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ISSUE 12.51
Dec. 20, 2013

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

Index

News :
Buying a new direction
Photo :
Poverty, Allendale County, S.C.
Legislative Agenda :
Only one meeting next week: House Ethics
Radar Screen :
Taxes, toil and trouble
Palmetto Politics :
Coalition touts how counties don’t want waste bill
Commentary :
Who’s been naughty and nice in South Carolina
My Turn :
How the law can help to combat hate
Feedback :
Doesn’t want companies to mandate higher education
Scorecard :
From good jets to bad drivers
Megaphone :
Haley’s comet flaming out or ready to rise?
In our blog :
Some new sites to bookmark
Tally Sheet :
From tanning booths to taxes
Encyclopedia :
Chubby Checker

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NUMBER OF THE WEEK

7.1 percent

That’s state’s seasonally-adjusted November unemployment rate, which is within one-tenth of a point of the federal 7 percent rate, according to the state Department of Employment and Workforce. It’s the closest that the Palmetto State’s rate has been to the national rate since 2002. ““This is the first time since July 2008 that the state’s total employment reached over two million, and though we are happy to see the unemployment rate go down, we recognize that we still have a lot of work to do,” said DEW Executive Director Cheryl Stanton in a news release today.

MEGAPHONE

Haley’s comet flaming out or ready to rise?

“You have a weak governor to start with, who has major ethics problems, no legislative accomplishments after nearly four years in office, screwed over the only other woman in the state with real power, scared every parent in the upstate into thinking their kid had TB, tells her former colleagues in the House and Senate how much they suck and then picked Georgia over South Carolina (and I ain't talking football folks). Bottom line: Nikki Haley is in trouble and she has less than 365 days to right this ship.”

-- South Carolina native Jimmy Williams in a U.S. News and World Report blog post last week.

IN OUR BLOG

Some new sites to bookmark

In an effort to expand policy discussions beyond the weekly issue of Statehouse Report, we offer some new policy blogs that look at economic, education, environmental, good governance and health policy in more depth. We’ll be ramping up in coming weeks, but you can get a flavor -- and bookmark -- some of these sites now:

Fixing Act 388: “A new study from the Self Center on the Future at the Strom Thurmond Institute tackles one aspect of Act 388 that could be modified without taking on the whole issue of paying for property tax for wealthier households with sales taxes that are particularly burdensome on low income households and business. That relatively small fix is in the guarantee of a minimum of $2.5 million per county (not district) in property tax relief aid.”

-- Holley Ulbrich in money.statehousereport.com

On teacher evaluation policies: “We can count on opponents of teacher evaluation systems that use student achievement as a significant factor in evaluating teacher performance and that tie results in student achievement to teacher pay to point to other factors as the cause for the lack of achievement.  Policy makers and tax payers are going to have to ask themselves whether  or not they will continue to accept schools and faculties that cannot overcome all the  challenges to improved student achievement.”

-- Jon Butzon in JonButzon.com

TALLY SHEET

From tanning booths to taxes

While House members finished pre-filing legislation last week, state senators had another chance this week, filing 43 bills on Tuesday. Among those of note:

Child abuse. S. 864 (L. Martin) would set up the S.C. Children’s Advocacy Medical Response System Act to provide coordination and medical service resources statewide to agencies and organizations that respond to child abuse and neglect.

Children. S. 872 (Fair) would make the Joint Citizens and Legislative Committee on Children become a permanent joint committee.

Local government. S. 873 (Hutto) would set rules for funding a minimum level of the state’s local government fund, with several provisions.

Abortion. S. 876 (Grooms) would require doctors performing abortions to have admitting and staff privileges at a local certified hospital, with other provisions.

Tanning booths. S. 879 (Sheheen) would keep minors from using tanning beds.

Solar systems. S. 881 (Sheheen) would allow counties to exempt solar heating and cooling systems from ad valorem taxes, with several provisions.

Campaigning. S. 883 (Sheheen) would prohibit campaign staffs and others from being transported in state vehicles or aircraft, with several provisions.

Academic standards. S. 888 (Campsen) would require some academic core standards to get legislative approval, with many provisions.

