Category Archives: Legislature

Cindi Scoppe’s rather devastating column this morning on Bobby Harrell and the SC House

A few days ago, Kirkman Finlay, who is facing re-election to his House seat, started following me on Twitter.Finlay egg

I immediately saw that he could probably use some help with social media. His avatar is still, as Valentine Michael Smith would say, only an egg.

He could probably also use some help explaining to voters his bill, H.4453, which seems designed to help out Speaker Bobby Harrell by making the illegal things he’s been suspected of doing legal.

That bill suddenly started getting acted upon in the House as it became apparent that Harrell’s attempt to secretly toss Attorney General Alan Wilson off his case was doomed to fail.

But that’s just the beginning. You really need to read Cindi Scoppe’s remarkable column today, which tied together a web of House initiatives that seem reminiscent of the way Silvio Berlusconi’s legislative allies kept legislating him out of trouble, by making the illegal legal.

As I said, H.4453 is only the beginning:

Then, in the most audacious move to date, 85 House members last week filed H.5072, which would empower the House speaker and Senate president pro tempore to appoint a special prosecutor to conduct State Grand Jury investigations into the attorney general and other “constitutional officers.” One of the initial sponsors — Wilson campaign attorney and Democratic Rep. James Smith — said that term also covers legislators, which means it would allow the speaker and president pro tempore to stop any attorney general investigations of legislators.

Of course the bill wouldn’t actually accomplish that because our state constitution names the attorney general as “the chief prosecuting officer of the State with authority to supervise the prosecution of all criminal cases in courts of record.” So the sponsors — led by Kris Crawford, against whom Mr. Wilson’s predecessor, Henry McMaster, brought tax-evasion charges in 2010 — also filed H.5073 to remove that language from the constitution.

If that passed, not only would the speaker and president pro tempore be able to stop any attorney general investigations, or initiate investigations into the attorney general, but the Legislature would be free to strip attorneys general of all power. The House unanimously agreed to bypass the committee process for both measures and place them on the calendar for immediate debate, an extraordinary thing to do for anything other than congratulatory resolutions and local legislation.

Let’s recap: I count five attempts in a year by Mr. Harrell’s friends to intimidate the attorney general or else quash first a SLED investigation and now a Grand Jury investigation. Which seems like a lot for someone who insists he hasn’t committed any crimes — or even violated any non-criminal provisions of the ethics law….

Wow, huh? (The boldface emphasis is mine.)

John Monk did good work recently revealing the move to get Wilson secretly tossed off the case. But this masterful column paints a picture of a pattern far more sweeping, and more disturbing, than that. It’s the kind of thing that reminds us why we have a First Amendment.

Good job, Cindi.

They shall fight them on the beaches…

This release from Conservation Voters of South Carolina provides yet another measure of how things don’t change in South Carolina:

Friends,

This is urgent. Last week we asked you to call your Senator, but we still need your help.

A bill before the S.C. Senate this week, S.890, would allow a special exemption to rebuild seawalls on our coast for the first time since 1988.

S. 890 was originally written to implement the recommendations of the DHEC-appointed Blue Ribbon Committee on Shoreline Management, but a small group of beach-front property owners is pressing for an amendment that would exempt their beach—DeBordieu—from laws that apply to every other beach-front property owner in South Carolina.

This exemption would set an awful precedent, rolling back meaningful protections against hardened structures and seawalls. We oppose seawalls because they don’t work, and increase erosion at neighboring beaches and communities along the coast.

Please email or call your Senator and urge them to oppose this special interest exemption and support South Carolina’s precious coastline—and the tourism it supports.

Thank you,

Rebecca Haynes
Director of Government Relations
Conservation Voters of SC

The Beachfront Management Act of 1988 was maybe the first really sweeping pieces of legislation to pass the Legislature after I came to work at The State in 1987 as governmental affairs editor. It was supposed to mandate a retreat from the beach, keeping structures from being built that would both exacerbate erosion and be vulnerable to the surf themselves.

I thought it heralded a new dawn of rational coastal development. Then came Hurricane Hugo the next year, which took out a lot of existing structures along the coast — all of which, it seemed to my inexpert eye, got rebuilt. Which made me think the legislation had been pretty ineffective.

But according to the CVSC, the law was at least effective in preventing the construction of seawalls that help with erosion in one spot, but exacerbate the situation elsewhere. Until now.

So here we are again, 26 years later…

The Republican take on the same education bill

Sen. Peeler, in a 'man of action' photo from his website.

Sen. Peeler, in a ‘man of action’ photo from his website.

OK, now Sen. Harvey Peeler has put out a release touting his portion of the combined bill that included Vincent Sheheen’s 4K expansion proposal:

Read to Succeed legislation clears Senate

PEELER PLAN WOULD ENSURE EARLY READING PROFICIENCY

Columbia, SC – April 10, 2014 – The state Senate today passed on third reading the Read to Succeed bill, a plan introduced by Senate Majority Leader Harvey Peeler to help ensure South Carolina’s children are reading on grade level.

Read to Succeed is the first substantive piece of education reform passed by either chamber of the General Assembly in several years, and is premised upon the idea that proficient reading is the foundation of all future learning in school. Peeler’s plan recognizes this, and starts by ending social promotion for third graders who are not yet reading on grade level.

