Category Archives: Legislature

Nancy Mace easily wins Jim Merrill’s former seat

Nancy Mace

Drinking game video or no, Nancy Mace did what she was expected to do yesterday, which was easily win a legislative seat drawn for a Republican.

Here’s part of what she had to say about that:

Thank You Is Not Enough
Dear Friends,

I don’t look at this as a win for me. I look at this as a win for Berkeley and Charleston counties, for the Lowcountry and for the taxpayers of South Carolina. More importantly, it’s a win for substantive solutions aimed at fixing our most pressing issues – infrastructure, the nuclear power plant mess, education and the sustainability and safety of our communities.

We got here – together – because we believe our state can do better. Because we know new perspectives are long overdue in Columbia. And because we can see that the old way of doing things in state government keeps coming up short on so many levels….

So far I haven’t seen a statement from the loser, Democrat Cindy Boatwright. In fact, her last Tweet was at 11:15 a.m. yesterday. I see that one of her friends posted this, though:

Cindy, this was only Round 1, and you fought a GREAT 1st Round. Round 2 starts tomorrow. So, take heart, stay strong, keep the faith and know that we believe that you not only can win but, in November when it will count for the full term, you WILL win.

May God bless you! You have much to be proud of. And I, for one, am very proud of you.

Really? The folks in that district have to turn right around and do this again this year? Sheesh…

House panel to resume work on nuclear fiasco

S.C. House Speaker Jay Lucas sent this out a few minutes ago:

Lucas

Lucas

“The House has continued to monitor the recent developments surrounding the VC Summer nuclear fallout since our ratepayer protection package was prepared in December. Comments made today in the Senate illustrate an inability to comprehend that our thoughtful approach remains the top priority of this legislative session. House leadership believes the House Utility Ratepayer Protection Committee should continue to thoroughly investigate the moving parts of this complex issue to ensure millions of South Carolina ratepayers receive the protections they deserve. As a result, Representatives McCoy and Ott are fully prepared to bring the the committee back in short order to address ratepayer concerns.”

I’m not sure what he means by “Comments made today in the Senate illustrate an inability to comprehend that our thoughtful approach remains the top priority of this legislative session.” Maybe everybody over at the State House today (yes, they’re back) knows, but I only walked around the State House on the way to my 11,447 steps (so far today), and did not go in.

But this might be a piece of it:

Leatherman

Leatherman

Leatherman urged the Senate and its special committee to take a deliberate, thoughtful approach to fixing the systemic problems exposed by S.C. nuclear fiasco, which has cost SCANA stockholders and SCE&G customers billions of dollars.

“We need the Senate to take our time, to make sure decisions we make are well thought out and take into account more than just political expediency,” Leatherman said, making one of several digs at the S.C. House, which is expected to pass quickly its package of nuclear proposals….

Yep, that’s exactly how a republic is supposed to work

The Caskey boys, spotted together at an event in 2017. No, I don't know exactly how they're related...

The Caskey boys, spotted together at an event in 2017. No, I don’t know exactly how they’re related…

Bryan posted this about his kinsman and my representative, Micah Caskey:

Yep, that’s exactly the way our representative democracy is supposed to work. Elected representatives are not your agents whom you send to do your bidding. They’re people you delegate to go do what, in a complex modern economy, most people don’t have time to do: Go to the capital and study and debate complex issues until they understand them better than they otherwise would — and then act accordingly.

A lot of Americans, maybe most of them, don’t understand that. They expect the following from elected officials:

  1. That they make very specific promises when running for office.
  2. That those promises appeal directly to what they, the voters, want to hear.
  3. That, once elected, the representatives do exactly what they promised, without amendment or deviation.

I don’t expect those things at all. With me, it’s more like:

  1. I don’t care to hear specific campaign promises, because I don’t want that person, once elected, to have his or her hands tied.
  2. To the extent that such promises are made, it’s not necessary that they align with what I think should be done. Sure, if the candidate is promising a lot of stupid stuff I’m dead-set against, I’ll oppose him or her (in part for the simple fact of making pandering promises, whatever their content). But I don’t expect agreement across the board. Since I don’t buy the prepackaged sets of values the left and right sell, there’s never been a candidate with whom I agreed on everything.
  3. Once elected, I expect the representative to buckle down and study, and debate matters with people with different views, and learn, and become wiser about the issues than he or she was during the campaign. And if that means breaking a stupid promise that was made when the candidate was less wise, then I hope my representative has the courage and integrity to do so — like George H.W. Bush ditching the “read my lips” thing.

But as I said, too many people have the first set of expectations, and that misunderstanding has led to many of the ills our country is suffering today. The Tea Party and Trumpism were both outgrowths of the frustration of people who were mad because the people they had elected had not followed through on stupid promises they had made.

The danger in that, of course, is that you can arrive at a point at which people who will actually follow through on stupid promises get elected.

Which is where we are today…

Which is why a fine representative like Micah is good to find. Which in turn is why, once I met him and saw how bright, serious and thoughtful he was, I gave up my crazy thoughts of running for the office myself. I didn’t see how I would do a better job than he would. I don’t remember any of his positions in particular; I just remember that the way he approached issues made me trust him to address them wisely in the future.

