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ISSUE 12.37
Sep. 13, 2013

RECENT ISSUES:
8/22 | 8/15 | 8/08 | 8/01

Index

News :
Storm brews at DSS
Legislative Agenda :
Nothing on tap
Palmetto Politics :
Making the grade
Commentary :
State leaders should be ashamed of themselves
Spotlight :
Maybank Industries
My Turn :
S.C. manufacturing in spotlight at October regional event
Feedback :
We should consider reaching out
Scorecard :
From kids to negativity
Stegelin :
On personal gain
Megaphone :
Gunning for more business
Tally Sheet :
Search S.C. legislative bills
Encyclopedia :
Aiken-Rhett House

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NUMBER OF THE WEEK

50

That’s how many years ago on Wednesday that the University of South Carolina became racially integrated, perhaps creating a happier reason to commemorate 9-11. More.

MEGAPHONE

Gunning for more business

“…[P]rospects need not fear legislative or regulatory actions that would make them feel unwelcome.”

-- State Rep. Alan Clemmons (R-Myrtle Beach), celebrating the announcement by two arms manufacturers that were going to open plants in South Carolina because they felt the gun-control laws in their own states were too strict. 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

Aiken-Rhett House

The Aiken-Rhett House, located in a block-long lot at 48 Elizabeth Street, is one of the most historically significant properties in Charleston. The house and its outbuildings are one of the most complete and best preserved urban domestic complexes of the antebellum era.

John Robinson, a wealthy merchant, began construction of the house in the suburb of Wraggborough around 1818. By the early 1830s, the house and lot had become the property of William Aiken, Jr., a congressman, governor, and one of the wealthiest planters in South Carolina.

Aiken dramatically altered the property, moving the entrance from Judith Street to Elizabeth Street, adding an eastern wing, enlarging the kitchen and slave quarters, and building a chicken coop, cowshed, and privies. In the 1850s he renovated these structures and added a northwest wing to house his art collection. With the exception of the cowshed, all of these additions and outbuildings have not only survived but also have remained largely unaltered since the 1850s.

Following the death of Aiken and his wife, the property was inherited by his daughter and her family, the Rhetts. In 1975, descendants transferred the site to the Charleston Museum, which operated it as a museum and planned to restore the house to its antebellum splendor.

Twenty years later, however, the museum sold the site to Historic Charleston Foundation (HCF) for $600,000. The building's unrestored and unaltered condition attracted HCF, which saw in it a unique opportunity to understand and present antebellum urban life and the African American heritage of Charleston to the public. The foundation has no plans to restore or furnish the Aiken-Rhett House complex and instead invites visitors to "marvel at what survives from the ninetieth century rather than search for what is missing."

-- 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

Storm brews at DSS

Another state agency faces scrutiny

By Bill Davis, senior editor

SEPT. 13, 2013 -- Storm clouds are forming over the state Department of Social Services as a powerful state senator has begun probing its personnel decisions, including the firing of a long-time deputy director and a $3 million contract to an out-of-state consulting team.

S.C. Sen. Brad Hutto (RD-Orangeburg) confirmed this week he met with the cabinet agency’s former deputy director, Linda S. Martin, who was fired last week after more than three decades of service.

Hutto said he was disturbed by what he thought represented a major loss of institutional knowledge at the agency. GOP Gov. Nikki Haley’s administration has drawn praise and criticism for its overhauling of several state agencies during her tenure in office.

Hutto said he was interested to see if there could be a link between the ongoing departure of seasoned state employees and some of the state’s ongoing problems.

The result this time, according to Hutto, was another ingredient into what he termed Haley’s “alphabet soup of incompetencies.” Haley’s administration has drawn criticism for its cabinet agencies snafus:

  • Department of Revenue (DOR): The massive computer hacking scandal last year.

  • Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC): The “botched” tuberculosis response this year.

  • S.C. State Ports Authority(SCSPA): Haley’s support of dredging efforts in Georgia for the Savannah River.

  • Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS): Hundreds of millions of dollars in improper payouts.

Fired, not retired, former official says

In an interview, Martin said she met with current DSS head Lillian Koller last week, the morning after the Labor Day holiday, and was told that Koller wanted to take the agency in a “different direction.”

Martin said she was given the opportunity to retire but declined, saying she wanted to make sure the record reflected what she said actually happened -- that she was being fired. 

Koller declined to comment on Martin’s termination, but released an internal memo from Sept. 3, which included thanks for Martin’s time in state government, the announcement of her replacement and the first phase in the department’s transition.