“There’s a reason that the old song about the three R’s puts reading first,” Peeler said. “Children across the state are making it way too far in our school system without having this building block for success in place. It’s time we fix that, so we’re not setting these kids up for failure later in their educational journey.”

Peeler also noted, “I want to specifically thank Governor Haley for efforts to support and promote this initiative. The Governor’s Executive Budget funded $29.5 million for reading coaches, which was a tremendous catalyst to get things clicking this year. By providing a dedicated funding source, she brought focus to the Read to Succeed proposal, and led the House to adopt it in its budget.”

Among the bill’s provisions:

• beginning in 2017-2018 – a 3rd grader not reading on a 3rd grade level will be retained

• there will be a state reading plan and a district reading plan (to be approved by the State Department of Education)

• beginning with school year 2014-2015, provides a readiness assessment for 4K and 5K, as teachers need to know how far along a child is when they first come to school

• gives school districts flexibility to provide summer reading camps, with a minimum of 6 weeks, 4 days per week, and 4 hours per day

• transportation to summer reading camps will be provided at no cost to the parents

• districts who have trouble finding summer reading camp teachers will be allowed to work with other districts – or contact for services

• if a child has been found to need the summer reading camp — at any grade level —  there will be no cost

The legislation also creates a statutory phase-in of a statewide 4-year-old Kindergarten program, which will be implemented based upon availability of funding.

The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

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This is confusing, having these two proposals jammed into one bill. But maybe having the Republican leader’s strong advocacy will help both proposals in the House. Maybe. I haven’t followed this closely enough to know…

Sheheen’s kindergarten initiative moves ahead

Here’s the Sheheen press release:

Sheheen Bipartisan Leadership Moves 4k Forward for At-Risk Kids

 

Columbia, SC – Today, Sen. Sheheen’s seven-year-long effort to implement universal 4-year-old kindergarten took yet another step forward as the Senate passed a bill to further expand coverage to all at-risk children in South Carolina.

 

“Early childhood education is key to improving the quality of education for our students, and I am proud that we’re taking this next important step forward,” said Sen. Sheheen. “We know that the earlier you invest in a child’s education, the better equipped that child is for success and the more bang for the buck the taxpayers get — that’s a recipe for success for South Carolina. We can make great changes for the people of South Carolina, all it takes is leadership and hard work to get things done.”

 

In a win for bipartisan leadership, Democrats and Republicans supported Sen. Sheheen’s proposal to expand 4-year-old kindergarten once again today. Last year, Senator Sheheen worked across party lines last year to expand pre-kindergarten programs to 17 additional counties around the state, helping an estimated 8,400 more 4-year-olds gain access to kindergarten this year.

 

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And here’s the news story.

This is kind of a big deal. I was sort of surprised it didn’t get bigger play. The paper led with meaningless Kulturkampf “referenda” on the Republican and Democratic primary ballots, and this was relegated to halfway down the page on the Metro front.

Of course, it has a long way to go to become law — and to get funded. So there’s that to justify the paper’s not getting excited…

4K

 

Some good news out of the Legislature — UNANIMOUS passage of ‘Emma’s Law’

Emma's

It took an unspeakable tragedy involving a particularly sympathetic victim, and a huge public lobbying effort, but on Wednesday the House acted unanimously to pass “Emma’s Law,” which requires people found to have driven with a blood-alcohol level of .15 or more to blow into an ignition interlock device in order to start a car in the future.

(A small quibble from a crusty old editor: I had to skim down to the 19th paragraph of the news story this morning to be reminded what the law does. I suppose that’s a testament to how compelling the human-interest angle is, but still. That was kind of key. Sorry, John, but I had to say something.)

For those of us who get weary of the Legislature’s fecklessness when it comes to getting commonsense legislation passed, this should be gratifying. The public will was clear, and for once the usual excuses not to act fell away. It would be wonderful to see more such action on other things South Carolina needs.

Wouldn’t it be great to see other no-brainer legislation — such as Medicaid expansion, which would have cost SC nothing for three years, and only 10 percent of the total cost thereafter — pass this way, without all the partisan nonsense stopping it dead? Think of all the Emmas who would have received potentially life-saving healthcare — a measure that would come in time, rather than far too late.

But if you’re against Medicaid expansion, I’m sure you can think of other things that should pass this easily, but don’t. You know I have a list; many of you do, too.

That said, let’s celebrate this victory for good sense and public safety stewardship. Let’s celebrate the victory we have.

Conservation voters want you to know they’re all for the solar bill

This release came in a little while ago:

Friends,

Yesterday, the Senate Judiciary Committee cleared the path for the state legislature to give us the sun with solar energy legislation.

The vote was 19-1 in favor, which is unheard of for a piece of legislation like this and a testament to the hard work of our negotiators and a resolve by all the stakeholders to find consensus. As for the sole vote against, we can only assume that the legislator had his judgment temporarily blocked by the bright glare of the sun.

Because the legislation is currently under attack by solar industry groups from out of state, we want to be clear: we wholeheartedly support this bill. We hope this is the beginning of a new era in energy independence for South Carolinians.

Thank you for being a supporter of solar in South Carolina. We still need your help to push this legislation through the Senate and House and to Governor Haley’s desk. The Senate takes its first vote on S.536 this week. Learn more about this issue and contact your elected officials to encourage them to vote YES. To contact your legislator click HERE and just type in your address.

