Category Archives: Legislature

Not only was the flag not always there; neither was the monument

monument

I say that not to suggest moving the monument. I just want to emphasize that the folks out there muttering darkly about how we’re trying to “erase history” by moving that flag that was put up in 1962 generally don’t know a lot about our postwar history.

I wrote this column to run on July 2, 2000 — one day after the old naval jack was removed from the dome, and the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia was placed behind the Confederate flag monument.

My purpose in writing it was to let it be known from the very moment of the compromise, that I was not satisfied with it, and saw it as by no means a permanent solution. There was very little appetite for continued debate on the subject at this moment, and I was acutely aware of that. People were flag-weary. But while most folks were celebrating, I wanted to signal that this wasn’t settled, and foreshadow the debate to come…

Here’s the column:

MONUMENT WASN’T ALWAYS IN CURRENT PROMINENT LOCATION

State, The (Columbia, SC) – Sunday, July 2, 2000

Author: BRAD WARTHEN , Editorial Page Editor

An important thing to remember about monuments: They aren’t set in stone.

OK, bad choice of words. They are set in stone, or concrete, or something along those lines. But that doesn’t mean that they can’t be modified or moved.

Take, for instance, the Confederate Soldier Monument on the State House grounds. For many of us who wanted the Confederate flag moved off the dome, that was probably the least desirable place of all to put its replacement. Unfortunately, if the flag or one like it was going to fly anywhere, that was probably the most logical location.

Why? Because so many groups that advocated moving the flag said to put it instead in a more historically appropriate setting. And what more appropriate place could there be to put a soldier’s flag than alongside the monument to the soldiers who served under it? It’s just too bad that that monument is in the most visible location on the grounds. There’s nothing we can do about that, is there?

Well, here’s a fun fact to know and tell: The state’s official monument to Confederate soldiers was not always in that location. In fact, that isn’t even the original monument.

I had heard this in the past but just read some confirmation of it this past week, in a column written in 1971 by a former State editor. When I called Charles Wickenberg, who is now retired, to ask where he got his facts, he wasn’t sure after all these years. But the folks at the S.C. Department of Archives and History were able to confirm the story for me. It goes like this:

The original monument, in fact, wasn’t even on the State House grounds. It was initially erected on Arsenal Hill, but a problem developed – it was sitting on quicksand. So it was moved to the top of a hill at the entrance of Elmwood cemetery.

The monument finally made it to the State House grounds in 1879. But it didn’t go where it is now. It was placed instead “near the eastern end of the building, about 60 feet from the front wall and 100 feet from the present site,” Mr. Wickenberg wrote.

But another problem developed: The monument kept getting struck by lightning. “The last stroke” hit on June 22, 1882, and demolished the stone figure.

At this point, if I were one of the folks in charge of this monument, I might have started to wonder about the whole enterprise. But folks back then were made of sterner stuff, and they soldiered on, so to speak.

At this point a new base was obtained, with stirring words inscribed upon it, and “a new statue, chiseled in Italy,” placed at the top. On May 9, 1884, the new monument was unveiled and dedicated in the same location in which we find it today.

So we see that the folks who lived in a time when “the Recent Unpleasantness” was actually recent – and burning in their personal memories – had to try four times before they came up with a way that suited them and their times to honor Confederate sacrifice.

In light of that, why should anyone assume that we’re finished deciding how to remember the Confederacy in our time?

Am I suggesting that we move the monument yet again? Not necessarily. I don’t think anybody’s ready for that battle yet. (Anyway, the Legislature doesn’t meet again until January.)

But I am saying that alternatives to the present arrangement exist. For instance. . . .

Remember the proposal that came up in the heat of the House debate to put the new Army of Northern Virginia battle flag within the context of a group of flags honoring S.C. veterans of other wars? The plan died partly because the details were sketchy and partly because House leaders didn’t want to consider anything new at that point.

Well after the present arrangement was safely passed and signed, that plan was resurrected – in an improved form – by Sen. John Courson, who had already done so much to bring the compromise to fruition over the past six years.

Sen. Courson’s resolution, co-sponsored by the 19 senators who, like him, are military veterans, would create a commission to “design and establish an appropriate monument to be placed on the grounds of the Capitol Complex to recognize and honor the accomplishments of South Carolina veterans who have served honorably, in peace or war, in any of the five branches of the Armed Forces of the United States of America.”

The monument would consist mainly of the official flags of the U.S. Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard. Thereby all who served our nation – black and white, from the Revolution to Kosovo – would be honored the same way we are honoring those who served the Confederacy.

The plan leaves site selection to the new commission, but Sen. Courson says there is only one place left on the grounds that could easily accommodate such an addition – the same grassy area where the ANV battle flag was raised on Saturday.

The resolution was filed at the last minute and automatically died at the end of the session. But Sen. Courson introduced it anyway to give lawmakers something to think about between now and next January.

So you see, the present arrangement – with the Confederate banner sticking out so conspicuously by itself in a prominent place – really isn’t set in stone, in the metaphorical sense.

