S.C. Statehouse Report
Sunday, Sept. 12, 2004
VIEW: http://www.statehousereport.com/columns/04.0912.scorecard.htm


Scorecards provide voters with vital information
By Andy Brack
SC Statehouse Report

SEPT. 12, 2004 -- With elections less than two months away, people are starting to scratch their heads about which candidate they should support.

In past years, much of the available information on which to base decisions came from the candidates - - from TV and radio ads, direct mail pieces, door-to-door campaigning, flyers, and lately, Internet sites.

But as one would expect, the information is slanted. Candidates put themselves in a positive light and paint their opponents negatively.

While many people still base decisions on candidate communications, third-party groups in South Carolina are starting to provide more information to help people make choices.

Cecil Cahoon, government relations director at the South Carolina Education Association, said his group's new scorecard (http://www.thescea.org) gives members information on how lawmakers are working to promote its educational objectives.

In an age when schools are being measured every way imaginable through standardized tests and school report cards, a scorecard of lawmakers' performance is particularly helpful since legislators, not teachers, fund education, he said.


McLEMORE'S WORLD: Call from the top

FEEDBACK: Rebuttals on global warming, cigarette taxes

SCORECARD: Who's up and down



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"Accountability matters not just in the classroom, but in the committee room," Cahoon said. "Heretofore, the only ones who were being held accountable was the education community."

But Ed McMullen, head of the conservative S.C. Policy Council, warned the scorecard might end up hurting the organization because it might marginalize the Republican leadership in the General Assembly.

"There's nothing more exciting to me than to have a scorecard from the education union," said McMullen, who enjoys sparing with the Education Association over issues like school choice and vouchers.

He noted scorecards can be useful in helping organizations to attain legislative goals. A group affiliated with the Council had a scorecard in the mid-1980s through mid-1990s. But the group stopped issuing a scorecard about the time the GOP took over the House, in part because most of its goals had been accomplished to create a General Assembly that was for more limited government.

He predicts the Education Association's scorecard will be a failure because it will irritate the same GOP leadership the Association wants to adopt and implement its policy goals.

But in reality, Republicans in the General Assembly, 80 of whom received failing grades in the Association's scorecard, don't seem to be swayed by the SCEA's agenda anyway. That means the scorecard might really be most useful in helping its thousands of members (teachers) - - and by extension, voters - - to learn more about what lawmakers are really doing in Columbia when voting on education.

So now instead of just hearing from Republicans and Democrats about how "pro-education" they are, people can use the scorecard to get documented information to help them to gauge lawmakers' performance, ask more detailed questions and learn more about voting records.

At least three other groups provide scorecards that give more insight into what lawmakers are doing:

  • The new Conservation Voters of South Carolina (http://www.conservationvotersofsc.org) this week released its first scorecard of conservation votes in the General Assembly. Eight House members - - all Democrats - - scored 100 to mirror the group's positions on 10 votes. Fourteen members - - one Democrat and 13 Republicans - - scored zero on votes on wetlands, hog farms, conservation trust funds and more. The group did not do a scorecard for the Senate because there was only one conservation-related roll-call vote.

  • The South Carolina Business and Industry Political Education Committee (http://www.scbipec.com) is finishing work on its 2004 legislative scorecard, which generally is available only to members and the media. It analyzed 17 House and five Senate votes that it believed had impact on the business community. In general, Republicans scored higher than Democrats in this rating system.

  • The South Carolina Chamber (http://www.scchamber.net) has published an analysis of 14 House and five Senate votes important to business, but didn't provide a grade.

These analyses are helpful. For too long in South Carolina, lawmakers have operated under the radar screen. Their business has been done in public, but there hasn't been enough accountability on what they actually have been doing, other than in next-day news stories which often are forgotten in the next news cycle.

More groups should consider rating lawmakers on their performance to allow voters to have better information to make better decisions about the leaders they want running the state.


9/12: Call from the top

This week's cartoon by our Bill McLemore:

9/10: Not a free country for everyone

To the editor:

Just the ticket, hike taxes (Statehouse Report, 9/5). When are people like you going to learn that the public really resents any intrusion into our lives? Why don't you just just rethink this desire to exert you power on others and leave us alone? This is still the United States of America, isn't it? Worry about your own family and forget about intruding on others.

-- Jeff Stoll, Beaufort,S.C.

9/7: Global warming is a hoax

To the Island Packet:

NOTE: This letter was sent to the Hilton Head Island Packet in response to a recent column on global warming (Statehouse Report, 8/22) . An excerpt is printed below.

Aside from the space alien now living on Hilton Head Island, who recently wrote that hurricanes were caused by SUVs, I don't think I've read anything quite as nonsensical as Andy Brack's column, 'Global warming nibbling away at S.C.'

Tenth-grade science taught that global temperatures are regulated by solar radiation. Just a few weeks ago, both Time and Newsweek stumbled on this revelation....It's a hoax, folks. Just another phony crisis to justify pouring hard-earned tax dollars down another special-interest rat hole.

-- Bill Wright, Bluffton. Full letter: http://www.islandpacket.com/editorial/letters/story/3798946p-3405643c.html


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Here's a "thumbs up" and "thumbs down" related to various political events from the past week:

Thumbs up

PACT scores. After recent bad news about an SAT drop, it's good news to hear PACT scores are on the way up across the state.

School fighters. Hats off to the four Clarendon County families who were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for their ancestors' fights to desegregate the schools in the landmark Briggs v. Elliott case in the late 1940s and early 1950s. The medals, pushed by U.S. Sen. Fritz Hollings and U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, were awarded last week.

Florence election. It's also good news to hear the Florence Senate election for the seat held by Sen. Maggie Glover finally will be be held again.

Thumbs down

Silver Card. According to press reports, the Silver Card program to make prescription drugs more affordable to seniors is on the way out. State lawmakers should invest in it and save it.

How you can subscribe to the full edition of the report

The above version of S.C. Statehouse Report is the free edition. Our paid version, which costs about $100 per month, offer a weekly legislative forecast packed with information that can keep you and your business on the cutting edge.

Notes veteran lawmaker Sen. Glenn McConnell: "Statehouse Report gives an inside practical report of weekly problems with and progress of legislation. It reviews the whole landscape."

In each issue of Statehouse Report, you'll get::

Hot issue -- an early peek at weekly commentary on something really big. Last year, we continually beat other news organizations in finding major trends in issues, from teacher and budget cuts to wetlands proposals.

Agenda -- a weekly forecast of the coming week's floor agenda

Radar Screen -- a behind-the-scenes look at what's really going on in the General Assembly

McLemore's World -- an early view of our respected cartoonist Bill McLemore.

Tally Sheet -- a weekly review of all of the new bills introduced in the legislature in everyday language

Scorecard -- A Thumbs Up and Thumbs Down of major political/policy events for the week.

Calendar -- a weekly list of major meetings for the House, Senate and state agencies.

Megaphone -- a quote of the week that you'll find illuminating.

To learn more about subscriptions, contact Andy Brack at: brack@statehousereport.com


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