Category Archives: Legislature

Ol’ Henry can’t catch a break: Tom Davis hits him from the OTHER side of the roads-bill veto

Today, Sen. Tom Davis — a man I greatly respect but seldom agree with — endorsed insurgent John Warren in the runoff against his party’s incumbent governor, Henry McMaster.

Tom Davis

Tom Davis

What grabbed my attention was one of the chief reasons Tom offered: He’s mad at the governor over his veto of the roads bill last year.

But unlike my own representative Micah Caskey, who ripped the governor a new one for vetoing the bill, Tom’s ticked because Henry didn’t veto it hard enough, so to speak.

Tom quotes from his own statement that he had entered into the Senate Journal at the time of the veto:

“I’m also disappointed in Gov. Henry McMaster for what can fairly be described as a “drive-by veto.”  Not only did he fail to try and any build support for his gas-tax veto – I’ve yet to hear of even one instance where he met with a legislator to try and garner support for having his veto sustained – he did not provide those of us willing to fight for taxpayers with the chance to do so in his absence; he simply “checked the box” by vetoing the bill as quickly as possible and returning it to the General Assembly for an equally quick override, even though I and other reform-minded legislators asked him to delay issuing his veto so that we had a full two weeks to rally support for it being sustained.”

In a way, though, both Micah and Tom are hitting the governor for the same thing: Not taking the issue seriously enough, and acting with a disgusting degree of political expedience.

Micah was indignant that the governor never seriously offered an alternative to the gas-tax increase. This was particularly galling when the GOP leadership in the House was taking the political risk (by Republican standards) by raising the tax. I think if Henry had been pushing a real alternative, Micah could have respected him more.

Tom’s critique is that the governor merely pandered by offering the veto — something with which I think Micah would agree — without caring whether it was sustained or not (or perhaps even wishing it to be overridden, which it promptly was).

Both hit the governor for putting his own political advantage ahead of important matters of state policy. Both seem to see him as disrespecting allies and potential allies in his own party, and worse, disrespecting the people of South Carolina.

From their perspectives at either end of the GOP spectrum — that of a moderate House freshman and that of the most ideologically pure veteran senators ever to serve in the State House — they’re fed up with the governor’s fecklessness.

So both are backing James Warren.

Henry’s in trouble…

Micah Caskey last year, wadding up the governor's veto message and throwing it away.

Micah Caskey last year, wadding up the governor’s veto message and throwing it away.

Another stupid attack on Micah Caskey

carry back

Another mailer came from that same group attacking my rep, Micah Caskey.

Again, it relies entirely upon an assumption that voters are mentally feeble.

This time, the accusation is that Micah doesn’t support “2nd Amendment rights” because he didn’t vote for a “constitutional carry” bill.carry 1

I don’t know what Micah thinks about “constitutional carry” and don’t really care. The other Caskey, our resident 2nd Amendment guy Bryan, sees no need for such a provision in South Carolina, which is a “shall issue” state. In other words, if you can own a gun, no one can refuse to issue you a permit.

“Constitutional carry” is the kind of litmus test issue that shows how far gone alleged “conservatives” are today. Once, when real conservatives roamed the Earth, you’d get attacked if you didn’t support a balanced budget amendment. Now, you have to support the kind of hyper-pro gun legislation that is only important to the kind of people who like to freak out the citizenry by carrying a weapon down a city street simply to assert that “I got a right to!” (I know those aren’t exactly the same thing. I’m just thinking there’s probably a lot of overlap there.)

At least, with these people that’s the standard. To the extent that they can be said to have standards.

My favorite bit: “He may talk a big game, but…” You mean, like, when he mentions (which he seldom does) carrying a rifle into combat in Iraq as a United States Marine, stuff like that?

Another good part: “I don’t need the government’s permission to defend myself!” That’s right, you don’t. And you never have. Which underlines how unnecessary that bill was.

Anyway… I’m going to ignore that and take comfort from this straw poll that the Lexington County GOP did at their June meeting. Nathan Ballentine proudly tweeted it out because he got 72.9 percent.

Micah Caskey got 97.6 percent. Sounds like he might have earned the right to “talk a big game…”

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John Courson resigns seat, pleads guilty. So NOW what?

The empty space in the State House underground lot. I shot this in early April .

The empty space in the State House underground lot. I shot this in early April . It’s been vacant a LONG time.

Sen. John Courson has entered a guilty plea and resigned his seat in the Senate.

This is a sad day, as I — like most people who have interacted with him over the years — have always liked and respected him, so this is very disappointing.

If you want comments from someone who is pleased by this situation and will talk with satisfaction about how the senator “got what he deserved,” I refer you to our own Doug Ross.

