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ISSUE 13.50
Dec. 12, 2014

12/05 | 11/28 | 11/21 | 11/14


News :
School issues may take a while to deal with
Photo :
Depot, Pinewood, S.C.
Legislative Agenda :
Ethics, DSS top next week's meetings
Commentary :
The bigger picture: Restore trust in government
Spotlight :
Southeastern Institute of Manufacturing and Technology
My Turn :
Reform state’s outdated, permanent alimony law
Feedback :
Don't keep your opinions to yourself
Megaphone :
Jingle smells
Tally Sheet :
276 bills filed this week
Encyclopedia :
W.J. Cash

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South Carolina and Montana are tied for having the worst drivers in the country, according to a new study. Even worse: The Palmetto State has the nation’s highest rate of fatalities due to vehicle accidents, according to


Jingle smells

"Clemson is better than this."

-- Clemson University President Jim Clements on a fraternity’s racially-tinged “Cripmas” party over the weekend. The fraternity later suspended its activities.  More.


276 bills filed this week

Senators this week pre-filed 94 bills to add to the 173 pre-filed last week. House members on Thursday pre-filed 182 bills. While Senate pre-filing is now closed, the House will accept new bills for the 2015 session on Dec. 18.


Human trafficking. S. 183 (Hayes) strengthens the state’s law against human trafficking with several definitions and tougher penalties. S. 196 (Hutto) is related.

Heirs property. S. 184 (Hayes) would enact new way to deal with heirs property, including valuation, notice, procedures for courts and more.

Corrections. S. 186 (Fair) would combine the state Department of Corrections and state Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services into the state Department of Community and Institutional Corrections.

Child care. S. 189 (Fair) would prohibit someone convicted of unlawful conduct toward a child, cruelty to children or child endangerment from working in a childcare facility. S. 191 (Fair) would require background checks for school vacation and school holiday camps for children.

Sexting. S. 190 (Fair) would create the offense of sexting, with several provisions.

Dilapidated buildings. S. 194 (Hutto) would allow municipalities to bring actions against owners of dilapidated buildings, with several provisions.

Toll. S. 195 (Johnson) would require the state to impose a toll on I-95 at Lake Marion.

Leadership PACs. S. 200 (Sheheen) would prohibit leadership political action committees, with several provisions.

Roads. S. 201 (Sheheen) calls for the state Department of Transportation to provide a road priority plan that focuses on preservation, maintenance and rehabilitation to extend the life of the state’s road system, with several provisions.

Ethics reform. S. 202 (Sheheen) calls for major ethics reform by shifting legislative ethics scrutiny to the state Ethics Commission, with several provisions. S. 203 (Sheheen) calls for specialized ethics training sessions by the commission.

Longevity plan. S. 206 (Sheheen) calls for the state Public Benefit Authority to design, implement and maintain a longevity pay plan for state employees, with several provisions.

Whistleblowers. S. 207 (Sheheen) calls for whistleblower legislation that protects public employees with several provisions.

Local government funding. S. 213 (Campsen) calls for removal of a requirement that the state steer 4.5 percent of General Fund revenues to local governments, with several provisions.

Sentencing reform. S. 220 (Malloy) calls for crime reduction and sentencing reform, with several provisions.

School consolidation. S. 224 (Malloy) calls for school consolidation so each county is one school district, with several provisions.

Drug tests. S. 231 (Bright) seeks to require drug tests of people on public assistance, with several provisions.

Local option fuel tax. S. 244 (Gregory) calls for counties to be able to enact a local motor fuel user fee on gas, with several provisions.

Shorter session. S. 267 (Young) calls for the legislative session to end in the first week of May.


We’re still culling through House bills. Click here to see all 182 pre-filed bills. We’ll update this section later today with summaries.


W.J. Cash

A writer and an acerbic commentator on southern life, Wilbur Joseph Cash was born in Gaffney on May 2, 1900. The oldest child of John William Cash and Nannie Lutitia Hamrick, he was named Joseph Wilbur Cash. Disliking his first name, Cash reversed the order and used the initial J. rather than Joseph. His father managed the company store for a local cotton mill. Cash was graduated from Boiling Springs High School in North Carolina in 1917 and enlisted in the Students' Army Training corps-a home-front service during World War I. Following the end of his enlistment, Cash entered Wofford College. After one year at Wofford, Cash attended Valparaiso University in Indiana and then in 1920 enrolled at Wake Forest University in North Carolina. At Wake Forest he wrote for student publications and discovered the writings of H. L. Mencken.


