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ISSUE 8.44
Oct. 30, 2009

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Index

News :
Judging time
Radar Screen :
Where’s Waldo?
Palmetto Politics :
House cleaning
Commentary :
Boeing news stresses state’s real needs
Spotlight :
S.C. Association for Justice
Feedback :
Tell us what you really think
Scorecard :
Ups, down and in the middle
Stegelin :
A rock
Megaphone :
You can do it
In our blog :
In the blogs
Encyclopedia :
Blackbeard

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NUMBER OF THE WEEK

$5,000,000

$5 MILLION. That’s how much former Department of Social Services finance director Paul Moore pleaded guilty this week to bilking from the agency.  He allegedly spent the money on “alcohol, gambling and strippers” according to the Greenville News.

MEGAPHONE

You can do it

"We're hot and heavy after it … We have as good a shot as anybody."
 
-- The words of then-Commerce Secretary Bob Faith in 2003 when the state first heard about the possibility of Boeing expanding to South Carolina.

IN OUR BLOG

In the blogs

Good news needed. Despite Gov. Mark Sanford’s apparent misdeeds, Republican consultant Chip Felkel thinks what the state needs is good news about it splashed across national papers, not impeachment stories:

“It would be good if the governor would actually show the level of commitment to SC that he has shown to his own personal ideology and ambitions, and simply go quietly into the night.”
 
Name ID. Wolfe Reports blogged this week that gubernatorial candidate state Superintendent of Education Jim Rex might want to wait to pop the champagne after an internal poll found him leading other Democratic contenders:
 
”However, 43 percent of people polled had no preference, and the other major candidates — Sen. Vince Sheheen, attorney and former lobbyist Dwight Drake and attorney Mullins McLeod — don’t have much statewide recognition beyond the political class. As a whole, it looks more like the polls that showed U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman leading the Democratic presidential pack early in the 2004 primary race. He didn’t have the goods, but he had name ID.”
 
Clustered. FITS News celebrated the coming arrival of a second Boeing assembly line, but worried that the supporters of the theory of economic “clusters” would be emboldened:
 
“Well, assuming that Boeing were to immediately create every single one of the 3,800 jobs envisioned by the state’s incentive offering, South Carolina’s unemployment rate would inch down from 11.6% to 11.43%.

ENCYCLOPEDIA

Blackbeard

Most commonly known today as Edward Teach, in the Carolinas in the early eighteenth century Blackbeard was called Edward Thatch. Since confusion about his real name has confounded researchers into his background, his birthplace and parentage remain unknown. …

Surfacing in Jamaica in mid-1717, Blackbeard in eighteen months carved an extraordinarily successful career as a pirate, creating an indelible image of "the fiercest pirate of them all" and making him a global icon. A tall and domineering figure possessing a volatile and charismatic personality, Blackbeard cultivated a reputation as "a Devil incarnate" that was enhanced by his boarding ships while brandishing numerous weapons and while wreathed in smoke from burning tapers in his beard and hair.

Like most pirates of his era, he began as a privateer during Queen Anne's War (1701-1713). … Blackbeard's first piratical voyage was in summer 1717 to the North American coast from the Carolinas to Delaware Bay. In the fall Blackbeard commanded Stede Bonnet's sloop Revenge in another rampage on the same coast, taking eleven prizes. Cruising in the Leeward Islands in November, Blackbeard seized the French slave ship Concorde, heavily armed it, and named it Queen Anne's Revenge. With Revenge and Queen Anne's Revenge, Blackbeard swept across the Caribbean.

The pirate captains separated over the winter but reunited by chance in March 1718 off the Central American Spanish Main. Blackbeard now sailed north to the Carolinas with a four-ship flotilla, mounting at least sixty guns, the most powerful maritime force in the hemisphere. Arriving off Charleston in mid-May, he blockaded the port for a week, seizing prizes and hostages for ransom. This infamous feat "struck a great Terror to the whole Province of Carolina." Plundering eight or nine ships for supplies and specie, Blackbeard held hostages, including Samuel Wragg, a councilman. Under the threat of the hostages being murdered, a reluctant Governor Robert Johnson agreed to a ransom of a valuable chest of medicine.

