Andy Brack

BRACK:  State should provide flexibility with local tourism taxes

BRACK:  State should provide flexibility with local tourism taxes

By Andy Brack, editor and publisher  |   South Carolina’s legislators need to provide more flexibility to city and county governments in how they can use some of the tax money they collect as the state works to take away more of their revenue.

For years, local governments have received state subsidies to comply with requirements that cities and counties provide some state-mandated services, such as maintaining ditches along state roads or providing offices for courts and some agencies.  By law, the state is supposed to pay 4.5 percent of the previous year’s general fund to help counties with the cost of these required state services.  But since 2010, the state has been shorting local governments with the gap now at just under $100 million a year.

Meanwhile, local governments are hogtied by the state from levying lots of new taxes to pay for these mandated services and the increasing costs of providing local services, such as water, sewer, planning and law enforcement. 

by · 12/08/2017 · Andy Brack, Commentary
BRACK: Time will tell if McMaster’s running mate gamble pays off

BRACK: Time will tell if McMaster’s running mate gamble pays off

By Andy Brack, editor and publisher  |  Gov. Henry McMaster made a strategic political decision this week.  Whether it’s good or bad remains to be seen, but it certainly surprised the establishment in Columbia.

McMaster announced a political neophyte, Ohio native Pamela Evette – a Travelers Rest business executive who moved to South Carolina in 2005 – would be his running mate in next year’s gubernatorial race.

That is, if he wins the GOP party nomination.  Three other political animals – Lt. Gov. Kevin Bryant of Anderson, former Lt. Gov. Yancey McGill of Kingstree and former agency head Catherine Templeton of Mount Pleasant (who also has never held elected office) – want to be the Republican standard bearer at the top of the 2018 ticket.

by · 12/01/2017 · 2018, Andy Brack, Commentary
The S.C. Supreme Court, Columbia, S.C.

BRACK: High court lets legislature off the education hook

By Andy Brack, editor and publisher  |  Shame on a majority of the legislatively-elected S.C. Supreme Court for letting the General Assembly off the hook on funding poor, rural schools.  State leaders haven’t yet spent enough money or done enough work to upgrade these neglected schools so that they’re on par with urban and suburban public schools.

On Nov. 17, the court ruled 3-2 to dismiss the 24-year-old Abbeville v. State of South Carolina school equity funding lawsuit.  The order, however, is premature because state legislators only started moving these schools toward parity after a 2014 order by the court.  Now without the court’s oversight, there’s no pressure on the General Assembly to make good on its promises.

With gazillions of dollars of state funding needs, do you really trust legislators not to continue a legacy of inattention in the so-called “Corridor of Shame” area where a multitude of challenges persist?

by · 11/24/2017 · Andy Brack, Commentary
Septima Poinsette Clark in 1956 after a testimonial dinner by her sorority.  She noted, however, in a memoir that her sisters didn't want to get their picture taken with her then because she was controversial.  (She had recently been fired for being a member of the NAACP.)

BRACK: Let’s be thankful for Septima Clark’s leadership

By Andy Brack, editor and publisher  |  All South Carolinians – white, black, brown, newcomer and native – can stand to learn more about a real homegrown patriot, the late Septima Poinsette Clark. 

The mere mention of her name today invokes reverence in the black community.  But white Southerners seem to forget that she was so respected for her work in the civil rights movement that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. asked her to accompany him to Oslo, Norway, in 1964 when he accepted the Nobel Peace prize.

“In a sort of casual way he would say, ‘Anything I can’t answer, ask Mrs. Clark,’”  she recalled in a 1986 memoir.

by · 11/17/2017 · Andy Brack, Commentary
BRACK: Thwart the dumbing down of American citizenship

BRACK: Thwart the dumbing down of American citizenship

By Andy Brack, editor and publisher  |  If you periodically read commentaries like this one about public policy, you are probably considered a pretty good citizen – somebody who cares about how our society operates and is governed.  You probably vote, fret about tax rates, get roused by bureaucratic incompetence and care about issues of public importance.

But what about people across our state and nation who don’t read much, pay little attention to what’s going on in neighborhoods and towns – people who tune out, not tune in?   What about other people, liberals and conservatives, who have perverted American principles for their own ends to make America less than what it has been?

With everything from another mass shooting, this time in Texas, to a United States senator attacked on his Kentucky lawn, something odd is going on in these United States.  We may be, I fear, experiencing the dumbing down of American citizenship. 

by · 11/10/2017 · Andy Brack, Commentary
Francis Marion University students in a human anatomy class.  (Photo provided by FMU.)

BRACK: State needs to give more love to higher education

By Andy Brack, editor and publisher  |  South Carolina public colleges and universities are between a big old rock and a very hard place. 

Because the state’s share of tax dollars spent on higher education has dropped precipitously in recent years, public colleges have had to raise tuition so much that they’re now the highest in the South.  Meanwhile, campuses have $2.5 billion of infrastructure needs and deferred maintenance.  On top of that, the way scholarships are awarded generally are counter to a national trend.

As outlined in recent Statehouse Report coverage by Lindsay Street, the state’s financial support for higher education over the last 30 years has dropped from 17 percent of the state’s general spending to an average of 7 percent.  In reality, this means the generally accepted concept that our our colleges and universities are “state-supported institutions” rings hollow. 

by · 11/03/2017 · Andy Brack, Commentary
BRACK: Will S.C. Dems squander political opportunities in 2018?

BRACK: Will S.C. Dems squander political opportunities in 2018?

By Andy Brack, editor and publisher  |  With Statehouse Republicans reeling from an ongoing corruption scandal and moderate GOP voters questioning their support of a president who can’t keep away from confrontation, South Carolina Democrats have enormous opportunities in 2018.

The big question, though, is whether they will squander their chances.  Based on past performance, there’s a good case to be made that they will fumble again.

First, the biggest hurdle state Democrats have is structural: There are so many gerrymandered districts across the state that Republicans automatically are favored in a majority of legislative districts.  …

by · 10/27/2017 · 2018, Andy Brack, Commentary
BRACK: Cast of characters grows in corruption probe

BRACK: Cast of characters grows in corruption probe

By Andy Brack, editor and publisher  |  With three politicos added Wednesday to the ongoing corruption scandal at the Statehouse, it’s getting kind of hard to keep up with the cast of characters.  Here’s a handy guide for what’s going on:

To date, seven Republicans – six legislators or ex-legislators and uber-consultant Richard Quinn Sr. – have been indicted in the probe that goes back to 2014 when state officials started looking into the campaign finances of the sitting House speaker. 

In 2014, Attorney General Alan Wilson appointed First Circuit Solicitor David Pascoe to be the “designated prosecutor” in a case against then-House Speaker Bobby Harrell.  After a state investigation uncovered other possible corruption involving Statehouse players, Wilson cited a potential conflict related to an investigatory report and recused himself.  His office continued to manage the case.  But Pascoe was kept in the loop. 

by · 10/20/2017 · Andy Brack, Commentary