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ISSUE 8.47
Nov. 20, 2009

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

Index

News :
State thumbs a-twiddle?
Palmetto Politics :
Ethically challenged
Commentary :
Now is the time for courage
Spotlight :
Force Protection, Inc.
My Turn :
Urges passage of a "fair tax"
Feedback :
Vent your spleen
Scorecard :
Up, down and in the middle
Stegelin :
Probable
In our blog :
In the blogs
Tally Sheet :
Tally Sheet is back

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NUMBER OF THE WEEK

51

PREFILED BILLS: 51. That’s many bills were prefiled in the House this week.  Bills included calls to impeach the governor, document snake attacks and make using a cell phone at the time of a car accident a grounds for negligence.  Learn more in Tally Sheet, below at the right.

MEGAPHONE

Huh?

“ … ”
 
-- Gov. Mark Sanford on the BEA calling for a $120 million cut to the state’s current budget. Sanford, unlike in times past, had no comment. Not even a single “I told you so.”  More.

IN OUR BLOG

In the blogs

In the blogs

Pitchforks. Wolfe Reports wants everyone in the state to attack the state Ethics Commission with pitchforks for stating in its report this week that Gov. Mark Sanford maybe, kinda, sorta broke state laws:
 
”It has no teeth, no raison d’être beyond gathering and disseminating information. Want to hold an elected official’s feet to the fire? You better get good evidence and sue their happy ass in court, because you can’t trust the SEC to do anything.”
 
Beltlines. FITS News decided to hit certain members of the Statehouse Report below (and above) the belt this week:
 
“According to a new report by our friends at the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease, within the next decade 48.1 percent of South Carolinians will be obese, which means our state will spend $5.3 billion annually – or $1,500 per person – fighting obesity-related ailments.”

TALLY SHEET

Tally Sheet is back

Our Tally Sheet is back! In this issue, we again offer summaries of the most important and interesting of newly-filed bills. On Tuesday, members filed 51 bills that can be found here in more detail. Senators will prefile bills on Dec. 9, while House members will get another chance to prefile on Dec. 15.

Impeachment. H. 4168 (Delleney) calls for the impeachment of Gov. Mark Sanford.
 
Health mandate. H. 4171 (Scott) calls for South Carolina to “opt out” of any federally-passed mandate for citizens to buy health care if a public option is included. H. 4181 calls for a new section of the Constitution to be added to prohibit any law from requiring participation in a health plan, with several provisions.
 
Property tax. H. 4179 (Clemmons) would exempt taxable value of improvements to real property from property taxes, with several stipulations and provisions.
 
Homestead exemption. H. 4180 would increase homestead exemptions for seniors to $100,000.
 
Term limit. H. 4182 (Scott) calls for a constitutional amendment to limit lieutenant governors from serving more than two successive terms. Scott is running for the office currently.
 
Speed limit. H. 4185 (Rutherford) would increase the speed limit on Interstates to 80 miles per hour.
 
Texting. H. 4189 (Bowen) would make it unlawful to do text-messaging while driving. H. 4190 (Sellers) would make it unlawful to use a handheld device while driving.
 
Prison phones. H. 4191 (Kirsh) would make it unlawful to have a wireless phone or similar device in a Corrections facility, with certain provisions.
 
Employment security. H. 4203 (Bingham) calls for the “Employment Security Funding and Reform Act.”
 
Insurance director. H. 4210 (Stavrinakis) calls for the state Insurance Department director to be elected statewide, rather than appointed.
 
Animal fighting. H. 4213 (G.M. Smith) calls for it to be illegal to possess, train, transport or sell an animal for the intent of engaging in animal fighting and baiting.

