S.C. Statehouse Report
Sunday, June 5, 2005
VIEW: http://www.statehousereport.com/columns/05.0605.ga.htm


COMMENTARY
2005 session was less than might appear
By Andy Brack
SC Statehouse Report

JUNE 5 , 2005 - - To hear state lawmakers talk about the past legislative session, you'd think they'd shrunk two suit sizes each because things were so busy this year. You might even feel a little guilty that they were just "plum wore out."

But after asking several to list accomplishments and getting blank stares or very pregnant pauses, it's pretty clear two things are true about the last five months of legislating in Columbia:

Busy? Yes. A lackluster session? Definitely.

RATIFICATIONS

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That's not to say lawmakers didn't make a few great strides. They passed a budget that fully funded education for the first time in years and they kept up with rising costs of Medicaid. They passed tort reform measures that will have a big impact on the process of civil justice, even though new studies show reforms probably won't lower insurance costs for health care.

They also passed laws making it possible for folks in bars to drink liquor poured from big bottles, to toughen penalties for domestic violence and to overhaul the state retirement system.

Overall, they passed more than 100 bills. But while the state's elected representatives appeared mostly to stay busy, much of what they did was targeted to special interests. More than anything, they seemed to govern around the edges to keep things much the same for most people.

They didn't, for example, do a lot to help tens of thousands of South Carolinians get out of poverty. They didn't do a lot to improve poorly maintained state roads. They didn't make school facilities in rural areas much better. And they didn't revamp the state's tax system to make it fairer to all.

If you take a look at the bigger picture of what happened during this year's General Assembly, here's what emerges:

Blending of parties. There seemed to be much less rancor between the Republicans and Democrats, other than on a controversial school voucher bill. The House budget, for example, got unanimous support in coming out of the House Ways and Means Committee - - the first time that has happened in recent memory.

One senior House Republican observed conservative Democrats seemed to join more in votes with Republicans, in part perhaps, because of a subtle shift in dynamics as Democrats concentrated efforts on winning key votes instead of always being opposed.

ALSO THIS WEEK

McLEMORE'S WORLD: Not a couch potato

FEEDBACK: On doctor law and Campsen

KEEPING TRACK: Right on Harrell, Santee Cooper

SCORECARD: Thumbs up and down

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Ineffective governor. Senate Minority Leader John Land relished with vigor that Gov. Mark Sanford has been "totally irrelevant" in the governing process. After three sessions, Sanford can't take credit for the passage of any major piece of his agenda.

"His thinking is so far out of the box that he's not even part of the General Assembly - - and that's the only place that can effect his priorities," Land said.

Sanford's ineffectiveness wasn't roundly endorsed by the Republicans we spoke with, but they didn't dismiss it. Most nudged and winked as if they were Monty Python characters when characterizing Sanford's record.

"I think he brought a lot of issues to the forefront," Rep. Bill Herbkersman, R-Bluffton, seriously observed. "He hasn't hit the goal line yet, but he's working toward it."

Budget sensitivity. Perhaps the biggest accomplishment for Sanford has been the renewed legislative sensitivity toward the budget process. Known far and wide as a fiscal conservative - - the kind of fellow who writes on the back of sticky notes - - Sanford's zeal in cutting spending seems to have forced state lawmakers to look harder at what they do with state money.

Freshman Sen. Chip Campsen, a Charleston Republican who served on Sanford's staff prior to last year's election, said the governor's budget work has caused lawmakers to be more fiscally accountable. Sanford, he noted, is the first governor to really roll up his sleeves and delve into the budget process with formal hearings.

"Any governor coming after Sanford is going to have to spend the time with the budget or look like he's not doing his job."


RECENT COMMENTARY


McLEMORE'S WORLD
6/5: Not a couch potato

Another great cartoon by Bill McLemore:


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FEEDBACK
6/1: Bill on doctors is bad legislation

To the editor:

I speak as an individual, representing nobody but myself, but I believe I have the appropriate standing in the general and medical communities in South Carolina to speak out.

Nobody is more concerned about bad doctors than other doctors and in particular none of us want to protect bad doctors or caudle them. BUT we are concerned about our own reputations and standing.

Complaints from the public against doctors or anybody are common about all kinds of things. Some are justified, some are not; some are accurate and some are not. Some are motivated by greed, revenge, misunderstanding and some are straight up. Some have to do with malpractice, some with personality issues, some with sexual harassment, some because the complainant is just plain angry or unhappy with the medical result. Some because the complainant didn't like someone in the office. Some even because the complainant hopes to get out of paying the bill. Proper investigation takes time and usually discerns the complaint that has merit from the one that does not.

