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ISSUE 12.44
Nov. 01, 2013

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


News :
Looking for a way out of food deserts
Photo :
Empty grocery, Greeleyville, S.C.
Legislative Agenda :
Several meetings on tap
Radar Screen :
Going low-tech
Commentary :
Hold on for a wild gubernatorial campaign
Spotlight :
S.C. Coalition for Healthy Families
My Turn :
Deficit of reality
Feedback :
Rattle a cage
Scorecard :
Ups and downs in the state
Megaphone :
Faint praise
Tally Sheet :
Search for S.C. legislative bills
Encyclopedia :
Ernest F. Hollings ACE Basin National Wildlife Refuge

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New feature

With this issue, we start a new weekly feature -- a photo that illustrates the challenges faced by rural South Carolina places.  The photos are taken from a continuing media series offered by the Southern Crescent project of the Center for a Better South. 
While we no longer offer Steve Stegelin's cartoons in Statehouse Report, you can keep up with his art at the Charleston City Paper.



That’s the number of South Carolinians who face slightly lowered food stamp benefits because of the end of an increase fueled by federal stimulus money. A family of four is expected to lose about $36 per month. More.


Faint praise

“EdFirstSC would like to congratulate State Superintendent Mick Zais on his decision to withdraw his ill-conceived proposal to permanently gut regulations governing class-sizes, teacher workloads, and mandatory staffing ratios.”

-- Patrick Hayes, director of EdFirstSC in an Oct. 31 press release and email.  More.


Search for S.C. legislative bills

With the legislature adjourned until next year, it's easy to look at bills filed in 2013 to determine what's so far in the hopper for 2014.  Pre-filing of new bills for 2014 for House members and senators is December 3 and 10


Ernest F. Hollings ACE Basin National Wildlife Refuge

Established in 1990, the ACE Basin National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) is part of the federal system of refuges managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The refuge represents the federal role in the larger ACE Basin Project with two units, one on the Combahee River and the other on the Edisto River.

The head- quarters for the NWR is located at the Grove, a rice plantation begun in 1825 on the Edisto River. The plantation house dates from 1828 and was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. The Nature Conservancy purchased the Grove in 1991 and sold it to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service the following year.

With a total of nearly 12,000 acres, the ACE Basin NWR is managed for wildlife with careful attention given to habitat preservation. The estuary is home to a wide variety of birds, fish, and game, including such endangered and threatened species as wood storks, osprey, bald eagles and shortnose sturgeon. Limited public fishing and hunting for deer and waterfowl are permitted. With the completion of additional purchases, the future size of the refuge may reach 18,000 acres.

The refuge contains canals and dikes from the days when the land was home to large rice plantations. Through control of water levels, the former rice fields are used to encourage habitats for waterfowl and other bird species. Additionally, the NWR uses controlled burning as a tool for creating and maintaining habitat for turkey, quail and songbirds.

-- Excerpted from the entry by James H. Tuten. 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 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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Looking for a way out of food deserts

By Andy Brack, editor and publisher

NOV. 1, 2013 -- A Charleston man’s idea of how to improve food choices and reduce food deserts in low-income areas of the Lowcountry has captured the attention of the state commissioner of agriculture, Hugh Weathers.

Lindsey B. Barrow Jr., a College of Charleston graduate from Georgia, is seeking funding to upfit a bus to take healthy food to places that are a long way from a regular grocery store. These areas are often referred to as “food deserts” because affordable, healthy food is not nearby. Instead, the approximately 250,000 South Carolinians who live in these very urban or very rural areas often rely disproportionately on convenience stores filled with processed and canned food, beef jerky, soft drinks and little that is fresh.

“It’s important that we find ways to solve the lack of grocery stores, creating food deserts, around our state,” said award winning chef and author Nathalie Dupree of Charleston. “Without access to affordable shopping with a full range of choices, how can we criticize  anyone’s choices?  

“Many gas stations charge $2 for an old banana or apple.  If you only have a dollar, why wouldn’t you get a Coca-Cola rather than leave empty-handed?”

Barrow said he figured that in rural food deserts like those found in parts of Williamsburg, Colleton, Sumter and Chesterfield counties, simple economics makes it tough for small, new stores to open. There are comparatively few people to be customers and the low profit margin of the grocery business makes investments somewhat risky. 

