Category Archives: South Carolina

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…

Harry Reid’s leaving. So can we open Yucca Mountain now?

That was my first thought when I heard that at long last, Harry Reid will be leaving the Senate.

By Image by Daniel Mayer taken on 2002-03-25 © 2002 and released under terms of the GNU FDL. [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons

Image by Daniel Mayer taken on 2002-03-25 © 2002 and released under terms of the GNU FDL. [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons

Finally, the place the nation decided long ago would be our permanent repository for nuclear waste MAY open, with its chief obstacle retiring. It’s long past time that Yucca Mountain provide South Carolina (and other states) some relief on this. That was the plan, and it was always a good one.

So now it can happen.

Hey, I can hope, can’t I?

But beyond that, can you think of anything about Reid’s tenure as majority/minority leader that was good? Neither can I. His name just conjures up a lot of unpleasantness for me. He’s not alone in that; I have similar impressions of names such as Boehner, Pelosi and McConnell. Together they’ve presided over a particularly ugly and unproductive period in congressional history.

Dare I hope he’ll be replaced by someone who will turn that around?

Ummmm… Maybe I should just stick to hoping for the Yucca Mountain thing. That’ll be tough enough…

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:

Showering Regularly Is Important

It’s almost as important as being polite.

“Because I know many of you are going to the State House, which I love, just make sure you take a good shower when you leave,” Haley told the S.C. Realtors on a recording of her speech posted on the governor’s YouTube page.

File this one under: If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

Sale of Palmetto Compress Warehouse to Close this Week

To quote John “Hannibal” Smith from “The A-Team”, I love it when a plan comes together.

Columbia businesswoman Rosie Craig is partnering with deep-pocketed Philadelphia developer Ron Caplan to purchase the historic Palmetto Compress Warehouse building from the city of Columbia.

The developers plan to convert the 320,000-square-foot structure into apartments, retail and possibly a hotel, sources close to the project said.

The purchase, expected to close this week, is for approximately $6 million.

“We, as a company, are very excited about the project,” said Dan Rothschild, of Caplan’s PMC Property Group.

You can count me as one of the people who were against the City of Columbia buying this building. As a fundamental rule, I don’t like the City government being in the real estate business. However, it looks like they didn’t mess this up. I’m looking forward to seeing this development take shape.

Lindsey Graham: Testing the Waters

I came across this piece in the Washington Examiner chronicling Sen. Graham’s recent trip to Iowa where he was testing the Presidential waters:

There is widespread speculation that Graham is running for president to make a point — and indeed, he is making them. Graham sees a world flirting with disaster. If the president accepts a bad deal with Iran over nuclear proliferation, “we’re on the road to Armageddon,” Graham said. If lawmakers do not reform entitlements programs to cut spending, “we will blow America up ourselves,” he says.

But Graham doesn’t think steering the debate and winning need be mutually exclusive. Quaint as it might sound — and to political cynics, perhaps it will — he thinks the right credentials and message at the right time could win votes.

“Stand by,” Graham’s wingman and best friend Sen. John McCain told the Washington Examiner.“A lot of people are going to be surprised.”

By all accounts, Graham is smart and strategic, and he is not blindly ambitious. If he weren’t a politician, one South Carolina Republican operative mused, Graham might be an operative himself. He doesn’t embark on fools’ errands, and to date, he has not run a race he did not win.

If Sen. Graham starts to get traction, he’ll surprise a lot of people, and I’ll be one of them. I just have a hard time seeing him winning a GOP Primary against the current field of candidates. He’d make an interesting Secretary of Defense, though.

Gamecock Sports Roundup

My apologies for a late Monday post, I had Court this morning.

Since bud liked the inclusion of athletic endeavors on Friday’s VFP, I’ll give everyone an extra helping of sports this Monday.

In Gamecock baseball news, we swept Kentucky in a dramatic third game on Sunday. It took a home run in the bottom of the ninth to tie it up, and then another home run in the bottom of the tenth to clinch it. The Gamecocks looked very good yesterday, displaying that never give up spirit that has a hallmark of the 2010 and 2011 teams. The embedded Tweet has the radio call of both home runs. I love a good home run call.

In women’s basketball news, the lady Gamecocks have an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament and now have an opportunity to host NCAA Games at the Colonial Life Arena. That’s a great honor that this team has worked hard to earn. Go support them!

In Gamecock football news, Spring Practice starts this week. The practices are open to the public, so these are really great for taking little kids out to see the team in a cost-effective way.

I’ll have something political for y’all to argue over later. Enjoy your Monday.

 

 

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.”

Your Virtual Front Page, Friday March 6, 2015

I’ll ease all y’all into my tenure in a nice comfortable way. We’ll start with a VPF today. (Tomorrow, the re-education camps will be open for business. On the bright side, coffee will be complimentary.)

1. POTUS comes to Columbia, SC: I drove by Benedict early this AM on my way out of town, so I missed all the hoopla. Did anyone do anything special for the Presidential trip?