Once S.536 gets through the Senate it moves to the House, so let’s keep up the “heat” to assure that South Carolina’s brightest days are ahead.

Thank you for all you do.

Sincerely

Shawn Drury
Field Director, CVSC

I thought it interesting that the out-of-state industry group is headed by Barry Goldwater. Junior. If he manages to pose a problem to passage of the bill, maybe CVSC could do an advocacy ad featuring a little girl and a daisy

ALL of Richland Election Commission should be replaced

This morning, when I read that there was the potential for every member of the Richland County election commission to be replaced, I wrote on Twitter, “And all five SHOULD be replaced.”

Rep. Nathan Ballentine both favorited and reTweeted my post, so I know I have at least one member of the delegation agreeing with me.

This afternoon, when I got back into town from a business trip to Greenwood, I got a call from a friend, a local businessman who is at the point of retirement, who said he was interested in serving if the delegation was interested in having him. He’s a man who has had a certain success in business, and has been very active in the community. He has no political interests or ambition, and doesn’t want to start playing political games at this stage in life. He’s just concerned about this problem in his community, and is willing to pitch in and help if anyone thinks he can.

In other words, he’s just the kind of person we need serving on the commission.

I called James Smith and asked what the procedure was. I was told he should call the delegation office and get a form to fill out. I passed on the information.

There are at this point about 40 names in the hopper. Here’s hoping that out of the 40, plus the additional ones that will come in now that they’re starting a new filing period, the delegation will find five people willing and able to fix this problem. And that the delegation will actually choose those five…

John Monk’s scoop about Harrell, Wilson, and secrecy

Corey Hutchins has written a piece in Columbia Journalism Review about John Monk’s investigative scoop last week, revealing that Speaker Bobby Harrell has sought a secret court hearing on his proposal to remove Attorney General Alan Wilson from Harrell’s ethics case:

The people’s court?

Will a lone South Carolina judge make a secret decision this week in a closed court? The State leads the push for transparency

CHARLESTON, SC — An investigation of one of the most powerful politicians in this state has turned into a key test of how open the courts here are, with media organizations arguing in print and—they hope—in the courtroom that key legal decisions shouldn’t be made behind closed doors. For more than a year, the state’s Republican House Speaker, Bobby Harrell, has been under investigation for possible misuse of campaign funds and abuse of his public office, though Harrell maintains he has done nothing wrong. In January, South Carolina’s Republican Attorney General, Alan Wilson, sent the case to a state grand jury. Wilson’s office would prosecute the case should it end up at trial, and the situation has been prickly for the two Republicans, with Harrell accusing Wilson of trying to damage him politically. The political intrigue blew up into an open-government concern a week ago, when John Monk of The State newspaper in Columbia, citing unnamed sources, reported that Harrell’s attorneys were secretly seeking a closed-door hearing before a state judge to argue that Wilson should be removed as the prosecutor. The substantive argument for disqualifying Wilson was unclear, Monk reported…

Which reminds me that I meant to say last week, when John’s story appeared, that it’s nice to see the paper allow him the time to do what he’s best at. Instead of routine crime stories, and other general assignment-type stuff.

I say that not to be critical of the newspaper. When your staff has shrunk to the size The State‘s has, due to financial pressures beyond editors’ control, you need every hand you’ve got on the routine stuff. And John pulls his weight on the bread-and-butter stories that must get covered each day.

Which makes it particularly great that he was able to find the time to get this story, which reveals an attempt at secret dealing that John said would be “unprecedented.”

Corey quoted press association attorney Jay Bender as saying:

What happens to our democratic society if newspapers go away? Who’s going to be out there asking these crucial questions and trying to push people in public positions to conduct public business in public view?

What happens, indeed?

I didn’t take the Policy Council’s kind of math in school

We could all identify with the scene from “Peggy Sue Got Married,” in which Peggy Sue, transported back 30 years to her high school algebra class, tells the teacher (when he demands to know why she blew off a test), “Well, uh, Mr. Snelgrove, I happen to know that in the future, I will not have the slightest use for algebra. And I speak from experience.”

Well, today I needed algebra. And not Algebra I or II, but something I learned how to do in Algebra 5 (in Hawaii, they counted by semesters) or Analytical Geometry or Introduction to Calculus. Or maybe full-fledged Calculus. One of those.

I saw this Tweet from our anti-government friends at the SC Policy Council:

There is nothing “conservative” about a budget that’s grown nearly 40% over the past decade. http://bit.ly/1paA3HT  #sctweets

So I immediately tried to calculate what that was annually. I knew it had to be less than 4 percent, but how much less?

I was pretty sure that I once knew how to set up an equation that would give me the answer, but I had no idea how to do it now. (I thought, Is this a “related rates” problem? I seem to remember that phrase vaguely. But no, I don’t think it is…)

So I guessed, trying several numbers that felt about right. And I found that adding 3.4 percent per year for ten years gave me an increase of a little under 40 percent. (I think I did that right.) So I replied to the Policy Council,

Or in other words, about 3.4 percent or so a year. That’s what you’re saying, right?

Now, I’ll grant you that 3.4 percent a year is nothing to sneeze at. That’s a healthy rate of growth, although not alarmingly high to your average observer.

