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ISSUE 12.43
Oct. 25, 2013

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

Index

News :
Walking with giants
Legislative Agenda :
Flood insurance on tap
Radar Screen :
McConnell's future
Palmetto Politics :
Drop in the bucket
Commentary :
More olive branches than switches needed today
Spotlight :
South Carolina Hospital Association
Feedback :
Send your your thoughts
Scorecard :
Squabbles and computer problems
Stegelin :
From the cartoon vault
Megaphone :
Running, running, running
Tally Sheet :
Search for S.C. legislative bills
Encyclopedia :
Penn Center

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NUMBER OF THE WEEK

$0

That’s how much this year’s state-sponsored credit monitoring from a new company, CSIDentity Corp, will cost. The signup period began this week, and the program will cost the state over $8 million for the next year. Following the 2012 hacking of the state Department of Revenue that compromised the identities of millions of South Carolinians and their businesses, the state offered credit monitoring through another company. That contract expired after the company wanted more than the $12 million it got for the first year of monitoring. More.

MEGAPHONE

Running, running, running

“I see myself like Steve McQueen … and I’d like to drop Congress into the Arctic.”

-- State Attorney General Alan Wilson, Republican, speaking this week at a meeting of the Sumter TEAvangelical Patriots. Wilson also compared the federal government to the horror movie creature "The Blob," which is finally destroyed in movieland when it is dropped into the freezing water. More.

Penury

“Everybody has a fantasy that governors or lawmakers make a lot of money … I’m going to take away that fantasy because a governor in the United States makes $108,000 per year, and from that you have to take out 33 percent in taxes … it’s not even enough to pay for private school for his children.”

-- Maria Belen Chapur, Congressman Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) fiancée, telling a South American news outlet that representing the state has financial downfalls. More.

TALLY SHEET

Search for 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

Penn Center

Located on St. Helena Island in Beaufort County, Penn Center, Inc., originated as the Penn Normal School. The school was established in 1862 on St. Helena by the northern missionaries Laura Towne and Ellen Murray. It was one of approximately thirty schools built on St. Helena as part of the Port Royal Experiment, an effort by northern missionaries to educate formerly enslaved Africans and prepare them for life after slavery. The leaders of the Port Royal Experiment were philanthropists, abolitionists, and Quaker missionaries from Pennsylvania who came to the Beaufort County area during the Civil War. They named the school in honor of their home state and for the Quaker activist William Penn.

Laura Towne arrived on St. Helena Island in April 1862 and was joined by Ellen Murray in June of the same year. The two began educating blacks in a one-room schoolhouse on the Oaks Plantation. As the number of students outgrew this space, they moved to the Brick Baptist Church. They remained there until 1864, when a prefabricated building was sent down from Pennsylvania. A fifty-acre tract of land was purchased from a freedman named Hastings Gantt so that the building could be erected.

In 1901, the school was chartered as the Penn Normal, Industrial, and Agricultural School. The Tuskegee Curriculum, developed by Booker T. Washington, was slowly incorporated into the Penn curriculum. So, in addition to reading, writing, and arithmetic, Penn started teaching classes in carpentry, basket making, harness making, cobbling, shoe lasting, midwifery, teacher training, and mechanics.

In 1948, the Penn School board decided that it was no longer economically feasible to keep the Penn School open as a private boarding school since public schools were now being brought onto St. Helena Island. As a result, the Penn School class of 1953 was the last one to graduate.

After becoming Penn Community Center in 1953, the institution began to focus on social issues affecting the well-being of the native islanders. This expanded to African Americans as a whole in the 1960s, when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), and other civil rights organizations began coming to the island to have meetings at the Frissell Community House, one of several buildings that students and community members had built on the campus.

Penn Center, Inc.'s programs and educational partnerships included the History and Culture Program, the Program for Academic and Cultural Enrichment (PACE), the Land Use and Environmental Education Program, and the Early Childhood / At-Risk Families Initiative. In 1974 the United States Department of the Interior designated the Penn Center's buildings and grounds a National Historic Landmark District. Exhibitions that focus on the history of Penn School and its connections to the native Gullah/Geechee culture of the Sea Islands are housed in the York W. Bailey Museum, which serves as a major tourist attraction.