Sen. Courson has presented one viable alternative. There are no doubt others.

I was being generous there suggesting Courson’s idea.

The best proposal to emerge from the debates of that year came from Bob Sheheen — the former speaker, and Vincent’s uncle.

He suggested doing away with the physical, cloth flag altogether, and placing a modest bronze monument somewhere on the grounds to say that the flag once flew here over the dome, and giving some historical perspective.

Unfortunately, that proposal was never really given a chance. The infamous compromise came out of the Senate and then-Speaker David Wilkins allowed only one day — one day — for debate, thereby ensuring that no other proposal would have a chance to catch on and win support. Pressed for time, the House just passed the Senate plan, and moved on.

That day was one of the most frustrating of my professional life. This was before blogging, and The State’s online presence was pretty rudimentary. All day, I kept writing different versions of an editorial based on what was happening in the debate, hoping that Wilkins would allow the debate to continue another day, hoping to have some influence on the outcome — hoping for the chance to push for the Sheheen plan or something like it.

But they pushed on late into the evening, and I had to let the page go without any editorial on the subject, since I didn’t know what the facts would be when readers saw the paper in the morning.

So frustrating. Such a missed opportunity…

Those who voted ‘aye,’ and those who voted ‘nay’ on flag

Y’all can get this from various other sources, but it took me a few minutes, so for your convenience, here’s who voted “aye” in the S.C. House on moving toward taking the flag down:

house yea

And here are those who voted “nay,” those who were absent, and those who just did not vote:

house nay

The Senate pass the amendment by a voice vote. The only ones making a point of registering their dissent were:

  1. Lee Bright, R-Spartanburg
  2. Tom Corbin, R-Greenville
  3. Danny Verdin, R-Laurens

People used to say of the eccentricities of the Lowcountry that “there’s something in the water” down there in Charleston. I wonder what they’re drinking in the Upstate…

Today finally IS ‘a great day in South Carolina,’ as we witness a host of miracles in the State House, of all places

the group

Today, the state of South Carolina leaped out into uncharted territory, launching itself from the 19th century right over the troubled 20th, and into the 21st. And it wasn’t even kicking and screaming.

It is, without a doubt, a miracle that today, Gov. Nikki Haley called for the Confederate flag to come off the State House grounds ASAP.

That is HUGE. That alone would have me walking around the State House (as I was just moments ago) saying, “What state am I in? Really, help me: Where am I?”

Today truly IS “a great day in South Carolina.”

NOTHING like this has ever happened in the 28 years that I’ve covered politics and government in South Carolina. Nothing even close to it. What happened today broke all of the rules of what does and does not happen in South Carolina.

Today, the state’s political leadership got together and said, “Hey, let’s just stop all the usual b.s.” Just like THAT (imagine me snapping my fingers)!

But I didn’t witness just one miracle today beneath the dome, with a storm raging outside and thunder crashing. Really, it’s impossible to count how many I saw. I’ll use a biblical accounting method and say seventy times seven. Or more than the stars in the sky…

Let’s just count a few:

  • Nikki Haley, elected as the darling of the Tea Party, standing there and saying “It’s time to move the flag from the capitol grounds,” and saying that if the Legislature doesn’t do it while it’s already here in town (through a proviso, or somehow amending the sine die resolution), she’s going to call them right back to deal with it. And meaning it. Wow. God bless her.
  • Joe Riley, freighted with grief as mayor of a Holy City in mourning, standing there right with her and not having to say a thing because Nikki Haley is saying what needs to be said. So that second march won’t be necessary, Mr. Mayor.
  • Mariangeles Borghini, Emile DeFelice and Tom Hall, the regular folks who pulled together the impromptu, haphazard rally Saturday, standing there witnessing it. Afterwards, I had to go over to Ms. Borghini, a recent immigrant from Argentina, and say, “You know, you don’t normally get what you ask for this fast in South Carolina.” But… maybe you do, now. Who knows? Everything we all knew about SC politics just went out the window. And you know that second rally they’re planning on the flag for July 4th? It just turned into a celebration, instead of another small step on a long, sweaty road.
  • Jim Clyburn standing at her right hand, in total agreement with her on the most divisive issue that I’ve dealt with in my decades in South Carolina.
  • Tim Scott and Lindsey Graham, who within the last few days was mouthing the usual stuff about how we had to understand that for some folks it’s about heritage, standing there on her other side. Mark Sanford, who was saying the same stuff a couple of days back, standing behind them.
  • Sen. John Courson, long the Confederate flag’s best friend in the Senate (except when Glenn McConnell was around), standing there with all of them. (Mind you, John has always been the most reasonable voice of that caucus, but he’s still the guy with multiple Confederate flags in his office, and is sort of the embodiment — the sincere embodiment — of the “honor the war dead” argument that has kept the flag up.)
  • South Carolina Republican Party Chairman Matt Moore and Democratic Party Chairman Jaime Harrison — one white, the other black, sort of like their parties — standing literally shoulder-to-shoulder and grinning without reservation, in complete agreement with each other on the issue that has most surely divided them since we turned into a two-party state, since long, long before either of these young men even knew what Democrats and Republicans were. Moore, who was mouthing the usual “it’s not the time” stuff a couple of days ago, now saying, “We can’t change our past, but we can heal our future.” And Harrison, who can usually be counted on for the usual “if it’s Republican, it’s bad” stuff, telling me “I have nothing but respect for Gov. Haley. She’s doing the right thing, and she’s doing it for the right reasons.”
  • Mind you, Haley and Sanford and Graham and Scott and Courson and Matt Moore all represent the Republican Party that essentially came to power on the issue of keeping the flag up. The GOP took over the House after the 1994 election. The party got an unprecedented turnout in its primary that year in part by, in the national year of the Angry White Male, putting a mock “referendum” question on the primary ballot asking whether the flag should stay up. One of the very first things the party caucus pushed through after assuming control of the House was legislation that put the flying of the flag into law, so that no governor or anyone else but the Legislature could ever take it down. (You might say, why bring that up at such a wonderful moment. Here’s why: To let you know how big a miracle this is.)
  • Democrats and Republicans who have spent the day working sincerely together in multiple meetings today, not to posture and get the other side to vote against something so it can be used in the next election or to raise money, but to solve an issue that cuts right through the heart of South Carolina, and defines the differences between them. I asked House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford whether he has EVER been in such extraordinary meetings as he has been in today, with leaders of both parties determined to reach agreement on such a heavy, politically impossible issue and put it behind us for good. For a second, he almost reverted to the usual, starting to say, not while this governor has been in office… But I said, no, I mean EVER. And he said, no. He has never experienced anything like this on any issue.
  • Drivers going past the flag on Gervais and not just honking their horns in celebration at the flag coming down, but playing monotonal tunes on their horns, a regular symphony of honking. Such giddiness is as unprecedented as all the rest of us. It’s almost like our local version of the Berlin Wall coming down.
  • J.T. McLawhorn, president of the Columbia Urban League, telling me, “Things can change in a moment.” Meaning ANYTHING, no matter how intractable, no matter how long-lived. In South Carolina, the most change-resistant state in the union.
  • The way the sentiment that it was too soon to talk about such a hairy political issue, when we haven’t buried the first victim of the Charleston massacre, had just evaporated. Rep. James Smith, D-Richland, told me that Clem Pinckney “himself would say, ‘Do not lose this moment.'” This was, as the governor had said, the way to “honor the nine blessed souls that are now in heaven.”
  • The way the entire world was there to see it and hear it. And yeah, I’m sure that’s one huge reason we’re seeing this happen so quickly — was best to come out and say this now, while the world was watching, so that everyone would know of the miracle that had happened in South Carolina. But it was still something to see. I estimate this media crowd was about twice the size of the one that witnessed Mark Sanford’s public confession upon his return from Argentina six years ago this month.
  • To hear the booming voices of people spontaneously crying out, “Thank you, governor!” as she left the podium. (Presumably, those were the non-media types, and there were a lot of them on hand.) And no, I don’t think that was planned. It sounded heartfelt to me. Just like the applause that interrupted the governor, and which she had to wait for the end of, after she spoke the fateful words, “It’s time to move the flag from the capitol grounds.”
  • The way nobody was hedging, or qualifying, or talking about half-measures. In the state that normally doesn’t change, and when it does it does so in the tiniest, hesitating, gradualistic baby steps, the governor was like, Let’s just go ahead and take it down, and lawmakers of both parties were like, Yeah, let’s, and the rest of us were like Keanu Reeves, going whoaaaa

How did we get here, and so fast? I don’t think we can explain it in earthly terms. A friend who gave me a ride back to the office after the miracle said she felt like maybe, just maybe, it started when those family members stood in that courtroom the other day, looked at the (alleged) brutal killer of their precious loved ones, and forgave him. I nodded. Maybe so. Maybe that was the beginning of some sort of chain reaction of grace, which led to this.

I don’t know.

Yeah, a lot has to happen before this thing is done. But I think it’s going to happen. I asked James Smith whether he thought, based on his interactions with those involved, the consensus to act was solid. He nodded: “Rock solid,” he said. I believe him.

Graham to stand with Haley, call for flag to come down

As I hoped, it looks like Lindsey Graham will be there with Haley asking for the flag to come down:

(CNN)South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham will call Monday for the removal of the confederate flag from state grounds, a source familiar with the decision told CNN.

Graham, a 2016 presidential candidate, will make his announcement during a press conference with South Carolina’s Republican governor, Nikki Haley, at 4 p.m. Monday.

He will call for the flag to come down and be put in a museum….

Good.

Speaker Lucas calls for ‘swift resolution’ on flag

I was so excited about the reports of what Nikki Haley might do today that initially I didn’t see this:

As the ever-growing chorus of South Carolina and United States citizens calling for the removal of the Confederate Flag from the State House grounds gets louder, one of the state’s top legislators has called for “swift resolution” on the issue.