From Charleston, Blackbeard sailed to isolated North Carolina, where at Beaufort Inlet in June two of his vessels-Queen Anne's Revenge and Adventure-wrecked. He took the royal pardon from Governor Charles Eden, married in Bath, and scaled down his illegal activities. Blackbeard established a camp at Ocracoke Inlet, the chief entrance to the colony, and appeared virtually to have retired from piracy. Uneasy at having a notorious pirate nearby, however, Virginia governor Alexander Spottswood invaded North Carolina with a naval and land force. Blackbeard was cornered at Ocracoke on November 22, 1718, by Lieutenant Robert Maynard's flotilla and killed.

-- Excerpted from the entry by Lindley S. Butler. 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.)

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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

Judging time

Reducing sentences, opening up prison beds

By Bill Davis, senior editor

OCT. 30, 2009 -- Given enough time, any pendulum, even the long arm of the law, will swing in the opposite direction.   

That’s what is happening in South Carolina, where the state Sentencing Reform Commission has been working to reduce or erase prison time for convictions that had been heretofore considered serious.
           
In the ’60s, simple possession of a single marijuana cigarette in some states could result in several years in jail.
           
In the ’80s when crack cocaine exploded onto the drug scene and fueled a crime wave, federal and state governments set up draconian differences in punishments between traditional powder cocaine and the smoke-able rock.
           
Now in the ’00s, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has announced that his department will not be using the federal Justice Department’s limited resources to pursue cases against “medical” marijuana sellers.
           
And the top lawman in South Carolina, state Attorney General Henry McMaster is an advocate of creating a “middle” court system, which diverts non-violent criminals, some first-time offender and others from prison into a beefed-up probation system, where, for instance, drug offenders get rehab instead of stripes.

Finding balance
           
So has South Carolina gone “soft on crime”?
           
Not by any means. What has been happening -- and will continue to unfold in the upcoming legislative session -- is a re-jiggering of the balance point between keeping society safe and lawful, and the state’s fiscal bottom line.
           
WHAT’S AHEAD
 
While there’s still a lot of work to be done on sentencing reform, legislators are closed-mouthed about what exactly will be in a reform package next year. However, several components could include:
  • Creation of a middle court system for non-violent offenders.

  • Compassionate release for seriously-ill inmates.

  • Broader use of longer probation, including the possible appearance before original sentencing judge before release.
To work toward that, a commission comprised of state representatives, senators, lawyers, judges, prison officials and others have been meeting for months to see how to lighten the load on non-violent drug offenders, the prison system and the state’s operating budget.
           
According to a February presentation given to the Sentencing Reform Commission by the state Department of Corrections, there are three major reasons for the increase in prison population.
           
One, drug offenders. Two, mandatory sentencing. And three, “truth in sentencing” laws through which offenders cannot be paroled until they’ve served a minimum of 85 percent of their original sentence.
           
Corrections officials say that not only have more inmates been incarcerated in their facilities, but the inmates are staying longer.  “The prison system is now housing 10 times the number of drug law violators [than] incarcerated in 1980,” the February 2009 report said.  The report also stated the proposed middle court system would greatly reduce the number of inmates, and that non-“truth in sentencing” criminals were significantly less likely to return to prison after release or parole.
           
To house an inmate in 2006, the state spent over $13,000 a year.   As of Oct. 15, the Department of Corrections’ facilities were 99.8 percent full at 24,098 inmates, according to its Web site.
           
Currently, Corrections is the only state department consistently running a major, multi-million dollar annual budget deficit.  With enhanced and mandatory sentencing, some fear that the department’s deficit could continue to grow unless something is done to stem crime, reduce the number of prisoners in the system or discover a gold mine to refill state coffers.
           
According to Corrections, the cost in 2006 dollars to build a 500-bed maximum security institution would be $50 million, or $100,000 per bed; while a 192-bed minimum security housing unit added to an existing institution wasn’t that much cheaper -- $6.7 million, or $34,896 per bed.
           
Budget is having impact on priorities
 
State Sen. Jake Knotts (R-W. Columbia) knew what it was like years ago on the front lines of the drug war. A former vice cop, Knotts helped lock up people on drug possession and simple use charges that would draw a fine today.
           
“The balancing point has changed, has moved,” Knotts said, thanks to the national sentiment changing on non-serious drug crimes and the enormous expense of housing an inmate.
           
Knotts, who is serving on the Sentencing Reform Commission, said some of the blame falls on his former colleagues, who have focused on arresting users and street-level dealers to bolster their arrest records to increase the amount of grant money their departments could receive.
           
He said what needed to happed was that the police and courts needed to focus more on the major distributors, saving prison beds and extra attention for them.
           