-- Excerpted from the entry by Linda Meggett Brown. 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

Walking with giants

Small state advocacy groups do battle with national millions

By Bill Davis, senior editor

OCT. 25, 2013 -- Members of a Greenville County public education advocacy group is putting out feelers to see if there is enough support to form a statewide group to support public education in the face of an increasing presence of out of state, largely pro-voucher education groups.

Craig Stine, an official with Public Education Partners of Greenville County, wants to put together a statewide group to fight for increased respect and pay for public school teachers and fight against private school tuition tax credits and vouchers.

“Right now, we don’t have any money, or even a name,” said Stine, who would welcome a rich billionaire to back his agenda from the shadows.

“If you have one, I’d be glad to hear about them,” Stine joked, referring to men like the ultra-conservative Kansas-based Koch brothers and New York’s voucher-king Howard Rich, all of whom have poured money into South Carolina hoping to affect elections and policy.

Under Mark Sanford’s tenure as governor, some observers saw South Carolina as a Petri dish for libertarian and tea party advances, thanks to the state's relatively small size and Republican Party dominance.

Now, many public school advocates across the state worry that since the Sanford experiment died on the Appalachian Trial, similarly allied conservative forces from around the country are trying to turn South Carolina into a testing ground, at least for libertarian education policy.

Stine saw how the conservative group South Carolinians for Responsible Government, with reported money links to Rich, got involved in school board elections in his county in the past.

“And legislators from my area have taken money from Howard Rich in high levels, showing how outside forces could be influencing politics and education policy here in South Carolina,” said Stine.

SCRG is far from alone on nationally-linked groups opening up shop in South Carolina. Former Washington, D.C., school chancellor and national education firebrand Michelle Rhee’s organization, StudentsFirst, just named this summer a state chapter president, Charleston native Jermaine Husser, who did not returns calls for comment.

National libertarian group FreedomWorks has been busy in South Carolina, supporting what it terms “school choice.” The American Legislative Exchange Council works with conservative state politicians to promote tea party agenda items, like school choice.

Michigan-based All Children Matter has, according to one state politics watchdog, spent at least $26,000 in South Carolina elections. Washington, D.C., think tank Heritage Foundation, led by former U.S. Sen Jim DeMint of South Carolina, has jumped into the education fray, as have the CATO Institute and the Walton Foundation.

An expert from former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s Excellence in Education group spoke this year at a state Senate hearing in favor of school choice/vouchers.

Conservative groups aren’t the only national groups to get involved in the state’s education landscape. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has donated millions to the state library, for instance. The League of Women’s Voters has always been a force in education and elections.

The more, the merrier

Bring’em on, bring’em all on, says Jackie B. Hicks, president of the S.C. Education Association, an advocacy group watching out for teachers and students. Hicks said that South Carolinians don’t cotton to they way people outside of South Carolina do it -- never have and never will.

This orneriness, combined with complete information about the issues, Hicks believes, will win out in the long run. “Grassroots organizations like [Stine’s] can grow into a significant voice,” she said.

Debbie Elmore, the spokesman for an ally group, the S.C. School Boards Associations, sees a very cynical approach to outside money’s influence in the state. “They can’t buy the grassroots,” Elmore said. “So they have, shrewdly, focused their money and efforts on what they can buy – politicians.”

That the school vouchers debate is still a hot one in South Carolina, one of the poorest states in the nation with pockets of enormous poverty, is proof, Elmore said, of how big money can be successful over time.

Where Stine hopes to attack Goliath with a well-placed stone, Patrick Hayes, a third-grade teacher in the Lowcountry, has been hurling pebbles at state Superintendent of Education Mick Zais. Hayes helps runs EdFirstSC, a coalition of teachers, educators, concerned parents, and sympathetic citizens, from his breakfast table.