And that, boys and girls, is how our system is supposed to work. And yes, this will all be on the final exam…

Scrap restructuring process; shut out legislators and parties

Gerrymandering goes before SCOTUS next week...

Gerrymandering goes before SCOTUS next week…

In response to this Tweet today from Andy Shain:

… I had this response:

  1. Scrap the system. It has made a mockery of our system of representative democracy. The real election should be in the fall, not in the primary. Parties should not own districts.
  2. Take it away from lawmakers. For too long, we’ve let legislators pick their voters rather than the other way around. Courts have allowed incumbents to protect themselves this way.
  3. Shut both parties out of the process. Set up a truly independent commission to draw the lines — political scientists, demographers and the like. Don’t allow anyone who has run for office under the banner of either major party to be on the commission.

OK, that last qualification may be tough, but it still leaves the third of us with no party affiliations, and that’s plenty of people to choose from. And here’s my first nomination for the commission: Bubba Cromer, who served honorably in the House after being elected and re-elected as an independent. (Once, then-Speaker David Wilkins pointed to Bubba crossing the street and said, “There goes the chairman of your caucus.” I agreed.)

But I’ll admit it’ll be tough to find unaffiliated people who know what they’re doing. So I might have to back off on that one requirement. Fortunately, there are honorable Democrats and Republicans out there.

The biggest problem, though, is figuring out a good way to choose the commissioners. Who will elect or appoint them? I can’t see going the popular election route or letting lawmakers pick them. So how do we get a good group of line-drawers? Ideas?

Don't let anyone currently elected to serve in this building onto the commission.

Don’t let anyone currently elected to serve in this building onto the commission.

Rick Quinn quits, pleads guilty; charges dropped on his dad

A very big day on the State House corruption probe front:

South Carolina Rep. Rick Quinn could be sentenced to a year in prison after pleading guilty Wednesday to misconduct in office in the criminal conspiracy case against him and his father, longtime GOP powerbroker Richard Quinn.

Rick Quinn in happier times.

Rick Quinn in happier times.

Rep. Quinn, R-Lexington, agreed to plead guilty to one misdemeanor count, knowing prosecutors were still seeking prison time. Quinn, 52, resigned his seat ahead of the hearing at the Richland County courthouse, ending 22 years in the House. That makes him the second legislator to resign this year in the Statehouse corruption probe that has focused on the Quinns.

Judge Carmen Mullen accepted the plea deal but delayed sentencing. Quinn also faces a $1,000 fine.

The plea deal dropped charges against his 73-year-old father….

Here are some of the questions these developments raise:

  • Why is Pascoe seeking the maximum penalty against Quinn fils while letting Quinn père get off? Actually, that’s two questions. Let’s take the first: Pascoe is demanding the judge give Rick “every day of that year.” It appears Pascoe is really ticked that Rick refused to cooperate in any way, unlike previous pleaders. (Personally, prison time seems excessive — but then, I think prison should be reserved for violent offenders. Also, I remain confused about exactly Rick is pleading guilty to doing. Maybe it will be clearer in tomorrow’s stories.)
  • Now, the second: If Pascoe’s so bound and determined to nail the son’s hide to the wall, why let the dad off in the same plea deal? Well, unlike Rick, Richard is expected to testify before the grand jury.
  • Uninformed speculation from a couple of attorneys I’ve been chatting with tonight, one of whom was in the courtroom, is that Quinn’s going to help Pascoe bring in a really big fish. Who? Well, considering that some of the biggest Republicans in the state were Richard’s clients, the sky is sort of the limit.
  • John Monk’s story tonight hints that the big fish could be A.G. Alan Wilson — you know, the guy who appointed Pascoe before trying unsuccessfully to fire him. If so, it would be possibly the wildest development I’ve seen in 30 years of following S.C. politics. Think about it: It would be the final round in the biggest grudge match in recent years. Ahab and the whale. Smiley and Karla (if you’re into le Carre). Wile E. Coyote getting the Roadrunner. So much bad blood there that it seems Pascoe should in turn recuse himself and have someone (but who? who would have the authority in such a case?) appoint yet another prosecutor. It sort of boggles the mind….
  • Why does the Charleston paper’s headline say, “Rep. Rick Quinn pleads guilty in S.C. corruption case in deal that drops charges for kingpin father?” (OK, only other journalists will care about this one, I admit.) “Kingpin” is more something you call someone who’s been convicted. Weird to peg someone who just had his charges dropped with such a sensational sobriquet. Maybe there’s something I’m missing here…

This is definitely not over. I think…

 

Penalty for trains blocking streets is $20? Now I get it…

train

I just got this from the S.C. House Democrats:

Rep. Rutherford Pre-Files Legislation Targeting Train Obstruction of Roadways

Columbia, SC – Democratic Leader Rep. Todd Rutherford (D-Columbia), announced today that he will pre-file legislation to target the issue of roadway obstructions caused by trains. The proposed bill would significantly increase the penalty for train and railroad companies that have products or assets that block South Carolina roads for longer than five minutes.