For me, this is an opportunity to bring up a number of things I’ve been thinking about in the last few days:

  • First, whither the Pascoe investigation? John Monk reports that Courson has “agreed to cooperate with an ongoing investigation into public corruption in the S.C. State House.” Is there an ongoing investigation? Because it doesn’t seem to have “ongone” anywhere in the last few months, ever since charges were dropped against Richard Quinn, Rick Quinn was allowed to plead to a misdemeanor, and the special prosecutor David Pascoe criticized the judge for not sentencing Quinn fils to prison, even though he, Pascoe, had allowed him to plead to a charge that did not warrant prison. Since then, the probe has seemed to be in limbo. Is it coming back to life now?
  • If it does come back to life — or is perceived to be doing so — what does that do to the governor’s race? Does it affect the primary a week from tomorrow? To what extent will the incumbent’s primary challengers try to make hay from this resurrection of the topic, trumpeting McMaster’s long association with Richard Quinn? To what extent will that work? (We’ll discuss later what effect all this might have on the gubernatorial race in the fall, if McMaster is the nominee.)
  • Will this cause the attack on James Smith that did not happen two weeks ago to happen now? I’m still puzzled that the rumored attack did not materialize when expected. Did the attackers have an attack of conscience (I’m trying to consider ALL possibilities, you see)? Will this tempt them to do their dastardly, unfair worst? Given some things I’ve seen happening in the Democratic contest lately (more on that later), very little would shock me.
  • What, if anything, happens in the GOP race for attorney general? Several months ago, it looked like this was going to be a knock-down-drag-out, with the Pascoe probe as the topic dominating everything else. Pascoe was telegraphing like crazy that the public official he most wanted to go after next was incumbent Alan Wilson. Todd Atwater decided to give up his House seat (now being sought by Paula Rawl Calhoon, whose ad you see at right) to challenge Wilson against that background. But with the Pascoe investigation in suspended animation recently, Wilson has been able to run a pretty conventional incumbent re-election campaign, stressing positives in his record rather than going on the defensive. Does today’s development change that dynamic?
  • What exactly did Courson plead guilty to doing? According to John, he had been charged with “misconduct in office, criminal conspiracy and converting campaign money to his personal use by taking kickbacks.” But the report says he has owned up to one count of “misconduct in office.” Since the converting campaign money to his personal use part was a separate charge, does that mean that is dropped? So what has he pled guilty to?
  • If the investigation is “ongoing,” who might be targeted that we don’t even know about? No one who knew Courson would have expected his name to come up (of course Doug knew, something that I type just to save Doug the trouble), so anybody could be a target.
  • Who will be running for Courson’s seat? I know of one person who’s highly likely to run, whom I won’t name until I get confirmation. But beyond the who, exactly how does this unfold? I assume there will be a special election, but does it occur before the election we’re having anyway this year? That Senate district has already gone a full session without representation, so what would be the hurry now, with the General Assembly practically done for the year?

Those are my first thoughts. Others will no doubt occur to me.

Chamber endorses 15 incumbents with primary opposition

The Chamber of Commerce is playing it safe — which doesn’t mean they’re not right about some of these endorsements:

COLUMBIA, S.C. – The South Carolina Chamber of Commerce PAC, which supports pro-jobs candidates for the General Assembly, today endorsed 15 members of the S.C. House of Representatives who are running for re-election.chamber_pac_logo_2-1

Each Chamber PAC-endorsed candidate has joined the business community in the fight to make South Carolina the most competitive state in the nation for business development.

“The business community is proud to announce its support for these House members,” said Chamber President and CEO Ted Pitts. “They have strengthened our workforce, delivered tax relief, invested in our infrastructure and reduced the regulatory burden – and, when they are re-elected, we look forward to working with them to keep South Carolina on the move.”

The following House members have earned the business community’s support in June’s primary elections based on their performance on the S.C. Chamber of Commerce’s annual legislative scorecard.

  • State Rep. Nathan Ballentine (District 71, Richland and Lexington Counties)
  • State Rep. Micah Caskey (District 89, Lexington County)
  • State Rep. Sylleste Davis (District 100, Berkeley Country)
  • State Rep. Greg Duckworth (District 104, Horry County)
  • State Rep. Craig Gagnon (District 11, Abbeville and Anderson Counties)
  • State Rep. Jackie Hayes (District 55, Darlington, Dillon, Horry and Marlboro Counties)
  • State Rep. Phyllis Henderson (District 21, Greenville Country)
  • State Rep. Joe McEachern (District 77, Richland County)
  • State Rep. Samuel Rivers (District 15, Berkley and Charleston Counties)
  • State Rep. Mike Sottile (District 112, Charleston County)
  • State Rep. Kit Spires (District 96, Lexington County)
  • State Rep. Eddie Tallon (District 33, Spartanburg County)
  • State Rep. Jay West (District, Abbeville and Anderson County)
  • State Rep. Brian White (District 6, Anderson County)
  • State Rep. Ronnie Young (District 84, Aiken County)

At this point, Doug or someone is bursting with indignation at the idea of endorsing all these incumbents! Understandable.