Hayes said “it’s been easier than I ever imagined” mobilizing and networking those who don’t agree with Zais and his efforts to change the traditional methods of how public education is delivered in the state.

Hayes said grassroots groups don’t need millions, just access to the right people. Hundreds of emails from concerned voters across the state can let politicians know either their votes are being watched or that there is a “political benefit” to voting with his group’s agenda.

Crystal ball: In the real world, money talks and everyone knows what walks. It’s hard to say which has been more effective in affecting state public K-12 education policy. Yes, the legislature has only fully-funded the student base cost three times since 2001. But, the only “vouchers” given out in this state are reserved for exceptional needs students in communities where public schools don’t have the best facilities. It will be interesting to watch which wins out, money or information.

 
 Bill Davis is editor of Statehouse Report.  He can be reached at:  billdavis@statehousereport.com
Legislative Agenda

Flood insurance on tap

There are no major meetings scheduled next week in Columbia, but a public hearing of the Senate Coastal Insurance Subcommittee will be held Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. in building 1100 of the Conway-Georgetown Technical College. At issue will certainly be the rates which insurance companies are allowed to charge coastal homeowners in South Carolina compared to other, more hurricane-threatened states. Agenda.

Also ahead:

  • Judicial Merit: The Judicial Merit Selection Commission will hold public hearings 9 a.m. Nov. 5 and Nov. 6 in 105 Gressette Building.

  • Ethics: The Senate Select Committee on Ethics will meet 1 p.m. Nov. 6 in 308 Gressette to discuss pending ethics legislation.
Radar Screen

McConnell's future

It may not be a coincidence that Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell has yet to announce whether he will seek office again, considering that his alma mater, the College of Charleston, has just named its presidential search committee.

Palmetto Politics

Drop in the bucket

The ongoing discussion in the state Infrastructure Bank as to how to spend more than a half-billion dollars on road projects shows how little has really been done to address the state’s roads needs.

Faced with nearly $30 billion in needs, according to the Department of Transportation, the legislature this year pushed for a $50 million set-aside to be used to leverage an additional $550 million in debt for roads projects. No surprise, then, when members of the bank from different parts of the state have different opinions of where to spend that money. When the legislature gets serious about infrastructure improvements, then the bank will have an easier time doing its job, rather than squabbling.

On one side of the fulcrum in the latest fight is where redoing the state’s “malfunction junction” intersection of I-26 and I-20 should be placed on the banks priorities list. On the other, widening Interstate 526 near Charleston.

Date set

House Speaker Bobby Harrell (R-Charleston) announced this week the pre-filing deadlines for the upcoming legislative session. Members of the House will be able to pre-file bills for consideration by noon on December 3 and 10, both Tuesdays, by noon.

Veteran political reporter passes

Lee Bandy, the longtime political reporter for The State who covered Columbia and Washington with equal skill and respect, passed away this week at 78. Bandy had been suffering from Parkinson’s for years, and had retired from the paper seven years ago. He was awarded the Order of the Palmetto by then-Gov. Mark Sanford.

Commentary

More olive branches than switches needed today

By Andy Brack, editor and publisher

OCT. 25, 2013 -- When 72-year-old U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) appeared at the Penn Center last week on his first Southern speaking tour, he posed a question that may seem simple. But it continually vexes and frustrates politicians, pundits, political scientists and columnists:

"Why do white working-class people vote against their own interests?" he asked about 150 people at the annual meeting of the Progressive Network.

By this, Sanders, a plain-spoken man who has described himself as a socialist, was wondering why white voters kept electing Republicans who supported economic policies that keep rich folks in control of an economy that has become more oligarchic (rich people pulling the strings) than truly democratic.

"The top 1 percent [of Americans] owns 38 percent of the wealth," Sanders said. "But the bottom 60 percent of Americans own 2.3 percent of the wealth."

And so begins a debate on distribution of wealth, economic policy, the loss of manufacturing in the country, free trade and more.