Todd Rutherford

Todd Rutherford

The intent behind the legislation comes less than a month after two trains blocked Whaley Street, Assembly Street, and Rosewood Drive in downtown Columbia, halting morning traffic for over an hour. Unfortunately, trains and other objects impeding automobile traffic are too common of occurrences, in both urban and rural communities across South Carolina.
Under current state law, the maximum penalty for obstruction of a roadway is $20. Rutherford’s bill seeks to increase the fine to $5,000 per lane blocked, with the fine rising to $10,000 per lane if the violation occurs between 7:30 am and 5:30 pm.
Rutherford stated, “We cannot allow trains and obstructions to paralyze our roadways. Delays caused by these occurrences directly impact South Carolinians’ wallets and even worse, can be a matter of life or death. It is my hope that increased penalties and improved enforcement of the law will keep our roads clear and our cars moving.”
Rutherford continued, “South Carolinians should not have to suffer because they happen to live near a freight-train line. This issue threatens our quality of life, public safety, and economic growth.”
###

Can that even be right? $20? If so, it explains a great deal…

Respect noon! Do away with DST for good…

Rep. Norrell at Smith announcement last month.

Rep. Norrell at Smith announcement last month.

I’ve heard good things about Rep. Mandy Powers Norrell. She seems to be something of an up-and-comer in the S.C. House. She gave a nice speech at James Smith’s campaign kickoff last month.

But boy, has she taken a wrong turn on this one:

Aaargghh!

You see, she was responding to this:

Alan Clemmons

Rep. Alan Clemmons

I had meant to write when I first heard of Mr. Clemmons’ bill a couple of weeks back, to give him my full support. At least, for the idea. I’m not so crazy about the referendum part. Lawmakers should just bite the bullet themselves and end this unnatural abomination called DST. Every referendum on a nonconstitutional issue is a step toward direct democracy, and that of course would be worse than year-round DST.

But the basic idea of doing away with DST altogether? Good one. Hear, hear.

Mind you, I’m slightly more sympathetic to the cause of the DSTers since I started my thing of walking 10,000 steps a day. I had a nice routine going in which I’d do 5,000 on the elliptical trainer before work in the morning, then take care of what was left with a nice, long walk with my wife when I got home.

The end of DST ended that. (So I’ve replaced it with a walk downtown in the middle of the day. And my wife and I still walk together on weekends.) But there’s a bonus on the other end: I’m not getting up in the dark — or at least, it’s not quite as dark — to do my morning workout. And that counts for a lot.

Mostly, though, it’s the principle of the thing. Noon is when the sun it at it’s zenith, or these man-kept hours have no meaning, no point of reference in the natural world! It’s the midpoint of the day (or, if you’re a captain in the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars — and you probably aren’t — the start of the day). And if your clock strikes 12 an hour before the sun is at his height, then your whole day is a lie.

It’s just wrong, don’t you see?

No, you probably don’t. Few do. But I will fight my rear-guard action as long as I can. And thanks for doing your bit for the cause, Rep. Clemmons. I may not always agree with you (on, say, bills such as this), but you chose the side of the good guys on this one…

SCANA’s Kevin Marsh: Will he stay or will he go?

I was puzzled when I saw this release from House Speaker Jay Lucas moments ago:

Speaker Lucas Calls for SCANA CEO’s Resignation

(Columbia, SC) – House Speaker Jay Lucas (District 65-Darlington) issued the following statement today.

“SCANA’s mismanagement of the VC Summer nuclear facility has proven that the company cannot be trusted to promote or protect its consumers’ interests. On behalf of the South Carolina ratepayer, I believe SCANA CEO Kevin Marsh should resign immediately. This measure should have occurred long before now and without pressure from elected officials. Throughout the House Utility Ratepayer Protection Committee’s study, it has become increasing clear that neither South Carolina ratepayers nor the South Carolina House of Representatives can have faith in SCANA under Marsh’s leadership.”

Say what? Hadn’t I read just yesterday that he had been canned? Does the Speaker not read the paper?

But then I saw this, from earlier today:

SCANA chief denies he’s leaving embattled utility

The story over the weekend was weird. You had a spokesperson with SCANA putting out a non-denial denial that only increased confusion, and stubbornly refusing to clarify.

Marsh

Marsh

And now this.

So which is it, SCANA? Never mind Marsh and what he says. Do you intend to get rid of him or not? And if not, in light of the speaker’s statement, why not?

I could get into a whole philosophical thing about how the public utility chief quit right away, while the unaccountable private one refuses to, but y’all can see that on your own, right? Good, because that saves me from trying to argue a general rule on the basis of two examples…

Our newbie Legislature (this should thrill Doug)

Scstatehouse

This news about our Legislature should thrill Doug:

About one-third of the House’s 124 members will start the session in January with less than three years of experience.

Almost half of the 46 senators have been elected to that chamber within the last five years…

The story in the Charleston paper attributes this in part to “investigations,” but that doesn’t add up. The ongoing corruption investigation has resulted in two permanent departures so far.

So I find myself wondering — how unusual is this really? Do we always have a surprisingly high number of freshmen and sophomores making our laws?

If so, that should be greatly reassuring to Doug, who eyes experience with deep suspicion.

But I’ve gotta tell ya, it kind of worries me a bit.

Although it doesn’t seem to bother my own senator, who’s held the office since 1976. So maybe it’s no big deal… :)

The other shoe drops: Richard Quinn indicted (Jim Harrison, too)

Scstatehouse

I looked away for a moment on this slow day, and suddenly there was news.