After graduating in 1922, Cash attended law school for a year and then tried teaching-first at Georgetown College in Kentucky and later at Hendersonville School for Boys in North Carolina. Returning to writing, Cash had a brief stint with the Chicago Post before joining the Charlotte (N.C.) News in 1926. In 1928 ill health forced him to return to Boiling Springs. He edited the short-lived Cleveland (N.C.) Press and in 1929 wrote "Jehovah of the Tar Heels," which appeared in Mencken's American Mercury. "Jehovah of the Tar Heels" was an exposé of the anti-Catholicism of U.S. Senator Furnifold M. Simmons, an anti-Al Smith Democrat. Later that year his second article, "The Mind of the South," caught the attention of the editors at Alfred A. Knopf. In March 1936 the publisher contracted with Cash to write a history of the South. Finding free-lancing difficult in the dark days of the Depression, Cash returned to the Charlotte News in 1935 and stayed there until 1940. While in Charlotte, he married Mary Northrop on Christmas Day 1940.

Cash's masterpiece and only book, The Mind of the South, appeared in February 1941 to wide critical praise. An instant classic that has not been out of print since its initial publication, the work sought to dispel myths about the "Old South" by tracing the pervasive influence of racism on southern history and culture. Antebellum ideals remained dominant in the twentieth century South, despite the upheavals of the Civil War, Reconstruction, industrialization, urbanization, and Depression. Indeed, Cash's compelling chronicle of the persistence of an Old South mentality, especially its emphasis on race, individualism, and agriculture, led the author to assert that much of southern history has been a march "from the present toward the past." National publications hailed The Mind of the South, and even many southern reviewers found much to admire in Cash's penetrating analysis of the region.

Awarded a prestigious Guggenheim fellowship, Cash traveled with his wife to Mexico, where he planned to write his first novel. In Mexico, Cash's history of psychological instability, alcohol abuse, and ill health caught up with him. Ill with dysentery and in a state of paranoia and depression, Cash fled to another hotel. On July 1, 1941, searchers found him in the Hotel Reforma hanging by his own necktie. Cash's body was cremated and his ashes buried in Sunset Cemetery, Shelby, North Carolina.

-- Excerpted from the entry by Alexia Jones Helsley. To read more about this or 2,000 other entries about South Carolina, check out The South Carolina Encyclopedia by USC Press. (Information used by permission.)


Palmetto Priorities Statehouse Report encourages state leaders to develop and implement Palmetto Priorities involving several issues to make the state better a better place. Click the link to learn more about our suggestions for bipartisan policy objectives.

Here is a summary of our Palmetto Priorities:

CORRECTIONS: Reduce the prison population by 25 percent by 2020.

EDUCATION: Cut the state's dropout rate in half by 2020.

ELECTIONS: Increase voter registration to 75 percent by 2015.

ENVIRONMENT: Adopt a state energy policy that requires energy producers to generate 20 percent of energy from renewable sources by 2020.

ETHICS: Overhaul state ethics laws.

HEALTH CARE: Ensure affordable and accessible health care.

JOBS: Develop a Cabinet-level post to add, retain 10,000 small business jobs per year.

POLITICS: Have a vigorous two- or multi-party political system of governance.

ROADS: Strengthen all bridges and upgrade state roads by 2015.

SAFETY: Cut the state's violent crime rate by one-third by 2016.

TAX REFORM: Remove outdated special interest sales tax exemptions as part of an overall reform of the state's tax structure to be completed by 2014.


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School issues may take a while to deal with

By Andy Brack, editor and publisher

DEC. 12, 2014 -- Despite a major S.C. Supreme Court ruling last month calling on the state to vastly improve education in poor, rural school districts, it may be two or three years before anything really gets done, a diverse group of leaders agree.

“Fundamentally, we respect the rule of law,” said Sen. Larry Martin, a Pickens Republican who chairs the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee. “While we may disagree with it [the ruling], we will attempt to respond to it.