Gas tax. S. 891 (Cleary) calls for raising the gas tax from 16 cents per gallon by two cents every year until it reaches 36 cents.

Primary registration. S. 895 (Bright) would require voters to register by party to vote in partisan primaries, with several provisions.

Teacher pay. S. 898 (Allen) would ensure that state teachers are paid the Southeastern average.

Income tax. S. 901 (Shealy) would eliminate the state income tax.

Mopeds. S. 902 (Shealy) would classify mopeds as motor vehicles, with several provisions to make moped operation comply with similar laws for other vehicles.

Custody. S. 905 (Shealy) is a long, complicated bill that proposes to change how courts determine how to award custody of children.

Paid sick leave. S. 906 (Kimpson) calls for the Earned Paid Sick Leave Act,” with several provisions related to sick leave.

ENCYCLOPEDIA

Chubby Checker

Singer Chubby Checker was born Ernest Evans on October 3, 1941, in Spring Gully near Andrews, the son of a tobacco farmer. He moved to Philadelphia at age seven and later attended South Philadelphia High School with the future teen idols Fabian and Frankie Avalon. Evans attracted the attention of Dick Clark, host of the national television show American Bandstand, in the late 1950s. Clark wanted to send out a Christmas phonograph record to friends, one that consisted of holiday greetings from singers imitating rock and roll stars. Evans was in the studio doing these imitations when Clark's wife Bobbie noticed him and suggested dubbing him "Chubby Checker," a play on the name of the recording star Fats Domino.

After the Christmas record was released commercially as The Class in 1959 on the Cameo-Parkway label (partially owned by Clark), in 1960 Checker covered "The Twist," a song written and released previously by Hank Ballard. "The Twist" was associated with a dance that consisted of partners swiveling their hips and arms while standing apart from each other. This dance was unknown outside the African American community, where it had achieved some popularity. Clark noted some of his American Bandstand teenagers "twisting" and soon encouraged Cameo-Parkway to exploit this dance with a cover recording of the Ballard song. With television exposure on American Bandstand and on the Ed Sullivan Show, Checker's recording of "The Twist" became a huge hit and remained the biggest-selling single record of all time well into the 1970s. The associated dance craze crossed over to the mainstream and became an international phenomenon, spawning records of the same genre by many artists in the United States and abroad.

During the early 1960s Checker had thirty more chart hits. Eleven of these reached the top twenty, including a re-release of "The Twist" in 1962 that reached number one and made Checker the only artist to have had the same single song at number one on different releases. Other hits included "The Hucklebuck" (1960), "Pony Time" (1961), "Let's Twist Again" (1961), "The Fly" (1961), "Slow Twistin'" (1962), "Dancin' Party" (1962), "Popeye (The Hitchhiker)" (1962), "Limbo Rock" (1962), "Birdland" (1963), and "Loddy Lo" (1963). Many of these songs introduced new dance styles, and Checker maintains that he was the inventor of "dancing apart to the beat." In 1961 he was awarded a Grammy for Best Rock and Roll Recording ("Let's Twist Again").

As the dance craze era ended, Chubby Checker remade his image several times to match the changes in the music industry, but he did not return to the charts until 1988, with "The Twist (Yo Twist)," accompanied by the rap artists The Fat Boys. Checker has continued to tour and perform, relying on varying combinations of nostalgia and new material. He has repackaged himself as the rapper Chubby C.

Chubby Checker is, to some extent, an American icon. He has sold more than 250 million records and has appeared in at least twelve films and on numerous television shows, always playing himself.

-- Excerpted from the entry by John F. Jakubs. 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

Buying a new direction

State policy decisions in 2014 could be fueled by ‘new’ money

By Bill Davis, senior editor

DEC. 20, 2013 -- Slowly swelling state tax collections this year may lead those in power in Columbia to make some interesting policy decisions on how to spend the “new” money.

Falling on the heels of the Great Recession -- and not completely out of its shadow -- state tax coffers are expected to continue to grow yet again faster than experts’ original estimates.

Recent numbers show that, thanks in large part to unexpectedly robust corporate tax collections, the state could have as much as $440 million in “new” money available to state budget writers.