2. Democrats vow to protect Boehner from Tea Party coup: I know the logic here is that the House Democrats would prefer to stay with Boehner than a more conservative Speaker who would be even less inclined to compromise, but it’s still a weird dynamic. I guess this is what passes for bipartisanship these days.

3. Iraq officials cast doubt on Spring offensive to re-take Mosul from ISIS: I guess if I were an Iraqi general, I’d be pessimistic about my military’s chances at accomplishing anything either. The Iraqi military seems to dissolve like sugar in hot water every time there’s serious fighting to be done.

4. Jenny Sanford applies for DHEC post:  She just sent them her resume. She’s a little on the thin side when it comes to experience, but she did say that while she was first lady of SC, “I spent a lot of time talking about health and wellness and disease prevention. Those are issues DHEC deals with seriously and consistently.” So she’s got that going for her.

5. Hillary Clinton’s private e-mail system might not have been very secure: I’m no tech expert, but I’m just going with the general idea that the federal government’s e-mail system is likely to be far more secure than anything that a private guy can set up for you in your home.

Turns out Obama loves us after all…

As you’ve heard, Rudy Giuliani recently said, “I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America. He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me.”

Well, speak for yourself, Mr. Mayor.

We had kinda wondered whether he loved us here in South Carolina — as of when I wrote this post, we were one of only three states he had not visited as president — but now all our concerns are assuaged:

President Barack Obama will visit Benedict College in Columbia on Friday for a youth event, The White House said.

Obama has not visited South Carolina since winning the state’s Democratic presidential primary on Jan. 26, 2008….

Details about the president’s visit will be released later this week, The White House said.

U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-Columbia, has worked to bring Obama back to South Carolina.

“I’m pleased to welcome President Barack Obama back to South Carolina,” Clyburn said in statement provided to The State. “I thank President David Swinton and the Benedict College family for hosting President Obama’s event with students and youth leaders.”…

Tony Keck: The pro from Dover who turned out just to be another hired gun

Just want to make sure you don’t miss Cindi Scoppe’s column today. The headline in the paper was “The anti-Medicaid argument unmasked.” It’s a bit more descriptive online: “What does it mean that SC Gov Nikki Haley’s chief anti-Medicaid lobbyist has changed his tune to match his new job?” (Which, of course, would not have fit in the paper.)

An excerpt:

THE POST and Courier had an article the other day about the conversion of Tony Keck, who served as Gov. Nikki Haley’s chief Medicaid-expansion opponent before he left last year to take a job with a Tennessee hospital system that, like pretty much any hospital system in the country, supports the Medicaid expansion that he worked so hard to block on this side of the border.

Under the headline “Former Haley health care adviser says Medicaid expansion might work elsewhere,” the article noted that Mr. Keck’s new employer supported the recent attempt to expand the program in Tennessee, and it quoted Mr. Keck as saying that expanding Medicaid to cover more people under Obamacare “might be the best choice for some states, and it might not be in other states.”

And you could just feel Medicaid supporters in our state rising up in smug unison to cry out “Hypocrite!” Sort of like they did when he first landed his new gig, only louder…

You have to understand that Keck was important to selling the completely bankrupt notion that South Carolina shouldn’t expand Medicaid, and get a huge windfall from the feds to provide medical care to South Carolinians — not to mention providing a lot of good jobs at hospitals.

Keck was portrayed as this whiz kid who could back up the Tea Party article of blind faith (and blind hostility to anything branded “Obama”) with what sounded to a lot of people like compelling fact.

But now that his bread is buttered on the other side, he has discovered that Medicaid expansion is a good thing for “some states.” Such as the one where he’s working now.

Yep, it’s a good thing for “some states,” all right. Such as South Carolina, and the other 49. And it always was.

“Some states” and not others? Really? What a bunch of hooey. Another excerpt:

… Mr. Keck was the respectable face of Gov. Nikki Haley’s purely partisan, and tea-partian, opposition to a program that, by any honest analysis, would be good for our state. Maybe not for our nation — and maybe that’s how we ought to look at it — but clearly good for our state, which is how our legislators normally look at such things.

Mr. Keck was the outside expert, the wunderkind our governor wooed away from Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration, who understood public health and public-health finances. The person who could make a respectable argument that didn’t sound like warmed-over talking points from the National Republican Committee or FOX News. Certainly that’s why I always liked and respected him, even though I disagreed with him.

But it turns out that for all of his expertise, he was, first and foremost, a hired hand. The guy hawking Big Macs not because he liked them best but because he worked for McDonalds. The guy waving the pom-poms for Medicaid rejection not because that was what was best for our state — or at least not primarily because of that — but because that’s what the boss was selling….

But that’s not the bad part. You know what the bad part is? That now that there is no pretense about the fact that the anti-Medicaid emperor never had on a stitch of clothing, we are still stuck with no Medicaid expansion.

Why? Because Nikki Haley, and too many of her allies, don’t care what the facts are. They don’t want South Carolinians receiving this benefit, and that’s that.

Would a Haley endorsement be helpful in 2016?