“What track that is going to actually take is anybody’s guess. It’s not going to be done this year [2015], I don’t believe. It will take a lot of work. It will take a lot of time and resources.”

Two big hurdles are still in the way before there’s resolution to the 21-year-old lawsuit, Abbeville County School District v. State of South Carolina, brought by poor districts, most of which are in the South Carolina’s “Corridor of Shame” along Interstate 95:  

  • Rehearing.   The state Supreme Court has extended the time to receive any petitions for rehearing the case to December 30 following requests from state Republican leaders -- the president pro tempore of the Senate, speaker of the House and governor.

The General Assembly’s lawyer on the case, Robert E. Stepp of Columbia, said he expected to file a petition, which would try to get the court to reconsider its 3-2 decision. “I can’t comment at this time on the issues raised in the petition,” Stepp told Statehouse Report. “They will be publicly available once the petition is filed.”

Carl Epps, a lawyer leading the case on behalf of the districts, said he was disappointed there would be another delay in the case, first filed in 1993. “Until that motion is briefed and heard, the case is being delayed further.”

  • Scope. Beyond any other court action on the case, the sheer size of the changes required to deal with the court’s decision will put off substantive, quick action to fix the system.  A panoply of issues that have to be dealt with complicate change -- from revising the way schools are funded to whether to consolidate school districts. 

Legislators still are trying to understand the complex decision, said state Rep. Jim Merrill, R-Charleston. 

“The court brought it to the forefront and basically ensured that we will be looking at it,” he said. “It’s a note from the teacher saying that school funding needs to be prioritized by the General Assembly,” adding that he thought the court overreached its judicial power in its ruling.


In 1993, several rural school districts complained their students received a constitutionally-inappropriate and inadequate public education due to a number of factors, most of which centered on funding. By 1999, the S.C. Supreme Court ruled in an appeal that the state had a responsibility to provide a “minimum adequate education” and remanded the case to a lower court. Between July 2003 and December 2004, a circuit court held 102 days of trial and heard from 102 witnesses. The following year, a judge ruled the state provided a minimally-adequate education to students in the poor districts, but said more needed to be done to fund early childhood intervention programs. That decision was appealed, leading to oral arguments in 2008 and, following criticism for delays, later in 2012. 

The decision

In November, the high court ruled the state needed to do more to right longtime inequities:

“Our state's education system fails to provide school districts with the resources necessary to meet the minimally-adequate standard. In addition, the cost of the educational package in South Carolina is based on a convergence of outmoded and outdated policy considerations that fail the students of the Plaintiff Districts. Though the evidence demonstrates the intersection of statutes and ever increasing funding streams, it does not show, at least to this Court, a comprehensive effort by the Defendants to determine the demands of providing the constitutionally mandated educational opportunity throughout the State. In our opinion, without that determination, it is near impossible for the Defendants to meet their constitutional obligation.” [p. 36]

The split decision called on the General Assembly and school districts to develop a solution and report back to the Supreme Court on its remedies. The court highlighted multiple challenges in poor, rural districts -- low performance, low achievement rates, inadequate transportation, teacher quality, a fractured school funding formula and the impact of poverty.

The court criticized both sides for ignoring the “possible adverse impact of local legislation and the creation of school districts burdened with administrative costs disproportionate to their size,” suggesting consideration of school district consolidation.

“The winner here is not the Plaintiff Districts, but fittingly, the students in those districts and throughout the state,” the court wrote. “Further, there is no loser. The substance of our finding today places before the parties a new opportunity, resting solidly on this court’s precedent, but leaning forward towards a conversation unencumbered by blame.”

The remedy, the court said, must be for both parties to work to design a strategy to fix things, although the state must take the lead.

Issues ahead

Two issues loom large as the parties work to craft a policy solution to meet the court’s challenge: Funding and consolidation.

The state’s funding formula for schools is a complicated, bedeviling mess, most agree. And while poor school districts generally get more state educational aid than urban, richer districts, the tax bases in rural areas struggle to keep up with funding to pay good teachers to stay in the districts and provide courses on par with the variety at many urban schools. 