But with more than $1 billion in “new” requests, policy perspectives may dominate how that money gets spent. According to observers, the leading pockets where the added income could find a new home will be Medicaid, roads and public K-12 education.

Medicine is good

The state Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has already let it be known that it expects to request an additional $150 million over its current budget, largely because of increased Medicaid expansion.

Critics of HHS director Tony Keck, who is strongly against state Medicaid expansion via Obamacare funding, sharpened their jibes when the increase was first mentioned.   Regardless, Keck doubled-down, saying it makes better long-term fiscal sense for the state to turn down billions in federal matching funds, because when federal buy-in dollars start dwindling in a few years, the state will have an enormous program it would have to pay for itself.

Keck has also argued that it makes better fiscal and policy sense for the state to continue increase state health care programs from within, like it did this year with a $20-million infusion to rural hospitals, than to accept the strings that come attached to federal billions. But with more money on hand than expected, some in Columbia think that Keck’s tea party-approved position, echoed by his boss, Gov. Nikki Haley, could lose some of its luster.

Asphalt is better

Compared to the enormous amount of money the state Department of Transportation said it needs just to get the state’s infrastructure “back to good” -- $30 billion –$440 million is a drop in a bucket. Spread out that $30 billion in pressing needs over 20 years, then the slight swelling of the FY 2014-15 budget looks anemic.

The new money wouldn’t even cover one-third of the first year amount needed - $1.5 billion. If it were a blanket, the new money wouldn’t cover the toes.

Those hoping that approaches similar to the one Senate Minority Leader Nikki Setzler (D-Columbia) uncorked this year – ponying-up a down payment on $500 million in roads bonds – may be in for a slap to the face.

While many interstate projects throughout the state often come with federal dollars attached, the $30 billion identified represents the state’s needs – with no federal support. According to an official with the state’s legislative Joint Bond Review, the state is already receiving the most it can from Washington, D.C., under current law.

That means that with no identifiable “new” or “free” funding source on the horizon, a policy shift may be forced in the Statehouse and the governor’s mansion -- the idea that maybe all taxes aren’t bad.

Political posturing over not increasing the state’s relatively low gas consumption tax may give way to a new policy paradigm, especially if the business community decides to push harder for better roads to carry its members’ wares to and from markets.

Smart is best

Current state Superintendent of Education Mick Zais’ announcement a week ago that he would not seek re-election could represent the beginning of the largest policy change of the three.

Upon taking office three years ago, Zais promised to shake up how K-12 public education as a product was delivered to the masses.

Zais, a retired general, worked diligently in that regard, championing efforts such as increasing the number of charter schools answering to Columbia instead of communities they resided in, more “distance learning” options for students to take classes online, and increased flexibility in how “local knows best” school districts spent state education funding.

But with Zais’ hand soon to be absent from the policy rudder, it’s hard to tell what direction the state’s public schools may be headed. Two longtime educator Democrats have already announced their candidacy – state Rep. Mike “Coach” Anthony of Union, and educator Montrio Belton of Fort Mill. Judging from their published and printed positions on how schools should be improved, neither will be aligned with Zais.

But one Republican’s name keeps popping up, state Rep. Andy Patrick of Hilton Head, a former Secret Service agent. A rising star who surprised some in a recent wide-open congressional primary, Patrick is considered by some insiders to be far more moderate than Zais.

Crystal ball: The return of somewhat better economic times may mean that state politicians can finally afford to think about what’s better for the state, policy-wise. It’s a welcome change, as better governance has a better chance of flowering when government can do more than just keeping the lights on.

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

Poverty, Allendale County, S.C.



This image by contributing photographer
Michael Kaynard of Charleston may be the perfect characterization of poverty in the South.  Not only is the word “crescent” misspelled in the sign outside this seemingly abandoned motel in Allendale, S.C., but upon close scrutiny, it’s clear people were living in the rooms of the dilapidated place.  Rural Allendale County in South Carolina’s southwest corner has one of the Southern Crescent’s highest poverty rates — more than 40 percent of people live below the federal poverty level. The median household income is about $23,000 a year — half of South Carolina’s average and well below the nation’s $50,000 average.  More.
Legislative Agenda

Only one meeting next week: House Ethics

Only one legislative meeting is scheduled for next week -- a convening of the House Ethics Committee at 9:30 a.m. Monday in Blatt 110 in Columbia. On the agenda: A hearing involving ethical allegations against state Rep. Bill Chumley, R-Spartanburg.

