Sunday, Dec. 5, 2004
"taking a walk" may have whole new meaning
SC Statehouse Report
5, 2004 - - The phrase "taking a walk" may get a
whole new meaning if the South Carolina Senate changes a rule
dealing with filibusters.
In large part, the Senate is considered the home of more
collegial, deliberate and thoughtful debate than the S.C.
House because a minority of senators has the ability to hold
up measures pushed by the majority. In other words, the minority
on any issue can talk a bill to death until someone in the
majority wises up and realizes the proposed measure is too
radical or softens it to deal with concerns of the minority.
While some folks don't like the power this tool provides
the minority, it has been useful because it often leads to
better laws. Why? Because it forces opposing sides to compromise.
WORLD: Technology's downside
More on education vouchers
Who's up and down
encourage your feedback. If you'd like to respond to
something in SC Statehouse Report, please
send us an e-mail. We reserve the right to edit for
length and clarity. One submission allowed per month.
Submission of a comment grants permission to us to reprint.
Please keep your comment to 250 words or less:
Filibusters aren't used all that often, but have been used
more in recent years after the Senate reorganized from a non-partisan
seniority system to a partisan system. Currently, members
of a minority on any issue can hold it up when it gets to
the Senate floor for debate by continuing to talk and talk
about it - - to filibuster. To stop the debate, at least 28
senators currently are needed to close off the filibuster.
Over the years, this so-called cloture number, which has
varied from 27 to 30 or so, has been sacrosanct. That's because
senators from both parties and sides of various debates have
known that they one day might want to use a filibuster for
something they viewed as bad. So over time regardless of their
position on an issue, many have been hesitant to vote for
cloture to sit down a filibustering senator. Because of the
fear they might face a halt to debate on something they wanted
badly, the filibuster has been an effective threat and tool
to bring people together on tough issues.
Now, however, a handful of editorial writers, some Senate
Republicans and Gov. Mark Sanford desperately want change
so they can "get things done." They want to change
the formula on how to curb debate from the simple number 28
to "three-fifths of members present."
In other words, they only would have to get 60 percent of
the people in the Senate chamber to vote to close debate to
move forward. It might not sound like a big deal, especially
when the 28 is 60 percent of the state's 46 senators.
But it is a big deal because it means if one senator is filibustering
in the middle of the night and all of his colleagues in the
minority are elsewhere, then just two senators in the majority
could pass a motion to cut off the filibuster's debate. (Two
out of three is 67 percent.)
It also means senators will start "taking walks."
When a vote to close debate arises, some senators will leave
the chamber so they're not "present" and can't be
counted in the percentage to close off debate. In other words,
weak-willed senators who don't want to "sit a colleague
down" just won't participate and will be able to safely
say that he or she didn't vote to cut off debate. Their walk,
however, affected the outcome. And that's not good for the
process and accountability.
Critics say the filibuster has been abused too much recently
and they can't move legislation they want through the chamber.
They say the very process that helped Republicans preserve
their rights and have a voice when Democrats controlled the
Legislature needs to change so they can get important legislation
Hogwash. First, when did Republicans seek to pass more laws?
They traditionally have been opposed to more laws, more government,
Second and perhaps more importantly, changing the cloture
rule will change the historic role of the Senate - - to cool
off firebrand legislation that comes from the House.
It's remarkable that during the eight-year gubernatorial
term of GOP Gov. Carroll A. Campbell Jr. - - one of the state's
most successful governors - - a startling amount of legislation
Campbell wanted got passed with a Democratic-led General Assembly.
By using compromise and working with lawmakers, Campbell successfully
pushed a gas tax increase, corporate tax cuts, restructuring
In other words, Campbell didn't need a rules change to get
things done with a legislature of another party. Now Sanford,
who hasn't had a major piece of legislation passed in two
years, wants to change the rules even though his own party
is in control.
"For the Senate to kowtow to a governor is as bad as
a governor having to kowtow to the Senate," said Senate
Minority Leader John Land, D-Clarendon. "Neither should
be subservient to the other."
"The filibuster rule is the rule that makes the Senate
what it is
If we do [change] it, we will have two houses
of representatives without deliberate debate."
12/5: What technology may do
The latest from cartoonist Bill McLemore:
Filibuster actually promotes gridlock
To the editor:
I disagree with your recent commentary (Commentary,
11/28) that the filibuster encourages compromise.
Lately it's used to intentionally gridlock the Senate so some
bill, usually not the one under consideration but one further
down the line, won't be voted on before the session expires.
I'm all for reasoned discourse, but this is ridiculous.
I agree with you that the legislature, particularly the Senate,
has done remarkable little since Sanford was elected. My guess
is they don't like him and fear fundamental reform. They see
him as an outsider with wild ideas who never served in the
State Legislature. I see him as an outsider with good ideals
uncorrupted by service in the State Legislature.