It’s going to take a lot of soul-searching, researching and discussion to figure out how to fix school funding, Martin said, predicting a bipartisan, joint study commission to filter ideas and come up with a plan for the court.

“You will see attention given to it and you will hear it discussed as we have floor debates,” he said. “It’s something that will always be, if not front and center throughout the session, it will be in the background quite a bit.”

Epps said a team of policy experts was working to put together proposals to discuss with the state. But rather than focus first on funding, what’s needed is a focus on a system that gives children an opportunity to learn and a chance to live, he said. Then when the system for education is agreed upon, reformers should figure out how much it costs, he said.

State Rep. Rita Allison, the Spartanburg Republican who is new chair of the House Education and Public Works Committee, said lawmakers were still trying to get their arms around the decision, but agreed to first look at needs and problems to come up with solutions and then funding. 

“We all need to work together to find out where the needs are and where the real problems are,” she said.

At first blush, consolidating the state’s 81 school districts would seem to be a good way to save on administrative costs and lead to more money in classrooms. But that might not be the best thing for students, according to Scott Price of the S.C. School Boards Association. Smaller districts might, for example, keep communities together and serve students better.   Combining districts might lead to tax hikes to equalize teacher salaries, which could eliminate savings from reducing administrative costs.

“The best way for this to occur is to start at the local level,” he said. “That’s where you get buy in.”

A 2004 study by the Legislative Audit Council found that smaller school districts tended to have higher costs per pupil, but some didn’t have high costs. Also, recent consolidations didn’t provide conclusive evidence of big cost reductions. Furthermore, disadvantages of consolidation included disrupting communities and causing turmoil, as well as threatening strong social and cultural ties to local schools. 

Andy Brack is editor and publisher of Statehouse Report.  He can be reached at:

  • 12/5: Education standards effort stalls
  • 11/21:  Time is ripe for changes to domestic violence laws
  • 11/14:  Are S.C. Dems toast?

  • Photo

    Depot, Pinewood, S.C.

    Pinewood, population 538 in rural Sumter County, S.C., has this old, restored railroad depot, which is similar to ones showcased by the Center for a Better South from Salters, S.C., and Leary, Ga. Kingstree, S.C., photographer Linda W. Brown says this news story from 2002 highlights the depot’s restoration.

    Legislative Agenda

    Ethics, DSS top next week's meetings

    Major meetings on tap next week include:

    • Ethics. The House Ethics and Freedom of Information Study Committee will meet 9:30 a.m. Dec. 15 in 516 Blatt to discuss several measures related to campaign finance reform, investigations, campaign accounting, conflicts of interest and more. Agenda.

    • Education. The Education Oversight Committee will meet 1 p.m. Dec. 15 in 433 Blatt. On the agenda: School standards, early readiness assessment.

    • DSS.   The Health and Human Services Subcommittee of the Senate Finance Committee will meet 10 a.m. Dec. 16 in 110 Blatt to discuss the state Department of Social Services, the only thing on its agenda.

    • Judiciary. A Senate Judiciary subcommittee will meet 1 p.m. Dec. 17 in 403 Blatt do discuss a criminal domestic violence bill, S.3.

    • First Steps. A joint legislative study committee will meet 1 p.m. Dec. 18 in 110 Blatt. Agenda.


    The bigger picture: Restore trust in government

    By Andy Brack, editor and publisher

    DEC. 12, 2014 -- As state lawmakers gab next year about how to fix failing roads, under-performing schools, rising poverty and more, they need to keep their eyes on something less concrete, but nonetheless important: how to restore the public’s confidence in government.

    The “easy” answer may be just to stop all of the bickering and focus on things that have real and major impact, such as substantive ethics reform to clean up a culture of corruption or dedicating more funding to pave pothole-plagued roads. 

    At a national level, the public’s trust in government is near an all-time low. Just 24 percent of Americans have confidence in the federal government most of the time, according to the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. That’s a remarkable decline from 60 percent in 2001 after the September 11 attacks on the U.S.

    In South Carolina in 2012, about a third of state residents said they trusted state government to do what was right most of the time, according to a Winthrop Poll. More than 45 percent said they trusted local government. Interestingly, approval ratings about how the legislature is handling its job actually have been on the increase -- from 33 percent in 2012 to 45 percent last month, polls show.