ENCYCLOPEDIA

Hash

Hearty meals have been cooked in large, cast-iron pots since the Middle Ages. Variations are endless and limited only to the imagination of the maker and palate of the consumer. In South Carolina, hash takes the place of honor held by Brunswick Stew in nearby Georgia, Virginia, and North Carolina. Usually served over rice, hash is more than a mere accompaniment to barbecue and maintains an important role as a congregational food. Hash is a community-based tradition, cooked in big pots for large numbers of people. Recipes are far from consistent, with variations built around techniques that spring from rural folklife.

As did other southern stews, hash developed out of a need to turn leftovers, scraps, and whatever one could find into a palatable one-pot dish. While hash variations are countless, three loosely defined geographic regions can be identified. Lowcountry hash can consist of hogsheads and organ meats such as pork liver, cooked down in a stock favoring vinegar and ketchup. Vegetables can include onions, corn, and diced potatoes. Hash from the Midlands typically consists of leaner pork cuts combined with onions, cooked in a mustard-based stock. Finally, upstate hash is largely beef-based with onions, butter, and no dominant ketchup, vinegar, or mustard base. These regions are largely historical and today the most enduring regional difference rests in the sauce or stock.

Recipes perpetuated by hash masters are a source of immense personal and local pride, and makers go to great lengths to retain the uniqueness of their hash recipes and cooking techniques. While many rural fire departments, agricultural clubs, and other civic organizations cook hash for community fund-raisers, the most prolific producers are locally owned barbecue restaurants, many of which developed from family "shade tree" cooking traditions. While hash might have been born out of necessity, this one-pot treasure has long since made the transition to a "comfort food."

-- Excerpted from the entry by Saddler Taylor. 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

State thumbs a-twiddle?

2010 could be legislative sprint ... or slowdown

By Bill Davis, senior editor

NOV. 20, 2009 -- Fears are mounting that the 2010 legislative session, which will commence in less than two months, may become especially unproductive for three very distracting reasons:

One, Gov. Mark Sanford’s potential impeachment; two, continued low tax revenues; and three, a looming election.
           
For the past several legislative sessions, the S.C. General Assembly has left more on the table, such as passing a cigarette tax increase, than a room full of supermodels do around a Thanksgiving buffet.
           
This year, 2009, the big ticket item the legislature passed was a budget, which it is required to do anyway by the state constitution.  In 2008, the big issue was illegal immigration reform legislation, which, arguably, was (and still is) a federal issue.
           
Critics have complained that the legislature has done little to address the pressing economic, employment, health, education and environmental problems facing the state.  Instead, they say lawmakers have worried more about “politicking,” thereby expanding the “leadership vacuum” beyond that from the governor’s mansion.
           
For years, many members of the state legislature have blamed Gov. Mark Sanford for the lack of success in moving the state forward.  Critics there have pointed to Sanford’s vetoes, his stubbornness to work with the legislature and his pig poop-laced media stunts.

At the same time, the legislature has moved swiftly at times to override huge numbers of Sanford’s vetoes, acting, as the governor has alleged, above its place by taking on some executive roles.     

Grumbling is increasing
 
Huge budget cuts have hamstrung the legislature, to be sure, for the last few years. But now comes increasing grumbling that legislators and leaders in the state House and Senate are using these issues as a smokescreen, allowing members to divert the public’s attention from the “doughnut” of pressing issues and onto its “hole” of blather.
           
“Basically, we are facing the prospect of legislative success being even more meager in 2010 than it was this year,” said Dana Beach, one of the state’s leading environmentalists and the founder of the influential S.C. Coastal Conservation League.
           
“Last year, [the legislature] had both the budget deficit and Sanford; this coming year, they’re going to have them and an election,” said Beach, a common sight in the lobby of the Statehouse, working legislators for votes on environmentally-friendly bills.
           
Beach said if recent history was any predictor, “then we don’t have a lot of reason to be too optimistic of anything transformative coming out of the General Assembly this year.” 
           
So where does the blame lay?  Is it 100 percent the governor’s, as many in the legislature intimate? Or 100 percent within the legislature, as the governor has alleged?
           