However… I knew that that sounded WAY higher than what we actually experienced in SC over the last year. And I became immediately suspicious that the Policy Council wasn’t talking about state spending at all, but was throwing in increased federal spending — in other words, funds that our conservative Legislature was in no way involved in levying taxes to raise. So I followed the link, and I was right:

While the General Fund has only grown by 1.76 percent (again accounting for inflation), the bulk of budget growth has come from dependence on Other Funds (27.61 percent increase) and Federal Funds (36.77 percent increase). There is nothing “conservative” about an increasing budget, regardless of where the increases are coming from. Indeed, the budget is even less “conservative” now than ever since reliance on federal funds includes the loss of sovereignty by forcing the state to comply with the federal mandates attached to that funding. Moreover, there is nothing conservative about a budget that doesn’t return surplus money back to the taxpayers.

This reminded me of something that I didn’t realize about modern libertarians until I’d been exposed to Mark Sanford for several years.

I used to think that their objection was to paying for growing government. That they just didn’t like paying their taxes. And through the Reagan era and for a couple of decades after, I think that was to a large extent true — the supposed “pain” of paying taxes did indeed seem to lie at the emotional center of anti-government feeling.

But by the time we were done with Sanford’s battle to keep federal stimulus money out of SC, I had fully realized the extent to which the objection wasn’t to spending their money on government — it was to government itself. If a genie from a bottle made the wealth appear from thin air, the Sanford kind of libertarian would object to it being spent on government programs. Because of this quasi-religious belief that government itself, by existing, was an encroachment on the poor, beleaguered libertarian’s “freedom.”

Which reminds us once again that the policy council doesn’t want conservative government at all. It wants our legislators to be classically liberal.

Which is why, even if I remembered everything from every math class I ever took, I wouldn’t come up with the same answers the Policy Council does in trying to quantify “conservatism.”

The Legislature has been consistently “conservative” by the Reagan-era standard. They have held the line on taxes — cutting them at every turn — ever since Republicans first took over the House at the end of 1994. They have tightly contained the growth in funding sources that they control. And they’ve consistently starved essential functions of government to the extent that they’ve been at best marginally effective. (You can see this most dramatically when you look at our transportation infrastructure, but it’s true in the areas of education, law enforcement, public health, prisons, and so forth.)

But no, they haven’t quite shrunk it to the size that they’ve been able to drown it in a bathtub. Yet. And there are interest groups who won’t be happy until they succeed in doing that — no matter where the money is coming from.

What’s in a word? From ‘nullification’ to ‘anti-commandeering’

Somehow, I missed Sen. Tom Davis’ announcement of how he was changing the emphasis of his nullification bill, until about three days later. So I didn’t write about it.

But now it’s been 10 days, and I think we should still at least make note of it, because it’s indicative of a shift of emphasis on the state’s rights front.

You’ll recall that Tom indicated earlier that he was backing away from “nullification,” which I saw as a positive development, since we really don’t need to revisit the discredited ideology of 1832. What Tom did 10 days ago was announce what he’s changing that wording to.

Here’s his release:

BEAUFORT, S.C. – Yesterday afternoon, State Senator Tom Davis (R-Beaufort) filed with the Clerk of the South Carolina State Senate a strike-and-insert amendment for H. 3101, a bill passed by the South Carolina House of Representatives in May 2013 that initially sought to nullify the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA).  Davis was appointed last June by Sen. John Courson, the President Pro Tem of the South Carolina Senate, to chair an ad hoc committee to review H 3101, and the committee subsequently held public hearings in Greenville, Columbia and Charleston.  Davis’ amendment, a copy of which is attached, would slow the spread of the ACA in South Carolina by:

 

  • Invoking the constitutional principle of anti-commandeering
  • Requiring legislative approval for ACA grants and programs
  • Rejecting the optional Medicaid expansion authorized by the ACA
  • Prohibiting the creation of a state health-insurance exchange
  • Registering ACA navigators with the state Department of Insurance

 

“The heart of my amendment is the anti-commandeering section,” said Davis. “The principle is a simple one: The federal government cannot compel a state to use state resources to implement a federal law.  If the ACA is bad law – and I think it is – then South Carolina’s resources should not be used to implement it.”  The principle of anti-commandeering was expressed by the United States Supreme Court in Printz v. United States, 521 U.S. 898 (1997): “The Federal Government may neither issue directives requiring the States to address particular problems, nor command the States’ officers, or those of their political subdivisions, to administer or enforce a federal regulatory program.”

 

Anti-commandeering differs from nullification, in that the latter is a flat refusal by the state to allow a federal law to be enforced within its borders. “My amendment doesn’t say that,” said Davis. “It says that South Carolina will not use its resources to aid and abet in the ACA’s implementation.  It really boils down to this: Why should we spend state money to implement a bad federal law?”

 

Other sections of Davis’ amendment would do the following: codify last year’s decision by South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley to neither seek an ACA-authorized expansion of the Medicaid population nor create a state health-insurance exchange; require public entities that want to apply for ACA grants to justify the application in hearings open to the public and to obtain legislative approval prior to seeking them; and protecting South Carolinians from unscrupulous practices by navigators who are paid by the federal government to enroll people in ACA health-insurance exchanges.

