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ISSUE 9.02
Jan. 08, 2010

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


News :
Out to pasture?
Legislative Agenda :
Session starts Tuesday
Radar Screen :
The Great Dismal Swamp ahead
Palmetto Politics :
Restructuring fight ahead
Commentary :
More work needed on Palmetto Priorities
My Turn :
Raising the bar
Feedback :
Standing up for the rich?
Scorecard :
Up, down and in the middle
Stegelin :
Investigating the investigation
Number of the Week :
Megaphone :
Hide and seek
In our blog :
In the blogs this week
Encyclopedia :
Ashley River Road

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STIMULATED:  $1 BILLION.  That’s how much federal stimulus money has come into South Carolina, according to state Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom. He has argued it’s done the state little good. The lion’s share, over $470 million, has gone into the state Department of Health and Human Services. More.


Hide and seek

“I think we are way past the day when we can make across-the-board budget cuts and hide behind the Budget and Control Board to make those cuts for us.”
-- House Minority Leader Rep. Harry Ott (D-St. Matthews), on a proposed Senate bill to create a separate commission to oversee restructuring state government and reduce wasteful spending. More.


In the blogs this week

See ya, Brownie. The Blogland of Earl Capps described the state political shakeup caused by Congressman Henry Brown’s (R-S.C.) announcement this week that he would not seek reelection:
“Another factor that could encourage a broader fielding of candidates is a "Consolation Prize" scenario. As it is expected that the First will be split to create a new Seventh District in 2012, a candidate who was able to make a strong second-place finish for the nomination could be a favorite for a bid for the open Seventh in 2012. This scenario would require the 2010 race to be driven largely by a Lowcountry vs. Grand Strand dynamic, and for the second-place finisher to be in the part of this district which did not prevail in such a match.”
Reportage. Wolfe Reports blogged this week that a purported plan to hire “formerly legitimate” reporters for a new S.C. Policy Council blog was blog-rageous … er …outrageous:
“What sucks for those guys is that they have to make peace with that Faustian bargain, and realize their work -- and your labor is one of your most important actions -- is actively going against their self-interests. But that’s how the journalism industry crumbles.”
Jobs? Former big-time editor Brad Warthen, now underemployed, wants to borrow a line from an old Wendy’s commercial to ask Congressman Joe Wilson (R-S.C.), who’s “You lie!” comment has entered the nation’s zeitgeist on a similar level, a question, “Where’s the jobs?”
“But do me this favor, Joe — when you do find the jobs, throw some of them this way…”


Ashley River Road

The Ashley River Road is one of the oldest roads in South Carolina. It began as a Native American trading path, paralleling the Ashley River, and later served the colonists of the original Charleston settlement. The Lords Proprietors authorized the road in 1690. The modern road consists of an approximately fifteen-mile portion of S.C. Highway 61 up to Bacon's Bridge Road (S.C. Highway 165). During the colonial era, numerous plantations lined the route, as did St. Andrew's Episcopal Church (1706). In 1721 a law was passed to protect the shade trees along its route, a forerunner of modern ordinances that protect trees and require buffers.


In the years after the Civil War, Ashley River Road communities, especially those of newly emancipated African Americans, established numerous churches along its routes, including Springfield Baptist, St. Andrew's Episcopal, St. Philip's African Methodist Episcopal, and Ashley River Road Missionary Baptist. Since World War II, suburban development has increasingly moved from Charleston up the Ashley River Road. Of major significance was the prevention by preservationists of an exit off Interstate 526 onto the Ashley River Road. Instead traffic was shifted to a new four-lane highway paralleling the road to the west.


Scenic sections of the eleven-mile segment from Church Creek almost to S.C. Highway 165 are still canopied by forests festooned with Spanish moss. In 1983 the road was placed in the National Register of Historic Places. It was designated a State Scenic Byway in 1998 and a National Scenic Byway in 2000. Historic sites along its route, such as Drayton Hall, Magnolia Gardens, and Middleton Place, attract hundreds of thousands of people each year, making the road one of the most popular historic routes in the state. Increasing suburban sprawl and the pressures of traffic, however, render the future of this unique road uncertain.