“I’d say it’s about 65 percent the governor’s fault,” said Sue Berkowitz, who, as director of the S.C. Appleseed Legal Justice Center, has seen the vulnerable poor impacted the most directly by the state’s ongoing woes.
           
Berkowitz said with a different governor in office for the past seven legislative sessions, she believed a lot more could have been done. But, at the same time, she said the legislature has several times dropped the ball -- like on payday lending reform debate this year -- without any help from the governor.
           
“I’ve seen up close how money and special interests can affect debate,” lamented Berkowitz.
           
She said Sanford’s reign has made it easier for the legislature to, at times, take a pass on critical issues and tough decisions.
           
One health care lobbyist, speaking on condition of anonymity, said he was concerned how readily the General Assembly had become during the Sanford years to put off making tough decisions.
           
The lobbyist was concerned that a study committee convened a year ago to look into the how the state funds and runs its behavioral health services has failed to meet to this date, even though it has a report due in February.
           
Gubernatorial candidate Jim Rex, already the state Superintendent of Education, splits the blame equally between the Statehouse and the governor’s mansion.
           
Rex said he has seen both sides lead and lag since taking office.    
           
Because of an expected shorter session calendar, rife with planned money-saving furloughs, Rex said that whatever will happen in the upcoming session will happen early and quickly. That way, he said, the legislators will be able to spend more time in their home districts politicking to keep their seats.
           
Rex said the increased pace at the beginning of the session, versus the usual mad dash to finish could likely mean the legislature will either get it very right, or very wrong. “There won’t be a lot of middle ground,” he said.
 
Crystal ball: Something’s got to change, or the cries for “throw all the bums out” will spread past gatherings of cranks wearing tinfoil hats or passing cups of tea at parties. Early bellwethers may be how the House deals with impeachment. If that’s shelved in committee, the legislature can get down to business. If it dominates the floor early on, it will snarl the process and 2010 will look a lot like 2009. Only leaner and meaner.

RECENTLY IN NEWS

11/13:  Traditional issues get new spin for 2010
11/6:  Straightening out SC's tax puzzle
10/30:  Sentencing reform in the crosshairs
10/23:  Lawmakers to return to deal with ESC bungling

Palmetto Politics

Ethically challenged

The S.C. Ethics Commission issued a much-anticipated report this week, but only to Gov. Mark Sanford about his alleged violations of state ethics laws.  After a lot of public caterwauling, Sanford now says he’ll release the report next week to state lawmakers.
 
The allegations were related to his use of campaign funds and air travel. The allegations apparently stopped short of accusing the governor of breaking any major laws, only that an investigation had resulted in “probable cause.”
 
Most ethics violations result in a slap on the wrist or a relatively small fine.  House Speaker Bobby Harrell (R-Charleston) expressed disdain after reportedly learning that Sanford’s lawyers had been presented with a copy of the ethics report, a document he believed should have immediately gone to the legislature.
 
The state Supreme Court ruled earlier this month that Sanford could not block the release of the report to the legislature until he and his lawyers had crafted a response. Sanford has said releasing just the report without his response would be unfair, and only tell half of the story. In related news, Sanford’s lawyers this week sent an addendum to their filings with the Ethics Commission, detailing more than 20 flights that he had been previously unrecorded.

Commentary

Now is the time for courage

By Andy Brack, editor and publisher

NOV. 20, 2009 – Now is the time in our state and nation for courage - - for leaders who will stand up for what’s right for the state and nation, regardless of how it will impact them personally.

What do we have instead? 
  • Blowhards like Sarah Palin who are more interested in soundbites, making money  and getting on TV than actually doing any work.
     
  • Weaklings like Mark Sanford, who drag out the release of a public report of a public investigation by a public body about his failings as a public servant.
     
  • Scoundrels like three Democratic U.S. senators who are holding out voting for health care reform because they are scared they won’t be re-elected.
     
  • Partisan boobs like the infotainers Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity and Keith Olbermann.
     