 

“Ultimately,” Davis said, “it is up to the United States Congress to repeal the ACA.  In the meantime, though, the states have the power and the duty to push back, and this is a way of doing that.”

 

The South Carolina State Senate is expected to begin debate on H 3101 next Tuesday.

 

 

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And here’s a link to the amendment.

This strikes me as less a move away from extreme aims than a move toward strategic pragmatism. Which sounds like it would be good — whenever pragmatism even slightly displaces ideology, it tends to sound good to me — but I suppose one could see it as a glass-half-empty thing as well, in terms of getting more practical about achieving extreme aims.

But let’s be glass-half-full as well. At least Tom is acknowledging that states can’t nullify acts of the federal government. “Anti-commandeering,” even though the term suggests something local luminaries might have come up with during the Federal occupation of SC after the Recent Unpleasantness, makes a somewhat more modest assumption — that the feds can’t set states’ agendas or priorities, or tell them how to spend their resources.

The intended effect, however, is the same — “We don’t have to do what you goddamnyankees are telling us to do.”

Although Tom himself wouldn’t put it that way.

This is not a totally improvised fallback position, by the way. If you Google it, you’ll see “anti-commandeering” used on websites like tenthamendmentcenter.com/.

‘Stand Your Ground’ asserted in high school stabbing

Don’t know whether you’ve seen this yet today:

LEXINGTON, SC — An attorney for the 18-year-old former Lexington High School student accused of stabbing to death a student at a rival school said Thursday his client will seek to invoke South Carolina’s “Stand Your Ground” law and not face murder charges.

At a bond hearing Thursday morning before Circuit Judge William Keesley, attorney Todd Rutherford said Kierin Dennis was in “fear for his life” and a “victim” rather than the aggressor in the death of Dutch Fork High School senior Da’Von Capers on Feb. 17 following a tension-filled high school basketball game between their two schools….

You may have last seen Rep. Rutherford in court action defending Rep. Ted Vick against a DUI charge, saying that the reason his client was walking so unsteadily was that he had a rock in his shoe. That made The Daily Mail. (OK, that’s the second time today the Mail has been invoked on this blog. It’s a steady job, but I want to be a paperback writer…)

Rep. Ted Vick calls it quits

This just in:

Rep. Ted Vick will not seek 6th term in SC House
 
Chesterfield, SC – State Rep. Ted Vick announced on Friday that he will not seek a 6th term in the South Carolina General Assembly.  Vick has served as a State Representative of Chesterfield and Lancaster for the past ten years.

Vick released the following statement regarding his decision:

“It’s time to spend more time and effort on my family.  My twins will be 11 this year and they need me to be more focused on their needs and our time together. My family and I have been talking for months about a new phase in our lives and we are looking forward to it.

It has been a pleasure to serve the people of SC House District 53 and I am honored they allowed me to represent them in Columbia.”  

Vick has chaired the SC House Rural Caucus, SC House Sportsman Caucus, SC House AG subcommittee, SC Wildlife committee, SC House Interstate Cooperation committee, and served as chief Minority Whip for eight years.
 
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Unfortunately for him, you will remember Ted Vick as the SC legislator whose DUI defense (that he was walking that way because he had a rock in his shoe) made the Daily Mail

Davis, other SC senators push to legalize CBD oil

This comes from Tom Davis:

Statement by SC State Senator Tom Davis

 

Earlier today, SC State Senator Tom Davis (R-Beaufort) filed S1035, a bill whose objective is to allow doctors in South Carolina to prescribe Cannabidiol (CBD) oil, a non-psychoactive chemical in cannabis, to South Carolina patients who suffer with intractable epilepsy.  The following state senators have signed onto S1035 as cosponsors: Ray Cleary (R-Georgetown), Katrina Shealy (R-Lexington), Larry Martin (R-Pickens), Larry Grooms (R-Berkeley), Lee Bright (R-Greenville), and Luke Rankin (R-Horry).   A copy of the bill is attached.

 

Davis said he recently became aware of the therapeutic benefits of CBD oil when one of his constituents, Harriett Hilton, told him about her six-year-old granddaughter, Mary Louise Swing, who resides in Mt. Pleasant.  A picture of Mary Louise is attached.  “Harriett told me that Mary Louise sometimes suffers up to 100 epileptic seizures an hour,” Davis said, “and that none of the drugs prescribed by her doctors at the MUSC Epilepsy Center has provided relief.  Harriett also told me that Mary Louise’s caregivers at MUSC believe CBD might help, but that the law prevents them from prescribing it to her.   That is morally wrong, and the purpose of S1035 is to jumpstart a process to remove those legal barriers.”

 

Scientific and clinical studies have confirmed CBD’s potential as an effective treatment for those with intractable epilepsy.  Accordingly, last fall the federal Food and Drug Administration green-lighted clinical studies of CBD as an anti-seizure medication at two research universities in New York and San Francisco.  The drug — manufactured by GW Pharmaceuticals, called “Epidiolex™,” and in the form of a liquid that is administered orally with a syringe dropper – is currently being prescribed by doctors to patients with intractable epilepsy at the NYU School of Medicine and at University of California at San Francisco.

 

“The doctors and medical research facilities at MUSC are every bit as good as those in New York and San Francisco,” Davis said. “I want to legally empower MUSC and its epileptologists to prescribe CBD oil to those with intractable epilepsy like Mary Louise, and S1035 outlines the critical path to making that happen.”