Former state Rep. Wilbur Cave, who now is executive director of Allendale County Alive, knows the problems of opening a small store in an area where poverty runs more than 40 percent. Working with investors and the state Department of Commerce back in 2007, a low-price, small grocer opened in Allendale. Eight months later after being undercapitalized, it closed, Cave said.

Earlier this year, the only grocery store in nearby Fairfax closed. That means there’s only one grocer, an IGA, in all of Allendale County these days, which translates into the reality that a lot of people don’t have easy access to healthy food choices, Cave said. [Allendale's old Galaxy Food Center, also closed, is pictured above.]

“So many of our people, especially seniors, don’t have transportation,” he said. “So now their food costs have increased because they have to go [by taxi or with a friend] to Hampton or Barnwell -- or Allendale -- to get groceries.”

If you bus it in, will they come?

But what if , Barrow wonders, you can bring the store to the people instead of having to build a store for people to visit -- a kind of food version of the baseball movie, “Field of Dreams?”

Barrow says that since he came up with the idea of Lowcountry Street Grocery earlier this year, he’s been networking, planning and seeking grants to create a mobile farmers market that operates sustainably in urban and rural areas.

During a discussion about the paucity of immediate policy alternatives that the legislature could consider to improve nutrition choices in food deserts, you could almost hear the gears turning in Weathers’ brain when Barrow’s idea was mentioned.

“It’s a farmers market on wheels,” he concluded, adding that the idea seemed to have a lot of merit because it would take the notion of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) one step further. In that model, local growers get local consumers to buy “shares” in produce they grow. When the produce is ripe, CSA farmers deliver it to people at their homes. One week, consumers might get tomatoes and cucumbers; another might find peas and lettuces -- whatever is in season.

On the morning after the interview, Weathers phoned after mulling Barrow’s idea all night. He particularly focused on the logistics of setting up a mobile farmers market for a food desert. 

“I don’t want a task force [on this]. I don’t want a policy council,” he said. “I just want to get this young man, a couple of my staff and some farmers who are doing CSAs” together.

And after sorting through logistics, the possibilities of federal grants for a pilot program, marketing, permitting and more, something might be in the works as early as next spring for Barrow as farmers are planting crops, Weathers said.

For now, Barrow is tickled pink -- and excited with prospects beyond what he’s been working on with the Lowcountry Housing Trust for the last few months. 

That organization, a key player in a statewide meeting last year about what to do about food deserts, received a $500,000 grant in 2011 to increase food access in underserved communities. Last year, it loaned $110,000 to Lowcountry Produce Market and Cafe in Beaufort to help a family expand its farmstand business. It also loaned $350,000 to Northside Development Corporation in Spartanburg to build the Hub City Farmers’ Market which, coincidentally, already has a mobile farmers market, according to Anna Hamilton of the Trust.

Policy alternatives

The S.C. Food Policy Council, which held the statewide meeting last year to discuss what to do about food deserts, made five recommendations in a 37-page report released in the spring. Among them suggestion to create public policy initiatives. While there appear to be no formal bills ready for state lawmakers to consider, Weathers and others say possible policy alternatives include:

  • Better use of existing federal grant programs to help grow mobile markets and more CSA activities.

  • Develop a state incentive fund to attract small grocers to food deserts in very urban and very rural parts of the state. Such a program in Pennsylvania has been successful, Hamilton said.

  • Encourage more people to enter farming as a profession. Weathers said Clemson Extension and his office were already working on an Emerging Farmer Initiative to draw new farmers into the production of food.

  • Develop pilot programs to test ideas, such as Barrow’s mobile farmers market.

Weathers admits that he doesn’t have all of the answers to eradicating food deserts in South Carolina, but agrees that the work that’s starting to focus on farming as an integral component to some of South Carolina’s economic woes will be helpful over the long run.


Empty grocery, Greeleyville, S.C.

This photo by retired Kingstree editor Linda W. Brown shows an empty grocery store in Greeleyville, S.C., now a food desert.  The image is part of a continuing collection offered by the Southern Crescent project by the Center for a Better South.  It works to highlight challenges in the rural South stretching from Tidewater Virginia through the Palmetto State's Corridor of Shame and on through south Georgia and Alabama to the Mississippi Delta. 
Legislative Agenda

Several meetings on tap

You can tell things are starting to heat up in the legislature for next year with the increased number of meetings that are taking place:
Judicial Merit: The Judicial Merit Selection Commission will hold public hearings 9 a.m. Nov. 5 and Nov. 6 in 105 Gressette Building

Health care: A Senate Select Committee will meet 6 p.m., November 5, at the Greenville County Public Library to discuss a health care nullification proposal, H. 3101. It will meet 10 a.m., November 6, in Gressette 209 in Columbia and 6 p.m. Nov. 6 at North Charleston City Hall. Agenda.