    But you wouldn’t know it from listening to people in restaurants, on television or around the water cooler, particularly following the quick downfall of ex-House Speaker Bobby Harrell of Charleston. 

    So job number one for the General Assembly is to pass comprehensive ethics reform to help reinstill public confidence in government. 

    “It would be a big step forward, a positive signal for the public, for those legislators who have been stonewalling independent investigation of complaints involving legislators to welcome an effective and fair independent system of oversight,” said Lynn Teague of the League of Women Voters of South Carolina.

    But all of the ethics reform in the world may not be enough to repair the damage done by years of glad-handing, back-slapping and knee-jerking around issues that don’t really make much of a difference.

    “A less partisan, less polarized environment would also be helpful,” said College of Charleston political science professor Gibbs Knotts. “When the Republicans took control of the S.C. Senate, there was considerable collaboration between Democrats and Republicans.  This has not occurred in recent legislative sessions.”

    “Our bleached, packed and segregated political districts that are the nation’s least competitive yield no statesmen or even productive politicians, but rather a kabuki dance with trite lines and predictable outcomes.”

    -- Brett Bursey
    Common Cause of South Carolina’s John Crangle suggests the state needs a major whistleblower law to allow public employees to report corruption without retaliation. Passing ethics reform without a whistleblower law would be like having a “boat with a big hole in the bottom,” he said. This week, state Sen. Vincent Sheheen, D-Camden, introduced a tough whistleblower measure.

    Greer Mayor Rick Danner says local governments can play a big role in restoring confidence in government by creating efficiencies that lead to better performance, generating more transparency, collaborating with citizens, providing better communication and creating an atmosphere of proactive change.

    “We must challenge the conventional role of public service and reawaken public understanding of the critical role thousands of public servants, like ourselves across the state, play in helping us achieve the high standard of living we all expect and deserve,” he told a group of local finance officials earlier this year. 

    Longtime activist Brett Bursey of Columbia urges major fixes to the state’s election system, particularly the vast number of non-competitive legislative districts due to gerrymandered redistricting.

    “Our bleached, packed and segregated political districts that are the nation’s least competitive yield no statesmen or even productive politicians, but rather a kabuki dance with trite lines and predictable outcomes,” he said, adding that the best way to fight the complacent system was through building “a progressive coalition of the majority of South Carolinians who are being played for fools and ripped off.”

    A key solution to better governing, Teague says, is for public officials to just tell the truth -- that there is no free lunch and that we can’t keep on scrimping along.

    “We need more political courage to discuss difficult issues,” she said. “We have gone about as far as we can by moving money from one place to another within the existing budget and shifting responsibility from one place to another.”

    Andy Brack is editor and publisher of Statehouse Report.  He can be reached at:


    Southeastern Institute of Manufacturing and Technology

    The public spiritedness of our underwriters allows us to bring Statehouse Report to you at no cost.  In today's issue, we heartily welcome a new underwriter, the Southeastern Institute of Manufacturing and Technology, which is the Southeast’s premier technical service provider and training facility for industry. SiMT’s mission is to provide customers with strategic training and manufacturing technology solutions that maximize workforce productivity in advanced manufacturing environments. SiMT’s state-of-the-art facilities are located in Florence, S.C., on a 146-acre campus adjacent to Florence-Darlington Technical College.
    My Turn

    Reform state’s outdated, permanent alimony law

    By a member of S.C. Alimony Reform
    Special to Statehouse Report

    DEC. 12, 2014 -- South Carolina needs to reform its outmoded alimony laws and put an end to the award of permanent alimony. This type of alimony is based on a century-ago era where women were legal non-entities, owning nothing and earning nothing. That is not the case now and permanent alimony, except in very rare occasions, is an archaic doctrine no longer viable in a state that is supposed to recognize the equality of women.

    A majority of women now work outside the home, even when raising children and many earn more than their spouses. It is time for South Carolina legislators to take an objective look at the unfairness of permanent alimony and eliminate it as many other states across the U.S. are doing.