Although the ones with whom I’m most familiar — Nathan Ballentine and Micah Caskey, for instance — are ones I’d pick, too. And if I knew more, I’d likely back quite a few of the others, too.

Unfortunately, our parties have become so corrupted by our system of reapportionment that incumbents seldom, if ever, draw primary opposition that a sensible person would seriously consider. Challengers tend to be extremists trying to pull their respective parties even farther from the sensible center, perpetual candidates who time and time again have been rejected by the voters.

The latter is the case with Micah Caskey, for instance. I forget how many times Billy Oswald has run in the past — sometimes as a Democrat, sometimes as a Republican. If I recall correctly from meeting him long ago, he’s a nice guy (and I have no reason to believe he’s involved with this perfidy), but voters have repeatedly rejected him. And I see no reason they should change their minds after the strong freshman performance Micah has turned in.

In fact, he’s done such a good job that even if he had really strong opposition — such as, say, Tem Miles, whom Micah faced last time — I’d definitely be for giving Micah another term. He’s more than earned it, and I expect more good things from him.

All of that said, there must be SOME incumbents the Chamber doesn’t want to see re-elected. But being the Chamber and therefore risk-averse, those folks aren’t being listed. Because, you know, then the Chamber would be making enemies among folks who will likely be re-elected anyway.

I’d sort of like to see the other list, the one whose existence this one implies: In other words, the incumbents whom the Chamber didn’t endorse despite their having primary opposition. That list would be interesting. I might see if I can infer who those folks are if I get some time later….

 

Lynn Teague on the Legislature’s unfinished business

When I saw this Tweet yesterday, it gave me an idea:

In my church, we confess every week as follows: “I confess to almighty God, and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have sinned through my own fault, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done, and in what I have failed to do…”

That last part is where I, personally, fall down the most. So I take it seriously.

I asked Lynn if she would write us a blog post on what our lawmakers “have failed to do.” She kindly obliged, and here’s her report:

What Remains at the State House

The General Assembly just canceled their scheduled return to Columbia for May 23-24 to work on unfinished business. The conference committee on S. 954 and H. 4375 has been scheduled for Wednesday, but there will be no meeting of the whole House and Senate until the end of June. What haven’t they done? What should they be doing before the days dwindle down to a precious few?

Lynn Teague

Lynn Teague

Their work for the remainder of 2018 is defined by the sine die resolution, passed before their departure from Columbia on May 10. Under that resolution, they can return to deal with the state budget, anything related to V. C. Summer, legislation to make the state tax code conform to changes in the federal tax code, bills that have been passed in both houses and are now in conference committee, and some local legislation. They have given themselves until November to do this. That is far too late for some of the remaining bills.

First, the state needs a budget. The government won’t shut down if the budget doesn’t pass by July 1, but it would surely be better to let agencies know what they have to work with at the start of the fiscal year. The budget also includes important provisos that are there in part because the General Assembly failed to pass other needed bills. Legislators should be working now to resolve their differences on those.

What else should legislators do when they return? They must surely bring our tax system into conformity with changes in the federal tax code, either by reconciling H.5341 and S. 1258 in conference or by writing a new bill. This is an area in which failure to act could be costly for South Carolina’s citizens.

And then there are the utilities. Of course, the utilities, which everyone said were the sole focus of the 2018 session. And yet, bills to resolve both short-term and long-term issues arising from the catastrophic failure of V. C. Summer remain to be passed. Some of the delay can be attributed to differences between House and Senate. Some can be attributed to a Senate Judiciary subcommittee that was not inclined to haste. I wouldn’t say that they were slow, but substantial parts of the Greenland ice sheet collapsed between meetings. So now a significant amount of work remains to be done.

S 954 is best known for the ongoing battle between House and Senate over the amount of a temporary rate suspension, whether 13% or 18%. With each passing day, we pay more to SCANA for something that we aren’t getting because this isn’t resolved. However, in the long term the more important aspect of this bill is the PSC schedule, which would give all participants certainty of a schedule to resolve the complex issues surrounding SCANA and its exorbitant rates. This schedule is especially important given SCANA’s stonewalling of discovery requests from intervenors and the Office of Regulatory Staff (ORS) at the PSC, delaying the ability of stakeholders to examine material evidence.

