May 23, 2004
be a race track
SC Statehouse Report
23, 2004 - - House Speaker David Wilkins was so mad he looked
like he was going to have a stroke.
On Wednesday, Wilkins took the floor to blast the Senate
for frustrating the legislative process by moving slowly on
"Their rules that allow one person to block the process
don't work very well any more," he sputtered to a rapt
Wilkins said the Senate was holding onto or delaying 64 bills
passed earlier this session by the House. He was fighting
mad that a lot of his chamber's work seemed to be spinning
down the drainpipe.
What prompted Wilkins's outburst was remarks from the Legislature's
other top Republican, Senate President Pro Tem Glenn McConnell,
who criticized the House for adding non-germane bills to measures
returning to the Senate.
You might recall from high school civics that before something
can move to the governor to be signed into law, the exact
same measure has to be approved by the House and Senate. When
one body finishes with a piece of legislation, it goes to
the other, which then takes it up and sends it back. When
it returns to the initiating body, members can agree to the
version amended by the second chamber or they can vote to
"non-concur," or disagree. If this happens, both
versions go to a conference committee to get a compromise.
If three members from each side come up with an agreement,
both bodies vote on the final version. And if they agree,
the measure goes to the governor.
As you can see, there are a lot of steps for something to
become a law. What McConnell was irked by is the House took
a "teacher protection" bill and added previously-passed
House bills to try to get the Senate to act. In this instance,
the House added a ban on same-sex marriages, probate judge
rules and changes to lobbying rules.
"You've got to have an imagination greater than the
Star Wars writers to be able to link those four things to
the subject matter," McConnell said.
In essence, the House "bobtailed" gay marriage,
lobbying and judicial proposals onto an education bill. Earlier
in the year, Gov. Mark Sanford waxed poetic about the vices
of adding extraneous measures to legislation. That, in part,
prompted the House in April to pass a measure to stop the
practice of bobtailing.
WORLD: The perils of online shopping
Letters on property taxes, gay lifestyle
Winners and losers of the past week
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Guess who introduced the measure? Wilkins - - the same guy
who was complaining about the Senate not moving things along
after the Senate complained about House bobtailing.
Wilkins defended the practice by saying it was the only way
to get the Senate to act if the House was going to continue
"to be the hardworking members of the body that we are."
The speaker, however, seems to get quantity and quality of
For the last few years, the Republican-controlled House has
acted as a legislative racetrack - - seemingly racing to get
as much legislation to the Senate as possible. The House appears
to value quantity, as evidenced earlier this year in dealing
with property tax reform. Instead of sending the Senate a
well-considered property tax reform option, the House voted
- - and approved - - three different ways of changing property
And that, in our view, is wrong. It allows House members
to say they've done the work on property tax reform, which
provides political fodder for them at election time. But what
they've done really isn't the hard work. As in many instances,
they leave the heavy lifting to the Senate to sort out the
merits of the competing proposals.
Since the Senate characterizes itself as the more deliberative
body, having extra work certainly doesn't help speed things
So what needs to happen? Part of the problem is lawmakers
find themselves under increasing pressure as the session draws
to a close. Rules won't ever be able to fix that.
But the House could start acting more responsibly in the
initial passage of legislation to ensure there is fuller debate
at the subcommittee, committee and floor levels. That will
result in stronger bills that have fewer errors for the Senate
to clean up.
Similarly, the Senate could try to make things move a little
more smoothly. Senators could stay in session longer. They
could face reality during filibusters. There was no reason,
for example, to stay stuck on something like stronger seatbelt
legislation for eight weeks when it was crystal clear after
three weeks that nothing was going to happen.
Yes, the Senate has problems with timeliness. But when the
House rushes legislation, the chances are greater for bad
5/23: The problem with online shopping
This week's cartoon by our Bill McLemore:
5/18: Politicians should look at taxes
To the editor:
You made some good points in your article (5/9,
Statehouse Report) on state income taxes. I
do not know enough about the state of the budget to comment
technically, but I immediately considered arguments against
taxes using your same logic.
You write "individually, the cuts don't seem like much-$6
million here, $40 million there. But added together they are
draining the state budget." Couldn't this also be used
in the context that individually taxes don't seem like much,
7% of income here, 15% of income there, 6 cents on the dollar
here, 10% of property value over there, etc., but added together
they are draining families' budgets. Also to refute John Land's
assessment of tax cuts: if higher taxes strengthen an economy,
why would an increase from 7% to 15% on our state income tax
boost our economy? If taxes benefit the economy, politicians
should advocate no limit on taxes, but history doesn't show
that higher taxes help individuals at all.
You're right $68 a year isn't going to affect a family much,
but such figures quoted by politicians and higher-tax advocates
are never in a vacuum in reality. They are added to $100 school
bond, $800 for car taxes or property taxes, an increase in
water and sewer, etc, etc.
These taxes should not be looked at and analyzed alone but
as part of a whole percentage a family pays in taxes and fees.
Then politicians should ask a question, "how much of
a family's income is too much (morally) to pay in taxes? 15%,
25%...75%?" I think that should be a required question
and answer for politicians.
-- Craig Stephans, Charleston, SC
people on gay lifestyle
To the editor (in response to 5/16
The arguments used against integration 50 years ago cannot
be compared to the gay lifestyle agenda today. African Americans
say that there is a fundamental difference between the civil
rights struggle of the last century and the "gay rights"
position: You cannot change your skin color, but you can change
The fact that the Bible says that homosexuality is wrong
is a good enough reason for it to be wrong! No other culture
in the history of humanity has recognized marriage between
members of the same sex. Numerous studies have shown that
the best environment for nurturing children is in a family
with a male father and a female mother. You are deceiving
people if you put the efforts to normalize the gay/lesbian
lifestyle in the same boat as racial discrimination.
-- LynnEllen Lang, Florence, SC
SOUTH CAROLINA SCORECARD
Here's a "thumbs up" and "thumbs down" related to various
political events from the past week:
Budget conferees. Congrats on timely work on the budget.
School supporters. Hats off to 2,500 people who marched
on the Statehouse last weekend to push for better, more equitable
Grover Norquist. The state would be better off if
Norquist and the Americans for Tax Reform kept their noses
out of the SC legislature. Isn't there enough dumb stuff going
on in Washington to keep them busy?
Bobby Harrell. The Palmetto Bowl is special-interest
spending at its worst. But the House Ways and Means chair
didn't deserve getting attacked like he did in the last week.
Kuhn, Sanford. Both Sen. John Kuhn and First Lady
Jenny Sanford need to learn to control their tempers.
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