Aging: A joint legislative committee will meet 10:30 a.m., November 6, in Gressette 308 to discuss a measure that looks at services, programs and facilities for the aging. Agenda.

Ethics: The Senate Ethics Committee will meet 2 p.m.. November 6, to discuss various ethics measures. Agenda. 

Radar Screen

Going low-tech

While the federal government is working to get its act together with a web site to let people sign up for new health insurance policies through the Affordable Care Act, look for lots of people to go low-tech -- just like was done when Social Security and Medicare were implemented decades back. How? With paper applications. And just like Social Security and Medicare, paper forms will have glitches too. But it will all get figured out sooner or later (probably sooner with all of the negative media attention). More.


Hold on for a wild gubernatorial campaign

By Andy Brack, editor and publisher

NOV. 3, 2013 -- If you didn’t think the Palmetto State’s 2014 gubernatorial politics were already getting hot and bothered, you might want to tune in a little more.

Just last week, a Democratic Governors Association poll showed presumptive Democratic gubernatorial nominee Vincent Sheheen had a decent shot at taking down GOP Gov. Nikki Haley. The poll showed Haley leading Sheheen by four points -- 44 to 40 -- but that the margin of error was plus/minus 3.53 percent.  More importantly, the poll showed Sheheen leading Haley 44-30 among independents. Because gubernatorial campaigns these days often are won because of swinging independent voters, the Sheheen campaign wants folks to realize he’s got an edge among a key part of the electorate a yar out from the election.

Not to be outdone, the Haley campaign this week released a poll that claimed -- guess what -- her lead really was 9 points over Sheheen, but admitted her favorability rating stood at 42 percent and unfavorability was 43 percent. Political analysts generally worry about a candidate’s re-election chances when favorability ratings are in the low 40s a year from the election.

What’s really interesting about Haley’s poll is that it came out the day before the non-partisan Winthrop Poll, which ensured political headlines on the release day of the Winthrop Poll would include the Haley poll. Nobody ever said Haley’s team wasn’t smart -- timing the release of their poll to influence coverage about the Winthrop Poll was political gold.

Interestingly, the Winthrop Poll may help Haley sleep a little better for the time being. Her approval rating was 44.5 percent of registered voters, up from 40.5 percent in December 2012.  Her disapproval rating was 41 percent, down 1.4 percent from December.

Also interesting: Almost half of respondents (49.9 percent, compared to 53 percent in December) said they thought the state of South Carolina was headed in the wrong direction, but 48.4 percent (up 8.2 points) thought the state’s economic condition was very good or fairly good. Some 47.4 percent of the people thought the economy was getting better.

With all of this polling, it’s clear Haley and Sheheen have a lot of work to do to win. Sheheen has more challenges, since he lost by 4 points in 2010 and remains about that far behind in polls now. But he seems to be a more energized candidate with a crisper message in the year going into the election. He’s raising money and he is engaging voters in new ways, particularly since he published a policy book of ideas earlier this year.

For her part, Haley has two big things going for her: her laser focus on jobs and Barack Obama. Not a week goes by that her office announces a business expansion or investment and the number of jobs associated with it. In the year ahead, Haley also will intensify her criticism of President Obama and the Affordable Care Act, doing everything she can do to tie Sheheen to the “liberal Obama agenda that’s hurting families.”

But just as Haley’s campaign plan is predictable to political insiders, so is Sheheen’s. Just listen to his rhetoric in a Halloween letter sent to thousands of supporters:

“We know that we don’t want four more years of the same tea party destructive policies that have hurt our state. We want to move South Carolina forward with new ideas and investments in our future, while moving away from the corruption that has plagued this current administration.”

For the next year, Sheheen will try to tie Haley to the tea party. He’ll smear her with being asleep at the wheel and losing the private information of 6 million South Carolina individuals and businesses in the largest ever hacking of a state. He’ll vilify her for opposing $11 billion in federal money to expand Medicaid to help provide insurance for thousands of the poorest South Carolinians.