House Speaker Jay Lucas in a statement released Monday morning said the 2000 compromise that removed the flag from atop the State House dome and raised it in front of the Confederate Memorial on Gervais Street was “ultimately solved by compromise.”

“Wednesday’s unspeakable tragedy has reignited a discussion on this sensitive issue that holds a long and complicated history in the Palmetto State,” Lucas said. “Moving South Carolina forward from this terrible tragedy requires a swift resolution of this issue.”

Legislators are boxed in currently due to parliamentary procedure, so introducing a bill to remove the flag is not currently possible unless a special session is called….

Whatever these state leaders do going forward on this, let’s not forget the courage of Republican Reps. Doug Brannon and Gary Clary, who stepped out on this first.

What Brannon said as to why he plans to file a bill to lower the flag bears repeating:

“I just didn’t have the balls for five years to do it,” Brannon said. “But when my friend was assassinated for being nothing more than a black man, I decided it was time for that thing to be off the State House grounds,”

Reports: Nikki Haley to call for flag to come down

Gov. Nikki Haley's official photo, in which she poses with the only two flags South Carolina needs.

Gov. Nikki Haley’s official photo, in which she poses with the only two flags South Carolina needs.

It’s now being reported, without attribution so far, that at a 4 p.m. press conference today, Nikki Haley will reveal that she is working on a plan to bring down the Confederate flag that flies on the State House grounds.

Her office, which announced the presser, is not confirming what it’s about.

If she does this, it will be a mountain-come-to-Mohammed moment. It will be the most sensational news conference in South Carolina since Mark Sanford returned from Argentina. But in a good way.

If Nikki Haley, of all people, steps out and leads on this, the chances of a real solution to this absurd five-decade-old insanity could finally be at hand. No, she has no power to do anything about the flag — directly. The Legislature, in its infinite foolishness, put the flying of the flag into law years ago, and only a two-thirds majority of both houses can bring it down.

But if the governor steps out and becomes the lightning rod on the issue, it will give the Republicans who run the State House the political cover to act. Very few of them seem to care about the flag one way or the other, but most of them live in fear of what could happen to them in a Republican primary if they step out and do the right thing.

The governor providing leadership on the flag would be just what they need to take the heat off them.

If the reports are true, this will be HUGE, and a wonderful moment in SC history.

As sudden and surprising as this will be, there would be good reasons for her to do this, from a pragmatic political position. Her electoral career in SC is over. If she has ambitions on the national level, this would be THE most powerful selling point she could have. As for her job right here and now, as a governor who has built her rep on economic development, there is no single thing she could do more likely to shout to business, “Locate HERE!”

But as easy as it is for me to say all that, for her it’s bound to be a hugely scary moment. So IF she’s really going to do this, she deserves full credit for stepping out.

We’ll see at 4…

A monster is on the loose in South Carolina

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UPDATE: Suspect has been captured.

Again, South Carolina is leading national news for a horrible reason, and this time it’s even worse than the Walter Scott shooting. In fact, it’s nine times as bad.

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Dylann Storm Roof

Police are giving the monster a name: Dylann Storm Roof. They say he sat with people engaged in prayer for an hour before announcing that people like them had to go, and opened fire.

This time, one of the dead had a familiar name: Sen. Clementa Pinckney, the pastor. And the church where the shooting occurred, Emanuel AME, looms large in our history, both proudly and tragically.

There is so much that we have yet to learn about what happened exactly, but I thought I’d best go ahead and put up this post for your comments as we await more…

Joel Lourie on the ‘toxic’ atmosphere in the Senate

You know, I quit doing “The Brad Show” — thereby devastating my millions of fans, who had to console themselves with “Game of Thrones” instead — because it just got to be too much of a physical hassle to produce, especially after the guys who used to shoot it for me moved out of the ADCO building.

But lately I’ve been thinking… I still have my iPhone. Why not go back to the kind of guerrilla video reportage for which this blog was once famous — quick-hitting, spur-of-the-moment clips on the news of the day?

So today, I was talking with Sen. Joel Lourie after a Community Relations Council luncheon at which he and Sen. Katrina Shealy had just been honored with CRC’s annual Hyman Rubin Distinguished Service Award, and he happened to mention that the atmosphere in the Senate chamber was as toxic as at any time he could remember. Here’s what he was referring to.

So, thinking with the blinding speed to which my readers are accustomed, I asked whether he wanted to say that on video. He said no. Then he said yes.

So here ya go.

Since we spoke briefly about roads, I thought I’d call your attention to Cindi Scoppe’s piece today describing what real roads reform would look like. And of course, it’s a classic with its roots deep in the Power Failure series: Turn the roads over to local governments, and leave the local governments alone to fund them as they see fit. A solution that, of course, strikes right at the heart of the Legislative State, which is why nothing like this has ever come close to happening.