-- Excerpted from the entry by George McDaniel. 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 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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Out to pasture?

Dems not yet challenging for most state offices

By Bill Davis, senior editor

JAN. 8, 2010 – If numbers matter, the slim slate of down-ticket statewide candidates running as Democrats is sure to have party bosses and the faithful more than worried.

Sure, there are five Democrats running for governor, just like the five Republican candidates.

But out of the next eight constitutional statewide officers – lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, treasurer, comptroller general, adjutant general, superintendent of education, commissioner of agriculture – only two Democratic candidates are currently officially running.

By contrast, the state Republican Party has not only put forward candidates in each race, it could have primaries in three races, and has four candidates alone for superintendent of education - - twice the total number of down-ticket Democrats.

There was also a significant money gap in October, with Republican gubernatorial candidate Congressman Gresham Barrett (R-S.C.) having more cash on hand than all of the Democratic gubernatorial candidates combined.

The lone Democratic candidate for secretary of state, Marjorie Johnson, is a relative newcomer to the state and, as of the October financial disclosure deadline, had less than $800 of campaign funds on hand.

Missing in SC: An Obama effect

So what’s going on? Shouldn’t have President Obama’s historic election and subsequent record turnout embolden Democrats with political aspirations in South Carolina?

“Despite the Obama effect, the South Carolina Democrats remain a disorganized and dispirited minority party that appears to have accepted their status as a
permanent and fixed condition,” said Ashley Woodiwiss, a political scientist at Erskine.

Woodiwiss went on to say Democrats would need a Newt Gingrich-like figure to lead a “revolution” to break the state’s Republican domination.

After every weekend comes a Monday morning, argued Woodiwiss, who said state Democrats failed to capitalize on Obama’s success by forgetting the political fact of “organize or die.”

Phil Noble, an influential Democratic operative in the state and the leader of the S.C. New Democrats, agreed -- up to a point.

“I am not going to say everything is rosy for Democrats in South Carolina,” he said. “We need to be doing more to identify, train and support more candidates.”.

Two years ago, S.C. Democratic Party chair Carol Fowler defended herself and the job her organization was doing, saying, “I can’t control who runs, who gets petitions signed, who gets on the ballot,” after longtime Republican Bob Conley jumped the fence and ran as a Democrat against U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).

On Thursday, she stood behind the statement once again when asked about the candidacy of upstater Chad McGowan, a former Republican, who is running as a Democrat against U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC).

So has the state’s Democratic ballot become a haven for Republicans who fear they can’t win a GOP primary?

“I don’t agree with that,” said Fowler, who hinted that several other prominent Democrats will soon throw their hats into the statewide ring.

Currently, there is only one statewide office held by a Democrat, and that’s by state Superintendent of Education Jim Rex, who is not seeking reelection to run for governor.

Statewide offices not worth it for some

One potential candidate, requesting anonymity, said Democratic politicians are only going to run for offices where they have a realistic opportunity of winning and can make a difference once elected.

Some statewide constitutional offices don’t offer enough opportunities for many Democrats to go through the struggle of raising money and defeating a Republican in such a conservative state.

S.C. GOP spokesman Joel Sawyer said that on top of delivering stances on issues popular with many South Carolinians, his party has done a better job from the “bottom up.”

“We’re a stronger party, in part, because we do a better job cultivating and empowering our grassroots activists, training them and getting them into precinct-level races,” said Sawyer, former spokesman to Gov. Mark Sanford when news of his trip to South America unfolded.

Crystal ball: With a March 31 filing deadline looming, there will be two pushes within the state’s Democratic Party. One will be for candidates to come forward and run for statewide office on the Democratic ticket. The other will be for the names of those considering a run to swell, but not actually run, which has been the pattern in recent years. Then again, if fans of restructuring state government, many of these same offices would be swallowed into the governor’s cabinet.
Legislative Agenda

Session starts Tuesday

The state legislature will begin its 2010 legislative session on Tuesday. There are few meetings scheduled for the week:
  • Members from the House and Senate will meet on Wednesday, Jan. 6 at 10 a.m. for two separate meetings. In 308 Gressette, the Sentencing Reform Commission will convene, and in 105 Gressette, the Tax Realignment Commission.