What’s going to be interesting is to see how the campaigns come up with new ways to counter all of the predictable attacks.

Sit back. Strap in. It’s going to get messy.

Andy Brack is publisher of Statehouse ReportYou can reach Brack at:


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.

My Turn

Deficit of reality

By former U.S. Sen. Fritz Hollings
Special to Statehouse Report

OCT. 28, 2013 -- In this morning’s Washington Post (10/28/13), E.J. Dionne, Jr. editorializes: “The wrong problem is the deficit. The right problem is sluggish growth and persistent unemployment.”  

One of the best editorialists suffers from a deficit of reality. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has just estimated this year’s fiscal deficit (2013), which ended on September 30, at $642 billion. As a member of the Budget Committee for 30 years and since Truman was in office in 1947, when we ran a surplus of $13.9 billion, we never ran a deficit for the past 56 years of $642 billion. Given a balanced budget in 2001 President Bush cut taxes and he cut taxes again in 2003 and Obama has continued the Bush tax cuts which far exceed President Obama’s tax of the rich. 

The biggest myth is that we have never paid for government. The United States paid for all its wars, depressions, recessions, bailouts and stimulations and it still took over two hundred years to reach a national debt of $1 trillion in 1981. Now in thirteen fiscal years under Presidents Bush and Obama, we’ve added $11 trillion, $437 billion to the national debt. Horrendous deficits under Bush and Obama is the right problem. 

Since coming to the U.S. Senate in 1966, Republicans and Democrats have always paid for government. We helped President Nixon run a surplus in 1969, instituted the budget process in 1973, balanced Social Security’s budget in 1981, cut spending in Gramm Rudman Hollings in 1985, and President George H.W. Bush joined democrats in increasing taxes to pay for government in 1991. But in 1993, when we Democrats cut spending $250 billion and increased taxes $250 billion, Congressman Gingrich persuaded Republicans not to give us a single vote in the House or U.S. Senate. The nation enjoyed eight years of its strongest economy and we gave President George W. Bush a balanced budget in 2001. 

But President Bush cut taxes, started wars, added prescription drugs to Medicare, stimulated and bailed out, etc. – all without paying for them. I voted against the tax cuts and prescription drugs that cost of $500 million with no provision to pay. I even proposed a tax to pay for the Iraq war but Callio, President Bush’s representative in the U.S. Senate, kept announcing DOA – Dead on Arrival -- and I couldn’t get any co-sponsors. Getting no Republican support or votes in 1993, Democrats weren’t about to pay for government under Bush – and now under Obama. Congressman Boehner and Cantor voted for the tax cuts, wars, prescription drug, stimulation and bail outs. They had eight years to determine that “spending was the problem.” Instead of cutting spending, they cut taxes. 

Now all the editorialists have taken up Boehner’s chant of “spending is the problem.” The Democrats and Republicans have no problem spending. Paying for government and borrowing is the problem. For the past 13 years, we’ve borrowed from China to keep our government going. 

It’s easy to pay for government and jumpstart the economy. All you have to do is replace the 35 percent corporate tax with a 7 percent value added tax (VAT) which immediately releases $2 trillion in offshore profits for corporate America to repatriate tax free and jumpstart the economy. Everybody is for tax cuts, tax reform, cutting the size of government and creating jobs. We can do this with the value added tax that 150 countries use. But Dionne and the editorialists refuse to mention the VAT tax cut. Dionne is the problem.

Hollings, a former Democratic U.S. senator for South Carolina, served in the Senate from 1966 to 2005.  He lives in Isle of Palms.


Rattle a cage

Send us 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:


Ups and downs in the state

Ott. Hats off to Democrat Russell Ott of Calhoun County who won a special election to take his father’s seat in the S.C. House. 

Morrison, McLeese. Thumbs down for the untimely passing of two South Carolina champions. For more than 20 years, Columbia lawyer Steve Morrison fought for more than 20 years to get the state to improve public education in the so-called Corridor of Shame. During the same years, Columbia Chamber of Commerce head Ike McLeese fought for increased economic opportunities for the Midlands. Rest in peace.

Infant mortality. The state’s rate of deaths of children less than per 1,000 live births notched up slightly. More.

Environmental laws. It’s a shame that about 25 percent of the 4,700 businesses and governments in the Palmetto State are repeat offenders over the last 25 years. Hats off to The State for excellent reporting.


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