    Alimony for a limited duration based on judicial discretion, but not to exceed 10 years, is a reasonable award, allowing time for the more dependent spouse to adjust, re-train if necessary and re-enter the work force. After all, if child support ends at 18 when the child is determined to be a legal adult, why then does support for an able bodied adult ex-spouse go on for a lifetime?  

    Simply by having been married, should not entitle a spouse to a lifetime of support, especially when the payer reaches retirement age, his income diminishes and his own health needs increase. In most cases, the person paying permanent alimony can never retire or have much of a life if he does retire when he is saddled with the upkeep of another who is no longer married to him. In fact, S.C. matrimonial law generally gives each spouse the right to mutual financial support. So how is it then that once divorced, a unilateral obligation begins?

    For me, permanent alimony wields its deep cut the beginning of every month when we must pay my husband’s able-bodied and educated ex-wife over 25 percent of our monthly income. It is a sufficient amount to support her without much effort on her part. The income we have left each month is reduced to a financial juggling game deciding what to pay and when, especially since both of us are in our 60s with inherent health issues and lagging energy levels.

    As it stands, my husband can never retire. He can never look forward to slowing down to enjoy what’s left of his life. He works 50 hours a week in a stressful profession and sooner or later, he’s going to have to stop. When he can no longer support her without severe physical hardship or becoming destitute himself, is he to be arrested and dragged off to jail at 75 years old? How can that possibly be considered just and fair? I have little hope that this situation will change for us, but it may for others in the future if the S.C. legislature recognizes the abject unfairness of permanent alimony and reforms this archaic practice.

    Clearly, ending permanent alimony and allowing limited-duration alimony only would level the “paying” field, establish an end date, allowing both parties to a divorce the knowledge upon which to plan their financial futures and begin again. That is a doctrine contemporary to our time and equitable to all.

    Please support S.C. alimony reform in the next legislative session. It is not a partisan issue. It cannot be a moral issue either, since no-fault divorce is already legal in SC. Let’s quit laying “de facto” fault on the party ordered to pay lifetime alimony and let them have a life as well.

    The writer lives in the Upstate and is a member of S.C. Alimony Reform. Her name has been withheld upon request.


    Don't keep your opinions to yourself

    We love hearing from our readers and encourage you to share your opinions.  But you've got to provide us with contact information so we can verify your letters. Letters to the editor are published weekly. We reserve the right to edit for length and clarity.We generally publish all comments about South Carolina politics or policy issues, unless they are libelous or unnecessarily inflammatory. One submission is allowed per month. Submission of a comment grants permission to us to reprint. Comments are limited to 250 words or less.  Please include your name and contact information.  Send your letters to:



    Economy. The state’s economy is projected to continue to grow at about 2 percent next year, virtually the same as this year. More.

    Capt. Sam’s Spit. Hats off to the state Supreme Court for ruling that developers cannot build a half-mile of coastal walls on a Kiawah Island spit. More.

    DSS. It’s good news the troubled state Department of Social Services is making some serious changes, but it might just be better to ball it up and start all over again with a new agency, as suggested by state Sens. Katrina Shealy, R-Lexington, and Joel Lourie, D-Columbia.

    Health ranking. It’s good news that the state’s health ranking is getting better (43 to 42), but we’re still way too low on the list. More.

    Santorum. So now former GOP U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania is running for president for a third time? P-lease.

    Salary increases. Rank-and-file state workers don’t receive the pay increases that agency heads do. Some 38 of 82 agency directors and college presidents are getting raises of up to 4 percent. They weren’t eligible, however, for the 2 percent cost-of-living increase to all state workers on July 1. More.

    Statehouse Report

    Editor and Publisher: Andy Brack
    Senior Editor: Bill Davis
    Contributing Photographer: Michael Kaynard

    Phone: 843.670.3996

    © 2002 - 2014 , Statehouse Report LLC. Statehouse Report is published every Friday by Statehouse Report LLC, PO Box 22261, Charleston, SC 29413.
    Excerpts from The South Carolina Encyclopedia are published with permission and copyrighted 2006 by the Humanities Council SC. Excerpts were edited by Walter Edgar and published by the University of South Carolina Press. Statehouse Report has partnered with USC Press to provide readers with this interesting weekly historical excerpt about the state. Republication is not allowed. For additional information about Statehouse Report, including information on underwriting, go to