Sunday, Nov. 28, 2004
need to look at bigger picture
SC Statehouse Report
28, 2004 - - With the opening of the next session of the S.C.
General Assembly a little more than a month away, it's time
to look at the bigger picture for a change.
If you think about what state lawmakers have done over the
last couple of years, there's not much for them to hang their
hats on. Yes, there was reform of the Public Service Commission.
Yes, lawmakers finally funded the state Conservation Bank.
They also dealt with a $155 million deficit, passed a measure
to let people decide whether they wanted minibottles and provided
some economic development incentives.
Among the things lawmakers didn't do were government restructuring,
tax reform, tort reform, improved education funding, protection
of isolated wetlands and streamlining health care services
to make them more efficient and effective. The list goes on
What's notable on both lists - - things done and left undone
- - is the focus. Both lists focus on government mechanics.
It's as if lawmakers are wholly centered on tinkering at the
edges of government - - of reshaping the size of the government
envelope, not looking at how it performs for users.
Meanwhile, look at news and headlines from the past couple
- Violent crime. South Carolina has the nation's
top rate of violent crime, according to a November analysis
by The State newspaper. It has more than 800 crime incidents
annually per 100,000 people.
- Poverty. Some 12.7 percent of South Carolinians
live in poverty, according to September figures from the
U.S. Census Bureau.
- Hunger. More than 450,000 South Carolinians are
on some form of food stamps, according to published reports.
With a down economy, the number has been increasing.
- Women. South Carolina ranks next to the last in
the country in terms of political, economic, social and
health standards for women, according to a November study
by the Institute for Women's Policy Research.
- Education. While South Carolina's overall educational
achievement has been marked by solid increases, the state's
SAT scores (often a lagging indicator) are at the bottom.
The contrast between what lawmakers are focusing on and what's
happening across the state couldn't be clearer. Lawmakers
aren't really concentrating on the real problems that face
many taxpayers (i.e., voters.).
If something isn't done to address real problems, not manufactured
political ones, lawmakers eventually may suffer the consequences.
If people's needs for better health care, less hunger, less
poverty, more equity and less violence aren't addressed, they
may decide to throw out the good old boys and girls for people
who will try to make a difference.
* * * * *
WORLD: Sneaking out on a holiday
On education vouchers
Who's up and down
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As lawmakers prepare to head back to Columbia in a few weeks,
Gov. Mark Sanford still hasn't dealt with 15 bills passed
earlier this year.
What's taking so long? While Sanford's spokespeople say he's
considering them in the time he's allowed, which is until
the start of the next session, it seems awfully odd that the
governor who bills himself as such a can-do guy seems to be
struggling so much.
All must not be what it seems.
* * * * *
Meanwhile, it appears Senate Republicans are on a path to
push through new Senate rules that will limit the use of the
filibuster. While many crow the new rules will help speed
up the process, we wonder whether that's a good thing. There's
a lot of bad legislation that moves from the racetrack (otherwise
known as the S.C. House) to the Senate. To this point, the
Senate has been the only thing that cooled down firebrands
in the House.
Curbing the use of the filibuster, which was first perfected
in the U.S. Senate by South Carolina's own John C. Calhoun
in the 1840s, seems anti-American. One of the important aspects
of the filibuster is that while uncomfortable and a tool that
drags out things, it also makes advocates of new proposals
listen to opponents. What results are compromises that tend
to take everyone's concerns into account.
If the filibuster's effectiveness is sliced and diced by
politicians, South Carolinians - - particularly those who
are poor, hungry, jobless and uneducated - - may be in for
even tougher times.
11/28: Sneaking out on a holiday
The latest from cartoonist Bill McLemore:
Governor is wrong on vouchers
To the editor:
I just finished reading your commentary on school vouchers
in today's Sumter Item. Even though I don't have time to elaborate
on all the points of the commentary, I felt compel to write
and THANK you for making such a strong and timely case for
us parents with kids in public schools as well as for citizens
who appreciate the value of public education and the role
it plays in the well being of our society. As PTA president
of an elementary school here in Sumter I will ask all of our
membership to please read your commentary. You touched all
the salient points and I hope parents as well as concerned
citizens will let our politicians know that the Governor is
wrong on this one. Again, thank you.
-- W. Harrison Brown, PTA President, Millwood Elementary
School, Sumter, S.C.
11/16: Give public schools a fair fight
To the editor:
I can not believe the lack of EQUALITY in the voucher fight.
They day they give a public school $4,000.00 to educate a
child would be the happiest of my life! How come parents get
$4,000.00 in tax breaks to send a kid to a private school
while the public schools get less than $2000.00 per pupil
to try to do the same job? At least give us a fair fight!
-- Dr. Janet Roberts, public school educator, Chapin,
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SOUTH CAROLINA SCORECARD
Here's a "thumbs up" and "thumbs down" related to various
political events from the past week:
Graham. Hats off to U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham who has
poked holes at fellow Republican Gov. Mark Sanford's voucher
USC, Clemson. Congratulations to the schools for removing
part of their black eyes from the recent football game brawl
by taking themselves out of any running for bowl bids.
Altman. What is Rep. John Graham Altman's hang-up
about gay people? Now the Charleston Republican wants to yank
funding from SCETV for airing a free documentary on what he
calls the "militant homosexual agenda." Tough language
from a fellow with a militant extremist agenda.
Naming rights. If state lawmakers would stop the practice
of naming buildings, roads, bridges and more for living people
- - including incumbent colleages - - they wouldn't be caught
in situations like a road named for new felon Earle Morris,
the former lieutenant governor and comptroller general convicted
in the Carolina Investors case.
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