But Knotts said drug crimes are not “victimless,” and that more needed to be done to protect society from them. But he added, interestingly, that he thought the least threatening criminal in the prison system was “the wife or husband who kills their spouse in the heat of passion.”
           
Rep. Murrell Smith (R-Sumter), a former public defender who also serves on the commission, said the “balancing point” has moved with nudges from national sentiment and the increased cost of housing inmates.
           
Smith has seen the state equalize its penalties for crack and powder cocaine, and said South Carolina is one of the latest in the country to address prison overcrowding and expense through a reexamination of its sentencing guidelines.
           
“The states you think of being more ‘hardcore’ about criminals -- Mississippi, Alabama, Texas -- have already gone through this process,” said Smith. “What we’re talking about here isn’t ‘theory’ or propaganda; it’s empirical data.”
           
Both Smith and Knotts said the Sentencing Reform Commission, with its members’ disparate points of view, has largely been able to reach consensus on what likely turn out to be its recommendations later next year.
 
Crystal ball:  There can be no doubt that the state is facing a financial crisis in its prison system, where too many inmates staying too long are costing too much money. But how will reducing sentencing, or releasing to treatment those who would normally have been incarcerated, play in the upcoming election year in one of the nation’s most politically conservative states? That remains to be seen.
 
Radar Screen

Where’s Waldo?

Gov. Mark Sanford had two perfect opportunities to throw ideological wrenches into the works this week. And he passed on throwing one at either opportunity.

First, the state passed a law change that will net millions of federal dollars for out-of-work residents.  Second, the reconvened legislature uncorked a $450-million tax incentive package to lure Boeing into opening a second assembly line at its North Charleston facility. Sanford, for a change, vetoed neither.
 
While the unemployment law change would have cost the state nothing directly, the governor had opposed big chunks of the Obama administration’s stimulus package. Sanford has opposed tax hand-outs lure business in the past. So why the change of heart? Here’s a thought: impeachment. Sanford probably knew that if he wanted to keep his job past the second week of January, he’d better try to stay on the legislature’s good side.
Palmetto Politics

House cleaning

The state House and Senate met this week to quickly pass a restructuring of its unemployment benefits law. The small change enabled the state to fall in line with federal guidelines making the state’s unemployed eligible to receive an additional 20 weeks of jobless benefits.

It was matter that could, and perhaps should, have been handled before the legislature ended its legislative session earlier this year. Many kudos were handed out on the floor of the House to Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter (D-Orangeburg), who had originally proposed the change as a stand-alone bill in the final weeks of the session.
 
Sanford rolls on. For now.
 
During the short, two-day session, this week, state Rep. Greg Delleney (R-Chester) attempted to introduce a motion to impeach Gov. Mark Sanford for having left the country unannounced earlier this year in order to have a tryst with a South American girlfriend.
 
Rep. Walt McLeod (D-Little Mountain), stood in opposition, and pointed out that the resolution that allowed the legislature to return to session this last week precluded the introduction of any new business, and that impeachment constituted new business.
 
Delleney, who has stood with the governor on different issues in the past, argued for the motion, said that the House could act independently from the resolution and the Senate on this matter, and to do otherwise would be to cede its constitutional duty. McLeod prevailed, but House Speaker Bobby Harrell (R-Charleston) said Delleney could pre-file the bill later this year, before the next legislative session began in January.

Boeing, umm, land

Backs were slapped in South Carolina and foreheads in Seattle this week after aircraft giant Boeing announced it would be opening a second assembly line in North Charleston. The expansion was forecast to bring nearly 4,000 direct jobs, not spin-off or associated jobs, to the state. To sweeten the pot, the state passed this week a massive, $450-million tax incentive plan. Some have hopes that Boeing’s expansion will have a similar economic impact on the state to the ones provided by BMW and Michelin.
 
Kudos to Cooper
 
House Ways and Means chair Dan Cooper (R-Piedmont) will receive the David Wilkins Award for Excellence in Legislative Leadership in January.  The award is sponsored by the Riley Institute at Furman University, and recognizes a state leader who “embodies the highest principles of leadership based on integrity, compassion, vision, civility and courage.”
Commentary

Boeing news stresses state’s real needs

By Andy Brack, editor and publisher

OCT. 30, 2009– Don’t get me wrong about Boeing’s big announcement that it will bring thousands of jobs to South Carolina. It’s absolutely outstanding news – even “transformational,” as state Sen. Larry Grooms (R-Berkeley) says.