The other shoe has dropped in prosecutor Pascoe’s corruption probe. Actually, several shoes (so maybe that’s not the best metaphor, unless we’re talking about a well-shod octopus):

Republican consultant Richard Quinn Sr., for years a kingmaker in S.C. politics, was indicted Wednesday by the State Grand Jury on a felony charge of criminal conspiracy, as well as a charge of illegal lobbying, or failure to register as a lobbyist.

Since the late 1970s, Quinn, 73, has been one of South Carolina’s premier political consultants. An insider’s insider, he has helped elevate many S.C. politicians to power, nearly all Republicans. His clients have included Gov. Henry McMaster, Attorney General Alan Wilson, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, and U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, all Republicans, as well as Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin, a Democrat.

Wednesday’s indictments capped months of behind-the-scenes activity by Special Prosecutor David Pascoe, the State Grand Jury, and nine State Law Enforcement Division agents. Pascoe of Orangeburg, the elected 1st Circuit solicitor, also enlisted the help of three other elected solicitors from around the state.

The illegal lobbying indictment issued against Quinn says he “did attempt to influence the action or vote of members of the S.C. General Assembly by direct communication on behalf of entities which employed, retained or appointed defendant’s businesses and defendant did not register as a lobbyist …”

Until now, the bombshells had been dropping all around the elder Mr. Quinn, but not on him. Now, the direct hit has come.

Jim Harrison, former House Judiciary Committee chairman and current head of Legislative Council, was also indicted, along with ex-Rep. Tracy Edge. And additional charges were brought against Sen. John Courson and the younger Quinn, Rep. Rick.

Yet another shock to the very heart of the S.C. GOP. What next? Pascoe said, “this is still an ongoing investigation.”

Jim Harrison in 2006

Jim Harrison in 2006

Rep. Caskey in May on the governor’s lack of leadership

With next year’s race for governor beginning to take shape in recent days, I got to thinking back to the moment when Henry McMaster lost me.

Speaker Jay Lucas and the rest of the GOP leadership in the House, eventually joined by the GOP-led Senate, had shown courage in stepping up to pass a bill that reformed our Highway department and, for the first time in 30 years, raised the tax on gasoline in order to pay for road repairs.

Lawmakers had hoped, after two governors in a row who were more about anti-government posturing than governing, that they would have a pragmatic partner in McMaster, someone who was serious about South Carolina’s needs and how to address them.

They were wrong. And they were bitterly disappointed.

I remembered reading at the time that that disappointment was eloquently expressed in a floor speech by an unlikely spokesman — my own rookie representative, Republican Micah Caskey. I missed his speech at the time. But I went back and watched it this week. Here it is. If you watch it, you can see why one observer responded this way, according to a reporter with The State:

Freshmen just don’t say things like this to their own party’s governor. But Micah did.

The relevant part of the speech — after Micah pays his respects to his new colleagues and notes this is his first time to take the podium — starts at 5:50.

His one prop, and the object of his scorn, was a copy of McMaster’s veto message, delivered the night before. Some excerpts:

“What this is,” he says of the letter, “is not leadership.”

“Its intellectual dishonesty is only outweighed by its intellectual bankruptcy.”

“The governor surely had an opportunity to lead on this issue. He knew there was a problem. He could have done it…. He didn’t do it.”

“He chose to remain silent. He chose not to act. He chose not to lead.”

“Had he put forth an idea, we could have gone from there…”

“I don’t like raising taxes… I didn’t want to have to vote ‘yes’ for this bill… but I did, because that’s what leadership requires: Admitting reality and stepping forward and addressing it.”

“What it is not is cowering below, hiding behind political pablum, waiting on somebody else to fix it because you were worried about your own career.”

Waving the letter aloft, he said “Ladies and gentlemen, this is not a serious message. This is not a serious proposal. This is not a serious alternative to what it is that ails South Carolina today. It is not. It is not.”

“What this is… this… is politics. South Carolina doesn’t need more politics. South Carolina needs serious answers to serious problems.”

Of the alternative the governor suggested, Caskey said: “We’re gonna bond out road paving over 20 years for something that’ll depreciate in 10. That’s his idea.”

“That’s not a serious answer.”

“What I am saying in my vote to override the veto is that this (holds up the letter), this is not good enough. We need more leadership.”

He tells his colleagues that however they vote, “I know you’ve been engaged. You led.” Unlike the governor.

He concluded by saying that a vote to override would say, “We deserve better. We deserve leadership. And you can take this message…”

(He crumples it and tosses it aside.)

… and keep it.”

After Micah’s speech, the House voted 95-18 to override the veto. The Senate followed suit, 32-12.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m proud to have Mr. Caskey as my representative. This video helps illustrate why.

tossRep. Micah Caskey throwing away the governor’s letter at the end of his speech.

 

Why should we sell Santee Cooper, especially now?

Santee Cooper

Today’s story in The State told us that lawmakers want the governor to hold up a bit and loop them in on talks about selling Santee Cooper.

What they did not address, at least to my satisfaction, is the larger question: Why sell Santee Cooper?

In the normal course of things, it seems an idea worth exploring: Why should the state operate a utility, now, in the 21st century? We’ve pretty much made it through the rural electrification phase of our development.