Already scheduled for 2014:

  • Transportation.  The Joint Transportation Review Committee will meet 11 a.m., Jan. 9 to screen five individuals for three positions on the S.C. Department of Transportation Commission. Notice of meeting.

  • Alimony reform conference: A statewide nonprofit dedicated to reforming South Carolina’s alimony laws will meet from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. January 11 at Dupre’s Catering, 300 Senate Street, Columbia. Keynote speaker is Steve Hitner, founcer of Massachusetts Alimony Reform. $15 fee to attend. More: Contact Wyman Oxner at 803.531.3002.

  • Opening of the 2014 legislative session: January 14, Statehouse, Columbia.
Radar Screen

Taxes, toil and trouble

Be on the lookout for lots of talk about reforming taxes next year as state Sen. Katrina Shealy, R-Lexington, has filed a measure to get rid of income taxes. Viewed by many economists as a notion that would put more of the tax burden on the poor, the proposal may pick up steam in South Carolina’s legislature that some say is too scared of the tea party to do what’s right and completely overhaul the state’s whole tax code, as the Taxation and Realignment Commission suggested a few years ago.

Palmetto Politics

Coalition touts how counties don’t want waste bill

The Don’t Dump on S.C. coalition says a majority of South Carolina’s county councils have passed resolutions opposing a bill that that they claim would make it easier for out-of-state to be deposited in South Carolina.

Thirty-eight counties -- all but Jasper, Dorchester, Kershaw, Lee, Darlington, Newberry, Spartanburg and Anderson (in white on the map) -- have approved measures opposing House Bill 3290.

“It is extraordinary for 38 counties to take the time to pass a resolution on a single subject with council agendas as crowded as they are," said Joe Branham, president of the South Carolina Association of Counties in a coalition press release. “This level of activity reflects the widespread impact of the flow control legislation and the importance of defeating that bill. These resolutions represent just a fraction of the intensity against flow control legislation.”

Ann Timberlake, executive director of Conservation Voters of South Carolina, added, "We want to thank the legislators and local officials who are opposing this bill. They truly have South Carolina's interests at heart."

January meeting set on huge potato farm

Critics of a proposed 3,700-acre potato farm in Aiken County that would draw more than six billion gallons of water out of the Edisto River got their wish granted this week from the state Department of Health and Environmental Control for a meeting to air their grievances.

“All of this is allowed under the well-intentioned Surface Water Withdrawal, Permitting, and Reporting Act that we helped pass in 2010 after three years of tough negotiations with all parties,” said Ann Timberlake, head of the Conservation Voters of South Carolina. “We expect legislative leaders to re-consider the registration of large, agricultural withdrawals. 

“DHEC’s decision was made almost a year ago and it’s a shame for all parties, including the owners of the farm, that the process did not begin with an open conversation with local communities and stakeholders. ... We fault DHEC for interpreting its regulations too narrowly. The future of the iconic Edisto River – our very own river – is at risk.

An “informational forum” will be held 6:30 p.m. January 7 at the Aiken Electric Cooperative office, 2790 Wagener Road, Aiken.

According to Timberlake, DHEC notes that staff will answer questions “about the registration process” but that the Forum is not a formal public hearing “for the purpose of receiving input on a DHEC decision.” 

Commentary

Who’s been naughty and nice in South Carolina

By Andy Brack, editor and publisher

DEC. 20, 2013 -- It’s the time of year for Christmas cheer, with presents or black coal, oh dear!

For some there will be great hoorays, while others will get holiday nays.

While South Carolina leaders who should get lumps of coal far outstrips the list of those who will unwrap presents, let’s start with those who have been nice:

Sugarplums to Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell, whose advocacy for South Carolina’s elderly is making a difference. And to state Sen. Vincent Sheheen, D-Camden, for successfully expanding 4-year-old kindergarten to reach more poor children. With just a bit more of a push in 2014, South Carolina could have every 4-year-old in a school of some sort.