Other surviving utility bills include H.4375, amending the Base Load Review Act (BLRA) that made the V. C. Summer catastrophe possible. Retroactive repeal would be lovely, but is pretty surely unconstitutional. The most important elements of H. 4375 are preventing future use of the BLRA and introducing a definition of prudency, a central concept in evaluating whether SCANA’s costs at V. C. Summer were legitimately incurred. Another bill, H. 4379, creates a consumer advocate and removes the serious conflicts currently embedded in the ORS mission statement. The first two of these bills are on the agenda for the Wednesday conference committee, but H. 4379 is not yet in conference. Legislators must be working to resolve their differences on these bills before proceedings at the PSC and in the courts move further forward.

Those are the absolutely necessary bills for June. We are sure that legislators expect to dig in and move fast when they return to Columbia, but there is a lot to do. November is too late for much of it. July is too late for some of it.

Two other important utility bills, H. 4377 and H. 4378, were never heard in Senate Judiciary subcommittee, but nevertheless could and should be taken up under the sine die resolution. No one has indicated any intention to do this, but it is possible and needed so it is worth mentioning. H. 4377 makes important changes to strengthen the qualifications of members of the PSC and improve their access to information. We need that. PSC members shouldn’t be just representatives of local areas there to look out for local interests, they must be technically and legally competent to address the complex issues before the PSC.

H. 4378 revised the membership of the powerful State Regulation of Utilities Review Committee (PURC) that oversees the whole regulatory system. It gives the Governor appointments to this important body and ensures that legislators are not a majority on the committee. We badly need this. However, at present H.4378 does not go far enough. We should also prohibit members of PURC, their immediate families, and the businesses with which they are associated from receiving income, donations, or gifts from any regulated monopoly. At present they can receive all of these benefits from the industries that they oversee. This should end, now.

So, with all that time until November, there is no good reason for the General Assembly not to take up these other bills and actually reform our regulatory system.

Lynn is more diplomatic about all that than I would be, but she sure knows her stuff, and I felt a post from her would be far more informative than one from me…

Caskey strips out stupidest part of sanctuary cities bill

Micah Caskey selling his amendment in the House./@TigerMuniSC

Rep. Micah Caskey selling his amendment in the House./@TigerMuniSC

Yesterday afternoon I ran into my representative, Micah Caskey, on my afternoon walk, and asked what he’d been up to on such a fine Wednesday.

He was glad to tell me, as he’d had a good day doing worthwhile work for us all. He told me briefly about it, and followed up with more info today.

You know about Henry McMaster’s stupid Sanctuary Cities bill, the pointless solution to a non-existent problem. We have no Sanctuary Cities in South Carolina, a fact that no one disputes — but in order to pander to the Trump crowd, the governor would force South Carolina municipalities to file a bunch of red tape proving they’re not sanctuary cities, or lose state funding upon which they rely.

So Micah got the House to amend the bill to strip out the reporting requirements. You see, Sanctuary Cities are already against the law in South Carolina. Micah’s amendment would allow the state attorney general to take legal action against any municipalities suspected of the heinous crime of being nice to illegal aliens. (Currently, only a resident of the relevant municipality can can file a lawsuit to enjoin the city from adopting such policies.)

Micah did a nice job selling his amendment, bringing along this Powerpoint presentation to explain the actual facts of the situation, and what he proposed to do.

So basically, he managed to strip out the stupidest part of a stupid bill, minimizing the damage of what he termed the Incremental Growth of South Carolina Government Act.

Here’s how he summed up the change:

Original Bill

  • Paperwork shuffle (ICR)
  • Grows government
  • Adds to SLED workload
  • No due process
  • Violators lose LGF

Caskey Amendment

  • Empowers AG to enforce
  • Due process ensured
  • Protects rule of law
  • Violators lose LGF

“LGF” means “Local Government Fund.” “ICR” means “Immigration Compliance Report.”

Nice job, Micah. This is a good case of, as you put it in your presentation, “Common Sense Trumping Politics.”

In stunning reversal for people of SC, utilities manage to kill solar bill AFTER it passed overwhelmingly

It's like if, after the Death Star was destroyed, Darth Vader used the Force to snuff out the Rebellion anyway...

It’s like if, after the Death Star was destroyed, Darth Vader used the Force to snuff out the Rebellion anyway…

If you had any lingering sympathy for the big utilities in South Carolina, this should wipe it out:

Under pressure from the state’s major utilities, the S.C. House killed a solar bill Tuesday that was intended to protect thousands of jobs and save customers money on their monthly power bills.