To publicly announce all complaints against doctors and give them only ten days to respond is just not fair and ridiculous. If this is fair then lets do it for lawyers, accountants and butchers, too. Think of all the damage that the publicity could do and WOULD DO to the innocent doc who somebody just didn't happen to like. Is that what we want?

Isn't it curious that the trial attorneys, now that we have some malpractice caps in place, suddenly say we must immediately publicize all complaints against doctors? Shucks, I say lets do the same for attorneys. BUT if we REALLY want to uncover bad doctors, lets do it right, and expose them when and after they have had due process and their rights as Americans protected with a proper investigation.

Of course I understand how some doctors' actions have recently stirred things up. But stop a moment and think. If we want to protect ourselves from the doctors in the news, do we also want to "out" our own family doctor because one of our neighbors thought he charged $35.00 too much or because one our other neighbors thought his nurse was rude?? OF COURSE NOT.

So lets take a deep breath and veto this bill, H3108. There must be a way to do better what we all want without throwing the whole medical profession into chaos and panic and further fear of their patients. We can work changes into the Medical Practice Act which is also under review, for example. The complaining personality, and I know we all know some of these folks, cannot be given such leverage over our health care system.

Let's come back next year with a better bill.

-- Stephen A Imbeau, MD, Florence, S.C.

6/3: Campsen deserts the governor

To the editor:

Look at how often Chip voted to over ride the Governor’s vetoes. Do you see a pattern of disloyalty?

I advised Mark that it would be unwise to publicly support Chip in the primary. I thought that Chip was just a religious zealot version of Bobby Harrell. I did not think that Chip was committed to limited government; instead I believed that he would use his position to try to create a theocracy and to subsidize the business interests of his friends. Mark disagreed and could not admit that the special legislation that he drafted while in Congress was exactly the kind of legislation that he has consistently opposed.

The Conservation Land Bank and other "economic development" legislation that Chip supported has only served to drain revenues from the state without benefiting the taxpayers. And the "cultural war" legislation supported by Campsen has been divisive within the party.

Ironically, John Kuhn was probably closer in political philosophy to Mark than almost anyone currently in the Legislature. He just did not know better than to mess with Jenny.

After reading your articles on the Palmetto Bowl, Ft. Sumter, and Heritage Community Services, I thought you two had realized that Harrell and Mark were headed for a showdown. I thought you also realized that Mark needed some allies, but that he would not get one in Chip Campsen.

Just remember—Mark is a lot more like Lindsey than he is like Chip. He may not always be politically savvy in the back room “good ole boy” way of Bobby Harrell and David Wilkins. But, he does have a vision for the State and he is ... principled. I can’t say the same for Chip.

In the long run, Mark will be vindicated and, I think-re-elected. The public can see through the nonsense of the Legislature which refused to make any hard decisions and just decided to give everything to everyone—especially the “everyones” in Charleston.

-- Rose Condon, Charleston, S.C.

Here's some recent feedback to Statehouse Report:

KEEPING TRACK
Right on Harrell, Santee Cooper board duties

This section tracks past forecasts by Statehouse Report with other media reports:

In Statehouse Report:

5/27/05: New House speaker to be elected: "Here's our predicted winner: Ways & Means Chairman Bobby Harrell.

In various papers:

6/3/05: Harrell wins speaker's race

In Statehouse Report:

5/15/05: Public service has one master not two: "But board service also carries a 'duty of loyalty,'which means members must serve the interests of the organization over interests of anyone else, such as a governor."

In The Post and Courier:

5/29/05: Santee Cooper board: Dis it overstep its bounds? " The duty of loyalty means directors must always be sure to work on behalf of the organization's shareholders, not its executives or some other entity."

In Statehouse Report:

5/1/05: House could be vastly different next year: "After 11 years of stability under Wilkins’ forceful leadership, next year’s House could easily become a more raucous place."

In The State:

5/22/05: Wilkins' shoes will be tough to fill: "Regardless of who wins, the victor will have problems with right-wing Republicans who are likely to try to test the new speaker early on."


SOUTH CAROLINA SCORECARD

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

Thumbs up

Harrell. The Lowcountry got even more clout with the election of Rep. Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston, to be new House speaker.

Drinkers. Starting Jan. 1, barflies will be able to get drinks from big bottles.

Wachovia. Thumbs up for Wachovia having the gumption to apologize for ancestor banks being involved with slavery.

Thumbs down

Sanford. The governor doesn't have much to crow about ... again ... with the end of the legislative session. Even The Post and Courier noticed it.


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