Christmas cheer to state Rep. Jenny Horne, R-Summerville, for working to expose how the state Department of Social Services may not be protecting children as it should and for advocating for a new children’s agency. Kudos to moderate Rep. Tommy Stringer, R-Greer, for injecting some practical, moderate tax policy conversation into a chamber too dominated by people mesmerized by their own voices. And a holiday tip of the hat to Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, D-Orangeburg, for continuing as the conscience of the House -- even when the wingnuts get out of control.

In the Senate, pass the eggnog to state Sens. Wes Hayes, R-York, and Thomas Alexander, R-Oconee, both of whom get more accomplished by working diligently in the background than the blowhards who hog the television cameras. 

And don’t forget all of the folks working to keep our state green -- or greener -- from the Don’t Dump on S.C. anti-out-of-state-waste coalition to Santee Cooper and SCE&G that finally are pushing for more solar energy. It’s good too that power companies are retiring some dirty old coal power plants, which is where we get this year’s supply of coal lumps.

Atop the naughty list is Gov. Nikki Haley, who must have left the whole notion of Christian charity in the closet when refusing to accept billions of federal Medicaid expansion dollars that would have helped more than 200,000 of the state’s poorest get health insurance for the first time. It also didn’t help this year that Haley talked solidly about more ethical accountability and transparency, but continued to face campaign challenges of acting ethically.

Also on the naughty list:

Attorney General Alan Wilson, for wasting tax dollars on frivolous lawsuits and the convenient lie about hundreds of zombies voting in state elections that led to passage of a chilling voter ID law. But the allegation was found to have no substance when a SLED report saw the light of day in July. Noted the Washington Post: “There were not ‘hundreds’ of zombie voters — just egg on the face of the politicians who promoted these ‘facts’ across national television.”

S.C. Sen. Lee Bright, R-Spartanburg, for general wackiness that is fueling a bid for U.S. Senate. What we can’t figure out is how a guy who has $1.4 million in business debt can pitch that he’s fiscally responsible.

Tony Keck, head of the state Department of Health and Human Services and chief water-carrier of the strange notion that expanding rural health care by $20 million is better than accepting billions from Obamacare to bring preventive health insurance to thousands of poor residents.

State Supreme Court Justice Don Beatty, who shouldn’t get any rewards for saying how he would rule in a case that is not even before him about a bill that has not become law.

State Ethics Commission, which stretches the limits of credibility for seemingly preferential treatment for Gov. Nikki Haley’s ethical foibles.

Legislative nullifiers for continuing to push a failed political prescription for any policy they find irritating. It didn’t work 180 years ago or when the nation split 150 years ago. 

State Treasurer Curtis Loftis for a “my way or the highway” attitude in dealing with the state pension board. The bickering needs to stop.

Members of the state congressional delegation who voted to continue the federal government shutdown and put the United States’ financial system at risk. Included are U.S. Sen. Tim Scott and U.S. Reps. Mark Sanford, Joe Wilson, Jeff Duncan, Trey Gowdy, Mick Mulvaney and Tom Rice.

Let’s hope for a better 2014, even though it is an election year.

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

ON THE TUBE:  Brack will appear 8:30 p.m. tonight on "Carolina Business Review" on WTVI (PBS Charlotte).  You can watch in S.C. at 9:30 p.m. January 2 on ETV's S.C. Channel; or at 5 p.m. January 8 or 6 p.m. January 10 on ETV World;

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My Turn

How the law can help to combat hate

By John L.S. Simpkins
Special for Statehouse Report

NOTE: Today's My Turn is an excerpt from remarks by Simpkins, who was keynote speaker and recipient of an honorary degree at the Charleston School of Law’s commencement ceremony at Charleston School of Law on Sunday.

DEC. 15, 2013 -- There are certain questions where the answer is always yes. “Would you like to sit in first class?” “Would you like to receive an honorary degree?” But none compares to being asked if you’d like to meet a man who was already a global icon and a month away from becoming the president of his country after serving 27 years in jail. So, I answered “yes” as quickly as I could before Denis changed his mind. 