 

S1035 would revise a South Carolina law passed in 1980 titled “The Controlled Substances Therapeutic Research Act of 1980,” which authorized DHEC to engage in clinical studies regarding certain medical therapeutic uses of marijuana. That 1980 law has never been funded and has lain dormant, and Davis says it’s time to breathe life into it.  “I realize that federal law still classifies cannabis as a Schedule I controlled substance,” said Davis. “But as the FDA itself has acknowledged, it makes no sense to ban CBD oil, a non-psychoactive chemical derived from cannabis.  You can’t get high on it and it has no street value, and it makes zero sense to legally prohibit doctors from prescribing something that would relieve their patients’ suffering.”

 

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Of all the legalization arguments I’ve heard and seen, this one makes the most sense.

Open Thread for Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Quick: Where have you seen this picture before?

Quick: Where have you seen this picture before?

Y’all are free to take off on the subject of your choosing.

But if you have trouble coming up with one, here’s one that’s on my mind this morning. Did you see this?

he S.C. House’s main budget-writing panel voted Tuesday to allow counties and cities to buy some state roads.

Now, counties must use 25 percent of the money that they get from the General Assembly to maintain state roads. If the amendment approved Tuesday becomes part of next year’s budget, counties and other local governments instead could use that 25 percent to buy state roads.

Road purchases by counties and local governments could eat into the more than 20,000 miles of state roads that are 2 miles long or shorter, said House and Ways Chairman Brian White, R-Anderson.

The state owns and maintains more than 41,000 miles of roads, the vestige of years of state control over local governments….

The question that immediately comes to mind is, why on Earth would already-strapped local governments want to buy roads from the state?

If state government would set local governments free to raise taxes as they see fit, maybe localities could take on this added burden. Until that happens, local governments would be crazy to take on maintenance of roads that the state can’t seem to come up with the money to take care of. Yeah, this plan supposedly offers a revenue source — a fixed amount grudgingly provided by the state. But if the state can’t get the job done with that money now, how is distributing it to multiple entities, each with its own structure and administrative costs, going to fix the problem?

A strong thread in the narrative of the state’s relationship with local governments, ever since the false promise of Home Rule in the mid-70s, has been to foist off on the locals things the state doesn’t want to pay for, without allowing the locals to come up with their own ways of paying for it. The state gives an unfunded, or underfunded, mandate with one hand, and holds the locals down with the other, greatly restricting how they can raise revenue.

Maybe there’s a good point in this idea somewhere, but I’m missing it.

Sorry. Didn’t mean to go on and on about this. This is an open thread…

SC House Democrats come up with a solid plan for remaining the minority party

This just in from the SC House Democratic Caucus:

SC House Democrats Release 2014 Legislative Priorities
Columbia, SC – South Carolina House Democrats released their list of 2014 legislative priorities on Tuesday. House Democrats will focus on six main issues this session including more funding for education and teacher pay, establishing a state-mandated minimum wage, Medicaid Expansion, road funding, and early voting. The caucus will also propose legislation addressing immigration, workplace discrimination, and higher education this session.
2014 House Democratic Caucus Legislative Priorities:
1. Raise teacher pay to the national average
2. Restore cuts to base-student-cost.
3. Establish a state-mandated minimum wage.
4. Bring home our tax dollars by expanding Medicaid
5. Provide a funding solution to fix our crumbling roads and bridges
6. No-excuse early voting
House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford said 2014 was the year to get serious about funding our priorities.House Dems
“House Democrats are serious about tackling the issues that face our citizens each and every day,” said Rep. Rutherford. “Our hard-working teachers deserve a raise and their students deserve a fair shot at success. We will never be able to be competitive with rest of the country if we continue to underfund our schools and underpay our teachers. Democrats understand that a thriving K-12 school system is directly tied to a thriving economy – we can’t have one without the other.”
“When it comes to finding a stable and responsible funding solution for our crumbling roads, all options must be on the table,” said Rutherford. “And Governor Haley’s ‘money tree’ is neither stable nor responsible.”
“South Carolina is one of only four states in the nation without a state minimum wage,” said Rutherford.” In order to compete in the 21st century economy we have to do away with 19th century ideas that are holding us back. We need to modernize all areas of South Carolina’s economy. We cannot compete in a global world or even with our neighbors without an adequate minimum wage structure.”
“We refuse to be silenced when it comes to bringing our federal tax dollars home to reform and expand Medicaid, said Rep. Rutherford. “Many Republican Governors across the country have put aside partisan politics and embraced Medicaid Expansion. We will continue to ask Governor Haley and House Republicans to stop playing national politics with the health of South Carolinians and to stop wasting our tax dollars on silly political games. Refusing this money is fiscally irresponsible and morally indefensible.”
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Let’s zero in on those six priorities:

  1. Raise teacher pay to the national average
  2. Restore cuts to base-student-cost.
  3. Establish a state-mandated minimum wage.
  4. Bring home our tax dollars by expanding Medicaid
  5. Provide a funding solution to fix our crumbling roads and bridges
  6. No-excuse early voting

There’s nothing wrong most of those goals, taken individually. Except maybe the minimum wage. I’ve always thought the conservatives had a pretty good argument when they say raise the minimum wage, reduce the number of jobs at that end of the spectrum.

