex agreed, to the current system but would be better on balance than not.  Why?  Because it would inject new people and ideas into the system and get rid of career politicians bent on reelection.  

Rex also emphasized that the new American Party wasn't calling for a litmus test in its desire to be responsible for good candidates and office-holders (although it sure sounds like there is some kind of undefined hurdle a person has to jump to qualify).  

“We are not proposing a litmus test for candidates, but the average McDonald's puts more thought and effort into recruiting,selecting and preparing its servers than either party does in providing the American people with its slate of candidates,” Rex said.  “A party is (or should be) judged ultimately by the quality of its candidates-specifically their behavior,their efforts and their results.

“This party is 'warranting' its candidates more than any party has previously. We want our 'recalls' to be rare in occurrence and few in number.”

To be able to offer candidates next year, the American Party has to get 10,000 signatures from voters.  We hope it gets them and shakes up things a little.

And while the politics of now and the state legislature are pretty easy targets in our hyper-partisan world, does this new American Party have a chance?

Maybe, but only if enough people get behind the effort and fund it so it can compete.  In South Carolina, state of the stagnant, how can it hurt?
Spotlight

Southeastern Institute of Manufacturing and Technology

The public spiritedness of our underwriters allows us to bring Statehouse Report to you at no cost.  In today's issue, we heartily welcome a new underwriter, the Southeastern Institute of Manufacturing and Technology, which is the Southeast’s premier technical service provider and training facility for industry. SiMT’s mission is to provide customers with strategic training and manufacturing technology solutions that maximize workforce productivity in advanced manufacturing environments. SiMT’s state-of-the-art facilities are located in Florence, S.C., on a 146-acre campus adjacent to Florence-Darlington Technical College.
My Turn

Let's not shrug at Big Brother

By Victoria Middleton
Executive director, ACLU of South Carolina
Special to Statehouse Report


JUNE 21, 2013 – Should we simply shrug at Big Brother in an era when people post so much information about themselves online?  

Are we OK with being a “surveillance society,” or do we value a truly open civil society?  

Do we want robust oversight of government, or are we indifferent to state and federal agencies’ tracking us and monitoring our speech and activities? 

The debate unfolding in Washington over the National Security Agency’s collection of “metadata" -- data that reveals who people talk to, for how long, how often, and possibly from where;  data that allows the government to paint a detailed picture of Americans' private lives – has bearing on us closer to home in South Carolina.

In many cities around our state, surveillance cameras are proliferating, not only in high crime areas but in public parks and gathering spaces.  Many people shrug it off:  “If I’m not doing anything wrong, why should I care if the police are watching me?”  There’s no question that in a serious crime, where there is probable cause and police are searching for suspects, surveillance tools can appropriately be deployed to solve a crime. 

Allowing permanent warrantless surveillance of the mass of citizens who are law-abiding is another matter.  It is a basic tenet of our society that we do not watch people just in case they do something wrong.

It is widely agreed that surveillance devices do not deter criminals and terrorists.  Studies have shown that video surveillance can be effective in solving crimes, but it is largely ineffective in preventing violent crimes.  Even more troubling is the fact that blanket and suspicionless monitoring grows the intelligence haystack – the vast accumulation of data on people -- without making the needle any easier to find.

Earlier this month, the national ACLU filed a lawsuit challenging the federal government’s abuse of Section 215 of the Patriot Act, because staffers at the ACLU naturally use the phone—a lot—to talk about sensitive and confidential topics with clients, legislators, whistleblowers, and ACLU members.  The nature of the ACLU's work—in areas like access to reproductive services, racial discrimination, the rights of immigrants, national security, and more—means that many of the people who call the ACLU wish to keep their contact with the organization confidential. Yet if the government is collecting a vast trove of ACLU phone records—and has been doing so for as long as seven years—many people may think twice before communicating with us.

Technology nearly always outstrips our efforts to regulate it.  And when the government says, as it has this week, “Just trust us,” we need to worry.  We the people need to have more information to decide whether government oversight of these programs is adequate and trustworthy – or not.  It is vital to our democracy that we have policies in place and oversight of government agencies’ surveillance of citizens.