The bill’s defeat, a stunning reversal from a House vote last week, brought withering criticism from many lawmakers, who said the House caved in to opposition by Duke Energy and SCE&G, derailing the legislation. Utilities have expressed concern about how competition from solar could affect them.

State Rep. James Smith, the bill’s chief sponsor, also blamed Republican Gov. Henry McMaster. Smith, a Democratic candidate for governor and potential opponent to McMaster in November’s general election, said the Republican urged some lawmakers not to vote for the bill — a point McMaster’s office hotly disputed.

“He called House Republican leadership and raked them over the coals,” Smith said he was told by fellow legislators. “It was giving me a victory. But it ain’t about me. It ain’t about Henry.”…

The solar bill died Tuesday in the House after utility boosters raised a technical point, saying passing the bill would require a two-thirds majority vote. The House voted for the legislation, 61-44, but that was short of the two-thirds required for approval….

Wow. This is bad on so many levels — particularly if our governor got involved in order to screw over his likely Democratic challenger. But even if he didn’t, this is a stunning example of bad faith, and the kind of oligarchic, anti-democratic maneuver that almost makes the anti-elite paranoia of a Bernie Sanders sound sane.

Matt Moore, the former GOP chair who has been heading up Palmetto Conservative Solar Coalition, reacted this way:

Ten-plus years? I think that’s an understatement. In my more than 30 years of covering SC politics, I haven’t seen the likes of this. You have to go back to before my time. There probably hasn’t been a case of the powers-that-be frustrating the public will to this extent since the Old Guard found a way to disqualify charismatic gubernatorial candidate Pug Ravenel on a technicality in 1974.

The will of the people, acting through their elected representatives (which is how you do it in a republic), had been clearly expressed. The best people in the General Assembly were all for it — Democrats, and both flavors of Republican (Regular and Tom Davis).

And now, the people who gave us the shaft on the nuclear fiasco have shown us what they think of that. And of us.

So… what are we going to do about it?

Belated congrats on a bipartisan solar victory

A shot of the voting board posted by Boyd Brown...

A shot of the voting board posted by Boyd Brown…

I was deliberately avoiding actual news the end of last week while at the beach, but now I want to congratulate James Smith and his allies of both parties on their big victory in the House last week.

Their bill to lift the cap on solar power passed the House 64-33 Thursday, after representatives rejected a competing bill pushed by the big utilities — which obviously don’t have the clout they had when they passed the Base Load Review Act.

Out of those 64, Matt Moore of the Palmetto Conservative Solar Coalition particularly thanked   and my own rep, .

See how everybody voted on the board above.

Now, on to the Senate!

The legislative showdown between SC utilities and reformers

solar panels

As long as I’m throwing tweets at you, let’s contrast Henry McMaster’s fatuous nonsense with what’s going on among people at the State House who actually care about issues that matter to South Carolina.

We’ll start with this:

Oh, there goes that Brad Warthen promoting James Smith again! Well, not just him. We’re talking about a bipartisan coalition of actual leaders who are standing up to the pro-utility interests that brought you the Base Load Review Act.

This is what’s going on in the State House in this universe, as opposed to the one Henry lives in. In this universe, there’s a battle going on between people who continue to push the narrow interests of the utility industry and those who’d like us to be able to declare independence from them.

As a blog post over at the CVSC site says:

Let me set the scene for a big showdown that’s about to take place at the Statehouse…

There are two bills…

One bill was practically written by the utility monopolies. Not surprisingly, this bill would reward them for their role in the disastrous V.C. Summer debacle. Also, not surprisingly, this bill was introduced and rushed through subcommittee almost overnight by House members who’ve received thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from utility monopolies.

The other bill would promote the growth of solar energy in South Carolina. This bill rewards consumers by treating them fairly and ensuring that our state’s solar energy market will continue to produce good-paying jobs and affordable energy for our families. Not surprisingly, this bill has been challenged at every step….

Here’s a comparison of the two bills:

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McMaster touts victory over his imaginary foe

Speaking of "intellectually-bankrupt campaign materials," this is the first thing you see at the McMaster for Governor site.

Speaking of “intellectually-bankrupt campaign materials,” this is the first thing you see at the McMaster for Governor site.

This bit of nonsense just sort of floored me last night:

I responded thusly:

I mean, come on, people — who can possibly take seriously, for even a second, the governor of South Carolina celebrating his great “victory” (or initial step toward victory) over a completely imaginary foe?