If we’re gonna dream about what really ought to happen, we might as well dream big.

Oh, and on the subject of the budget, which Sen. Lourie also mentioned, here’s another good column from Cindi casting doubt on Joel’s man Hugh Leatherman to deliver on that…

Speaker Lucas’ assessment of a successful year

… for the House, that is. Thanks to the traditional intransigence of the Senate, little got done for South Carolina. There was this, of course…


… for which I congratulate lawmakers — and The Post and Courier.

But not much else.

Still, as Lynn Teague pointed out earlier today, Lucas did a good job turning around a body traumatized by the last days of Bobby Harrell.

He’s right to be proud of his record this year, which he describes thusly:

Speaker Lucas Statement on Sine Die

House Adjourns Regular Legislative Session for 2015

(Columbia, SC) – House Speaker Jay Lucas (District 65-Darlington) released the following statement after the House adjourned Sine Die. By law, the South Carolina General Assembly is required to complete its legislative business by 5pm on the first Thursday in June.  The adopted Sine Die resolution recognizes the completion of business, but allows the House of Representatives to return in the coming weeks to debate and consider gubernatorial vetoes, conference reports and budgetary matters.Lucas, Jay

At the beginning of the year, Speaker Lucas outlined four priorities for this year’s legislative session: (1) Infrastructure reform, (2) Ethics reform, (3) Criminal domestic violence reform, and (4) Education reform.

“The House of Representatives kept our promises to the people of South Carolina and we did everything we said we would do. We overwhelmingly passed a three-part roads bill that reforms the Department of Transportation and puts forth a responsible plan to fix our roads. We rallied around domestic violence survivors by working with the Senate to pass a bill that protects our citizens from senseless abuse.  We reformed our ethics laws to restore public confidence in elected officials. And we continue to work on an education improvement package so that every child in every part of our state will be given access to a twenty-first century education. The progress made on these issues is a reflection of the steadfast efforts our members put forth over the last nine months.

“Based on the Senate’s inability to address a majority of these issues, it is my hope that our colleagues in the other Chamber will take action on these items next year. The people of South Carolina do not want these issues to fall through the cracks due to inaction.” 

Ex-Rep. Nelson Hardwick just became an unperson

Wow, that was quick.

This was just reported:

Hardwick-NelsonState Rep. Nelson Hardwick, R-Horry, resigned Tuesday evening in the middle of his sixth term after an investigation by the House Speaker’s office.

Hardwick was accused to sexually harassing a female House staff member, accorrding to four lawmakers who did not want to be identified because of the sensitivity of the investigation….

Not knowing him, I went to look him up… and he had already been removed from the list of members on the legislative website.

Winston Smith moved quickly on this one. One day a lawmaker, the next day… you are an unperson.

Speaker Lucas had this to say:

“I received Representative Hardwick’s resignation letter and accepted his decision to step down from the South Carolina House of Representatives,” Speaker Lucas stated. “As Speaker, maintaining the integrity and public trust of this Body is my highest priority.  Any inappropriate activity related to the men, women, and staff that serve in the House Chamber has been and will continue to be investigated thoroughly and expeditiously.  Each of us have been entrusted with the opportunity to serve the public and that trust must never be called into question.”

The Senate, as is its wont, resists reforming DOT

While I think it’s great the Senate is trying to come up with even more money to fix our roads, I have to agree with Speaker Lucas on this one:

State senators passed their own version of a plan Tuesday to raise money to repair the state’s crumbling roads, setting up a crash with their counterparts in the S.C. House.

The collision came as the Senate Finance Committee voted 14-8 to replace a House road-repair plan with a Senate proposal. The Senate plan would raise more money for roads — roughly $800 million a year versus $427 million — but also increase the gas tax more — by 12 cents a gallon versus 10 cents….

House Speaker Jay Lucas, R-Darlington, said he was “extremely disappointed” the Senate committee did not debate the various parts of the House bill, instead substituting its own proposal.

Lucas called the House’s 87-20 passage of its own roads plan two weeks ago a “courageous vote,” adding senators focused only on “dollar signs,” not the other reforms in the House plan.

State Rep. Gary Simrill, the York Republican who sponsored the House bill, said the resounding House vote — enough to withstand a promised Haley veto — was because that proposal also included reforming the State Infrastructure Bank and S.C. Department of Transportation.

“The Senate bill … has nothing for reform. It has nothing for right-sizing DOT,” Simrill said. “It is just a funding (proposal).”…

Funding the roads without fixing DOT is almost as bad as reforming DOT without funding the roads — as Cindi pointed out today.

We need to do both, and we’ve needed to do both for a long, long time. It’s time lawmakers move away from the past two decades of failing to do either.

At long last, the House stands up to the governor on roads

Finally, the House has done what it always had to do if it were to act rationally on financing road construction — raise the tax designed for that purpose, which had been kept ridiculously low:

The South Carolina House passed a bill Wednesday to pay to repair the state’s crumbling roads by increasing the state’s gas tax by 10 cents a gallon.