  • In the House, the Ways and Means Employment Security Commission subcommittee will meet at 11 a.m. in 511 Blatt, and on Thursday at noon, its Education and Special Schools subcommittee will meet in 521 Blatt.
The following week will see a urge in the number of legislative meetings.

In related news:
  • On Saturday, “tea party” activists will hold a no-politician rally at the Statehouse from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

  • The Riley Institute’s annual Wilkins Legislative Dinner will be held 7 p.m. Monday in Columbia at the Convention Center. This year’s recipient of the Wilkins Leadership Award is S.C. Rep. Dan Cooper, R-Anderson. Statehouse Report is proud to be a sponsor of the event. More.

  • The next meeting of the Board of Economic Advisors is scheduled for Thursday at 2 p.m. in room 417 of the Rembert Dennis Building, Columbia.
Radar Screen

The Great Dismal Swamp ahead

Right after the hand-shaking and the “what did you do during the recess” discussions have died down next Tuesday, when the General Assembly reconvenes, look for talk to center on the state’s relatively dismal economic future. Lagging tax revenues will likely hamper many department and agencies in carrying out their mandate, leading to potentially uncomfortable cut and the excuse for new programs to not be started.
Palmetto Politics

Restructuring fight ahead

State Sen. Larry Martin (R-Pickens) has championed a move to do away with the state’s office of lieutenant governor altogether. The move would mean that the president pro tempore of the Senate, currently Sen. Glenn McConnell (R-Charleston), would succeed the governor in cases of death, illness, impeachment and other situations. There has been a general discussion within the legislature to include the lieutenant governor on the same ticket as the governor, much like they do in many other states across the nation, and on a federal level where the president and vice president run on the same ticket.

Fight continues over ‘Big *#!’ bill

With the start of the 2010 legislative session a few days away, the fight over a tax bill hatched last year in the General Assembly has begun to roil again. Nicknamed the “BAT”, or “big-@$$ tax” bill, a portion of the bill would, if passed, pass along a substantial tax credit for a proposed retail center in Jasper County. At the end of the last session, debate on the bill ground to a halt after state Sen. Greg Ryberg (R-Aiken) set up a procedural road block so it could not proceed.

This week, the S.C. Policy Council, the influential conservative think tank, came out with its own position paper on the matter, and argued that it makes for bad business and taxation practices for the rest of the state. Sen. Clementa Pinckney (D-Jasper) said at the end of last year’s session that he was looking forward to working with Ryberg to see if something could be done. Pinckney said at the time the retail center would bring jobs to his embattled district, but that he understood where its foes were coming from.

More work needed on Palmetto Priorities

By Andy Brack, editor and publisher

JAN. 8, 2010 – A slogan from an old Virginia Slims cigarette ad – “You’ve come a long way, baby – just doesn’t apply to the South Carolina General Assembly.


But, the legislature took a few positive, progressive baby steps toward dealing with generational problems identified last year in Statehouse Report’s “Palmetto Priorities” list. 


A year ago this week as the General Assembly prepared to open its annual session, we offered an agenda of “11 broad, continuing objectives for state legislators to consider and use as a bipartisan guide to creating a better South Carolina.” Why? Because lawmakers often seem to act independently and without a good look at the state’s big picture.


So today, it’s time to look at where they are. You might be surprised. Below is a short description of each objective, followed by a review of progress.


JOBS:  Develop a Cabinet-level post dedicated to adding and retaining 10,000 small business jobs per year. Result? No action: Even though the state’s unemployment rate has rocketed to more than 12 percent, there seems to be little consensus or strategizing on how to get more jobs for South Carolina. This needs to be Job Number One in 2010. [Forget Gov. Mark Sanford’s embarrassing woes; work on more jobs.]


