March 21, 2004
SC House slams
SC Statehouse Report
MARCH 21, 2004 -- If the South Carolina House
of Representatives had its way, it just might put up big billboards
at every point an Interstate crossed into the state that said:
"Welcome to South Carolina: Our special places are for
In smaller print, the sign would add, "We want to be
just like New Jersey."
Or so it would seem.
In the last two weeks, the House has taken some alarming
votes that are of concern to sportsmen, conservationists and
Nuclear waste. During budget discussions on the House
floor, members voted 71-38 to kill an amendment to allow more
low-level nuclear waste to be stored in the Barnwell landfill.
A proposal by House Ways and Means Chairman Bobby Harrell,
R-Charleston, sought to get approval for dumping 100,000 additional
cubic feet of waste to generate $6 million for law enforcement
After three Democrats, including Barnwell Rep. Lonnie Hosey,
spoke against the amendment, the House voted to table it.
A few minutes later, Harrell asked the House to reconsider
the proposal. It agreed. Then the House overturned its earlier
decision by voting 68-48 to accept the added waste. One of
those who spoke in favor of it this time was Hosey, the same
guy who opposed it minutes before.
"That's the most outrageous assault on the environment
this state has taken - - to create more nuclear waste in Barnwell,"
said Rep. Bill Herbkersman, a Bluffton Republican who is downstream
from the Barnwell facility. "One sizable leak could destroy
our way of life on the coast for a thousand years."
Wetlands protection. On Wednesday, a House environmental
affairs subcommittee voted 3-2 against regulations to reinstitute
protection of isolated wetlands across the state. It also
voted 3-2 for a development-backed bill to create relatively
soft rules on developing in wetland areas.
But this approved proposal by House Ag Chairman Billy Witherspoon,
R-Conway, and backed by the SC Association of Realtors really
isn't real protection of isolated wetlands at all.
Since a 2001 U.S. Supreme Court decision, isolated wetlands
- - seasonal wet areas like Carolina bays - - are not covered
for protection under the Clean Water Act. In essence, the
court said areas not directly connected to a water body, such
as a marsh, lake, river or the ocean, can be developed without
federal oversight. Since the ruling, development of isolated
wetlands in the state's coastal counties has been governed
by state regulations. But the proposal to broaden those throughout
the state died in subcommittee.
So it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out if Realtors
and developers are pushing a bill that would allow filling
of wetlands that it might not be the best thing for the state.
In fact, the proposal approved by the subcommittee exempts
"noncontiguous areas of less than five acres in size."
In other words, if the bill becomes law, developers could
fill in any isolated wetlands without state oversight if the
area were under five acres.
Guess the percentage of the state's 312,000-plus acres of
isolated wetlands that are less than five acres? About 75
percent, according to Blan Holman of the Southern Environmental
Conservation Bank. Also during the budget debate,
House members raided the SC Conservation Bank trust fund to
pay for beach renourishment, which most people consider to
be an economic development expense, not an environmental one.
They also redirected $2.5 million to Medicaid. Bottom line:
Instead of the $10 million promised to fund a bank to protect
land, House members left it with $2.5 million. The only good
news from this fund raid is it likely will face a veto by
Gov. Mark Sanford, who last year vetoed similar conservation
It appears the House's assault on the environment will continue.
In coming weeks, for example, members likely will consider
a bill to make it tougher for advocates to get automatic interruptions
of development projects while courts and regulators consider
Unless people get riled up enough to vote against lawmakers
who make environmental assaults or raise Cain in Columbia,
the degradation will continue. And the South Carolina of tomorrow
might not remain a land of special places.
This week's cartoon by our Bill McLemore:
3/15: Sanford is man of principle
Your column (SC
Statehouse Report, 3/14) on Gov. Sanford ran in the
Island Packet today. It seems you refuse even to consider
that his veto of a "jobs bill" with " a lot
of legislature Christmas gifts" could be based on principle
and his policy beliefs. According to you, the veto was just
a political maneuver on the assumption the legislature would
You obviously don't know the kind of man Mark Sanford is.
You should take the time to read his book, "The Trust
Committed To Me" in which he describes his life as a
self term limiting Congressman and how he and a few others
like him resisted the career politicians and their Christmas
Presumably you are one who believed Mark Sanford couldn't
win either the primary for Congress or the primary for Governor.
Those endowed with political wisdom could not imagine the
people of South Carolina could see the difference between
a citizen office holder and the elite of the political class.
But they did!
-- Herb Wiedemann, Hilton Head Island
Editor's Note: Sanford by law had 120 hours
to veto the bill. He waited until the 119th hour to make
3/18: Altman is embarrassment
What an embarrassment for equality [SC Rep.] John Graham
Altman is to the Charleston gay and lesbian community. His
anti gay, deep-rooted hatred and disdain for gays and lesbians
is unnerving and smacks of the same environment Hitler created
when persecuting gays in Nazi Germany.
As a gay Christian, I am further incensed that so many on
the religious right-(whose principles are neither religious
nor right) have chosen him as their anointed leader....It
is neither funny, macho or even cute that Mr. Altman is so
very dismissive of gays, our lifestyles and our love for one
another-in fact, it is juvenile. Mr. Altman often uses derogatory
language in speaking about gays and lesbians and seems to
enjoy his role as the new moral leader.
A closer look at his record legal and otherwise should expose
this fraud as nothing more than a bigot, homophobe and frankly,
a pathetic example of human service to his gay neighbors.
Altmans co-sponsorship of Bob Jones Graduate, Rep. Haskins
anti gay-anti gay family bill, puts Altman in the same grouping
as the other Bob Jones radicals in the Upstate -- something
we Charlestonians did not vote to be part of.
-- Bryan Thompson, Charleston, S.C
SOUTH CAROLINA SCORECARD
Here's a "thumbs up" and "thumbs down" related to various
political events from the past week:
Brown, Herbkersman. Hats off to Reps. Robert Brown
and Bill Herbkersman for backing DHEC regulations on curbing
development on isolated wetlands.
General Assembly. Hats off to lawmakers for overriding
the veto of the Life Sciences Act (a huge jobs creation bill)
by Gov. Mark Sanford.
Development Gang of Four. Reps. Dwight Loftis, Skipper
Perry and Mary Beth Freeman voted for soft, industry-backed
rules on isolated wetlands, which could open up special SC
places to too much development. The final gang member is House
Ag Chairman Billy Witherspoon who prodded subcommittee members
to pressure them to vote for the proposal.
SC House. Thumbs down to just about every House member
for voting in favor of a bigoted bill to toughen rules on
Sanford. The winner of this week's Sore Loser Award
is Gov. Mark Sanford, who is threatening a lawsuit after the
Legislature overrode his veto of the Life Sciences Act jobs
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