Another long-term DSS official, Frank Oakley, who had overseen the agency’s work in Charleston County, was similarly let go recently after 26-and-a-half years of service. Oakley declined to comment for this story, referring all questions to his lawyer Lewis Cromer, whom he said was “in negotiations in a wrongful termination lawsuit” on his behalf.

An enviable career

Martin has had an enviable public career, working for governors from both parties, dating back to then-Gov. James Edwards and on through to Gov. Nikki Haley.

Along the way, Martin worked many jobs in the agency, starting out as a food stamp caseworker in 1977, winning the Order of the Palmetto in 1998 for her work on state welfare reform legislation, and even speaking at the Brookings Institute earlier this year. Recently, Martin garnered praise for helping to lead the agency’s push for transitioning over 17,000 South Carolinians from welfare roles to the workforce.

Martin retired from DSS under former director Kathleen Hayes (2007-11)  but returned to work after one day under the Teacher and Employee Retention Incentive (TERI) program. That program, started years ago to keep seasoned employees on the job, became controversial when the state pension fund lost billions and lawmakers agreed to end TERI by 2018.

 

Ahead at DSS

Koller wrote in her transition memo that the first step would be to place the Jobs Upfront Mean More Pay program into Martin’s former office. Additionally, the transition would require those to sign up for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, TANF, or food stamps, to immediately enroll into a state-run job-seeking program.

Hutto, meanwhile, is digging into the state’s online budget tools, implemented by Haley’s administration for added measures of transparency. He said he was surprised to find that DSS is spending what looks like to be substantial amounts of money for out-of-state contractors.

One of those contracts, inked at $3 million, was between the agency and a Maryland-based vendor to run a project at Winthrop University.

The ongoing, five-year contract appears to charge the university with providing support and training for the agency in meeting its goals related to getting jobs for “needy parents,” as well as support the state’s social services in “preventing out-of-wedlock” pregnancies,” among others.

Hutto said he wondered what these contractors, who could have less personally invested in South Carolina than a citizen, are providing that a state employee couldn’t also provide, perhaps at a costs savings.

A DSS spokesman was not able to get a response to Hutto’s questions by press time and efforts to reach the company and professor for comment were unsuccessful.

When asked if he had heard anything being amiss at DSS, Hutto’s colleague in the Senate, Sen. Thomas Alexander, (R-Walhalla), who chairs the Labor, Commerce, and Industry Committee, said he was not privy to the personnel issues in the agency.

Alexander said that he appreciated the work done by dedicated state employees and that there needed to be a “balance” between privatization, outside vendors and current employees, some on the cusp of retiring.

Alexander said he would be scheduling a preview meeting sometime within the next six weeks so legislators would have a better idea what the agency needs and is doing coming into the coming year.

Crystal ball: Cloudy, with a chance of meatballs. If Hutto’s “revelations” come to nothing, then his concerns could be branded as merely partisan jabbing in the lead-up to a gubernatorial election campaign. His colleague and ally in the Senate, Democrat Vincent Sheheen of Camden, has announced his candidacy for Haley’s office. Or if Hutto’s fears are confirmed, then the state could be on the road to supplanting qualified loyal experienced workers with political appointees more beholden to ideology than to the overall betterment of the state, according to one observer.

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

Legislative Agenda

Nothing on tap

There are no major state meetings scheduled for the coming week, as of publication time.

Palmetto Politics

Making the grade

The conservative S.C. Policy Council this week released its annual “Best and Worst of the General Assembly” report card. The libertarian leitmotif of personal freedom usurping governmental control is rife throughout the report.

According to the council, which many legislators claim has made the jump from policy research to aggressive Tea Party attack dog, the legislature has plenty to be ashamed of.

Namely, it says efforts to expand government spending and size and wasting time on irrelevant legislation (“Etiquette Day”) that would be better spent on crafting a budget. The council criticized increased regulations and creating a mental health database for gun background checks.

But the report card also gave praise for many things, too, including increased “school choice,” protection from Obamacare, working toward “zero-based” budgeting, strengthened transparency and ethics efforts, and attempting to prevent the implementation of federal “Common Core” education standards.

Commentary

State leaders should be ashamed of themselves

By Andy Brack, editor and publisher

SEPT. 13, 2013 -- You’ve really got to wonder whether South Carolina legislators, who refused to accept billions of free federal Medicaid dollars to expand the program for Obamacare, ever actually talked to poor people who would benefit.

Witness the heartbreaking, front-page story in The New York Times (“Insurance rolls to rise in state fighting plan,” Sept. 7) that showcased a Florence woman who doesn’t qualify for Medicaid and can’t afford to see doctors about two heart stents and a leg wound.

“If I could get Medicaid, I’d be the happiest person on earth,” Brenda B. Culick told the Times.  