Oh, and the early-voting thing. I don’t hold with that at all. People should take voting seriously enough to go to a little trouble to do it. And that includes standing in a queue (unless, of course, you do have a good excuse).

A case can be made for each of the other four items — taken by itself. The fact that this state refuses to accept the extremely generous Medicaid deal the feds are offering is nothing short of insanity. Concentrate on that — something you could get a lot of business leaders to support you on, and you might get somewhere. But include it on this list, and you just sound like you’re offering Obama Light.

When you say “This is it; these are our priorities,” you give political independents, much less wavering Republicans, no reason even to cooperate with you on things you agree on, much less come over to your side.

By saying these are THE things that matter most to you, you’re establishing yourself firmly as the Political Other to the majority of SC voters. You’re saying, We don’t even stop to think about issues; we just buy into whatever the national Democratic Party puts out as this year’s talking points.

Which is not going to get you far in South Carolina.

Out of those six priorities, there is one item that you might be able to get the broad center behind: “Provide a funding solution to fix our crumbling roads and bridges.” And the Dems fail to be bold enough on that to say what that funding solution would be.

You could get, once again, considerable business support for an increase in the gas tax for infrastructure, if you had the guts to stand up for that. With support like that, you could actually expand your support base a bit, and have a real chance of accomplishing one of your priorities. Nikki Haley’s “money tree” is a ridiculously unstable basis for something as important to economic development as our road system. But you give it the same weight as raising the minimum wage, and it’s like you’re just taking marching orders from the national party.

As this list of priorities stands, it is a formula for going nowhere, a sermon to read to the choir, a map to staying in a political rut.

So I’m in Hilton Head, and I’m OK. Honest

That's me, blown up beyond recognition, during the panel discussion.

That’s me, blown up beyond recognition, during the panel discussion.

Concern has been expressed that I haven’t posted since Friday.

But I’m OK. I just had a busy weekend, and a busier Monday.

Today, I drove down to Hilton head to moderate a panel at PRT’s annual Governor’s Conference on Tourism and Travel. Really; it’s a thing. It has a hashtag and everything.

I moderated a panel of legislators talking tourism topics. Panelists were:

  1. Sen. Yancey McGill, D-Williamsburg
  2. Rep. W. Brian White, R-Anderson (chairman of Ways and Means)
  3. Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, D-Orangeburg
  4. Rep. Shannon Erickson, R-Beaufort

Mostly they were all very friendly to tourism. Rep Erickson wasn’t the only one favoring beach renourishment, for instance, even though she was the only one from an entirely coastal district.

If there was a split, it came when we talked about funding for construction and maintenance of roads and bridges.

And it wasn’t a particularly stark division.

The audience was very much against using tourism-directed funds, such as the hospitality and accommodations taxes, for roads. The entire panel expressed sympathy with that position. But when it came to increasing the gasoline tax, only the Democrats — who don’t have to worry about Tea Party opponents in upcoming primaries — were unapologetically for it.

But Chairman White seemed to be willing to go for the idea theoretically, at some unspecified point in the future.

It’s interesting — in my experience, the gas tax is the one tax that conservatives (regular, old-fashioned, Chamber of Commerce-type conservatives, not the latter-day Tea Party kind) are usually willing to back. But it’s a problem for Republicans in SC, after the governor’s promise to veto any such increase.

It’s going to be interesting to see how this issue develops going forward — IF it develops…

Good for Jean Toal, and good for SC for having such a choice

I’m pleased to congratulate Jean Toal on her re-election as chief justice of South Carolina.

And I congratulate South Carolina, because it has just renewed its lease on one of the finest legal minds I’ve encountered in my time in my decades of observing the public sphere in my home state.

Which is not to denigrate Costa Pleicones, who mounted such a creditable challenge to her bid for re-election. He would have been, and still may one day be, a fine chief justice. In the meantime, we are fortunate to have his continued service as an associate justice. Based on everything I’ve ever seen or heard, he would have been my first choice to head the court if we could no longer have Jean Toal in that post.

This way, we don’t have to be deprived on any count. We continue to have the service of two people who are superbly suited to their positions.

It’s weird how this happens sometimes in South Carolina. Too often, elections are about choosing the lesser of two weevils, as Jack Aubrey would have said had he ever actually existed.

But from time to time, we’re offered a choice between two candidates so strong that you hate to have to reject one — you wish we had a way of spreading that wealth around. Some legislative districts seem unfairly blessed in this way. An example of the kind of election I’m talking about was when Anton Gunn challenged Bill Cotty back in 2006. Forced to choose, we endorsed Cotty, but then I was pleased to see Gunn run again and win two years later. (And sorry to see him leave his House seat.)

I’m glad we didn’t have to turn away either of these two candidates.

Bryan Caskey’s dispassionate analysis of CWP bill

Relax... Bryan says it won't be like this...