But in the context of the current scandal over the nuclear plant fiasco, it makes less sense. To me, anyway.

I mean, isn’t everybody kind of ticked off that Santee Cooper — and SCANA — were out of control on this thing?

Wouldn’t the natural reaction under such circumstances be to think, “Hey, we own Santee Cooper. Since we own it, we can get it under control.” If the current laws and regulations don’t allow for that kind of control — and it appears they don’t — then change the laws and regulations.

But don’t sell it off to some out-of-state conglomerate that won’t give a damn what we want the utility to do and to be.

Isn’t there something kind of irresponsible in state officials wanting to wash their hands of the utility at this particular moment? Isn’t this kind of a backwards reaction?

There’s probably a flaw in my thinking on this that is obvious to everybody but me. Please, somebody explain it to me…

Graham should drop his healthcare proposal, support Alexander’s efforts

Graham pushing his proposal recently in Columbia.

Graham pushing his proposal recently in Columbia.

I’ve already written dismissively of Lindsey Graham’s approach to healthcare “reform.”

Today, with it getting so much more attention, I share with you this view of it, headlined “New Trumpcare Deserves a Quick Death.” An excerpt:

On Wednesday, a group of Republican senators plan to release a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act. It comes from Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and they will market it as a bill that gives states the flexibility to create the system that they want.

But that’s deeply misleading. While it would theoretically give states more flexibility, the bill would mostly rob states of money to pay for health insurance — and millions of Americans would lose coverage as a result. Think of it this way: Every reader of this newsletter has the theoretical flexibility to buy a private jet.

Cassidy-Graham, as the bill is known, ends up looking remarkably similar to previous repeal attempts. It would likely result in 15 million Americans losing their insurance next year and more than 30 million losing it a decade from now (based on analyses of an early version of the bill, which was similar to previous Republican health bills). “The similarities are more striking than the differences,” Aviva AronDine of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities told me.

The same column hints at a far better way for our senior senator to direct his energies:

There is also good reason to hope that Cassidy-Graham dies quickly. Members of both parties — like Lamar Alexander, the Tennessee Republican — now seem open to a bipartisan bill to fix some of Obamacare’s problems. A Senate committee held a hearing on the subject yesterday. But it was clear at the hearing that Republicans have a hard time talking publicly about bipartisan compromise so long as the fantasy of a beneficial repeal bill remains alive….

Indeed. Y’all know I’m a Lindsey Graham fan (most of the time), but I was a Lamar Alexander fan long before that. And this time, Lamar is clearly in the right of it. And what Graham is doing is actually an impediment to wise policy.

It amazes me that anyone from South Carolina could think that turning it all over to the states could be a good idea, given that our solons utterly refused a Medicaid expansion underwritten by the Feds simply because it was associated with “Obamacare.”

Lindsey should drop his bad idea like a hot potato and get behind Alexander’s effort. Or better yet, support Bernie Sanders’ single-payer approach. But somehow I’m thinking the Alexander option would be less of a strain for him.

It’s time to get past this “Repeal Obamacare” mania that afflicts Republicans, and get on to serious matters of governance…

Micah Caskey gives utility contributions to poor ratepayers

Micah Caskey general

So far, I have not once regretted having Micah Caskey as my state representative. I received this release from him today:

Rep. Caskey Donates SCANA Contributions to Ratepayers in Need

Former Prosecutor Caskey Seeks to Protect Integrity of Investigation   

(West Columbia, SC) – S.C. Representative Micah Caskey (District 89-West Columbia/Cayce/Springdale) announced he has donated all contributions to his political campaign by utilities to the Salvation Army’s Woodyard Fund. The Woodyard Fund helps residents in need pay their utility bills.  Rep. Caskey was recently selected to serve on the House Utility Ratepayer Protection Committee, which is charged with investigating the abandonment of the VC Summer nuclear facility in Jenkinsville, SC.

“The scale of this debacle is deeply unsettling and I am firmly committed to getting to the bottom of it all. I am looking at this entire situation with eyes wide-open and that includes looking in the mirror. While campaign contributions are vital to re-election, I cannot in good conscience keep contributions that might undermine my neighbors’ confidence in the integrity of my part in the investigation into this debacle.  As a former prosecutor and U.S. Marine, my deep and abiding sense of duty demands I do what I can to eliminate the possible appearance of impropriety,” Representative Micah Caskey stated.

Caskey chose to deliver the $1,750 in donations from Utility-related entities to the Salvation Army Woodyard Fund. The Woodyard Fund traces its roots back to 1816, when the Ladies Benevolent Society provided firewood to needy families during winter months. Today the fund works to help our community’s neediest families stay warm in the winter.

“I initially considered returning the funds directly to SCANA, but I decided that helping Midlands families who can’t afford the high cost of energy was a better use of the funds. SCANA just announced they made $121 million in profit last fiscal quarter – despite gross mismanagement of the Nuclear Project – so why not try to help someone else with their money?  Apparently, they have plenty; there’s no sense in giving it directly back to them.  I’d rather the money help our neighbors that need it most,” Representative Caskey explained.

S.C. House Speaker Jay Lucas has called for Representative Caskey and 19 other House members to begin holding hearings next week to investigate and study the abandonment of the V.C. Summer Nuclear Plant construction and offer viable solutions.