As a result, just a few weeks later, I found myself entering the bleak office tower known as Shell House, the downtown Johannesburg headquarters of the African National Congress. After passing through security, I was taken to an elevator, whisked up to the top floor where the doors opened and I was greeted by Madiba’s [Nelson Mandela's] personal secretary. She shepherded me through a warren of cubicles and opened a large oak door, closing it behind me. Leaving me alone with Nelson Mandela as he came from behind his desk to greet me. It was the first time in my life when I was speechless. For the first few seconds of the encounter, I could not speak.

Not to worry, my host welcomed me and asked about my home. I told him I was from South Carolina and that my parents and other relatives before them had been active in the struggle for civil rights. Then, something happened that will stay with me forever: “Thank you,” he said, “for coming to South Africa. And thank you to your family for serving as examples to us in the fight against apartheid. Our brothers and sisters in America were a source of great inspiration to us.” Having regained my ability to speak, I was nevertheless in awe. Nelson Mandela thanked me. This man who had sacrificed so much personally, professionally, and politically in the service of an ideal—equality—was thanking me, a know-nothing 22 year-old college grad do-gooder from the US. 

More than the charisma and trappings of authority, the one memory that remains strongest from that very brief encounter was the humility of the man. He could have been dismissive of this kid who was cluttering up his schedule, condescending to someone who had lived nothing close to the life he had lived. But he thanked me. And anyone who ever got a thank you from Nelson Mandela would never dare question its authenticity. It was the kind of gratitude that wraps itself around you and allows you to simply bask in his appreciation.   It is a feeling I have never forgotten. I especially recall his humility during those times when I find myself confronting so many others—unimpressive but self-important politicians, businessmen, sometimes even academics—who believe themselves to be my superiors and go to great pains to make their case. Whenever I find myself in those situations, I think of the humility of a man who didn’t have to be.  

Madiba didn’t have to be humble, yet he so easily engaged with everyone, no matter where they were situated within the social hierarchy. As Mandela himself said in “Long Walk to Freedom,” 

No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.

No one is born hating, yet the forces Mandela confronted were not only consumed by hatred, but in fact reflected a twisted globalized expression of hatred. As much as some trumpet the newness of human connection with clever sayings like “The World is Flat” or in tidy just-so stories reported by cab drivers around the world, globalization is neither news nor is it new. 

We have borne witness to a long history of the globalization of hate, a hatred in which the law was often complicit. Apartheid South Africa was but one point on a legal map that saw Jews dehumanized as vermin while being stripped of all rights, and ultimately threatened with extinction by a lawfully elected government in Nazi Germany. And here, in our beloved South, where for too long we lawfully segregated the races, deciding that we would rather ignore the human potential of large swaths of our population instead of giving everyone an equal chance. ...

Among the lessons we can draw from genocide and wide-scale dispossession and relocation is that law may be equally useful in combating hate. Gandhi, who first gained notoriety as a young lawyer in South Africa, turned the British Empire away from the Indian subcontinent. Mandela, applying the discipline from his training as a lawyer, utilized every tool at his disposal to force an end to legalized apartheid. And here in South Carolina, Briggs v. Eliot spurred a wave of judicial and legislative activity aimed at ending Jim Crow. ...

Our defense against the evil that men do is dignity. And so, in this season of belief, I, too, believe. I believe that dignity is real. We can see it in its absence. The assault on dignity is a felt evil and very real. Consider ... our own history of the execrable trade in humans, a custom centered just miles away from here on Sullivan’s Island, the entry point for the largest number of Africans into the United States. Many of those same Africans then made their way to area rice plantations, where they manually dug irrigation canals, themselves impressive feats of engineering and agriculture. Many of those same Africans lived no more than 7 years while performing backbreaking work in malarial conditions, making killing fields of those lovely irrigation canals we now traverse in recognition of our “heritage.” Dignity is real because we see that our only alternative to turning towards each other is to turn from each other and ultimately to turn ON each other, meaning there really is no choice at all. 