That is why the ACLU of South Carolina welcomes state legislators’ proposals to provide oversight on the use of unmanned surveillance vehicles (UAVs), commonly called drones, by local law enforcement agencies.  One bill, H. 3514, would put in place a system of rules to ensure that we can enjoy the benefits of drone technology without bringing us closer to a “surveillance society,” in which everyone’s movements are monitored, tracked, recorded, and scrutinized by authorities.  

The bill would allow law enforcement to use drones only where a court has agreed that there are grounds to believe they will collect evidence relating to a specific instance of criminal wrongdoing, or in emergencies.  H. 3514 would also require local governing bodies’ approval before law enforcement agencies acquire drones in order to ensure that communities have the opportunity to choose take advantage of drones’ positive capabilities – for example, finding missing hikers or fighting forest fires – and so that when law enforcement agencies do use drones, they do so with their communities’ buy-in and support.

Not everyone remembers the secret files that J. Edgar Hoover kept on civil rights leaders or the Watergate-era eavesdropping on political opponents, but even the current generation of social media fans may come to have reason to worry about the government monitoring their private lives.  

The good news is that sales of Orwell’s classic “1984” are on the rise.

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

Don't rationalize reports; use them to improve

To the editor:

I appreciate the frustration expressed in your June 14 story about the markedly different impression that two studies for Education Week, “Quality Counts” and “Diploma Counts,” give about education in South Carolina.  Mr. Ragley is perceptive and correct in pointing out the discrepancy in how data is weighted for many of these reports and that it measures mostly inputs and not outcomes.  

A case in point, South Carolina gets a B+ for the teaching profession.  Unfortunately we don’t get a B+ for the teaching profession because we have so many great teachers as evidenced by superb results.  We get a B+ for having policies and procedures that might produce great teaching. And the same is true for all the rest of the factors except one.  That one is the D+ in student achievement.  If we really had a B+ teacher corps, we also would have B+ student achievement results.  Either we are over-grading our teacher corps or under-grading our achievement.  If we use the “Diploma Counts” report to triangulate this data, we would have to give serious consideration to the former.

The weaknesses of these reports notwithstanding, we do ourselves and our children a great disservice by attempting to alibi and rationalize what they tell us.  Jim Collins wrote in his book “Good to Great” that top-level leadership confronts and causes the organization they lead to confront the brutal facts. Both of the reports you write about present brutal facts and should pose lots of questions for us that, if  confronted and answered honestly and fearlessly, would help us assess our performance and direct us in more productive directions.

We are long overdue in South Carolina for having a laser-like focus on outcomes, not inputs, and for insisting – DEMANDING – that outcomes improve for every child.
– Jon Butzon, Summerville, S.C.
Lots of folks not required to file

To the editor:

Many of those, especially people over 65, who pay no tax also aren't required to file. If they now must do that to pay a minimum, a large part of that $25 might be used to cover the cost of having the SCDOR process the returns, especially if people mail them in as I do.

By the way, many of those who pay no SC tax are those of us who have much of our income earned in another state. That's offset by all the North Carolinians and Georgians who work and pay taxes in SC. Will you make them pay a minimum? What about students who don't earn enough to need to file?

Those are examples that occurred to me in just a few minutes; others will have many more. In the 35+ years I've been preparing taxes, very few attempts at tax simplification have done anything but add complexities. That doesn't mean that I favor a flat tax, but it does make me sympathize with the reasons behind that drive.
– Amelia Dias, Charleston, S.C.

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Scorecard

From elections to First Steps

Ballotgate. Gov. Nikki Haley signed into law a bill designed to avoid future election snafus that plagued last year’s cycle. More.

DHEC. State DHEC Director Catherine Templeton is hounding the feds for $50 million for clean water projects she said they’re withholding from the state. Hmmm.  So they want this federal money, but not anything from the feds to expand Medicaid.   More.

S.C . State.  This week, its accreditation is threatened. Enough already. On the plus side: it's new president is just getting started. What a welcome.  More.

First Steps. The statewide early education program has serious questions to answer about its practices, according to a new state audit.  Read the full audit.

Vandalism. Someone defaced Howard’s Rock at Clemson? Someone has done gone and done it now! Hell hath no fury like people who pay $30 a year! More.

Stegelin

Road work


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Senior Editor: Bill Davis
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© 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/.