“Hopefully, even this small amount will provide some relief to the hard-working people that need help.  I encourage my colleagues and neighbors to join me in supporting the Salvation Army’s Woodyard Fund. To the extent this can help reinforce people’s confidence in my commitment to be a voice for them, all the better.” Representative Caskey concluded.

###

The State Grand Jury is hurting my feelings

Everybody I know is getting called before the State Grand Jury. The latest:

University of South Carolina Harris Pastides was one of the people who testified this week to the State Grand Jury in a secret session.

“He was called as a fact witness,” university spokesman Wes Hickman told The State newspaper Thursday morning in answer to a query.

Pastides is one of an unknown number of people who have testified in an ongoing public corruption probe involving the public relations firm of Richard A. Quinn….

Pam Lackey, Trey Walker. Now Harris? Who hasn’t been called? Next thing you know, John Monk’s going to write that Lizard Man was sighted entering the Grand Jury room.

Future witness?

Future witness?

I’ll tell you who hasn’t been called: Me! What am I? Chopped liver?

Of course, I don’t know anything about the subject of the investigation beyond what I read in the papers. I’d have nothing to tell. You might as well call anybody at random off the street. But I’m not entirely sure, given this growing list of luminaries, that knowing anything about the matter at hand is a prerequisite.

Any of y’all been called? I wouldn’t be surprised. When and where will it all end, Mr. Natural?

Senate panel to hold hearings on abandoned nuke project

You know what I hate? I hate it when somebody sends out a release on a PDF, and it’s the kind of PDF that won’t let you highlight and copy the text. Meaning you have to retype it to quote it, which not only is a hassle, but leads to a greater chance of making errors. So I end up having to show you a picture of it, like so:

rankin

Anyway, here’s the whole PDF if you want to look at it…

Rep. Rick Quinn indicted in growing corruption probe

The latest shoe has dropped:

Longtime Republican lawmaker Rep. Rick Quinn, R-Lexington, was indicted Tuesday on two counts of misconduct in office.Rick Quinn

One charge, common law misconduct, involves $4.5 million in questionable money accepted by Quinn “from lobbyists’ principals,” money he accepted but failed to report “to the appropriate supervisory office,” the indictment says.

That charge, which alleges illegal activity by Quinn from 1999 to April 15 of this year, carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a fine at the judge’s discretion.

The other charge, for statutory misconduct in office, carries a maximum sentence of one year in prison and a $1,000 maximum fine. It alleges that from April 2010 through April 15 2017, Quinn as a public official committed criminal acts “in order to obtain a personal profit and benefit.”…

Well, given the way this investigation has appeared to be swirling around the Quinns lately, it’s hardly surprising that Rick — who represents my former district (I was later drawn into the one now held by Micah Caskey) — would be a target. So this has nowhere near the shock value of the charges against Sen. John Courson.

Shock or not, it’s never pleasing to read of such developments. As our president would say, “Sad!”

In terms of the overall investigation, the interesting thing about this is that it crosses a line — this is the first time one of the Quinns has been charged with anything.

Will a crowd now join the governor in heading for the exits, getting as far away from the Quinns as possible?

Micah Caskey’s thoughtful words on gas tax bill

When I first met Micah Caskey last year, I was still toying with the idea of running for the House seat he was seeking. My interview with him put that out of my head, I was so impressed with him. I agreed with him on so many things, and was so impressed by the thoughtful way he approached every issue even when I didn’t agree, that it occurred to me that if I did run against him, I might be tempted to vote for him anyway.

The statement he posted on Facebook regarding the roads bill just passed over the governor’s veto provides a sample of what I’m talking about. When I posted in passing about him and the bill yesterday, I had not yet seen this.

I’m not sure if this is the same statement he made on the floor of the House yesterday, but whatever he said there also made an impression, judging by multiple Tweets from  and , reporters for The State.

An example:

As I said, an impression was made.

Here’s what he said on Facebook:

The #1 issue in South Carolina is improving our state’s transportation infrastructure. Our roads are in terrible condition and we’ve got to fix them.

Micah Caskey

Micah Caskey

I want to address my position on the roads. This is a rather long post, but I think it’s important that I share where I stand on the issue. I ran for office promising folks that I would call the balls and strikes as I saw them, even if it wasn’t politically popular.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to pay the piper. It’s time to raise our state’s gas tax.

Sadly, the Governor hasn’t had anything helpful to say about fixing the roads. Instead of drawing a roadmap for how things can be improved, he’s chosen to do what we’ve come to expect from career politicians:

1. Put head in the sand
2. Yell “CONSERVATIVE!”
3. Hope nobody pays attention to reality

In the absence of Executive Branch leadership, the task of fixing roads has been taken up by the Legislative Branch. Unfortunately, crafting the law to fix the roads in the General Assembly as been incredibly contentious. There are a lot of cooks in the kitchen and everybody thinks his or her solution is best.

The 124 members of the S.C. House gave it our best shot in House Bill #3516. And, as is their custom, the 46-member S.C. Senate returned the House bill will something that looked very different. (To their credit, the Senate did at least manage to break from their tradition of not passing a roads bill out at all.)

When the House and the Senate don’t agree on versions of a bill, the parliamentary rules require there to be a “Conference Committee”, made up of 3 members from each body, to sit together and negotiate a compromise.