“What’s next?” my own representative, Republican Micah Caskey, asked. “Are we going to require cities to certify that they didn’t rob a bank?”

He added: “There is no one, other than politicians, who have suggested this is something we actually need and should waste our time on.”

And I would add, only a certain kind of condescending, pandering politician, completely lacking in shame.

This morning, Micah added this via Twitter: “Sanctuary cities are already illegal in South Carolina. (See SC Code Ann. 17-13-170 and 23-3-1100.) The governor should read more of our laws already on the books and less of his intellectually-bankrupt campaign materials.”

Amen to that. And I suppose he meant this sort of campaign material

Again, THIS is how you get things done, people…

Funderburk

This is another little object lesson for Phil Noble and other Democrats who think the way to get worthwhile things done is to be more partisan, in a red state.

This came to my attention today because James Smith retweeted it, saying, “Great work ! Thank you for your leadership:”

Note that Democrat Funderburk makes a particular point of thanking, along with the speaker, Republicans Newton, Pope and Clary, as well as fellow Dems Beth Bernstein and Mandy Powers Norrell.

Here’s the bill in question.

Because, you know, this is how you get things done. By ignoring the partisan junk and working with anyone who wants to make our state better. Just as Smith himself has been demonstrating with his bill to raise the cap on solar, which has considerable Republican support.

Note also the shout-out to our own Lynn Teague. She’s one of those lobbyists who provides valuable information and input to lawmakers — you know, one of those people some of you think don’t exist…

Go read Cindi’s column on the restructuring proposal

It’s a good piece, rightly taking Democratic leadership to task for their ham-handed attack on the freshmen’s proposal, and also showing due hesitation about a convention.

Of course, Cindi agreeing with me on a “Power Failure” issue is not exactly news, but maybe y’all will like the way she explains it better.

So go click on it. Then go to another device and click on it from there. Because I worry that serious, complex reform issues such as this don’t get enough coverage in an age when it’s all about the clicks. Cindi sort of indirectly alludes to that problem within her column:

I mean, if it weren’t for Trav Robertson’s delusional (or deliberately deceptive, or embarrassingly ignorant) rant, how could I get anybody to read about legislation proposed by most freshman legislators to blow up South Carolina’s government and start over?

Actually, now that I put it that way, maybe that’s something you would find interesting…

One hopes. But just to make sure, go read it a few times. And click through when she gives you links to the two bills, and other links.

It ends on a hopeful note. While a constitutional convention may be dangerous, and while this proposal may go nowhere, this year, it’s very encouraging that this many freshmen actually understand what’s really wrong with state government.

Which makes them the savviest freshman class I’ve ever seen. And that gives me a lot of hope for the future, when these lawmakers have more pull — if they can get re-elected. As Cindi puts it:

Cindi recent mugWhat is significant, hugely significant, is that most of our state’s first-term legislators have decided that South Carolina’s biggest problem is that the Legislature has too much power. And they have concluded that the problem is so dire that it warrants the most radical solution they can think of — within the confines of statutory and constitutional law — because the Legislature is not going to voluntarily relinquish a significant amount of power.

What is significant is that these freshmen understand that this whole exercise is a waste of time unless they make voters understand that their frustration and anger about our state’s failures is a result of the way our government is structured. They say they are willing to invest the energy and resources and time to do that.

If they succeed, we won’t need to take a chance on a constitutional convention, because the Legislature will make the changes itself….

But go read the whole thing

Promising first step on lifting SC’s solar cap

State House

This was good to see yesterday:

The Chairman of the Palmetto Conservative Solar Coalition (PCSC) today applauded a South Carolina House Judiciary subcommittee for its unanimous passage of H. 4421, a bill that would bring more free market solar energy choices to South Carolina consumers.

“In just a few years, South Carolina has become a leader in solar energy growth. I’m thrilled that House members recognize how H. 4421 will continue this positive trend by giving consumers even more free market energy choices,” said Matt Moore, Chairman of the PCSC. “Now the bill moves to the full the Judiciary Committee, where we are confident that despite big power’s objections to energy freedom, House members will support sending H. 4421 to the full South Carolina House for passage.”

That’s James Smith’s bill, called the “SC Electric Consumer Bill of Rights,” that lifts the ridiculous cap on solar energy in South Carolina. The one I wrote about Wednesday.

Moore, the former GOP chair, made a point of thanking Smith along with Republican backers Peter McCoy and Judiciary Chairman Greg Delleney.

It’s a smart piece of bipartisan legislation — I’ve yet to hear a good reason why it shouldn’t pass — and while subcommittee passage is just a start, I’m encouraged by the unanimous vote.