The proposal, which would raise roughly $427 million a year, passed 87-20, a large enough margin in the GOP-dominated House to survive a veto threat by Republican Gov. Nikki Haley.

State Rep. Gary Simrill, R-York, said the “strong vote” shows House members are serious about fixing S.C. roads….

Here’s hoping House members continue to stand up against the governor’s nonsensical stance, and that the Senate acts reasonably as well.

So far, the governor has reacted in a predictable manner, demagoguing on Facebook rather than engaging lawmakers.

Body camera bill advances (too late for Walter Scott)

Just thought I’d share this report from John Monk with y’all:

A bill that would fund and require body cameras for all South Carolina police officers was passed unanimously out of a SC senate committee Wednesday morning.

The bill is now headed to the full judiciary committee for another hearing next Tuesday.

The body camera bill was introduced in December by Sen. Gerald Malloy, D-Darlington. It already has had three hearings this year in a Senate Judiciary Committee subcommittee led by Sen. Brad Hutto, D-Orangeburg.

The bill also has bipartisan backing, with co-sponsors including Sen. Marlon Kimpson, D-Charleston, and Sen. Joel Lourie, D-Richland, as well as Sen. Paul Thurmond, R-Charleston, and Sen. Larry Grooms, R-Berkeley….

Would a body camera have prevented the Walter Scott shooting from happening? Yes, I think it would have…

Should college athletes get paid (more than the generous compensation they already receive, that is)?

If the ancient Greeks had allowed their athletes to be paid, maybe they could have afforded some clothes.

If the ancient Greeks had allowed their athletes to be paid, maybe they could have afforded some clothes.

One or two of y’all really appreciated Bryan raising sports topics in my absence, so here goes: Should college athletes get paid?

Here’s the summary section of the bill that would provide for that:

A BILL TO AMEND CHAPTER 101, TITLE 59 OF THE 1976 CODE, RELATING TO COLLEGES AND INSTITUTIONS OF HIGHER LEARNING GENERALLY, BY ADDING ARTICLE 5, TO PROVIDE THAT PARTICIPATING INSTITUTIONS IN THIS STATE SHALL ANNUALLY AWARD STIPENDS TO STUDENT ATHLETES WHO PARTICIPATE IN AN INTERCOLLEGIATE SPORT AND MAINTAIN A GOOD ACADEMIC STANDING DURING THE PREVIOUS YEAR, TO PROVIDE CONDITIONS FOR RECEIPT OF STIPENDS, AND TO DEFINE NECESSARY TERMS; TO AMEND CHAPTER 101, TITLE 59 OF THE 1976 CODE, RELATING TO COLLEGES AND INSTITUTIONS OF HIGHER LEARNING GENERALLY, BY ADDING ARTICLE 6, TO PROVIDE THAT PARTICIPATING INSTITUTIONS IN THIS STATE SHALL CREATE A STUDENT ATHLETE TRUST FUND AND FUND THE TRUST WITH A PERCENTAGE OF THE INTERCOLLEGIATE SPORT GROSS REVENUE GENERATED FROM CERTAIN SOURCES, TO PROVIDE THAT FOR EACH YEAR A STUDENT ATHLETE MAINTAINS GOOD ACADEMIC STANDING, FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS WILL BE DEPOSITED INTO THE FUND ON HIS BEHALF AND THE TOTAL TRUST FUND AMOUNT MAY NOT EXCEED TWENTY-FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS PER STUDENT ATHLETE; TO PROVIDE THAT AFTER FULFILLMENT OF ALL ACADEMIC REQUIREMENTS FOR GRADUATION AND COMPLETION OF A STATE-APPROVED FINANCIAL LITERACY COURSE, THE PARTICIPATING INSTITUTION SHALL PROVIDE A ONE-TIME PAYMENT TO EACH STUDENT ATHLETE IN THE FULL AMOUNT DEPOSITED IN THE FUND ON THEIR BEHALF, TO PROVIDE CONDITIONS FOR RECEIPT OF THE TRUST FUND PAYMENT, AND TO DEFINE NECESSARY TERMS.

I say no. And when you say that college athletes are providing services worth millions to their schools, and that (even though those on scholarship are provided with a free college education if they are willing and able to take advantage of it) they can easily be exploited, chewed up and spit out by such a system…

Then I say we need to change the system, not the status of the athletes. Step it back from being a big business. Move it back toward something more akin to intramural sports among actual students.

Of course, I know I’m speaking wishfully. This situation arises from a sort of mass psychosis in the general population, a society that for reasons that continue to baffle me places an absurdly high value on the outcomes of games. Actually, not only the outcomes, but on every bit of minutia in any way connected to these games.

And that’s the problem. I admit I don’t know how to change that. But I don’t think paying players is a solution to the problem. Seems to me it would take us even deeper in…

Former lawmaker McMaster charged with burglary

I’m seeing several news reports out there about Joe McMaster, brother of Henry, being arrested and charged with burglary.

