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ISSUE 12.27
Jul. 05, 2013

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12/04 | 11/27 | 11/20 | 11/13

Index

News :
Reforming alimony
Legislative Agenda :
Nada. Zip. Zilch.
Commentary :
South Carolina keeps treading water
Spotlight :
S.C. Coalition for Healthy Families
Feedback :
Got a beef? Send a letter.
Scorecard :
D'Heck with DHEC?
Stegelin :
Walking a mile in his ...
Megaphone :
Good point
Tally Sheet :
Search S.C. legislative bills
Encyclopedia :
Palmetto Trail

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EDITOR'S NOTE

Shorter edition

With this being the long July 4 weekend, we're offering only an abbreviated edition this weekend to take advantage of the holiday.  Next week, we'll be back up to full strength. 
 
Have fun and be safe out there.

NUMBER OF THE WEEK

7

That’s where the state ranks from the top in the nation for overall highway performance and efficiency, according to a new study by the Reason Foundation. Why? The state is making the most of its small budget. Wonder if the report authors ever felt some of the potholes along our highways and byways?  More.

MEGAPHONE

Good point

“Not enforcing the law is not the same as there not being a law. We need to understand whether or not their intent was to completely abolish the program or just not enforce it.”

-- Tim Stewart, general counsel for Medical Services of America, on the end-run conflict between DHEC having to enforce a law but having no money to do it. More.

TALLY SHEET

Search S.C. legislative bills

With the legislature adjourned until next year, the next time bills will be introduced is in late November or early December with pre-filing for the 2014.  For now, you can look at bills filed in 2013 to determine what's so far in the hopper for 2014:

ENCYCLOPEDIA

Palmetto Trail

The Palmetto Trail is South Carolina's first cross-state recreational trail. It is designed as an easy to moderate hiking and mountain-biking trail. When complete, the more than four-hundred-mile mountains-to the-sea trail will link Oconee State Park, near Walhalla, with the Intracoastal Waterway at Buck Hall Recreation Area, near Awendaw. Enthusiasts may choose to hike or bike the entire trail or accomplish one or two "passages" at a time.

Along the Palmetto Trail users visit South Carolina's forests, parks, historic sites, wildlife refuges, the State House, a military base, and a variety of private and corporate lands. Highlights of the trail include open vistas of the Intracoastal Waterway, Lake Moultrie, the Wateree River, and landscapes ranging from rolling farmlands to mountaintops. There are waterfalls, boardwalks, historic sites, small towns, and barbeque restaurants. Hikers and bikers may see ospreys, eagles, deer, turkeys, alligators, and a variety of warblers, herons, snakes, turtles, butterflies, dragonflies, trees, and wildflowers.

The vision for the Palmetto Trail began in 1994 through the efforts of the nonprofit Palmetto Conservation Foundation, working with the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism. The trail is supported by the General Assembly, numerous public and private landowners and land managers, and corporate and private contributions. Trail construction has been aided by the many land managers, the AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps, the South Carolina National Guard, Santee Cooper, Boy Scouts of America, and many volunteer groups and individuals.

Excerpted from the entry by Tony Bebber. 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

Reforming alimony

Group trying to update divorce payment system

By Andy Brack, editor and publisher

JULY 5, 2013 -- Divorced South Carolinians who pay alimony for years say they’re missing out on what America celebrated Thursday -- “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” the words of freedom chiseled in the Declaration of Independence.

To fix the problem, they’re trying to change the law.

Last year, the South Carolina Alimony Reform coalition got a quiet but successful start when Gov. Nikki Haley signed a bill into law that was introduced just four months earlier. That bill, H. 4738, made it easier for divorced retirees paying alimony to get a hearing to get payments reduced when their incomes went down after retiring.

Income can change dramatically in retirement, said the bill’s chief sponsor, Rep. Jerry Govan, D-Orangeburg.

For example, he said, state employees who retire after 30 years get just over 50 percent in pension payment compared to what they earned on the job. But those who are divorced and pay alimony have had a tough time getting their payments reduced when they start earning less, he said.

“You can imagine that’s a big shift and for someone to be paying [alimony] at the same level, it creates a heavy burden and hardship,” Govan said.

Emboldened by the 2012 victory, the coalition worked with Govan this year to introduce a broader alimony reform measure. H. 4180, introduced May 21, would change the law on how cohabitation is viewed so that someone receiving alimony might lose it if he or she was in a continuing relationship and maintained a common household. Under the current law, “continued cohabitation” occurs if people live in a romantic relationship for 90 or more days.

But people often “game the system,” Govan said, so they can keep getting alimony. For example, two people might live together most of the time, but take a weekend off every three months so they were not actually living together for 90 days in a row and, in turn, not be considered living in “continued cohabitation.”

“We’re not against alimony,” said S.C. Alimony Reform’s Wyman Oxner of Orangeburg. “We’re against permanent alimony. Wives sometimes don’t remarry because they don’t want to lose alimony.

“Our ultimate goal is to end permanent alimony -- to have a limit on it so it stops somewhere before death.”

Oxner is a retired UPS truck driver who said he pays alimony and has since remarried. He added that having a continuing alimony commitment made it difficult for a paying former spouse to get on with his or her life.

In an email that led to this story, Oxner wrote, “It [alimony] is terrible for second marriages and, in many cases, no one wants to marry someone who is handcuffed to lifelong payments. This is the only payment in America that never ends except by death or remarriage of the receiver of alimony payments. It is unfair and unjust.”

Govan said he understood how divorce and alimony were touchy subjects. He said he was not trying to create a firestorm. But he added that didn’t mean it wasn’t time to look at alimony reform.

