Sunday, June 12, 2005
Big issues ahead
for next year's General Assembly
SC Statehouse Report
12, 2005 - - While state lawmakers patted themselves on the
backs for all of the bills they passed over the last five
months, there's still a lot of work left for next session.
Perhaps the biggest new chunk of business they'll bite off
is reviewing the state's property tax laws and whether they
can be changed fairly to reduce the tax burden on some.
Across the state and especially in areas experiencing fast
growth, many property owners are feeling the pinch of increased
property tax bills. Over the last couple of years, a quiet
rumble of discontent quaked into more serious fury after Charleston
County tried to cap increased valuations of assessed property
to a modest rise. The effort was found unconstitutional by
the courts because the state constitution says property tax
rates have to be based on fair market value.
In December, Gov. Mark Sanford vetoed a similar move by last
year's General Assembly to cap valuation increases to 20 percent.
He cited constitutional concerns as one of the reasons for
Over the summer, state senators will take another crack at
what can be done on property taxes as special subcommittees
will examine financial and constitutional implications of
any changes. All ideas reportedly are on the table for discussion.
Lawmakers will be looking for creative ways to keep from shifting
the burden to many while lowering the burden on the fewer
people whose property has increased, such as people with big
houses on the coast and elderly people who live in gentrifying
Other business on next year's agenda includes:
Isolated wetlands. Many Democrats and Republicans
are still miffed no bill to protect wetlands in South Carolina
was introduced this year.
"We've got to protect wetlands next year," said
Rep. Bill Herbkersman, R-Bluffton. "It's time to call
people to task."
Restoring government. Democrats say they will work
to restore cuts suffered by state government over the last
few years. They say there are a lot of needs with school buildings
and prisons. Recent shortfalls also have hurt mental health
programs and caused colleges to raise tuitions.
School funding. It's likely a state judge will rule
over the summer that the state's rural schools are funded
inequitably. While the case will be appealed regardless of
which side wins, it will put lawmakers on notice that they'll
have to change school funding sometime soon.
WORLD: Conservation for airlines?
TRACK: Right on judicial study
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Other education plans. Democrats in the House and
Senate may have a special education plan next year because
they say they're tired, as one lawmaker said, of seeming only
to oppose bad legislation. The plan could include a more proactive
approach to reducing class sizes, more early childhood education
programs, and more after-school and homework programs. Meanwhile,
some Republicans will continue to push Sanford's "Put
Parents In Charge" voucher plan.
Restructuring. While the governor's restructuring
proposals are stalled in the House and Senate, they likely
will face new scrutiny next year.
Road funding. With recent news about the millions
of dollars of shortfalls in state road maintenance funds,
some lawmakers say they'll work to address ways roads and
maintenance are funded. That could come in the form of a new
push for an increase to the gas tax.
Health prevention. Others will push for more money
to be put in preventive health programs. Efforts could be
fueled by boosting the 7-cent-per-pack cigarette tax, which
is the second lowest in the nation.
"We should continue being more proactive in spending
dollars in areas of health care that point to prevention and
screening programs for cancer, kidney disease and other illnesses,"
said Rep. David Mack, a Charleston Democrat who chairs the
Legislative Black Caucus.
Workers' comp. House lawmakers also may push a new
initiative to revamp the state workers' compensation laws,
which could cause another clash between lawyers and big business.
6/12: New conservation
measure by airlines?
Another great cartoon by Bill McLemore:
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deserts the governor, Rose
Condon, Charleston, S.C.
on doctors is bad legislation, Stephen A Imbeau,
MD, Florence, S.C.
is wrong for SC, Sandy Gibson, Lexington, SC
doesn't care for Average Joes, Sandy Gibson, Lexington,
with what passes as a Republican, Janet Upshaw,
on Sanford is liberal hogwash, Lew Richards, Manning,
Shavone Gadsden, sophomore, Columbia College
on Neanderthal column,
Natalie Mann, Bluffton, SC
months early on judicial diversity report
This section tracks past forecasts by Statehouse Report with
other media reports:
In Statehouse Report:
report on the way:
"Lawmakers and the public
should be on the lookout for a new analytical report
by the Senate Judiciary Committee that will highlight
judicial screening results over the last 30 years.'
NOTE: This story was for paid subscribers only, which
shows the added benefit of subscribing.
In The State and other papers:
fail to add blacks to bench. "Black candidates
are far less likely than whites to be elected in judicial
races, despite reforms enacted eight years ago aimed
at improving diversity, a legislative study has found."
SOUTH CAROLINA SCORECARD
Here's a "thumbs up" and "thumbs down" related to various
political events from the past week:
Patients. With a new law on the books requiring doctors
to wear identification, patients can rest a little easier.
Minibottles. They'll soon be history. On Jan. 1, bars
and restaurants can start pouring from big bottles.
DHEC. The department reportedly only has enough money
to send inspectors to restaurants twice a year, instead of
four times a year as is the national average. After the sickening
and deadly outbreak of salmonella in a Camden restaurant,
the agency and lawmakers might want to think about reorganizing
Sanford. Again, the governor makes the list. First,
he gets thumbs down for exploiting the lackluster way he made
a decision about the seatbelt bill, which became law without
his signature. Why can't he just make a decision instead of
grousing left and right? Second, he vetoed a Pee Dee trails
project, which rightly incurred the wrath of Sen. Hugh Leatherman.
Covington. The highway department lobbyist should
stick to lobbying, not songwriting (although we know a lot
of people who would agree with his musical characterization
of the governor.)
Ethics Commission. The commission says that online
contributions might not be ready until after the 2006 election.
Come on guys. It's not that tough to program -- just find
a state that's already done it and move forward. The people
need to know who gives to candidates.
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In each issue of Statehouse Report, you'll get::
Hot issue -- an early peek at weekly commentary
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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
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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
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