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ISSUE 9.01
Jan. 01, 2010

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

Index

News :
Vox populi
Legislative Agenda :
Revving it up again
Radar Screen :
On deaf ears
Palmetto Politics :
Shuck and jive
Commentary :
The 2000s: South Carolina’s lost decade
Spotlight :
AIA South Carolina
Feedback :
Send us your feedback
Scorecard :
Up, down and in the middle
Stegelin :
Resolutions
Megaphone :
Dissing the disabled
In our blog :
In the blogs this week
Encyclopedia :
Mason Lee's will

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NUMBER OF THE WEEK

9

BIRTHDAY.  With this issue, Statehouse Report begins its ninth year of publication as the state's leading policy and political forecast.  Happy birthday to us!

MEGAPHONE

Dissing the disabled

"They will be forced into institutions. Families will lose jobs. Single parents say, 'When my child loses these services, I'll have to quit my job.' Some parents will lose their homes."
-- Patricia Harrison, one of two lawyers who filled a lawsuit against the state for allegedly misappropriating $30 million originally slated to support households containing “disabled” family members. More.  On Thursday, the state's high court refused to block an order for emergency relief in the case, but said it would hear it later in the month.  More.

IN OUR BLOG

In the blogs this week

In the blogs this week
 
Davis.  The Blogroll of Earl Capps sits down for an "inside interview" with state Sen. Tom Davis, whose issues for 2010 are:
"Well, first would be the EFA funding formula. But a very close second would be reforming how we tax as a state."
 Jackass.  Carolina Politics Online named Gov. Mark Sanford its 2009 Jackass of the Year:
 "Sanford is not only a jackass for what he did; he’s a jackass because now he can’t do what he could have done. If I may plagiarize Classic Hollywood for a moment: Mark Sanford coulda been somebody. He coulda been a contender… instead of a bum."
Heads in the sand.  Roxanne Walker is upset at how state lawmakers seem to avoid any leadership on a big problem -- the need for South Carolina to have more jobs:
"When all else fails our esteemed lawmakers are always willing to set up another commission to study the problem. ... It really bothers me that the Republican response to a crisis for both our state as a whole and to hundreds of thousands of hard working families appears to be punitive and directed at our most vulnerable citizens- children, the poor and prisoners."

ENCYCLOPEDIA

Mason Lee's will

One of South Carolina's most famous legal disputes derived from a celebrated eccentric, Mason Lee (ca. 1775-ca. 1823), and the legal proceedings surrounding the probate of his will. Lee lived in Marlboro District and devised his property to the states of Tennessee and South Carolina in order to defeat inheritance by any of his relations. He directed that proceeds from his large estate be disposed of so that no part of it would be inherited by any of his relations "while wood grows or water runs." Lee authorized his executors to defend his will with the best legal defense that money could buy "again, again, and again."
 
Originally from North Carolina, Lee, at age thirty, was allegedly struck by lightning that may have first caused his idiosyncrasies. He then moved to Georgia, where he was charged with murder, and he afterward located as a fugitive to Marlboro District, South Carolina. While in Marlboro, Lee accumulated great wealth, but his eccentricities became more pronounced. He slept in a hollow gum log and wore no buttons on his clothes. He believed that all women were witches and that his relatives were in his teeth and used supernatural powers to bewitch. He cut off the quarters of his shoes and drilled holes in his hat to drive the devil from his feet and head.
 
After Lee's death an intense legal battle ensued among the elite of the South Carolina Bar to settle the estate. To contest the will, the heirs at law employed James R. Ervin, Abram Blanding, and William Harper, three of the state's most prominent lawyers. Lee's executor, Robertson Carloss, engaged Josiah J. Evans and William Campbell Preston, both future U.S. senators, to argue for the will. The state court of appeals affirmed, holding that eccentricity, however great, is not the same as insanity and thus is insufficient to invalidate a will.
 
Subsequently, the state of Tennessee sold all its interest in the Lee estate to the estate of Robert B. Campbell, a member of Congress from South Carolina. The state of South Carolina, through legislation, gave its share to Lee's heirs at law. By this time, however, there was little left in the estate since the proceeds had been dissipated by legal fees and the second executor's excesses. The hollow log in which Lee slept is in the Marlborough Historical Society Museum in Bennettsville.

-- Excerpted from the entry by John L. Napier. 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.) 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

Vox populi

Will the people be heard in Columbia in 2010 ?

By Bill Davis, senior editor

JAN. 1, 2009 -- The new year, 2010, has brought along with it some familiar, well-worn worries among the electorate, according to a recent poll put together by Statehouse Report and InsiderAdvantage.

Jobs and public education topped the a short list of issues that 770 registered South Carolina voters thought were the most important when polled on Dec. 15. At the bottom of the list, as shown by the chart below, were restructuring state government and approving tax cuts.