But while construction of a second assembly line will lead to $750 million in investment and 3,800 jobs for the company to get the state’s $450 million in incentives, many parts of South Carolina won’t benefit. How many people in, say, Hartsville, Dillon or Greenwood will get jobs because of the expanded plant? Few.
 
Yes, there will be a lot of spin-off jobs, just as scores of suppliers for BMW located around Spartanburg after the German company announced it would open a plant in Spartanburg.   Since the 1992 BMW announcement, the company has invested $4.2 billion and built 1.5 million cars. Suppliers have invested an additional $2.1 billion, according to the BMW Web site.
 
But as Columbia economist Harry Miley says, building a state economic development strategy on the backbone of landing a huge company every now and then isn’t the smartest way for the state to grow.
 
“Can we really sit around and wait every 17 years for a big announcement?” he asks. “I don’t think so.”
 
Miley, former chair of the state Board of Economic Advisors, stressed how huge and important the good news about Boeing is for the poor Palmetto State. 
 
“It boosts our reputation. It makes us look like we know what we’re doing [with economic development.] This is a good industry because it has a lot of spinoffs.
 
“But, we have some underlying structural problems in South Carolina that this is not going to help and there are a lot of areas of South Carolina that won’t ever know who Boeing is,” he said. “We’ve still got to focus on them.”
 
He’s talking about improving worker skills, bettering the state’s low graduation rate and focusing on job creation all over South Carolina.
 
S.C. Policy Council President Ashley Landess warned of hidden implications associated with the tax breaks given to Boeing. In a press release, the council called the Boeing package short-sighted and “bad public policy,” such as when viewed through the lens that the state lost 80,000 jobs over the last year. The Boeing plant will create only 542 jobs each year for the next seven years, it said.
 
"Boeing’s announcement is great, but South Carolina now needs to take the truly trans-formational step of reworking how it attracts businesses and grows jobs by focusing on statewide educational and economic solutions."
“For the money we’re paying Boeing, we could come close to eliminating corporate taxes for all South Carolina businesses,” she said. “That kind of economic stimulus benefits the entire state and has a real impact on unemployment. Legislative leaders are congratulating themselves for creating jobs.  They didn’t.  Instead, they increased the cost of government at the expense of already-struggling citizens, who cannot afford the cost of this subsidy.”   
 
But Otis Rawl, head of the state Chamber of Commerce, said a big-picture view had to focus on Boeing’s suppliers, many of whom likely would move to the state to be able to be near to the plant. Those jobs generally will locate within a 100-mile radius of the North Charleston plant, which means some job help for rural areas, he said.
 
“This announcement sends the message that South Carolina has gotten back in the game of economic development,” Rawl said. “It gives us all a little sense of things getting better.”
 
Perhaps one thing that the Boeing announcement will force, Rawl added, is a refocused political debate on how to reshape a huge driver of all economic development – how the state educates its residents. 
 
“We’re going to have to take a look at some type of statewide funding for public education,” he said. 
 
Currently, rural areas have high property tax rates, which are disincentives for business development. But if the state crafted some way to ensure that rural areas could lower taxes needed to run government, then rural areas would be more competitive. Additionally, comprehensive statewide funding of education would likely ensure better educational quality in rural areas, which also would give economic developers more tools to attract jobs.
 
Bottom line: Boeing’s announcement is great, but South Carolina now needs to take the truly transformational step of reworking how it attracts businesses and grows jobs by focusing on statewide educational and economic solutions.

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Scorecard

Ups, down and in the middle

Boeing. Jobs. Good pay. Tech-savvy. South Carolina? More.

Sanford. Thanks for getting out of the way on Boeing and unemployment enhancements.

Well, duh. State Sen. Vincent Sheheen (D-Kershaw) and state Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer officially announced their candidacies for governor.
 
Sanford.  Was more focused on national issues and campaigns, than the state in his second term, according to analysis done by The State.
 
ESC. Drastic differences in accounting may spell bigger trouble for the state’s unemployment agency, according to state comptroller.  More.
 
DSS. The former finance director stole $5 million to fuel his love for booze, dice, and strippers? More.
 
Justice. Former GOP state Rep. Roland Corning, 60, was fired from his job as a deputy state attorney general soon after being spotted in a cemetery in a parked car replete with an 18-year-old female “gentlemen’s club” employee and sex toys.  Where did he think he worked, DSS? More.
Stegelin

A rock


Also from Stegelin: 10/23 | 10/16 | 10/9 | 10/2 | 9/25 | 9/18

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/.