  • Political lemmings, like many in the state House and Senate who aren’t able to make up their minds without consulting the polls, lobbyists and special interests.
Where are the Martin Luther King Jr.s of today? Where are the crusading editors, such as the Atlanta Constitution’s Ralph McGill, who wrote about kicking the Klan in the teeth from the 1940s until his death in 1969? Where are more leaders like Charleston Mayor Joe Riley, who marched on Columbia earlier this decade in protest of the Confederate flag on the Statehouse?
 

“A man does what he must – in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers and pressures – and that is the basis of all human morality."

-- John F. Kennedy

In 1955 when then-Senator John F. Kennedy published “Profiles in Courage,” he recognized that all sorts of forces seek to dampen the spirit of courage in our elected leaders – the influence from political peers in office, the desire to be re-elected and the pressure from constituents and lobby groups.   In the Pulitzer-Prize-winning book, he recognized the increased impact of mass media, which has exploded since Kennedy’s day with the Internet, faxes, Blackberries, Twitter, Facebook and cable television. 
 
But in the end, he concluded that political courage and the ability to compromise without giving up principles remains important for America to remain America: “A man does what he must – in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers and pressures – and that is the basis of all human morality,” Kennedy wrote.
 
Eleven years later, respected U.S. Sen. William Fulbright wrote in “The Arrogance of Power,” that it was important to criticize one’s country. “Criticism is more than a right: it is an act of patriotism, a higher form of patriotism, than the familiar rituals of national adulation.”
 
So when there’s news that Republican county parties in South Carolina are censuring U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham for diligently working with others to come up with a national solution on carbon pollution or immigration, we think of Graham’s courage and others’ callousness and cowardice. 
 
When we read how Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mullins McLeod of Charleston wants the Confederate flag taken off the Statehouse grounds, we easily can predict the firestorm of hatred his campaign will get. And while he may have been trying to kickstart his campaign, at least he had the courage to take a stand unpopular to many.
 
When we see President Obama trying to fix health care, get better options on Afghanistan and move the economy forward, we know we’re seeing flashes of courage, and not grandstanding. These are tough decisions. 
 
More of our leaders need to take a political lesson from the daily, unheralded experiences of our police, firefighters, soldiers, sailors and airmen – sometimes it’s just time to say, “Damn the torpedoes … full speed ahead.” These elected officials need to ignore pollster politics and stand up for what’s right. 
 
More in our media need to stop the hype, ask hard questions and do the real stories that highlight what’s going on in America and our state. 
 
It’s time for political and editorial courage – for people to look into their hearts to do what’s right – to work on big challenges in the economy, education, health care and poverty. And if not now, when?

RECENT COMMENTARY

Spotlight

Force Protection, Inc.

The public spiritedness of our underwriters allows us to bring SC Statehouse Report to you at no cost.  This week, we welcome a new underwriter, Force Protection, Inc.  Since its founding in 1996 in Charleston, S.C., Force Protection has emerged as a leading manufacturer of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles that are deployed in support of armed forces and security personnel serving in theaters of operation around the globe. With a mission of bringing our heroes home safely, Force Protection is continually researching, developing and delivering leading-edge, life-saving solutions designed to counter roadside bomb threats, including IEDs and EFPs. For the complete profile, visit www.forceprotection.net.

My Turn

Urges passage of a "fair tax"

By John Reames
Special to SC Statehouse Report
 
NOV. 20, 2009 -- I'd like to begin by saying that I believe in the K. I. S. S. [Keep it simple, stupid] principle. Therefore I am very much in favor of consumption taxation as opposed to our present income taxing system. In my opinion, the present system is best described as a progressive/punitive taxation system. Any system that punishes you for being productive is just flat out wrong.