If you think of each body’s initial bill as a compromise from within that respective body (you need a majority vote to get out of the body, after all), the Conference Committee’s version is a Compromise of Compromises.

An ugly baby, to be sure.

I have broken down the Conference Committee version of H.3516 below. Like me, there’s probably a lot you don’t like about it. But, ultimately, the two must-haves (for me to vote for it) are there:

1. Gas tax money goes ONLY to roads (no sidewalks, parks, etc.)

2. There is reform in governance at DOT so that citizens can rightfully hold the Governor accountable for the performance of his agency.

This bill has both. (1) All new revenue must go into the Infrastructure Maintenance Trust Fund for existing infrastructure improvement only. (2) The Governor directly appoints all of the DOT Commissioners, with approval by the entire General Assembly — not just the Senate — and can remove a Commissioner at-will, on his own.

In truth, I think we need to eliminate the DOT Commission entirely and elevate the Secretary of Transportation to a Cabinet seat, but my view is a minority view in the 170-member General Assembly (we lost an amendment vote to do that in the House 33-84). Nevertheless, I think the Conference Committee version gives citizens the ability to hold the Governor accountable when the Commissioners he appoints stray from his priorities.

South Carolina deserves action. If past Governors or General Assemblies had acted in the past, we wouldn’t be in this position. However, since we can’t go back in time, our choice is simplified.

I don’t think raising taxes is a good answer, but I also see it as the only realistic answer for this problem. There’s no magic roads fairy coming to fix this. Waiting on the ‘perfect’ answer doesn’t work in the military, and it doesn’t work here.

I will vote to adopt the Conference Committee Report, and if the Governor chooses to put his own career ahead of South Carolina’s best interest, I’ll vote to override his veto.

Certainly don’t let me get in the way of your government-hating. I encourage you to be skeptical. I implore you to scrutinize SCDOT more than ever. I certainly will. Whether through the Legislative Audit Council, Inspectors General, or the Legislative Oversight Committee, I will be working to ensure SCDOT delivers a better investment return of tax dollars than they have in the past. I invite you to put your energy toward the same.

From where we are today, a gas tax increase is the only responsible solution.

-Micah

—-

Conference Report on Roads Bill
GOVERNANCE AND REFORM

● Provides real accountability and transparency at the Department of Transportation (public records, mandated meetings, ethical requirements for commissioners)

● Gives Governor complete control of the Commission with a clear line of authority and at-will removal

● Highway Commission organized to reflect regional representation with 7 Congressional districts and 2 statewide at-large members appointed by the Governor (adds 1 member to current structure)

● Requires General Assembly, not just the S.C. Senate, to approve all 9 Highway Commission appointees

● Strengthens DOT’s control over project authorization and financial decisions by the State Transportation Infrastructure Bank
FUNDING

● Creates a long-term and sustainable funding stream by increasing the motor fuel user fee by 2 cents/gallon over the next 6 years, not exceeding 12 cents/gallon

● Safeguards taxpayers from future automatic tax increases by not indexing for inflation

● Protects SC taxpayers from continuing to solely foot the bill for infrastructure repair by not using General Fund dollars and captures 30% of the motor fuel user fee revenue from out-of-state motorists

● Creates an Infrastructure Maintenance Trust Fund to ensure all new revenue collected from the motor fuel user fee is used only for existing infrastructure needs

● Does not increase or change fees for South Carolina driver’s license applications or renewals

● Increases funding for County Transportation Committees targeted to repair rural and secondary roads

● Captures revenue from alternative energy motorists by creating a biennial registration fee for all hybrid and electric vehicles

● Established a road use fee to capture revenue from out of state truckers

● Raises the cap on motor vehicle sales tax to $500 and creates a $250 out of state maintenance fee

● Incentivizes road construction industry to return to SC with responsible infrastructure investment

● Provides $640 million in new annual revenue for infrastructure maintenance needs when fully implemented

TAX RELIEF

● Includes responsible tax relief to offset the user fee increase for South Carolina residents

● Offers a refundable income tax credit equal to the motor fuel user fee increase that must be reauthorized prior to 2023

● Enhances already existing College Tuition Tax Credit for every South Carolina tuition-payer to enhance workforce development

● Contains a non-refundable Low Income Tax Credit for working families (not federal model)

● Increases the maximum income tax credit from $210 to $350 for dual income household joint filers

● Reduces SC manufacturers property tax burden by $35 million using a phased-in approach over 6 years

I’m proud he’s my representative. We need a lot more like him. Keep up the good work, Micah!

Lucas gives McMaster’s roads letter the answer it deserves

Henry McMaster continues to disappoint those of us who had hoped for some leadership for a change over at the governor’s office.

At least, we kept telling ourselves, he hadn’t threatened to veto the bill increasing the gas tax and reforming DOT, the way Nikki Haley would have done.

Well, today he crossed that line.

Then he exacerbated it by coming up with a cockamamie alternative for paying for road repairs:

Promising to veto an increase to the state’s gas tax to repair the state’s roads, S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster wants lawmakers instead to borrow up to $1 billion to fix South Carolina’s crumbling roads.