Improving access to health care, which has been slathered over the front pages and first few minutes of network news shows of late, was in the middle of the pack, barely out-pointing tax cuts, 74-73 percent.

Restructuring state government engendered the lowest “importance” rating of those polled, and overall led all other categories -- not important, neither or no opinion. Thirty-seven percent of those polled found restructuring less than “important.”
 
 

But are these messages getting through to the players on the state level? Somewhat, it appears.

Neither the Democratic nor the Republican parties have published their respective legislative agendas so far. They will meet separately in the coming weeks to do so. They’ll have to. The legislative session reconvenes Tuesday, Jan. 12.

Wesley Donehue, the spokesman for the S.C. Senate GOP Caucus, said his party’s discussions will be dominated by talk of “rebuilding” the state’s economy, streamlining state government for more efficiency and reforming beleaguered agencies like the Employment Security Commission, Department of Health and Environmental Control, and the Department of Disabilities and Special Needs.

Phil Bailey, Donehue’s Democratic Party counterpart in the Senate, said the Democrats there will likely make passing an increased cigarette tax to fund health care efforts its primary target. Second and third are continuing ESC reform and reviewing the state tax structure.

“What you’ve got to remember is that 2010 may be a new year, but it’s also the second year of a two-year legislative session,” said Bailey. “So a lot of the action will be the continuance of bills introduced last year.”

Consider also that the S.C. Chamber of Commerce, one of the most powerful lobbying arms in the state, ranked workforce development first on its legislative agenda, followed by simplifying the state tax structure with economic development ranked third. Addressing health care costs came in fourth, and restructuring fifth.

The S.C. Policy Council, an influential Columbia think tank, came out with a pair of lists on what it thought were the top three best and worst ideas for the state in 2010, in terms of elections and property rights.

For elections, the conservative think tank liked, in order, lifting campaign contribution limits, requiring photo identification at the voting booth, and increasing campaign transparency. It did not like publicly-funded campaigns or non-partisan elections.

The council also liked protecting private property from eminent domain takings, making annexation transparent, and -- no surprise here considering its historical stances -- reducing property taxes. It hated tax incentives deals and over-regulating private property.

So it appears some of the worries of the people have reached the powerful, but in somewhat different order, not surprising since organizations are, by nature, more limited in their scope.

Apparently missing in action is what 95 percent of South Carolinians want in a state with 12 percent unemployment – more jobs. Instead of focusing on that, institutions and legislators talk in hallowed, academic terms of “workforce development” or “rebuilding” the state’s economy.

What remains to be seen for 2010 is whether the legislature will return to a more active role, and pass more laws of major significance than it has over the last three sessions.

Or, as Democratic spokesperson Bailey worries, “we will see that there is no money in the budget to fight over and we’ll see a litany of stupid, political bills.”

Word out of Columbia has been that 2010 will see one of the leanest -- even leaner than this year’s budget -- state budgets due to lagging tax revenues.

Crystal ball: One longtime Statehouse observer with access to the back halls of power, predicted the first part of the session would be dominated by ESC reform, and with the Senate potentially passing a property tax reform bill that would adjust some commercial imbalances caused by reform from three years ago. The second half would likely focus on the cigarette tax, with expected holes appearing in Medicaid after the federal government finishes its health care reform debate.
 
Legislative Agenda

Revving it up again

Members of the House and Senate will begin the year with these meetings this week.

Wednesday:
  • Members of both chambers will meet at 10 a.m. in 308 Gressette for meeting of the Sentencing Reform Commission.

  • At the same time in 105 Gressette, the Tax Realignment Commission will meet.
Thursday:
  • The House Ways and Means Employment Security Commission ad hoc subcommittee will meet at 11 a.m. in 511 Blatt.
Radar Screen

On deaf ears

With projected leaner tax revenues continuing, Gov. Mark Sanford’s repeated calls for reducing the state’s corporate income tax will fall on increasingly deaf ears, as companies’ bottom lines rebound and voters’ salaries are not expected to climb at the same rate.
Palmetto Politics

Shuck and jive

S.C. Attorney General Henry McMaster has sent an open letter to the federal government that he and a dozen other attorneys general from across the country are considering mounting a legal attack on a health care bill currently in Congress.

In the letter, McMaster wrote about their concern over what some are calling the “Cornhusker Kickback,” which was allegedly put into the bill to secure the vote of Nebraska Congressman Ben Nelson (D). The provision, according to McMaster, would unfairly cover the costs of newly enrolled Medicaid patients in Nebraska, but not in other states. Look for McMaster to squeeze the most press possible out of this political maneuver.
Commentary

The 2000s: South Carolina’s lost decade

By Andy Brack, editor and publisher

JAN. 1, 2010 – Looking back over the last decade in South Carolina, there’s not a lot to be proud of. As it did in previous decades, South Carolina struggled with being at or below average in many areas.