But she can’t.  She doesn’t qualify, despite a household income of just $1,200 a month.  Why?  She’s not disabled and she doesn’t have dependent children.

When Obamacare starts signing up people for new health insurance next month, more than 400,000 people above the federal poverty level could get health insurance through a federal exchange, which will offer subsidized coverage in South Carolina through four federally-facilitated programs, each with different components that have met federal muster.

Federal officials hope that lots of those who sign up will be uninsured young people, a relatively healthy population whose subsidies and premiums will help pay for those with more chronic conditions.  Those who qualify for federal subsidies through the Affordable Care Act include people whose adjusted household incomes range from the poverty level to four times that amount.  The more they earn, the less they’ll get in subsidies.  People who earn more than four times the poverty rate can purchase coverage through the exchange if they wish.

In addition to this pool of people who will get coverage through the exchange, there are about 170,000 people in South Carolina who currently qualify for Medicaid, but don’t get it because they aren’t enrolled.  State officials reportedly are working to ensure those people get signed up.

Unfortunately because of the way the law works, the people who most need health insurance -- people whose household incomes are below poverty level -- are shut out thanks to S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley and the majority of the state legislature after they refused to accept the billions of free federal dollars to expand Medicaid to the truly poor.

In other words, they played politics with the lives of Brenda Culick and more than 200,000 people like her.  Why?  Despite what they say, it’s because they don’t want Barack Obama and his health insurance policy to be successful.  They’re not ostriches with their heads covered in the sand.  Instead, these so-called state leaders are actively working against South Carolina’s poor.  And who benefits?  Other states, which will share more of the free Medicaid money that the federal government is spending to make the health insurance system better.

S.C. Hospital Association officials says what’s happened to South Carolina’s poor has created a new coverage gap of more than 207,000 people in 40 counties.  Soon-to-be-updated Census data may show the number is really closer to 300,000 people.



Face it.  These people are in a poverty trap.  They don’t qualify for Medicaid because their income is too low and they don’t have children or a disability.  And to rub salt in the wound, they can’t get a subsidy because they don’t make enough money to be slightly above poverty.  Furthermore, if their employers cut their work hours to less than 30 per week, the employers don’t have to provide coverage under the rules of Obamacare.

Take a hypothetical case of a low-paid vendor who makes minimum wage ($7.25 per hour) and works 28 hours per week, instead of 40.  The employee would earn $203 weekly, which is $10,556 annually.  The federal poverty level for a one-person household is $11,490.   If that person worked 2.5 hours more per week, he or she would earn slightly more than the poverty level -- and would qualify for the federal subsidy.


South Carolina lawmakers who opposed Medicaid expansion should be ashamed of themselves.  And the hundreds of thousands of voters who will be impacted by their rash, hardhearted politics should remember next year at the polls.

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

Spotlight

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My Turn

S.C. manufacturing in spotlight at October regional event

By DENNIS BRAY
Special to Statehouse Report

SEPT. 13, 2013 -- Five Southeastern states – Kentucky, Tennessee, South Carolina, Georgia and North Carolina—rank among the top 16 states in the United State in new growth of manufacturing jobs. Ranked 12th in manufacturing job growth, South Carolina’s statistics alone paint a powerful portrait of a vital economic force in the nation, a state alive with advanced manufacturing enterprises and a vital workforce of talented workers.

This demonstrates how SOUTH-TEC, SME’s premier manufacturing industry showcase in the Southeast for innovation, knowledge and relationships, has selected its venue wisely, when it returns October 29 to October 31 to South Carolina. Greenville is a hotbed for advanced manufacturing by companies like Michelin, BMW and Lockheed Martin. Hundreds of exhibitors and thousands of attendees from business, education and government will gather at this major Southeastern center of manufacturing in search of knowledge about advanced techniques, productivity, new technologies and skilled workforce.

Bobby Hitt, South Carolina Commerce Secretary and former BMW executive, said he appreciates SOUTH-TEC for its recognition of South Carolina’s advanced manufacturing techniques and growing reputation for technology advances:

“South Carolina is leading the Southeast in manufacturing growth. The state is a model for the world in automotive, aviation, transportation and advanced materials by advancing quality, efficiency and workforce productivity. SME is showcasing current knowledge and the latest technology, demonstrating one more reason that South Carolina is just right for manufacturing.”

According to Deloitte’s 2013 Manufacturing Competitive Index, access to talent is the leading indicator of successful competition-- ahead of a country's trade, financial and tax system, and cost of labor and materials. South Carolina, with its outstanding research universities, its network of tech colleges, and local training programs, has learned that lesson. South Carolina with $25 billion in merchandise exports in 2012, ranks among the most productive manufacturing states with high per-capita exports.