Faced with these options, Mandela chose love over hate. Dignity over depravity. It was the thoroughly secular Mandela who took the mantle of liberation so that justice would “roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.” ...

If it is so that we are to love, then we must apply ourselves to this project with all the energy, passion, and intellect that you began your journey here at the law school. With a clear head and open heart, it is our time to stand shoulder to shoulder in the service of human dignity. Just like Gandhi. Just like Madiba. Just like every lawyer who ever gave a damn about someone other than himself. 

John L.S. Simpkins is a native of Lexington and a former constitutional law professor professor who works today in Washington, D.C. Click here to see video highlights of the law school’s December commencement ceremony.

Feedback

Doesn’t want companies to mandate higher education

To the editor:

Good article and great points. ["Public education, workforce development linked," by Andy Brack]  I am definitely pro-growth and business as I am a commercial Realtor, However, throwing more tax dollars at a failing system is not the answer. It first starts with families and desire. When you have the government making it more of an incentive NOT to work vs. work, the need for an educated work force diminishes.

We need to stress values and promote self-reliance vs. dependency. That working is a GOOD thing. I agree that there will be future jobs to fill that require additional education, but I think when companies mandate higher education to fill positions is wrong, which this thought is a growing trend.

I know people who don’t have a college degree (myself) that can work circles around most that do and can be trained to do any job. Its economics. Businesses know that they can employee a new graduate for pennies on the dollar. Higher education is not for everyone as we are indoctrinated to believe. Not all jobs require that skill set. I do like the tech college approach. Too many kids graduate with a degree they can’t use. Honestly I’m fearful of sending a child to college. Elites teach what they think, not the truth.

We agree that we need to bridge the workforce and future jobs gap. I just support a different and better option. Common sense and standards vs. growing education funding.

-- J. Neal Boyett, Spartanburg, S.C.

South needs more than civility to move forward

To the editor:

It is vital that our education be relevant and prepare our citizenry for survival in the social-media info-tech era that has been thrust upon us all. Education for just the sake of the grade or some standardized test is not enough. What do students from K-12 really need to become productive adults and citizens?

For example I recently represented a young man in a personal matter and was impressed at his age, as a 30-some-old African American that he was employed making $60,000 plus salary with only a two-year degree from Midlands Tech

There is a direct relationship between culture, eye-hand coordination, music and math and science.  The problem as I see it is this fear of math and science and a culture of fear towards the nomenclature and terms of math and science. The problem will never be solved at the Statehouse through legislation and the government regulation of education. At the core of our cultural problem is a resistance, especially here in South Carolina, to overcome the remnants of slavery, Civil War, Reconstruction and South Carolina's continuing secessionist persona.

For South Carolina to ever succeed it must go through a process of honest, truthful, public narrative beyond "civility,” as J.T. McLawhorn touts as  a means of temperate reconciliation. It does no good for us to have civility with the current corporate structure.  For the most part, only when the culture is changed will the South ever reach its maximum goals. 

-- Thomas E. Mosley, Columbia, S.C.

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Scorecard

From good jets to bad drivers

Boeing.   South Carolina had a good year with Boeing ... and next year looks like it could get even better. More.

Haley. Gov. Nikki Haley’s husband Michael is back from a deployment in Afghanistan -- just in time for Christmas. What a great holiday gift.

Wade. With former U.S. Commerce Department adviser Rick Wade now in as a Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, a race against incumbent Republican Tim Scott got more interesting. More.

Occupy Columbia. A judge has ruled that protesters removed from the Statehouse grounds in 2011 can sue Gov. Nikki Haley. More.

State Education Department. State Superintendent Mick Zais, who last Friday said he wouldn’t run for re-election (thank goodness) and his department spiked a federal grant that it had received in recent years. More.

State Ethics Commission. News came this week that the State Ethics Commission is still quiet three weeks after it released a letter that it had previously denied existed. More.

Benjamin. It’s never good news when you hear that you were the original target of a broad corruption investigation, as Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin learned this week. But he’s said through a spokesman that he hasn’t had any involvement with a development project since 2009. More.

Bad drivers. South Carolina has the nation’s worst drivers, except for one state. Makes some sense -- our roads aren’t too good either. More.

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