EDUCATION: Cut the state’s dropout rate in half by 2015.  State Education Department spokesman Jim Foster says these days, educators focus more on graduation rates than dropout rates. (This appears as the flip side of the same coin to us). Interestingly, past policy actions are having incremental progress. According to Education Week magazine’s latest study, South Carolina had the top progress in increasing graduation rates over the last 10 years. Instead of being last in the nation in 1996 with 53.2 percent of students graduating, in 2006, we were 37th in the nation with 66.3 percent graduating. Congratulations.


HEALTH CARE:  Increase the cigarette tax to $1 per pack and use revenues to maximize federal health care matching funds. No action. Again. This is a no-brainer. The legislature needs to pass this proposal this year to nab more federal matching health care dollars.


HEALTH CARE: Ensure affordable and accessible health care that optimizes preventive care for every South Carolinian by 2015.  No action: While this is more of a federal government issue, the state could start to take more steps, instead of waiting in the wings.


ENVIRONMENT: Adopt a state energy policy that requires energy producers to generate 20 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2020.  Some action: In 2009, Santee Cooper backed off plans to build a new coal-fired plant. Duke and SCANA are moving toward building four more nuclear reactors. The state amended its state energy policy to promote clean energy, which now is defined to include nuclear. More work needs to be done to set measurable goals.


TAXES: By 2012, remove special interest sales tax exemptions that are outdated for the state’s 21st Century economy.  Some action: A special legislative committee has been working on this throughout the summer. Look for some action this year.


TAXES:  Reform and stabilize the tax structure by 2012 after following an overall nonpartisan review that seriously considers reimplementation of reasonable property taxes. Unfortunately, the committee (above) can’t consider property tax reform from three years ago that caused more harm than good.


ELECTIONS:  Increase voter registration to 75 percent by 2015. No action.


CORRECTIONS: Reduce the prison population by 25 percent by 2020 through creative alternative sentencing programs for non-violent offenders. A little action: State Attorney General Henry McMaster’s “middle courts” program is still in legislative committee.  It likely would impact prison populations significantly. More work can be done.


ROADS: Strengthen all bridges and upgrade all state roads by 2015 through creative highway financing and maintenance programs. No major action. Mostly, it was business as usual. 


POLITICS: Have a vigorous two- or multi-party political system of governance. No action: State Democrats don’t even have candidates in six of the nine statewide constitutional races at this point. Other bills are in the hopper that would increase partisanship, not foster bipartisanship.


Bottom line: South Carolina still has a long way to go, baby – but encouraging signs abound.



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My Turn

Raising the bar

S.C. Chamber releases 2020 education goals

By Otis B. Rawl, Jr.
President and CEO, S.C. Chamber of Commerce

JAN. 8, 2010 -- For many years, preparing our state’s future workforce has been a major initiative of the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce.  If employees are successful, the state is successful. While we are making some strides in education, our competition is not resting on their laurels either.

In business, leaders understand the importance of establishing goals to drive their company’s success. Our education system should be no different. In this spirit, the South Carolina Chamber’s Excellence in Education Council and Board of Directors have developed 10 overarching education goals the state should meet or exceed by 2020.