“It [alimony] does affect people’s lives in more ways than many people think about,” he said. “Particularly in South Carolina, a lot of the statutes are rather antiquated and have not been changed in a number of years.”

Govan, who serves as an associate minister at his church, emphasized he is a strong supporter of marriage. But sometimes marriages don’t work out, he added. Furthermore, society has also dramatically changed, he pointed out. No longer are men generally the sole breadwinner for a family. Women work and increasingly are earning more than their husbands. A May 29 story in The New York Times illustrated that four in 10 American households with kids under 18 included a mother who was the sole or primary breadwinner, a figure that has quadrupled in the last 50 years.

Govan said he would continue to work with Oxner’s group and others to push reasonable alimony reform. Also looking at the issue is the S.C. Bar, which recently appointed a study committee in its family law section. 

“Because the study committee is just undertaking its review and has not developed any recommendations, we would not have further comment at this time,” said S.C. Bar spokesman Leigh Thomas.

Legislative Agenda

Nada. Zip. Zilch.

There were no meetings scheduled for the House, Senate or committees in the coming week at publication time.

Commentary

South Carolina keeps treading water

By Andy Brack, editor and publisher

JULY 5, 2013 -- Unless South Carolina leaders change how they do things, our state is going to stay on the bottom of lists compared to other states.

That again is clear in the new annual Kids Count report that showed the Palmetto State dropped from 43rd to 45th from the top overall in its rank for the well-being of children who grow up here.

The low ranking, however, doesn’t mean South Carolina makes no progress. Today’s children are a lot better off than kids growing up 40 years ago. Schools certainly are better, not only because most are air-conditioned but because the curriculum is better, teachers are better and students have more tools, such as computers. Our economic well-being is better because the poor have more safety nets. 

But it’s unclear whether child health is really better because of today’s predominance of junk food, empty calories and lack of activity around many homes. At least teen pregnancy and infant mortality rates have been dropping of late, which indicates positive change. And, people in South Carolina have access to a lot more sophisticated medicines, research and tools, such as MRIs, than they did a half century ago.

So the story isn’t all bad when you look at how South Carolina is compared to how it was many years ago.  But the state’s dysfunctions show up when you compare it to how other states are doing.  Why? Because just as we are working hard to make improvements, other  states are trying to improve too. And while we all get better, South Carolina doesn’t improve enough to get out of the cellar and away from the hangover of a century of Southern neglect after the Civil War.

Sue Williams, chief executive officer of the Children’s Trust of South Carolina, explains it simply: “Until can get that sustained commitment [for real change], we keep treading water.”

It will take a visionary strategy, leadership and money to create change that will help children. Just look at how South Carolina became a leading manufacturing state. That didn’t happen overnight. It occurred because successive governors and legislatures invested in the technical education system for decades to provide better job skills for unskilled workers who had only known textile mills or farming. That’s the kind of commitment it is going to take to move South Carolina out of the doghouse and ahead in rankings like the four criteria measured by Kids Count:

Economic Well-Being: South Carolina dropped from 34th nationally to 44th nationally from 2012 to 2013 as the number of children in poverty increased to 297,000, children living in households that spend more than 30 percent on housing grew to 395,000, and teens from 16 to 19 not attending school or working grew to 30,000.

“Growing up in poverty is one of the greatest threats to healthy child development,” noted the Kids Count report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. “Poverty and financial stress can impede children’s cognitive development and their ability to learn.” Note: The Kids Count data lags current conditions because it is from 2011. Williams added the state’s recent success in recruiting more jobs, spearheaded by Gov. Nikki Haley, may help turn around this ranking to “provide the relief and financial security our families and children need.”

Education: The state’s rank dropped by one position to 41st. While there are more children attending preschool and some students have increased reading and math proficiencies, other states still outpace South Carolina. In other words, we’re falling behind more.

Health: South Carolina dropped four slots to 44th in the country despite making progress in having fewer low birthweight babies, kids without health insurance, child deaths and teens who abused alcohol or drugs. Again, other states outpaced our improvements, which lowered our ranking.

Family and community: Our rank stayed even at 43rd, but we have to note that more kids live in high-poverty areas and grow up in single-familyparent homes.

Bottom line: Our state leaders must craft a bold vision for South Carolina that stops saddling children with conditions that cripple their future. To get off of the bottom of lists, we have to have exponential progress, not incremental change.

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

Spotlight

S.C. Coalition for Healthy Families

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

Feedback

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Scorecard

D'Heck with DHEC?

Showdown: It’s probably not such a bad thing that there may be a showdown for the top slot at the S.C. Supreme Court pitting long-time Chief Justice Jean Toal against Justice Costa Pleicones. 

DiGeorgio: Hats off to Anthony DiGiorgio for more than 20 years of quality public service as the president of Winthrop University.

Certificates of need: Is the fracas over DHEC having the responsibility to enforce a law on issuing certificates of need for hospitals and the reality of no money to fund enforcement going to lead to a bigger constitutional problem? We guess there’s some bigger fireworks ahead because the law is the law, regardless of whether money is vetoed to fund it. More.

Vick: A state judge denied a motion that would have caused DUI charges against Rep. Ted Vick, D-Chesterfield to go away.  More.

Charleston: First, Charleston is named the best travel city in the country by Travel + Leisure magazine. And then the same magazine names it one of the nation’s snobbiest cities. Hmmm. More | And more.

Rain: O.K. We’ve gotten the picture. You want us to have wet weather and to fix the drought. Can it stop soon?

DHEC: The state Department of Health and Environmental Control is poised to loosen 20 sets of environmental rules that have protected state resources. Dumb idea, except for corporations. Thanks Nikki and Catherine for your -- what do you call it? -- stewardship?  More.

Stegelin

Walking a mile in his ...


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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/.