Sunday, Oct. 3, 2004
sweeping through SC political discussions
SC Statehouse Report
3, 2004 --South Carolina seems to be becoming a state that
wants to have its cake and eat it too. In politics, some seem
to want two styles of government at once.
On one hand, many in South Carolina remain a strong believer
in a Republican-backed mantra that the government which governs
best is that which is closest to the people. Hence, the Palmetto
State's longstanding kinship for state's rights over federalized
But on the other hand, a new kind of political rationale
is being heard from business-backed interests. They seem to
generally agree with the overall mantra - - unless it doesn't
fit their needs. Then, somewhat hypocritically, they call
for centralized state control.
Two 2004 examples come to mind.
First is the case of hog farms. In reaction to some counties
that enacted tough regulations to keep factory hog farms out
of their area, the House GOP in the spring pushed through
a bill that would have prohibited local governments from enacting
stricter guidelines on hog and poultry farms than those in
state law. As the bill wound its way through the Senate, it
morphed into a broad measure that would have barred local
governments from adopting regulatory measures tougher than
the state's. The bill failed. But it will be back next session.
Second, the state Department of Health and Environmental
Control is working on a draft of legislation to protect isolated
wetlands. In the past session, a bill backed by the S.C. Association
of Realtors got all the way to conference committee before
it died in the last days of the session. That bill, thought
to be bad by conservationists because it exempted too much
land from protection, also will be back in some form.
In both instances, proponents of the measures essentially
argue the state is a better guardian of standards than local
government. But these calls for more centralized government
fly in the face of the GOP's years-long pitch for devolved
WORLD: By the poll numbers
Amendment Two is bad
Who's up and down
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"The business community wants it both ways," says
Dana Beach, executive director of the S.C. Coastal Conservation
League. "They are being cravenly opportunistic. When
they see something advantageous to them that involves devolving
[government] down to the local level, they're for it.
"But when it comes to things they see as disadvantageous,
such as municipal regulations of hog farms, they're big fans
of centralized government
.Ultimately, it's just a matter
of trying to promote policies that promote their particular
interest, not the interest of the public."
At issue is where control of local policies should be. Under
South Carolina's home rule, the state is all powerful, but
grants certain functions, such as zoning and police powers,
to local governments.
Local governments are ideal for many parochial matters because
they can respond more quickly than the state and they can
take local conditions into account, said Robert Croom of the
S.C. Association of Counties. Also, when local governments
can control development through zoning and other tools, they're
able to steer some growth to certain areas or make undesirable
Consider the benefits of this local control. Some communities
have ordinances that require signs like McDonald's golden
arches to be discreet. Others regulate where adult bookstores
and liquor stores can be.
These local controls allow local communities to define and
improve their quality of life. Furthermore, in communities
like Hilton Head Island, such regulatory enhancements can
cause property values to rise because of what they don't allow.
If state lawmakers take away local flexibility on some regulatory
matters, such as adult bookstores and mega-hog farms, they
will limit people's abilities to create the kind of communities
they want to live in.
In the long run, that could hurt the state's efforts to recruit
retirees and new businesses.
Bottom line: before succumbing to the business lobby's arguments
for more centralized control in some cases, lawmakers should
look at the bigger picture and think about what state control
would mean to the quality of life in South Carolina's towns,
cities and counties.
10/3: By the poll numbers
The latest from cartoonist Bill McLemore:
Amendment Two will nail small counties
To the editor:
This amendment (Statehouse
Report, 9/26) that sounds so good, will be just one
more nail in the coffins of the small rural counties of South
Carolina. The majority of the property in these counties is
owned by large paper companies.
Your amendment will reduce the counties assessed value on
this type real estate by one third (33 percent). This shifts
more of the tax burden to the homeowners and the local business
people. Is that fair? No way!
Timber production is a business just like your local IGA
or Piggly Wiggly. It should be taxed similarly.
-- John A. Padgett, Marion County Auditor, Marion, S.C.
EDITOR'S NOTE: We also learned that
last week's commentary generated some discussion on a SC
tax bulletin board. Here's an excerpt from a Lancaster County
"This is just another way the brillant
people in Columbia pass special laws to help certain groups;
this will have the opposite effect as proposed and in some
counties will be a shift of hundreds of thousands of dollars
in taxes to homeowners and business owners!! As usual the
counties and homeowners lose out to benefit the rich."
From another source in S.C. Senate research,
we learned this:
"This amendment, if adopted, will
allow larger companies to apply for the 4 percent tax assessment
on agricultural property. Because the legislation deletes
the previous limitation of ten shareholders, companies with
more than 10 shareholders likely favor this proposed amendment.
Conservation and environmental groups that seek to slow
down development of land may be against this proposed amendment."
LEARN MORE DAILY
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SOUTH CAROLINA SCORECARD
Here's a "thumbs up" and "thumbs down" related to various
political events from the past week:
SC schools. With the state's focus on accountability
in education, more schools did better (56 percent better)
on meeting federal No Child Left Behind standards than ever.
Moving down. We learned this week that South Carolina
is no longer the number 1 state in men killing women. Now
it's number 6 -- better, but way too high still.
Limehouse. An idea by Rep. Chip Limehouse, R-Charleston,
to let private school and home-schooled students participate
in public school gifted programs and activities doesn't sound
right. If they want to do so, they should go to public school...or
let the local districts decide, not have a state mandate.
Wingate. Columbia Republican Ken Wingate is under
fire by black lawmakers for an endorsement he got from the
right-wing League of the South when he ran for governor two
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