According to FairTax.org, here is how it will work when passed into law. Everybody’s, including retirees’, paychecks will go untaxed, meaning that you are now bringing home to momma every penny you earned. Yes, you will definitely become more frugal at first, and that is a good thing because it will be somewhat of a shock to you when you purchase something new and have to pay a rate of $0.23 out of every retail dollar you spend on new products and services received.  Another benefit of the "fair tax" is that you don’t pay tax on old, used stuff.  Only new stuff is taxed.  

Remember now, the new system abolishes the IRS. That means all personal, corporate, estate, capital gains and other unfair taxes will be gone, replaced by single tax known as the consumption tax. A huge savings will be realized nationwide because instead of having hundreds of thousands of IRS employees collecting and auditing your income taxes, all taxes will be paid at the point of sale -- at the cash register. Imagine that for a moment… no more individual income tax audits. Only audits of retailers would be needed.  
 
At any rate, I believe the prices of goods will actually drop as the competition stiffens in due time as everybody adjusts to the new and fairer tax code.  

Let’s take a look at two strong points about "fair tax."  Number one: consumers will not be required to pay any tax on life's essentials and, secondly, since you are paying the tax at the point of sale, nothing is hidden from the consumer and the term "hidden taxes’"is replaced with.  

I like the fact that former U. S. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan is in agreement with the "fair tax" consumption hypothesis and believes that it would give a shot in the arm to the national economy.  
 
So what does that mean to you? Well, if you have a very basic grasp on economics you will recognize immediately under the "fair tax" plan for the company, the costs of doing business will drop drastically and ultimately their lower costs will be passed on to you in the form of lower priced consumer goods.  

"Fair tax" is a no brainer for me. American businesses will no longer have to leave our shores in order to be lean enough to survive. In fact, they will all want to come back because the laws that made it impossible to compete will be gone. In an odd twist, the United States of America would become a "tax shelter" attraction to the rest of the world. 

Hard to believe isn't it? Don't take my word for it... I'm just the messenger. The real experts are those who don't have a dog in the fight, who don't spend the big bucks fighting this movement. The people who do have a dog in the fight stand to lose everything and it is an all out war to them.  

Neal Boortz has said "To put it simply, not everyone would benefit from simplifying the method we use to fund our federal government, and those who would be hurt are on the attack in an effort to save their jobs..."

I have not seen any argument that would change my mind about "fair tax." I think it is time for opponents (I’m including you), to come to the plate. I am looking forward to hearing why you oppose the "fair tax" proposal.

 

John Reames lives in Sumter, S.C.

Feedback

Vent your spleen

Want to send us a letter?  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. 

Scorecard

Up, down and in the middle

Santee Cooper. Getting more serious about wind power, SC is putting up more wind-testing gauges.  More.
 
Education. State schools ranked second nationally in “developing” online learning programs: great, how about “implementing” the programs, maybe in classrooms, even, so we can get away from being close to second-from-the-bottom nationally in everything else education-related?
 
Toal. State Supreme Court Chief Justice Jean Toal may have gotten a speeding ticket recently for going 34 in a 25 zone, but at least she didn’t hit a car and leave the scene. More.
 
Battle flag. It’s probably a good thing Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mullins McLeod called this week for the Confederate Battle Flag to be removed from Statehouse grounds; on the flip side, the only thing that will result from the call will likely be just a few headlines.
 
District. 45. According to a federal stimulus package Web site that was poked fun of by the SC GOP, South Carolina has a seventh Congressional District, known on the site as District 45. The problem is that we really only have six congressional districts. But we may get one anyway, if Census projections are right.
 
Sanford. Sitting on the Ethics Commission report was one thing, but failing to send over records of even more private flights after the report was finished was more than a little fishy. More.
 
Prepaid tuition. The state’s prepaid college tuition program is set to run out of money in 2017 due to rising costs and low investment returns, well before many paying in will even get to college. Who is running this program, the Employment Security Commission? More.

Stegelin

Probable


Also from Stegelin: 11/13 | 11/6 | 10/30 | 10/23 | 10/16 | 10/9

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/.