Relax… Bryan says it won’t be like this…

Today, I offer you two views of the new bill to allow patrons to carry firearms into bars and restaurants that serve alcohol. There’s Cindi Scoppe’s “Armed, untrained and cruising the bars.” (And I’m not at all convinced she was unaware of the double entendre implication of “cruising,” just to take it to an unexpected level.) Excerpt:

YOU’RE IN A bar in the early morning hours, and there’s a guy across the room who’s drinking heavily, who keeps glaring at you. It’s more than a little unsettling, because you know South Carolina now allows concealed-weapons-permit holders to carry guns into bars. You also know that the Legislature watered down the training requirements when it passed the guns-in-bars provision. And you know that South Carolina has an extremely liberal stand-your-ground law, which allows you to use lethal force if you feel threatened.

So when the drunk across the room suddenly reaches inside his jacket, you pull your own pistol and shoot.

Only you’re not the best aim, so you hit his companion.

And it turns out that he was reaching for his ringing cell phone.

That scenario was described to me a year ago by a Republican senator who was troubled by the obsession of some of his colleagues with lifting the state’s restriction on carrying concealed weapons into establishments that sell alcohol. Clearly, his scenario won’t play out every day once the guns-in-bars legislation becomes law. (The bill still must be signed by the governor, and she can’t do that until a ratification session, which can’t happen until at least next week because the Legislature is taking the week off due to the possibility of snow.) It won’t happen every month, and probably not every year. But it’s not much of a stretch to imagine it could happen once or twice….

And then there’s our own Bryan Caskey, who seems to have hit his stride as a blogger with this topic, combining his knowledge of the law and his love and respect for guns (and rifles, too, I assume). He reports via email:

On Friday I got my post up about the CWP bill, and boy, did it take off, traffic-wise. I normally get a couple hundred hits on my whole blog during an active day, but my CWP bill post got over 300 hits alone…and counting. What’s more amazing to me is that the post has received 51 “likes” via the Facebook button. I think my record for “likes” on a post is maybe 2. For my blog to penetrate to Facebook, someone else has to pick it up, since I don’t use Facebook.

 

Pageviews is one thing, but having someone hit that “like” button on Facebook is different – it requires actual clicking interaction from the reader than simply doing nothing. Anyway, just thought I’d pass that along and toot my own horn a little.

As always, feel free to link or disregard.

And of course, I prefer to link. Good for Bryan. Basically, he was dissatisfied with reporting on the bill itself, and decided to provide a detailed, dispassionate analysis. He did so quite well. Just as he says he learned a good deal from the 8-hour CWP course that would no longer be required under this bill (which he thinks is a bad thing about the bill), I learned a good bit from his post.

He saw good and bad in the bill — but neither as much good as most gun lovers would like, nor as much bad as those of us who say, Yeah, that’s just what was missing in SC — a new law saying its OK to pack heat in bars (people like Cindi, and to some extent me) — think.

Here’s the weirdest aspect, to me. After explaining that the bill would still allow bar and restaurant owners to declare their establishments gun-free zones by posting signs, Bryan adds this:

Additionally, even if the bar or restaurant doesn’t post the sign, they can still request that any particular person carrying concealed leave on a case-by-case basis. If that person refuses to leave, same penalty as above. So if you’re a bar or restaurant, you can either chose to have an entirely gun free zone, or a selectively gun free zone….

Yeahhhh… I’m just trying to imagine a bar owner with the cojones to carry that off. Think about it — the only time a proprietor might intervene in such a manner is when there’s a tense situation, right? You know, the kind where he goes, “Well, normally I’d allow guns (hence no sign), but THIS guy’s worrying me right now…” The guy’s packing heat, he’s apparently losing it, and you’re going to change the rules on him now? If Gary Cooper, or better yet Wyatt Earp, came back to life and opened a bar in Five Points, maybe. But I don’t know who else would manage that.

Anyway, Bryan’s post is helpful and informative. I recommend it. And he now has 86 “likes” on Facebook.

2014 Winter Weather Wimp Award goes to… SC Legislature

Aiee! A snowflake! Run away; run away! /Flickr photo by Pen Waggener

Aiee! A snowflake! Run away; run away! /Flickr photo by Pen Waggener

Dang, I hate it when this happens!

This morning over breakfast, I saw a Tweet that said the Legislature was canceling the whole week’s sessions because of “the possibility of snow,” or “the probability of inclement weather,” or something along those lines.

So on my way to my laptop, I came up with Winter Weather Wimp Award, and I dug the alliteration (especially that sneaky last “W” in “Award”), and I couldn’t wait to sit down, go grab that Tweet, and mercilessly mock it.

And I can’t find it. Either I misremembered it, or someone realized how ridiculous it sounded and took it down.

But in any case, the Legislature is shutting down for the whole week, even though not a flake has fallen.

So I’m giving them the award anyway. They earned it. And there was plenty of competition. Why, even the U.S. Army has surrendered at the threat of a flake — most of Fort Jackson will be closed.

And to think, just over 69 years ago (wow — has it been that long?), the U.S. Army was living in frozen foxholes in the Ardennes during the coldest European winter on record, and a previously unsuspected German army just rolled right over the 106th Infantry Division (capturing both my father-in-law and Kurt Vonnegut)… but did the Army quit? No. They cut off the advance and knocked the remaining Nazis right back into Germany, fighting them and the ice and snow at the same time.

That’s when men were men, even with frozen toes. Of course, I must confess, it was before my time. Me, I’ve got my L.L. Bean snow boots out in the truck, waiting to put them on and go crunching through the snow when it arrives, pretending that I’m hardy and indomitable…