Sunday, Dec. 19, 2004
Report Editor and Publisher Andy Brack will appear on SCETV
Day" around noon Thursday, Dec. 23, for a special
look at the 2005 legislative session.
priorities cause state to rebuild what it had
SC Statehouse Report
19, 2004 - - Sometimes, you've just got to wonder what state
policy leaders were thinking.
Two recent news stories highlight how state government policy
often develops in a discombobulated, erratic manner - - the
policy version the little Dutch boy who sticks his finger
in the dike to plug a leak, only to find another problem to
crop up quickly.
First, is news that Gov. Mark Sanford has the laudable goal
of wanting to beef up state law enforcement capabilities next
year by adding 425 officers, including 100 new troopers, 124
new corrections officers, 126 new juvenile justice officers
and more than 40 new wildlife officers.
Then comes news that South Carolina is better prepared to
combat bioterrorism since Sept. 11 but that it didn't received
top preparedness grades from an outside group because it cut
public health spending over the last two years.
With both stories, one wonders about state priorities. Yes,
lawmakers have been dealing with difficult budgets, but cuts
to two basic and major priorities - law enforcement and public
health - over the last few years make little common sense.
Mark Sanford recently at a press conference announcing
his budget priorities
Perhaps the best example on all of this yo-yo approach to
policy is in the law enforcement arena. Just four years ago
in 2000, the state had 1,006 troopers in the S.C. Highway
Patrol. Budget cuts when both parties controlled the governor's
mansion at different times led to the Patrol being reduced
to 785 officers today - - a loss of 221 seasoned troopers
in just four years.
While it's laudable the governor wants to add 100 new troopers
to beef up the patrol, what's galling is how much institutional
knowledge the state lost when it got rid of more than 20 percent
of its trooper workforce through cuts, early retirement and
whatnot. Now the state may get fresh recruits who won't have
the experience of long-time officers.
A similar dynamic has been at work at the state Department
of Natural Resources. Cuts over the last two years caused
about 80 wildlife officers to leave the state payroll. Since
then, boating deaths went up. Some counties only had one officer
to deal with wildlife law enforcement issues.
With Sanford's proposal, the agency will get about 40 more
wildlife officers, if the General Assembly goes along. But
what kind of common sense does it make to cut seasoned officers
and come back later and replace them with recruits who don't
know the land or have the relationships in a community?
WORLD: New use for armored cars
Who's up and down
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In another policy area, state funding for public health is
down over the last two years, an "accomplishment"
that earned criticism for the state from the Trust for America's
In a report issued this month, the organization said South
Carolina earned a score of 6 on a 10-point scale of indicators
that measured the state's preparedness to respond to bioterrorist
attacks and other health emergencies. The score, which was
about average for states across the country, was low because
of public health funding.
Overall, the report said America was better prepared to deal
with bioterrorism than it was three years ago. Similarly,
State Law Enforcement Division Chief Robert Stewart, South
Carolina's homeland security representative, said the state
was much better prepared with millions of dollars in new federal
funding for labs, chemists and other professionals. Thom Berry
of the state Department of Health and Environmental Control
said agencies also were communicating and sharing information
better, which improved preparedness in multiple ways.
The point, however, of all of this is about the state's priorities.
Under Gov. Jim Hodges, the number one priority was education.
Under Sanford, it appears to be about efficiency and restructuring.
As priorities shift, important things like law enforcement
and public health may move off center stage, as they have
recently. But the real impacts are on the institution of state
government, which then loses experienced officials who perform
better than new hires, and taxpayers, who now have to shell
out more money to try to get back something of what they had.
12/19: New use
for armored cars
The latest from cartoonist Bill McLemore:
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:
Highway Patrol. Hats off to the Patrol for its new
Operation Target Zero, which seeks to cut highway fatalities
in half in 2005.
Hollings. Congratulations to retiring U.S. Sen. Fritz
Hollings for his outspokenness and candor last week on 60
Minutes regarding how money is infecting politics. It's also
good news the ACE Basin will be named to honor his career
work to protect South Carolina's special places.
Sanford. Finally, yes finally, Gov. Mark Sanford vetoed
a risky property tax cap bill that passed the legislature
last year (did we really have to wait six months?). But thumbs
down to the governor for his meddling at Santee Cooper, such
as firing the board chair last week. The politicization of
Santee Cooper has resulted in a costly drop in its credit
rating on Wall Street.
Pitts. A bill by Rep. Mike Pitts, D-Union, suggests
lengthening lawmaker terms. Bad idea. South Carolina needs
more democracy, not incumbency protection.
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Notes veteran lawmaker Sen. Glenn McConnell: "Statehouse
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In each issue of Statehouse Report, you'll get::
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