McMaster, governor since January, urged lawmakers to change a proposed $500 million borrowing plan, proposed by the House, to instead spend that money — and more — on roads. McMaster made his proposal in a letter Tuesday to House Speaker Jay Lucas, R-Darlington….

The speaker gave the proposal the contempt it deserved. Translated from genteel Lucasspeak, he not only said “No,” but “Hell, no:”

unnamed (1)

Governor McMaster’s proposal continues the pattern of placing the costs of road repair solely on the South Carolina taxpayer and not on out-of-state motorists who use and deteriorate our crumbling roads. Borrowing more money to fix South Carolina’s roads and bridges will not serve as a permanent solution to our infrastructure crisis. The House passed our roads bill with an overwhelming bipartisan and veto proof majority, which protects the South Carolina taxpayer by providing a sustainable funding stream that requires every motorist to pay their fair share.

Not only is Henry throwing behind the runner — he’s throwing to first when the House has long ago crossed home plate — but the proposal would have been ridiculous even if it were still an open question in that body.

We have a mechanism for the ongoing funding of roads — the gas tax. You want to fix roads and you don’t have enough money, you raise the gas tax. It’s not complicated, and there is no call for trying to reinvent the wheel as a way of avoiding the obvious, commonsense solution….

What’s Henry McMaster afraid of? Mark Sanford?

McMaster for governor

Several weeks back, I was on an elevator with a Republican attorney who asked me what I though about how Henry McMaster was doing as governor.

As I was mentally crafting a reply — something like I have hopes, and I see the gasoline tax issue as one that will help determine whether the hopes are justified — he followed up his own question with speculation about Mark Sanford running against Henry in 2018, and wondering whether any other Republicans will run as well.

I don’t know what I said to that. After Donald Trump handed Henry the job he’d wanted so long, I had sort of stopped pondering 2018, thinking Well, that’s that. I certainly hadn’t given any thought to Mark Sanford having ambitions of running again for the office for which he is so spectacularly unsuited, as he spent eight years demonstrating. I probably just made some noises like homina-homina, as though the speech center of my brain had been struck by lightning.

I had not spent time worrying about that the same way I don’t wake up in the morning worrying about an invasion of Nazi zombies. (Of course, when the Nazi zombies do take over, you realize that you should have worried.)

Anyway, once the brain started running again, I started thinking: Is this why Henry’s running from the chance to lead on the gas tax? Is it all about fearing a challenge from Mr. Club for Growth? (And yeah, Sanford had been on a number of people’s 2018 speculation lists — I just hadn’t been paying attention to that stuff.)

Let’s set aside the absurdity of Sanford leaving his comfort zone to once again occupy the governor’s chair. Being a member of the “no” caucus in Congress suits Sanford’s style perfectly. His political M.O. is: Toss out proposals and watch them get shot down, and then moan about it. That seems to be what he runs to do. That makes him perfectly suited to be a member of the Freedom Caucus. Nobody expect them to accomplish anything. Do that as governor, and you just make the legislative leadership of your own party want to throttle you. They count the days until you’re gone, hoping you’ll be replaced by someone who wants to govern.

Which is what, after 14 years of Sanford and Nikki Haley, lawmakers had every reason to expect. And they did. They were even described as “giddy” about the prospect:

“He’s pragmatic,” said state Rep. Greg Delleney, R-Chester. “He gets people together to reach compromises. He doesn’t dig into one position, and you’re either with him or you’re not.”

Publicly, S.C. lawmakers offer mostly guarded assessments of Haley and their optimism about McMaster, who will ascend to the governor’s office once Haley is confirmed as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in a few weeks.

Privately, however, some are giddy to trade in Haley – a 44-year-old Republican who bashed lawmakers in the GOP-controlled Legislature on Facebook and in their hometowns, offered failing “grades” to those who disagreed with her and told a real estate group to “take a good shower” after visiting the State House – for McMaster, a GOP governor they think will work with them….

Meanwhile, we saw the GOP leadership in the House stepping out and leading on fixing our roads — unabashedly raising the gas tax, and reforming governance of the agency.

And then, rather than joining them in the vanguard, Henry started muttering about what a bad idea raising the tax was (as though there were some rational alternative way of paying for roads, which there isn’t), making ominous “last resort” noises. As though we hadn’t gotten to the “last resort” stage some time ago.

No, he hasn’t promised to veto such an increase — which would have been his predecessor’s opening move — but he just won’t stop sending out bad vibes about it. (“Always with the negative waves, Moriarty!”)

It’s bad enough that the proposal has to run the Senate gauntlet, with Tom Davis shooting at it from one side and the “tax increase yes; reform no” crowd on the other. When a thing needs doing, the Senate is at its best dysfunctional. It would have been really, really nice to have the governor standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Speaker Lucas in trying to solve this problem, instead of standing by and watching it get kicked farther down the pothole-pocked road.

Taxes are a killer?” Really? No, governor — unsafe roads are a killer, if anything is on this front.

Of course, if one is inclined to pessimism, one might think the window for leadership has closed or soon will, now that a dark cloud has parked itself over anyone and everyone associated with Richard Quinn. I certainly hope that’s not the case, because we have issues in South Carolina that need to be addressed.

I also hope the governor won’t hold back out of fear of 2018, because at some point, you really need to stop running for office and govern