But Sanders' question remains, as does its converse: Why do some conservative minority segments of our population vote against their interests? In other words, why do they vote for Democrats who may support abortion or gay marriage, which many religious minorities find loathsome?

After a lot of thought and messaging on Facebook, it's clear both questions elicit a lot of heartfelt responses about what most seem to agree is a very complicated subject. But there's a thread that seems to run through answers to both questions, which will probably start as many new arguments as the old ones that led to various Occupy protests and the recent government shutdown mess.

That common thread is fear.

Republicans and Democrats use fear to keep their core supporters in line and to lure independents to support their candidates.

"Not everything is about money," one conservative woman said on Facebook. She, like millions of white, working-class voters, may fall prey to fear spread by conservatives that gay marriage or abortion or Obamacare will ruin America and that by electing Republicans, conservatives can thwart the "liberal agenda."

In the South, white, working-class voters also fall victim to Republican campaigns that use race as a way to divide people into "us" and "them" -- another tactic of fear that's been working in South Carolina since the 1739 Stono Rebellion and tough laws then passed to keep slaves in their place.

Before you get all hot and bothered, please realize that Democrats also use fear to keep their supporters in line, as one GOP consultant observes: "Why is it those on the left don't see the same phenomena on their side? The GOP is much more conservative on social issues, as many African Americans with strong church influence are. It cuts both ways."

Yes, it does. Democrats get about 95 percent of the black vote. Why? Because they offer an agenda that support social safety nets and they're never ashamed of reminding people that Republicans might take away food stamps or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. For these voters, the fear of losing more money for public schools to voucher programs or community health centers that they rely on for health care trumps social issues like gay marriage.

So what can be done about an electorate that seems increasingly frustrated, angry and fractured? Two things would help:

  • More voter education: Voters, regardless of ideological leanings, should do more to learn about where candidates stand and what their views will mean over the broad spectrum of issues. Single-issue voting does not lead to a healthy democracy.
  • Civility: Yes, voters are angry at what's happening in Washington and what may not be happening in Columbia. But as long as partisanship rules, elected representatives won't talk and, more importantly, listen to be able to develop compromises. More olive branches are needed, not switches.

Yes, like many, I'm tired of Congress. I'm tired of partisan leaders. But I want America's experiment with democracy to work. For it to continue to thrive, we've got to get our economic house in order, reduce partisan bickering and start listening to hammer out compromises on an array of issues that are keeping us from moving forward.

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

Spotlight

South Carolina Hospital Association

The public spiritedness of our underwriters allows us to bring Statehouse Report to you at no cost. This week's spotlighted underwriter is the South Carolina Hospital Association, the Palmetto State's foremost advocate on healthcare issues affecting South Carolinians. The mission of SCHA is to support its members in addressing the healthcare needs of South Carolina through advocacy, education, networking and regulatory assistance.

Founded in 1921, the South Carolina Hospital Association is the leadership organization and principal advocate for the state’s hospitals and health care systems. Based in Columbia, SCHA works with its members to improve access, quality and cost-effectiveness of health care for all South Carolinians. The state’s hospitals and health care systems employ more than 70,000 persons statewide. SCHA's credo: We are stronger together than apart.

Feedback

Send your your thoughts

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

Squabbles and computer problems

Wilson. State Attorney General Alan Wilson this week declined to investigate or prosecute charges state Treasurer Curtis Loftis has made against a lawyer running the state’s pension fund investment commission, leaving the two to fight it out on their own, preferably in a dark, lonely corner. More.

Hacking. The state has a new, more comprehensive, and cheaper credit monitoring service for residents to sign up for; then again, we are giving out our info again, this time voluntarily? More.

Computer. The state is looking at years and tens of millions of dollars in fines to get its child support computer system up to snuff. Great. Get it together. Perhaps we should send in the Obamacare computer team to help. More.

Stegelin

From the cartoon vault

A classic from Steve Stegelin that still rings true:

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/.