S.C. Statehouse Report
Sunday, April 2, 2006
VIEW: http://www.statehousereport.com/columns/06.0402.babysit.htm


Politicians taking us for a ride
By Andy Brack
Publisher
SC Statehouse Report

APRIL 2 , 2006 - - Judgment is a funny thing. You know it when you see it and you know it when you don't. But trying to teach somebody to have it is like teaching a fish to ride a bike.

Lately, bad judgment seems to have been making more appearances in our public officials.

First up to bat is our lieutenant governor, Andre Bauer. Yes, he-of-the-hot-head and lead-foot seems to have created a Republican primary race that he probably had locked up two weeks ago. You've got to question the judgment of the volcanic Bauer for recent run-ins with the law over driving at speeds up to 101 mph in one case. Or you can question him leaving the impression he was a high-level law enforcement officer, instead of a part-time top state official with few real powers.

SEE THE VIDEO

Next at bat are state Sens. Jake Knotts, R-Lexington, and Darrell Jackson, D-Richland, who each told The State newspaper the lieutenant governor should have security protection and a driver - because he would become governor if something bad happened to the governor.

While we understand this logic, it also sounds more like something else - - the official state Senate plan for "Operation Babysit Andre" to keep him from embarrassing South Carolina any more.

Third to the plate are members of the S.C. House, who are pushing a dangerous measure that could have a disastrous impact on the abilities of local communities to do land-use planning. (Prior to the Andre Incident, this was the subject for today's commentary.)

At issue is the concept of "regulatory takings," the much-debated, polarizing topic that has the state's environmental community in a dither.

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A proposal by Rep. Tracy Edge, R-Horry, would require local governments to compensate private landowners if a new regulation lessened the value of their property. The measure is part of a larger bill, which passed 105-8 in mid-March, that seeks to overhaul the way government condemns property through its eminent domain power.

Many lawmakers want more control of eminent domain power in South Carolina since a controversial U.S. Supreme Court decision last year that said local governments could seize private property and give it to another private entity if the seizure and associated economic development gain benefited the public.

The decision on that Connecticut case sent property rights advocates into orbit because they thought government was conspiring to take their land.

But lawmakers and legal experts who know South Carolina law say the high court ruling is pretty much moot here. Why? Because South Carolina jurists have done a good job in limiting eminent domain powers for cases of seizures for public use, not broader seizures that result in a public benefit, said SC Sen. Chip Campsen, a Charleston Republican who has been studying the issue.

Campsen said the House legislation likely won't go anywhere this year because the takings provision clutters the larger eminent domain issue. He said property rights advocates seemed to be using the national uproar on the eminent domain case to piggyback a takings compensation measure onto.

"My fear is it causes the whole train to be derailed," he noted.

Campsen said he hoped the General Assembly would approve his Senate-passed constitutional amendment which essentially would codify existing case law to ensure future judges would continue to limit eminent domain powers to public use and not expand them to public benefit.

But the conservation community remains worried about the House takings provision. If approved, it would cripple local communities' ability to plan and zone, said Billy Want, a noted environmental law professor who teaches at the Charleston School of Law.

"In the name of protecting property values, this bill would do just the opposite," he said.

While some people see zoning as a way to keep people from doing what they want with their land when in reality, a broader view is it allows elected officials to channel growth to protect a larger amount of land for the whole community.

But the House proposal would put private interests ahead of community interests, Want said.

"It would prevent counties and municipalities from undertaking zoning that protects residents from inconsistent uses, like gravel pits or industrial facilities, being located adjacent to them."

Let's hope lawmakers exercise better judgment throughout the rest of the session, particularly when it comes to land use.


lighter side

4/2: Homelessness and entitlement

Another great cartoon from Bill McLemore:


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scorecard

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

Thumbs up

Champions: The University of South Carolina won the National Invitation Tournament championship over the University of Michigan on Thursday night with a performance that mirrored its expertise and enthusiasm in the tournament.

Rotation: A Senate education subcommittee offended virtually no one when it agreed this past week to recommend that high school football championships be rotated among USC, when they are played now each year; Clemson and SC State, in order to give diversity in geography to the games.

Thumbs down

Speeder: Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer has a string of speeding and other driving faux pas, some ticketed and some not, but the latest at 101 mph in February is almost inexcusable for a statewide leader who ought to be setting good, not bad, examples.

Governor's office: Its role in not providing Bauer with a security person and driver, when the extra employee had been appropriated (but not announced publicly as such until this past week), makes the office seem downright childish. And its excuses put it in the infancy stage.

Pass-through: An appropriation that is approved by Senate, House and governor, but its use is not explained in public writing by anyone. That is apparently the case of the $65,000 assigned for a security guard for the lieutenant governor, who is next in line for the governorship in case something should happen to the governor. If there's a line item that begs explanation and doesn't get it, it ought not to be in the appropriations bill, even if that happens a lot.


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Just a quick note to let you know how you missed out this week. If you were a subscriber to the paid edition of Statehouse Report, you would have received the information below on Friday AND you would have gotten other special features:

  • NUMBER OF THE WEEK: 3.9%
  • HOT ISSUE: Editor Jerry Ausband explains the House didn't do much to change its original budget
  • LEGISLATIVE AGENDA: House takes something of a breather
  • RADAR SCREEN: Judicial election talked about, again
  • TALLY SHEET: Local taxes
  • BLOGROLL: Andre all the way
  • MEGAPHONE: Timeout needed

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