Sure, there were some accomplishments. Compared to 2000, the state now has a lottery that pumps hundreds of millions into higher education. But that helped to fuel a move by the state to lower the amount of tax dollars it sent to higher education, which led to huge tuition hikes. In 2000, the average in-state tuition for a four-year public college was $3,695. This year, it’s $8,957, according to state statistics.

Another positive accomplishment was the creation and continued funding of public kindergarten for 4-year-olds. Studies show that the sooner kids start learning, the better they’ll be in the future.

Also, the state helped to preserve more land in recent years than ever before. Gov. Mark Sanford has said one of his biggest accomplishments as governor was to boost land conservation.

So yes, some things are better. But the 2000s for South Carolina have tended to be “The Big Zero,” the description New York Times columnist Paul Krugman gave to the decade. Maybe there are some better names for what happened to South Carolina in the last 10 years. Take your pick:

The Leaderless Decade. Remember “Leadership,” the sole description that accompanied Sanford’s election bumper stickers? Well, there’s not been a lot of leadership across the state over the last few years. Sanford, outed this year as a philanderer, bickered constantly with the Legislature. Lawmakers argued back and greased squeaky wheels. Meanwhile, unemployment grew to record levels. People grew more cynical about government.

The Lost Revenue Decade. State government currently is operating on about the same amount of revenue as it did 10 years ago. There are fewer state employees now doing the same jobs – or even more – than in 2000. A mid-decade economic boom sent revenues soaring. But things that go up sometimes crash hard as they have the last couple of years. The General Assembly passed property tax reform that, on balance, helped the rich pay less in overall taxes, which led to most people paying a little more. Meanwhile, state sales tax exemptions – special tax breaks for the special interests – grew dramatically so that the state loses $2.5 billion in revenue annually.

The Minimally Adequate Decade. Thanks to a lower-court ruling, South Carolina’s public education system now is classified as requiring a “minimally adequate” education for K-12 students. In other words, the state has institutionalized being average. Great. Something else to be proud of. At least kids are starting kindergarten earlier … so they can be in a minimally-adequate system longer.

The Lost Opportunity Decade. State lawmakers have bypassed multiple opportunities to restructure state government. They’ve thwarted efforts to raise the cigarette tax to generate more revenues for increasing health care costs. They’ve all but ignored a state corrections system that is teeming with inmates who live in conditions said to be a “powder keg” of potential problems. They’ve got hundreds of millions of road maintenance problems.

The Ostrich Decade. South Carolina public officials seem to have a penchant for sticking their heads in the sand. One year, there’s an attempt to refuse federal stimulus money. Another time finds missed warnings about a broken unemployment system. Elected officials seem so scared of losing their elected positions that they generally refuse to see the big picture – that if state government is going to help to make things better for everyone, they’ve got to invest in South Carolina. That means raising revenues. If we won’t invest in ourselves and our future, who will?

So maybe the best way to sum up the 2000s is that it has mostly been a lost decade. About the best thing to come out of the state may be comedian Stephen Colbert, who like his peer Jon Stewart, periodically pokes fun at … the crazy stuff that happens here.
 
Spotlight

AIA South Carolina

The public spiritedness of our underwriters allows us to bring Statehouse Report to you at no cost. This week, we welcome a new underwriter – the South Carolina chapter of the American Institute of Architects. The organization is the voice of the South Carolina architectural profession and the resource for its members in service to society. The association facilitates dialogue and the dissemination of knowledge that inspires and enables architects, policy makers and the public to engage creatively and credibly in promoting a better environment and future for all. Learn more: AIASC.
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Scorecard

Up, down and in the middle

Drama. George Younts, a teacher at the Charleston County School of the Arts, was named the 2009 Outstanding Theatre Educator Award from the South Carolina Theatre Association. In an unrelated item, Younts is the former comedy partner of Statehouse Report Editor Bill Davis. Maybe not totally unrelated.

Speed limits. House Rep Todd Rutherford (R-Columbia) wants to raise the maximum speed limit in the state from 70 to 80 miles per hour. This could make less work for highway patrolmen, but more work for ambulance drivers. In a related note, Rutherford, when’s he not driving an electric golf cart to the Statehouse because of high gas prices, also owns a Nissan GT-R, one the fastest (and baddest) cars in production.

Saltpeter. Bills proposed to curb future dalliances by future governors may protect the state. Then again, you can’t legislate morality, right? Prohibition, anyone?  More. 

Bauer. Bad press seems to follow Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer. One of his consultants recently got arrested on a DUI charge. What if the consultant was driving Bauer’s campaign?  More.
Stegelin

Resolutions


Also from Stegelin: Year in review12/1812/11 | 12/4 | 11/27 | 11/20
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/.