  • 99 percent of high school students will have electronic Individual Graduation Plans (eIGP). Individual graduation plans are a key component of the Education and Economic Development Act, passed in 2005 by the South Carolina General Assembly.  eIGPs can greatly influence dropout rates by committing students to a plan for graduation and involving parents in the process. During the last school year, 97 percent of eighth, ninth and tenth graders developed an eIGP.  
  • 85 percent of South Carolina high school students will graduate on time as measured by the U.S. Department of Education’s Uniform Graduation Rate formula. This summer, Education Week released its 2009 Diploma Counts on-time graduation rate data, and South Carolina had the highest percentage increase of any state between 1996 and 2006, now ranking 37th in the nation. The State Department of Education, using the Uniform Graduation Rate formula, reports South Carolina’s 2009 on-time graduation rate to be 74.9 percent, and we must continue this momentum.
  • 80 percent of South Carolina four-year-old, at-risk youth (on free and reduced lunch) will complete 4-K. Research shows high-quality preschool enhances a child’s cognitive growth and future educational success.  Recent census estimates calculate the total four-year-old population in South Carolina at 59,192, with 65 percent qualifying for Medicaid or either free or reduced lunch. In 2007-08, about 58% of these children were served by some form of public pre-K.
  • South Carolina will be a top five state in average 4th and 8th grade student NAEP score improvement. The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) assessments for reading, math and science are administered uniformly using the same sets of test booklets across the nation, providing a clear picture of student academic progress over time.  Right now, South Carolina ranks near the national average.
  • 50 percent reduction of the student achievement gap on PASS testing from 2009 results. The achievement gap is defined as the difference in achievement between a historically lower-scoring demographic group and a historically higher-scoring group at various performance levels. This gap must be reduced to ensure success for all future workers.
  • All high school seniors will have a WorkKeys (including soft skills) certificate.  WorkKeysCertification, accompanied by a high school diploma or GED, provides invaluable information to employers about skill level and job readiness of students.
  • 15,000 GEDs (including WorkKeys certification) will be awarded annually. Based on census data, South Carolina has a little more than 2.7 million working-age (18 to 64) adults. Almost 16% have not completed high school or obtained a GED. By 2020, South Carolina should reduce this percentage to 10 percent.
  • South Carolina will have 10 times more businesses offering registered apprenticeships from 2009. South Carolina has historically underutilized registered apprenticeships. Since the 2007 establishment of the South Carolina Technical College’s Apprenticeship Carolina™ division, significant progress has been made. At the close of 2009, the state had more than 1,500 apprentices in 190+ programs. 
  • South Carolina will exceed the national average for adults holding two or four-year degrees. Currently, 29 percent of South Carolina adults hold two or four-year degrees while the national average is 39 percent.
  • South Carolina will have a clear, coherent standardized pathway for adults to further their education. A system of stackable certificates will change the dynamics of learning for adults, encouraging more to enhance their education.

We understand achievement of our 2020 goals is a marathon, not a sprint, and it will require continued concerted action between the business and education communities. Just as businesses work with suppliers, we consider ourselves full partners with those responsible for developing our future workforce.

Otis B. Rawl, Jr. is president and chief executive officer of the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce, the state’s unified voice of business.


Standing up for the rich?

To Statehouse Report:

You stated in your [1/1] article, "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."

If it helped the rich,then how much did they get? The tax swap was less than 3% of the total school budget. So if the rich got all the breaks, state the facts on how much they got versus the poor. Let's use the median house cost to see how much the rich saved. You need to add back how much sales tax was given to the schools from the tax swap. Then I think the schools lost less than 1 percent from all homeowners. The schools and other government agencies are hurt because of the depression and not the tax relief that primary homeowners got. With all the open government Websites you can get the true facts and not like all the other socialist media that takes a few politicians' cries of untruths.
-- David Whetsell, Lexington, SC

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Up, down and in the middle

Sales. Christmas sales better than expected, spurred on by good deals and thin inventories. More.

Morris College. A pastoral alum hits the Powerball and then cuts a $10 million check to his alma mater. More.

ESC. A House committee has approved short-term solutions to reforming/restructuring the state Employment Security Commission, but skimped on long-term solutions. More.

Budget. Gov. Mark Sanford’s budget is now out. And is now being ignored. (One state agency spokesman told us that he had receive no calls on the budget as of late Thursday, compared to a dozen in years past.)

Shunning. The state Senate may skip the debate as to whether to censure Gov. Mark Sanford for abandoning the state for five days. Huh? After all the rhetoric for the last seven months? More.

Investigating the investigation

Also from Stegelin:  1/1 |  Year in review12/1812/11 | 12/4

Statehouse Report

Editor and Publisher: Andy Brack
Senior Editor: Bill Davis
Contributing Photographer: Michael Kaynard

Phone: 843.670.3996

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