Micah and the freshmen take on Power Failure, big time

micah release

I got this release today from my representative, Micah Caskey. I’ve told you he’s been pretty bold — in good ways — for a freshman. Now, he’s outdone himself — and brought a bunch of other frosh along with him.

They’re calling for no less than a constitutional convention to address the deep structural problems in our form of government in South Carolina. Here’s the main thrust of the release:

A bi-partisan group of twenty-six freshman members of the South Carolina House of Representatives and the South Carolina Senate introduced a bold plan today to reform state government. Lawmakers from across the state called for the adoption of a new state constitution. Bills introduced in both bodies seek to replace the legislatively-dominated and antiquated framework of the South Carolina Constitution of 1895. In the most ambitious reform effort since Gov. Carroll Campbell’s restructuring work in the early 1990s–and the first such endeavor led by the legislature–the plan unveiled today will result in an improved, more transparent, and more efficient state government that is accountable to the people.

Micah Caskey cropped

Caskey in 2016

The 1895 Constitution, the seventh in South Carolina history, was notoriously borne out of “Pitchfork” Ben Tillman’s explicit motivation to elevate the power and influence of white South Carolinians at the expense of black citizens. The resulting state government structure diffused responsibility throughout the General Assembly and subjugated the executive and judicial branches of government to the legislature. The legacy of Tillman’s effort continues to shackle us today.

Today’s initiative seeks to restore balance in state government. South Carolina’s governor must have the authority and control to lead the executive branch through a cabinet form of government that is not dominated or micromanaged by the legislature. Likewise, the judiciary must be an equal branch of government that is appointed with participation from both the executive and legislative branches. Reforming state government will reduce the legislature’s outsized influence and restore three, co-equal branches of government.

The bills introduced today propose a ballot referendum for South Carolina’s citizens to call only for a state constitutional convention; this process cannot in any way, whatsoever, limit the freedoms and liberties guaranteed under our United States Constitution….

The problems are basically the same ones I — and a large portion of The State‘s then-considerable newsroom — addressed in the huge “Power Failure” series in 1991 (tagline: “The Government that Answers to No One”), when Micah and many of these other folks were in grade school, (if that old). But the diagnosis didn’t originate with me or Cindi Scoppe or any of the others on the Power Failure team. Some of the main remedies we wrote about then had been recommended by one blue-ribbon panel after another since about 1945.

Micah, et al., are proposing to go a step further, calling a con-con. I always stopped short of that, because anything could happen in one of those, depending on who the delegates are. A convention could come up with proposals that make things worse, so I’ve always been leery.

In fact, my original idea for Power Failure came from a series of op-eds written by Walter Edgar and Blease Graham in 1990, in which they did advocate a convention. But I still preferred to advocate “do this, specifically” to lawmakers, rather than having them call a convention and see which way they went.

But maybe it’s time. After the partial restructuring of 1993 after our series (and with Gov. Campbell pushing it hard), reform has languished, although every few years we’ll get a small additional piece — for instance, we’ll be enacting another bit of it when we elect the lieutenant governor on the same ticket as the governor (if the General Assembly ever figures out the rules).

Several years back, Vincent Sheheen suggested taking the plunge, and even then I worried about buying a pig in a poke. But South Carolina needs fundamental reform, and it’s been so long, so maybe it’s worth the risk now.

I’ll watch with interest to see how their elders respond to this call for deep and needed change.

Gun control rally at the State House

Feeling the need to show the flag a bit, and finding myself wearing a tie for once, I decided to drop by the State House and see what was up.

The first thing I saw was this gun control rally, sponsored — I’m just going by the T-shirts here — by Moms Demand Action – SC. Here’s their Facebook page. It was a modest-sized crown (click here to see), but passionate.

I listened for awhile, went inside to see what the House was doing (not much), then came back out. When I got back, Sen. Greg Gregory was speaking. He was (to my knowledge) the only Republican to speak. He and Marlon Kimpson are sponsoring a bill to close the “Charleston loophole.”

He was saying various things the crowd applauded — such as noting that if his father had seen a “hunter” show up with a 30-round magazine, he’d have laughed him off the field. Then he talked about how hard the issue was on his side of the aisle. He noted that too many Republicans feared that any concession on gun control would send us down the slippery slope to eliminating all guns.

At that point, one or two people started to cheer, and I thought, No, folks, that’s not an applause line. You’re not helping your cause there… But they seemed to think better of it right away; it wasn’t taken up. And maybe they just weren’t listening. It was a very encouraging, applauding kind of crowd, which I guess is what you get when you have “Moms” in your name.