Joe McMaster

Joe McMaster

Here’s The State‘s version.

I was struck by the fact that none of the reports so far have mentioned that Joe is not just the brother of a politician. Joe himself served in the Legislature a few years back. He briefly held a House seat — I want to say just one term — before being defeated for re-election by Joel Lourie in 1998.

He represented District 78, the same seat held today by Beth Bernstein.

I wasn’t positive at first that he was the McMaster brother who held the House seat until I saw the mug shot released by the county jail, and thought, yep, that’s Joe. A little worse for wear, mind you, but that’s Joe. (In his defense, I should probably say what the character Ives said when a German remarked negatively on a POW ID photo of him: “I’d like to see one of you under similar circumstances.”)

Anyway, I thought that detail was worth taking note of…

The governor has really crossed a line when she’s managed to provoke Lucas to this extent

middle school

When I saw the above headline this morning, I immediately assumed that the quote came from a Democrat.

Not that most Republicans in the Legislature wouldn’t have been peeved at the governor over her latest outburst. In fact, privately, they would probably be more perturbed than the Dems.

But there’s a protocol to these kinds of things. Most lawmakers of both parties may be ticked off, but the Republican response to their own governor will normally be more muted, in terms of on-the-record comments, while the Democrats will say the over-the-top stuff in an effort to, well, get quoted in a headline. Because there’s no political cost for them in doing so.

So my eyebrows rose considerably when I read this part of the story:

Speaker Lucas took to the House floor Wednesday — flanked by House Majority Leader Bruce Bannister, R-Greenville, and House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford, D-Richland — and called the governor’s remarks unwarranted and unprovoked.

The speaker said the governor’s comments were inappropriate when speaking of lawmakers who include military veterans and working mothers.

“I believe the comments of the governor were below (her) office,” Lucas said. “I believe these are serious times with serious issues, and they demand serious people with serious answers — not name calling, not middle-school insults that serve no purpose but to poison the well.”…

The governor has really outdone herself this time.

We know she never had a good relationship with the former speaker. But he’s gone now, and good riddance. And he’s been replaced by a guy with a reputation for trying hard to work constructively with everyone, including Democrats, and especially with the governor of his own party.

Given Lucas’ reputation, he must have reached the point of thinking things are pretty far gone to have gotten up and said something like that.

Not that he’s wrong. “Middle school insults” is pretty much dead-on. I was thinking just this morning that the way our governor uses social media reminds me of the “slam books” that used to get passed around campus when I was in junior high in New Orleans all those years ago. If you don’t know what a slam book is, boys and girls, it’s like a particularly virulent form of low-tech Facebook. It was a notebook that got passed around, and kids would write things “slamming” their classmates, competing with each other to see who could be the most insulting.

But he must have concluded that things could not be improved by walking down to the governor’s office and having a chat with her. And that, as I say, indicates a pretty bad situation, the kind Strother Martin would decry as “a failure to communicate.”

Which is bad in terms of our chances for sound policy to come out of the State House.

After a couple of years in which not much got done while Bobby Harrell underwent his political Götterdämmerung, I had hoped for a more productive atmosphere in the State House. This does not bode well…

Below you can see and hear the governor making the remarks in question:

Are You Tired of Hearing about Ethics Reform?

A guest-column from Lynn S. Teague

“Brad suggested that I lead a discussion on ethics reform, since I’ve been working on it for three years now. Are you ready to tune this out because you’ve been hearing about it for three years? I am. I’d love to see the General Assembly pass strong reform, so I could sit back and rely on a sensible effective system of ethics requirements and enforcement and devote more of my time to other issues. Alas, so far it hasn’t happened. So I go on at the State House, on behalf of the League of Women Voters of South Carolina. However, as usual in my comments here on Brad’s blog, this post is not an official statement of League positions, but a personal comment.

On-line discussions of ethics reform, whether in mainstream newspaper responses or other media, can usually be counted on to produce comments to the effect that our public officials are all rotten and it is hopeless to try to do anything about it. I wouldn’t have spent the past three years working on this if I agreed. What are we after? We want more information about where our officials get their personal income so that we can evaluate the extent to which it might influence their thinking on public issues. We want more information (any information would be more) about those who donate money to “third party” groups that actively oppose or support candidates. We want the members of the General Assembly to play by the same rules that members of the executive branch and local governments do by integrating them into a system of independent investigation of possible violations by a restructured Ethics Commission. To that some add a whistleblower protection provision, which I would agree is very important and should be passed, although I don’t think it is essential that it happen in the context of a big ethics reform bill.

There are actually many decent honest people in public service in South Carolina, and specifically in our legislature. Many members of the General Assembly have been willing to sit down and talk with reform advocates to find common ground, something we can all live with. There has been a lot of success, embodied in H.3722, sponsored by more than a hundred members of the House of Representatives led by Speaker Jay Lucas, and in S.1, with primary sponsor Senator Larry Martin. Neither proposed bill is my personal ideal, but both are realistic approaches to a far better system of ethics law in South Carolina. S. 1 has failed second reading in the Senate (although it could be reconsidered) but H.3722 has been passed the House and has been passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee as a reworked version of  S.1, only two senators dissenting.

