An abortion protester in Charleston in 2015.

NEWS: It’s spring and that means abortion debates heat up

By Bill Davis, senior editor | It is spring and hope has returned to some quarters of the General Assembly that more can be done to tighten the noose around abortion rights in South Carolina. Whether anything becomes law, however, is a long and complicated political puzzle.

This year, there are 12 different abortion-related bills that have been introduced in the House and the Senate. Of those, more than half the bills seek to, depending on which side of the debate is speaking, to support pro-life policies or limit women’s access to health care.

Whether these bills enjoy any kind of success, national groups with state chapters, such as like Planned Parenthood, have vowed to fight many of them as aggressively as if they were about to be signed into law.

by · 03/24/2017 · News

NEWS: House to consider borrowing millions for deferred needs

By Andy Brack, editor and publisher | Days after passing an $8 billion state budget, key members of the S.C. House will meet Tuesday to figure out which projects from a $2.7 billion list of agency needs may be funded through borrowing while interest rates remain low.

The House Ways and Means Committee is scheduled to meet Tuesday afternoon to consider agency capital needs for a state bond bill of about $425 million in the coming year. Borrowing that amount would increase the state’s debt service – or annual payment to borrow the money – by about $42 million a year. State officials, however, say that cost can be covered without adding to the state’s overall debt service budget because lawmakers have been aggressive in recent years in paying off high-interest and other debt, which frees up hundreds of millions of dollars of borrowing capacity now without lots of budget pain.

by · 03/17/2017 · News
BRIEFS:  Budget process starts second phase; training in Charleston

BRIEFS: Budget process starts second phase; training in Charleston

Staff reports | The Senate Finance Committee will start its budget process next week with various meetings in which senators will take up components of the just-passed $8 billion House budget and mold them to their liking.

NEWS:  School for at-risk students is at risk in bigger state budget

NEWS: School for at-risk students is at risk in bigger state budget

By Bill Davis, senior editor | The news this budget season isn’t so rosy for the John de la Howe School, a public residential school in McCormick for at-risk students.

The House committee version of the proposed 2017-18 state budget that will be debated next week calls for all state money to be cut to the school, which was founded in 1797. It is the “second longest standing” educational institution in the Carolinas.

This year’s $8 billion budget package also calls for the school’s agriculture program and classes to be picked up and covered by Clemson University. School supporters say they’ll try to block efforts to cut funding.

The total amount of the proposed 2017-18 state budget — comprised of General Fund tax dollars, federal pass-through dollars and “other” fees and funds such as tuition — will hit $27 billion starting in July. That’s close to a 3 percent increase over the state’s current combined budget.

by · 03/10/2017 · News
BRIEFS: More women elected to county positions than legislature

BRIEFS: More women elected to county positions than legislature

Staff reports | With South Carolina ranking among the bottom nationally in the number of women elected to the General Assembly, it’s not surprising males occupy more than five out of every six legislative seats. But does trend carry over at the county level, adjunct professor Dan Ruff of Midlands Technical College wondered. The answer, it seems, is generally no.

Also in this brief is a look at women’s health issues related to two bills and the state budget.

NEWS: Relaxing rules on nurse practitioners could cut health costs, advocates say

NEWS: Relaxing rules on nurse practitioners could cut health costs, advocates say

By Lindsay Street, contributing writer | Giving more autonomy to nurse practitioners will help cut health care costs and improve access to health care, particularly in rural areas, say proponents of a Senate bill pushing for changes. Others say it’s just not that simple.

In South Carolina, nurse practitioners are licensed primary care professionals who operate under the supervision of a medical doctor. The new legislation, S.C. Senate bill 345, would still require a doctor’s supervision of a nurse’s practice, but would allow doctors to supervise more than three nurse practitioners at a time, remove a geographical radius tied to the doctor’s location and allow nurse practitioners to prescribe drugs. The legislation would expand autonomy of certified nurse midwives as well.

by · 03/03/2017 · News
Potholes riddle an Orangeburg County highway.  Photo by Andy Brack.

BRIEF: Your view on taxes might be based on how things are framed

Staff reports | If you heard that a particular proposal raised taxes a “whopping 60 percent,” you might think that wasn’t so great.

But what if you were told a tax hike would cost the average resident just $5 per month? Would that seem a big deal, or something to shrug off?

Now let’s take these questions to another level: What if both statements were talking about the very same issue?

NEWS:  Get ready for longer lines thanks to ID snafu

NEWS: Get ready for longer lines thanks to ID snafu

By Bill Davis, senior editor | Lines at the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles offices are on the precipice of getting unbelievably long, thanks to companion state bills that could force residents to get their driver’s licenses renewed soon.

But if one of those bills doesn’t pass to authorize the new form of identification, it will become harder for residents to check in at airports, even for domestic flights.

The bills, one each in the state House and Senate, would steer South Carolina to be in line with a federal anti-terrorism law passed in 2005 that created a more uniform license called REAL ID.

REAL ID, which should not to be confused with voter ID bills that many see as an obstacle to minority voters, set minimum “standards” for state identification cards.

by · 02/24/2017 · News