The Senate needs to get out of his way and help him accomplish
real reform. If they don't, voters won' t think he's a failure;
they'll think the Senators are obstructionists!
-- Shell Suber, Columbia, S.C.
should get bus contracts
To the editor:
I read recently that our state government is considering
privatization of school bus services in an attempt to improve
the budget. Based on their past record regarding the awarding
of contracts for various services and products to contributors,
cronies and even themselves, I would hate to see the sort
of contract that might result following such legislative action.
As ours is the only state which assumes full responsibility
for these vehicles and their upkeep, and they are acknowledged
to often be outdated and sometimes dangerous, perhaps that
itself is a clue that something does need to be changed, however.
I would suggest that granting our state's school districts
the autonomy from legislative interference in their budgets
and daily operation found elsewhere, a workable equal funding
plan based on enrollment and then the giving of bus responsibility
to the districts would be a better proposal to consider.
-- Jon R. Heckerman, Garden City Beach
education should get tax credit
To the editor:
I have just read your article in the Business Journal (Commentary,
11/14) and I am puzzled by your logic on the
subject of vouchers. Please tell me why for the 12 years my
kids are not sitting in a public school, I shouldn't get a
credit for educating them somewhere else? If they aren't sitting
in a public school they aren't costing the school system any
money. Every parent of a public school student recieves [sic]
money from the state for their kids education in the form
of that education. The amount of money the goverment pays
for each public school student is far more than the $4,000.00
credit that we would get. This means that the school system
would still recieving part of my kids funding even if we recieved
a voucher from the state. (Keep in mind it's not the "state's
money", it's our tax money that we paid in.)
So my family would get a credit for only 12 years and we still
pay to fund public education until we retire. This only seems
logical to me. I am a general contractor. Using your logic,
If I choose to use a certian electrical firm, I am taking
money away from all of that electrical contractors competitors
thus treating them unfairly. You don't take into account that
I chose contractor A over the others because I am looking
for a better quality job.
Competition works to spur improvement in every other business
in the world. What logical reason can you provide that excludes
education from this universal truth. Please give me a reason
to see your side of this or why my side is wrong. I am a businessman
and I deal with logic, not emotion. Your rich getting richer
line is nothing more than class baiting. We pay more taxes
and usually contribute more to society than "the poor"
so calling a voucher program "subsidizing private education"
is an incorrect term in my opinion. Even with a voucher you
are still keeping part of my kids state education money in
the public system for free.
-- Name withheld upon request, Wando, S.C.
right on voucher plan's impact
To the editor:
I agree with your previous State House Report concerning
an effort by the naysayers of our Public School system to
privatize it (Commentary,
11/14). Especially those who want to get their
foot in the door by taking some public funds for private education
as our Governor is proposing with his "Let The Parents
Choose" vote getting program.
This program, along with other similar programs is, in my
opinion, simply a sneaky way of resegregation our school system.
The Public School system is certainly not perfect but it does
not warrant privatization, be it partially or otherwise.
The run-up to such privatizing efforts was, in my view, triggered
by the Bush Administrations underfunded "No Child Left
Behind" program. A program that all public school systems
are struggling with. That program accentuates the negative
instead of enumerating the positives of Public education.
Again, if the truth were known, talk about using public funds
for private education only tends to refuel the resentment
many folks had at the dawn of School Integration. Private
funds should only go towards Private services and Public funds
to Public services. It's the American way. All Public School
Systems should continue to work to improve but that does not
include carving out the funds needed to do so simply to please
some who don't like the mix their darlings have to face in
The 'Separate But Equal' Public School System once used in
the South did not work and neither will the Governor's vote
getting attempt to take public education back the days before
the Civil Rights movement. Senator Graham is correct in coming
out against Sanford's proposal.
-- Bob Logan, Horry County
LEARN MORE DAILY
best way to get South Carolina news is to augment your morning
paper and TV show with SC Clips, a daily executive
news summary compiled from more than 30 state newspaper and
TV sources. It's delivered every business day and is packed
with news of statewide impact, politics, business and more.
Subscriptions are affordable at $30 per month -- and less
for business subscribers. More: SC
SOUTH CAROLINA SCORECARD
Here's a "thumbs up" and "thumbs down" related to various
political events from the past week:
Aircraft jobs. Thumbs up to Vought Aircraft and a
partner for picking the S.C. Lowcountry as its new home for
more than 600 jobs.
Teachers, schools. The state ranks third nationally
in the number of nationally certified teachers. Also during
the week, more SC schools were rated average, good or excellent
than in years past.
Wilkins, Ott. Hats off to S.C. House Speaker David
Wilkins for his reelection and to new House Minority Leader
Harry Ott, who has his work cut out for himself.
SC prisons. With news that the state's prisons have
missing or broken metal detectors and contraband is flowing
into prisons, confidence in the system is going down.
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
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
To learn more about subscriptions, contact Andy Brack at: