Sunday, Oct. 30, 2005
New state Web
portal will be easier to use
SC Statehouse Report
30, 2005 - - The state's main Web site is about to be much
easier to use. And it's being done in a way that highlights
how government can work well to improve customer service without
Thanks to an innovative partnership between the state and
a private company, a new South Carolina Web portal called
debut Tuesday (Nov. 1). It will replace MySCgov.com, a site
run by the state over the years with a somewhat spotty record.
For people who want to do more business online or find information
about state government through the Internet, the change will
be like switching from driving a stick-shift car to an automatic.
"There's a whole new way of looking at things from a
resident's perspective that's going to make it a lot easier
for people to follow and find things," said Ken Oliphant,
director of marketing for S.C. Interactive, the company launching
and running the site for the state.
few years back when the world was gaga about how you could
link anywhere through a Web portal like Yahoo!, the state
rushed to get its own general site anybody could visit to
find quick links to anything in state government. The state
Budget and Control Board internally built, ran and started
maintaining the portal, MySCgov.com
It has worked O.K. But it hasn't kept up with lots of online
service innovations other states have. Why? MySCgov.com was
run on a shoestring, was difficult to update, was not very
deep and was hard to search. And because cash-strapped agencies
had to spend money to put more stuff on their agency sites,
those sites changed or offered little to keep up with the
times. (An exception was the state's Department of Motor Vehicles
site, which developed an easy-to-use tool to let people renew
drivers' licenses online.)
But South Carolina information managers knew MySCgov.com
wasn't doing the job. So the Budget and Control Board put
out a general request for bids to the private sector to propose
ways to change things.
Along came NIC,
Inc., a leading provider of e-government services with
big projects currently in 18 states. It proposed something
different - - to upgrade the state's Web portal for free in
exchange for the right to work with state agencies to encourage
them to use its online service offerings developed in other
states. Over the years, the company has developed about 1,000
applications for online services - - everything from tools
that let professionals renew their licenses through the Internet
to Web authoring software that let state employees update
their Web sites without needing to know sophisticated programming.
For some of those services, NIC, Inc., through its SC Interactive
subsidiary, would charge nominal service fees to recoup its
costs and make some money.
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For example, insurance agents considering a driver's car
insurance application may want instant access to driving records.
Currently, they can get the information for about $6 but there's
a wait. But through an online tool offered by SC Interactive,
they can get the information instantly for about $7.25.
For many business people, it's worth a little bit more money
to get information instantly than it is to wait. To ensure
SC Interactive didn't charge too much, the state now has an
oversight board that reviews charges.
Bottom line: The state has developed an enterprise relationship
with a private firm on which the burden will fall to hawk
online services to state agencies. The better job they do,
the more services will be offered online and the easier it
will be for people to do business or find information online.
And the development cost to taxpayers for all of this is cut
from millions of dollars to nothing.
"Obviously what we want to have happen is not to have
people stand in line or come to Columbia to do business with
government," said Michael Sponhour, spokesman for the
Budget and Control Board. "This is a nice blending of
the public's business and the best of the free enterprise
"This is going to make life a lot easier for citizens
of the state and state government. You've got a company that
has already found solutions in other states and put them to
And now they'll use them here. Take a look on Tuesday at
the new site. There's a lot to like about it.
- You can visit the new site by logging
on to: www.sc.gov.
10/30: 2000 and
Another great cartoon from Bill McLemore:
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10/26: No drilling, period
To the editor:
All of the Sea Islands off the coast of SC between Charleston
and Savannah are territories of the federal government period.
The state never owned these islands. Everything that happens
on these islands is null and void and illegal. We should have
U.S.Marshal's and not deputies. All of the charters that come
from the state are null and void. President Truman vetoed
a bill when U.S.Congress tried to give these islands to SC
Only the U.S. government can make the decision to drill for
oil or not.
-- Joni Dimond, Hilton Head Island, SC
Consider wind energy
To the editor:
Good article on offshore drilling [Commentary,
10/23] but you left out wind energy as an alternative.
South Carolina has a world class offshore wind resource in
relatively shallow water. (Click
link to see article).
Many of us in and out of academia are looking at ways to
exploit this resource. With the costs of industrial scale
wind energy dropping and wind energy manufacturing already
being done by major state employers like GE, it would seem
to me that wind energy is the right way to get energy from
off our shores.
-- Dennis Dinge, Conway, SC
The extortion of extra road taxes
To the editor:
Enjoy your column [Commentary,
10/23] in the Morning News.
Have you every reported on the latest fad: Adding Sales Tax
to match funds for road improvements from the Infrastructure
Bank? Has this process ever been reviewed by the courts?
I hope that people find out how our politicians are using
extortion to get extra taxes for supposedly road improvements.
I consider this first rate bribery to get funds for improvements
that are being denied us as residents of the Pee Dee and some
other areas in the State of SC. They tried it a couple of
years ago to pass a referendum in Florence County and it was
I was in the upstate last week to carrying my daughter back
to Clemson and I was and am astounded by the road construction
in the areas of Greenville and Spartanburg. I saw signs in
Pickens County requesting voters to defeat some sales tax
and I assume it is the same thing. I know Greenville County
built a new Interstate bypass and is paying from a road tax
called tolls. Seems like there should be a better method of
modernizing our roads.
-- Tom Ford, Florence, SC
Out-of-date reactionary ideas
To the editor:
Andy, your automatic reaction [Commentary,
10/23] to thoughtful and careful oil/gasoline refinery
ideas for SC are about 20 years our of date - - new technologies
and on-going research has made huge differences in safety
and environmental soundness of such projects -
Here's a novel idea for you to chew on: why not HELP Big Oil
to build a new refinery (instead of fighting them) and then
in exchange collect a royalty on production (never done before,
as far as I know) to be used for SC infrastructure, health
care, etc.... - AND get our research Universities involved
to build the safest and soundest refinery in the modern era...-
-- Steve Imbeau, Florence, SC
To the editor:
There is no question that we need to reduce our dependence
on foreign oil and find alternative fuels. Your no drilling
idea and no new refineries (no new ones in 20 years) has greatly
increased the gasoline prices. We have proved that we can
get the oil we need and still preserve the environment. The
Exxon Valdez was one of those freak situations...and given
all the oil that we have produced over the years, one bad
accident is a pretty good record. It took a few years, but
Prince William Sound is as good as new and they catch lots
of salmon there now.
We need to strike a balance of protecting the environment
and being realistic about our energy needs. It is extremely
dangerous for our military for us to be so dependent on foreign
oil. Common sense needs to prevail.
-- Woody Jones, Florence, SC
again on property taxes
This section tracks past forecasts by Statehouse Report
with other media reports:
In Statehouse Report:
rid of property taxes would be dumb: "Instead
of listening to the hype, South Carolinians really need
to think about what they're asking for if they want
reduced property taxes because they might get something
worse than they bargained for. Not only should they
watch out for the spin, but they should look out for
misinformation, which seems to have surfaced much more
than the truth so far."
In the Rock Hill Herald:
sales tax trade-off: "Substituting sales taxes
for property taxes is simply swapping one tax for a
potentially worse one. Lawmakers should not get away
with labeling this as tax relief....The fact is, there
is no free lunch. Lowering property taxes and raising
sales taxes presents a whole new set of problems and
increased burdens on certain segments of the population.
Lawmakers need to be frank about whom this so-called
tax relief will help and whom it will hurt."
In Statehouse Report:
of success driving property tax debate: Gov. Mark
Sanford has warned that the legislature should be careful
about fiddling with property taxes without considering
long-term implications on the majority of what they
fund: education. He's right. Instead of getting caught
up in a public frenzy, lawmakers should take a measured
approach on property taxes.
In the Spartanburg Herald Journal
relief plan has several holes: "To start with,
the panel did not consider the state's entire tax structure
and how to reform the method by which the state funds
all of state and local government and schools. Instead,
it seeks to respond to homeowners angry about rising
property taxes....Reducing the property tax while increasing
the sales tax may work well in the context of a complete
restructuring of the state's tax code. But this plan
appears to be another hasty piece of relief offered
to taxpayers without fully evaluating how it will affect
the rest of the state's tax structure and economy.
SOUTH CAROLINA SCORECARD
Here's a "thumbs up" and "thumbs down" related to various
political events from the past week:
Bernanke. Thumbs up to Dillon-raised Ben Bernanke,
who the president last week nominated to chair the Federal
Reserve. It's called the most powerful economic job in the
Williams. Hats off again to Orangeburg federal Judge
Karen Williams, who again is on the short-list for the US
State senators. A huge thumbs down to the state Senate
panel that is now pushing a $906 million tax shift from property
to sales taxes. Yes, we'd have the lowest property taxes in
the nation, but among the highest sales taxes. More work needs
to be done before this bad idea becomes permanent.
Campaign disclosure. South Carolina ranks second lowest
in the nation in campaign disclosure, a rating that is expected
to wither when the state begins online disclosure for constitutional
officers in January. More.
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