The speeches kept coming. There was a preacher, a teacher, and a couple of high school students. Then, with exacting neutrality, the mistress of ceremonies introduced “two candidates for governor,” with the first being James Smith. You can hear most of his speech above — I started shooting the video about a minute in.

Then came Phil Noble, and he said the usual things Phil Noble says. I’ll say this for him, though — he was more self-restrained than usual. He carefully explained that the NRA was pure evil, and that evil had agents in the Legislature, and some of them were Democrats and some of them were Republicans. I didn’t hear all of it, but I’m pretty sure he held back from actually saying “James Smith.” But I wasn’t always looking right at him, so he could have been jerking his head in that direction.

One of the speakers used the occasion to encourage those present to elect more Democrats — which didn’t seem terribly polite to Sen. Gregory, but he’s probably used to it.

Joe Cranney of the Charleston paper reports that earlier, the group had been present at a hearing in which consideration of S. 516 — Gregory’s and Kimpson’s bill — was postponed….

Phil Noble speaks to the rally. That's James Smith with Mandy Powers Norrell to the right.

Phil Noble speaks to the rally. That’s James Smith with Mandy Powers Norrell to the right.

 

 

 

Rick Quinn won’t go to prison as Pascoe wished

State House

David Pascoe didn’t get his way on Rick Quinn, as the former lawmaker was sentenced to community service and probation Monday.

A judge Monday sentenced former state Rep. Rick Quinn, R-Lexington, to one year in prison and then suspended that sentence.

Instead, Quinn will have to do 500 hours of community service and serve two years of probation.

Quinn, 52, a 20-year House veteran known for his political influence, entered a guilty plea to misconduct in office in December. The offense carries a maximum prison sentence of one year.

Quinn’s sentence had been the subject of speculation and a fierce behind-the-scenes legal battle between prosecutors and defense attorneys since his unexpected guilt plea in December….

This is not terribly surprising. Although Pascoe at a recent hearing presented a 30-minute Power Point detailing crimes allegedly committed by Quinn, the Republican’s guilty plea only covered “one, basically, technical violation — failing to report a one-time payment of roughly $28,000 by the University of South Carolina, an institution that lobbies the Legislature, to a company that Quinn had a link to….”

Pascoe had portrayed the younger Quinn as the worst of the worse, saying “There has been no one more corrupt than Rick Quinn.”

And this is all he can successfully pin on him? The prosecutor wanted Quinn to spend a year in prison. But the judge suspended the sentence.

Not that this corruption investigation is over. Sen. John Courson’s trial is coming up.

And we have yet to see whether Pascoe’s allegations about AG Alan Wilson will lead to anything…

Bullying local governments: An issue bigger than plastic bags

What do these have in common with bump stocks?/photo by Dan4th Nicholas

What do these have in common with bump stocks?/photo by Dan4th Nicholas

This Tweet reminded me of something I meant to post about:

First, kudos to James for standing up on this: Forbidding local governments to clean up their communities is unconscionable.

But there’s a much bigger issue here than plastic bags littering the landscape: More than 40 years after passage of the Home Rule Act, the South Carolina General Assembly continues to bully local governments, preventing South Carolinians from running their own affairs in their own communities as they see fit.

It was always thus. From the beginning, long before the Recent Unpleasantness, the small class of plantation owners who ran things from the Legislature kept local governments weak, just as they did the governor. Home Rule was supposed to fix that, at least on the county level. But lawmakers kept vestiges of the Legislative State — such as unaccountable Special Purpose Districts (think Richland County Recreation Commission, and the Elections Commission in the same county). In some counties, state lawmakers even continued to run local schools.

And when local officials dare to try to improve their communities without the permission of the state, they can expect to have the state jump on them, hard.

We all saw what happened, nationally and locally, after the mass shooting in Las Vegas: Pretty much everyone, across the political spectrum, agreed that nobody needed a “bump stock,” and that the deadly devices were bad news all around.

And then, on the national level, nothing happened. And here in Columbia, elected officials decided they would act, within their limited ability to act: They banned the use, although not the possession, of bump stocks within the city limits.

It wasn’t much, but it made national news, and was much applauded as a case of some elected officials, somewhere, being willing do something.

So of course, a group of SC lawmakers decided they weren’t going to allow that. So Reps. Jonathon D. Hill, Craig A. Gagnon, Anne J. Thayer, Joshua A. Putnam — none of whom live anywhere near Columbia — sponsored H. 4707, “so as to provide that a political subdivision may not regulate firearm accessories.”

It’s the same old story in South Carolina: These lawmakers don’t propose to DO anything; they just want to make sure nobody else does anything….

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…