There are two obstacles to reform. Some legislators oppose efforts to require disclosure of donors to third party groups, claiming it is an infringement of free speech. It is not. The language in both S.1 and H.3722 has passed federal court scrutiny and additional protections of advocacy organizations has been added.

Others oppose the bill because, as passed by Senate Judiciary, it includes a system of independent investigation of possible violations by members of the General Assembly in which no legislators are involved in investigation of their colleagues. Legislators still get to make the final decisions about civil punishments of their colleagues, but that stage is preceded by investigation and evaluation by a reconstituted Ethics Commission. Some senators object and say that the system will be too politicized and legislators could be subjected to frivolous attacks. They argue that only sitting legislators understand what their situation is and can inform the process.

This raises some obvious questions. In what way is the legal standard for ethical behavior different for legislators and other officials? (My answer – It is not.) How would keeping ethics investigation within the most politicized institution in South Carolina, the General Assembly, lead to less political influence on investigations than moving it to the Ethics Commission? (My answer – It wouldn’t, quite the contrary.) Does the current Ethics Commission have a history of partisan witch-hunts that would justify this concern? (My answer – No.) Do the citizens of South Carolina deserve a system of investigation and enforcement that they can trust? (My answer – Yes, they do.) Do the many honest people who serve South Carolina deserve a system that can credibly clear their names of false charges? (My answer – Yes, of course they do.)

So, that is how I see the situation as we move toward Senate debate on H.3722 next week. If you’d like to call your senator and tell him or her that you support the Judiciary Committee version of H.3722, that would be a very good thing. If you’d like to pay close attention to how your senator votes and hold him or her accountable for that vote, that also would be a very good thing.”

Eleanor Kitzman out; the Senate played its proper role

We seldom find startling state political news in the paper on a Monday, because things don’t work that way in South Carolina. (Actually, not all that much happens on Sundays in Washington, either, although the Sunday talking-head shows sometimes create an illusion of activity.)

So it was a pleasant surprise to see this on the front page of The State today:

Eleanor Kitzman withdraws her name as DHEC agency head candidate

sfretwell@thestate.comFebruary 22, 2015 Updated 14 hours ago

The search for a new S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control director will be reopened now that Eleanor Kitzman has chosen not to seek the position.

Kitzman withdrew her name Sunday from consideration as DHEC director, just three days after being grilled by Democratic state senators about her lack of experience and conflicting statements they said she had made….

Actually, in a sense, the search won’t be “reopened.” It will begin for the first time, since the DHEC board conducted no search — it simply went with the governor’s pal without seeking other resumes.

It will be interesting to see whether the board does its job this time. And of course, I’m defining “do its job” as something other than saying “how high?” when the governor says “Jump!”

Oh, and I’m also anxious to find out the answer to this lingering question:

It was not clear Sunday night whether Kitzman would keep a temporary $74-per-hour job given to her by the agency’s acting director until the confirmation process was completed…

There were a number of weird things about this situation, and that was one of the weirdest. Or “is” one of the weirdest, if she doesn’t quit that job…

S.C. lawmakers discuss U.S. Constitutional convention

When I saw this this morning:


I had nothing to go on, so I facetiously responded, “Here we go again. Tell the boys at The Citadel to break out the red flag…”

But based on the reporter’s subsequent Tweets, I’m guessing this is what it’s about:

Amending the U.S. Constitution to make marriage between only a man and woman. (Main sponsor: Larry Grooms, R-Berkeley)

That one kinda snuck up on me. I missed that story when it ran. Or maybe I saw it, and missed the thing about Grooms wanting a U.S. con-con, which was only mentioned in a bulleted sidebar, not the main story.

I’ll let you know if it turns out I’m wrong and its about something else.

A U.S. Constitutional convention, eh? If we do that, can we straighten out the language in the 2nd Amendment this time, do something about that oddly placed comma? Not this one, the first one.

Legislative hearing on the school equity decision

I got this advisory yesterday from Bud Ferillo, who made the influential “Corridor of Shame” documentary, in case you don’t know him otherwise:

Advisory Notice
See attached official notice for the initial meeting of the new legislative committee that will consider remedies for the Abbeville v. State of South Carolina rural schools funding case.
It will be held in Room 100, ground floor of the Blatt House Office Building, at 1:00pm next Monday, February, 23, 2015.
Former U. S. Secretary of Education and South Carolina’s first two-term Governor, Richard W. Riley, a partner in the Nelson Mullins law firm which represented the plaintiff districts prop bono publico, will be the lead off speaker. See the attached Agenda for other speakers and committee business.
PLease share with others. Come early for a seat. Enter through the center door facing the Gressette Senate Office Building. All other entrances are locked.