Two companies exemplify this.

Boeing, for example, is expected to invest more than $870 million and create 4,000 direct jobs. Another advanced manufacturing leader, BMW, will invest another $900 million and create 300 new jobs at its Spartanburg facility to manufacture the X4 in 2014. The company has built two million vehicles since 1994. BMW’s total investment in South Carolina has grown to nearly $6 billion, and the number of jobs created to date is almost 7,500.

The results of South Carolina’s manufacturing impact are clear, when you look at the momentum manufacturing is generating in the South Carolina economy.

According to a U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis report, manufacturing GDP in the state grew 8.5 percent in 2012, compared with the national rate of 7.8 percent. South Carolina and the United States have seen growth in the manufacturing sector for three straight years, the report said.

In 2013, South Carolina had the fastest growing manufacturing GDP on the East Coast and generated real GDP growth rate of 2.7 percent, just above the national average of 2.5 percent and the Southeastern regional average of 2.1 percent-- a U.S. Department of Commerce report stated.

Since January 2011, South Carolina has recruited more than $9 billion in capital investment and more than 23,000 jobs in the manufacturing sector, according to the report.

SOUTH-TEC will be a showcase for South Carolina, Southeastern and national manufacturing leadership. At SOUTH-TEC, the more than 4,000 expected attendees have an opportunity to hear manufacturing thought leaders from South Carolina and across the nation assess trends affecting industry. Attendees can also make side-by-side comparisons of manufacturing technologies from suppliers, distributors and equipment builders from across North America and around the world.

Dennis Bray, CEO of Contour Precision in Clover, S.C., is the national president of SME.

Feedback

We should consider reaching out

To the editor:

Too many of us are clueless about this subject [“S.C.’s poor: When reality smacks into morality," 9/6] and about the needy in general.

We should remain thankful for what we have no matter how we received it (through hard work, inheritance or luck).

We should also consider reaching out with a helpful hand when the opportunity presents itself or even when it does not.

-- Matthew Salinger, Houston, Texas

Social Security has problems too

To the editor:

You got only the tip of the iceberg of welfare.

The vast body of the problem is Social Security Disability which is being scammed by millions on fake injuries and illnesses in collusion with doctors and lawyers aiding and abetting the fraud. This is undermining the support of the working people for government and turning them into participants or to the extremists in both parties, but particularly the Republican Party.

Until the Democratic power structure comes to grips with this problem, Social Security will just continue down the path to bankruptcy with a large segment of the population refusing to bail it out until this one aspect of it is reformed drastically.

All one has to do it look at Illinois and California and its fiscal problems caused in large part by politicians colluding with unions and other special interest groups to get "free stuff" out of the government. Gov. [Jerry] Brown refuses to come to grips with it as he is so beholden to his base and figures that a recovering economy will right the ship of state but when you have prison guards and other rank and file public officials retiring on 6 figure pensions, something is wrong.    

-- P.C. Coker, Charleston, S.C.

Drop us a line. We love hearing from our readers and encourage you to share your opinions.  But you've got to provide us with contact information so we can verify your letters. Letters to the editor are published weekly. We reserve the right to edit for length and clarity.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.  Send your letters to:

Scorecard

From kids to negativity

Kids. DHEC announced this week that the oral health of the state’s little ones has improved dramatically over the past decade. More.

Guinness. The world’s largest cat, a 900-plus pound lion-tiger hybrid known as a “liger,” lives in Myrtle Beach. More.

Myrtle Beach. On top of being home to the top cat, it’s also one of the top places to retire. More.

Kids. The state is in dispute with a vendor for providing an overdue computer  system to monitor child support payments. More.

Solar.  State regulation and incentives are still stacked against solar energy. More. Meanwhile, Santee Cooper and the state electric cooperatives announced it will invest in a 20-acre solar farm in Colleton County. More.

Nukes. Nuclear waste stored at SRS increases, as opposition to using Yucca Mountain as a disposal site grows. More.

Web. State Republicans this week returned fire when they unveiled an attack website with its crosshairs drawn on Gov. Nikki Haley’s opponent, state Sen. Vincent Sheheen, who has a similar website tracking Haley. Great. More media. More negative. More.

Stegelin

On personal gain


RECENT STEGELIN:  9/6 | 8/30 | 8/23 | 8/16
credits

Statehouse Report

Editor and Publisher: Andy Brack
Senior Editor: Bill Davis
Contributing Photographer: Michael Kaynard

Phone: 843.670.3996

© 2002 - 2014 , 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/.