Forgot to pass this on yesterday…

The Washington Post writes that Nikki Haley, while committing to no one, seems likely to support Jeb Bush in 2016:

Back in 2010, when the governor of South Carolina was merely “Nikki Who?,” running behind in a four-person Republican primary with her top supporter mired in scandal, Jeb Bush gave her some advice.

“Everything had blown up and I was trying to figure out what to do,” Gov. Nikki Haley said in an interview Saturday with reporters from The Washington Post. “I just asked what he thought I should do, and he said, ‘You know, consultants are going to tell you to stay on the phone and raise money. But what I’ll tell you is go out and touch every hand you can.'”

Haley followed Bush’s counsel, and the rest is history. Later that year, after she was elected, she called Bush, a former Florida governor, for advice on setting up an administration. Then when she tackled education reform, she called again. “Can you save me a couple of steps?” Haley recalled asking Bush. “He said, ‘If you do anything, make sure your kids can read.'”

Now it’s Bush who will be seeking Haley’s help. As he weighs a run for president in 2016, South Carolina is poised to again be the first primary in the South, and Haley figures to be one of the state’s prized endorsers.

In the interview, Haley said she has no plans yet to back any candidate. “I think what I’ll do is watch,” she said. But Haley was particularly complimentary of the governors in the emerging field, including Bush….

Our governor backed the Establishment candidate last time around, and it didn’t turn out so well — which MAY have had something to do with her support.

While I was worried that something weird was in the air, when I had to get up in front of a bunch of people in Key West and predict what was going to happen in the 2012 SC primary, I said SC would do what it always does, and back Mitt Romney (the closest thing we had to a Bush in that contest).

Well, I missed it, which may be why I haven’t been invited back to speak to that particular group since then.

South Carolina did something I had not seen it do in the past six election cycles, that is to say, the ones I had been in position to observe closely: It went with a red-meat-throwing insurgent rather than the Establishment guy.

Before that happened, I had noticed that an unusually large number of leading GOP figures had been lining up behind Newt Gingrich. When I asked one of them, after the vote, how that happened, he gave me a number of reasons for it. And one of them was that a number of top Republicans didn’t want to see the governor be “queen of the May,” reflecting in glory from having her guy win.

All of that said, I think the ground has shifted since then. More Republicans than ever seem reconciled to having Nikki Haley as their leader, and most profess to like the situation. And some of her greatest detractors — think Bobby Harrell — are gone from the scene.

So I’m thinking the Haley endorsement might be a good thing to have this time…

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…

Kasich to put his boots on the ground in South Carolina

Got this today:

February 18, 2015

KASICH HEADED TO SOUTH CAROLINA AND WEST VIRGINIA TO TOUT NEED FOR FEDERAL BALANCED BUDGET AMENDMENT

COLUMBUS – Ohio Governor John R. Kasich will visit South Carolina and West Virginia on February 18-19 after being invited by state lawmakers to help strategize on how to pass a resolution calling for an Article V Convention to write a federal balanced budget amendment.Kasich,John

Kasich’s visits to South Carolina and West Virginia follow trips to seven western states over the past few months, including Arizona, South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Utah and Idaho.  Many of those states are now moving forward with legislative consideration of a resolution, with Wyoming and South Dakota having already won passage in their respective House of Representatives.

“Getting our nation’s fiscal house in order is one of the single biggest issues facing our country,” said Kasich.  “The threat that an $18 trillion debt poses to our children is becoming clearer to legislators in state capitols across America and it’s encouraging that more and more of them want to take action.  Fortunately, our U.S. Constitution provides a solution and that is why a growing number of states are considering resolutions calling for a federal balanced budget amendment.  If we succeed, we’ll finally be able to hold the federal government to the same standards as virtually all states, businesses and families and this fiscal stability will provide real benefits to future generations in my state and others across the country.”

EVENT SCHEDULE: (Note: all event details are subject to change; updates will be provided as necessary)

Wednesday, February 18: Columbia, South Carolina

Who: Governor John R. Kasich

What: Kasich to deliver remarks at South Carolina House Republican Caucus Reception

Where: Hilton – 924 Senate Street, Columbia, SC

When: Wednesday, February 18, 2015 – 5:30 PM …..

And so forth. He also has a press availability the next morning at the State House.

If you’d like all that translated into plain English, here’s what it’s about:

Ohio Gov. John Kasich will address nearly 200 Republican activists, local politicians and potential donors in Columbia, S.C., on Wednesday, in an early foray into a key 2016 primary state.

In his first major political trip to the Palmetto State, Mr. Kasich, a potential 2016 Republican candidate, will be hosted by the South Carolina House Republican Caucus.

South Carolina Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster, as well as more than 100 local activists, conservative donors, state politicos, and Republican members of the state House are expected to attend.

The February stop in South Carolina gives Mr. Kasich a chance for some face time with donors and power brokers in the key primary state, which traditionally votes after the nominating contests in Iowa and New Hampshire.

The Ohio Republican has sounded increasingly interested in mounting a presidential bid in recent months, touting his political strengthen in his home state — a perennial swing state in general elections….

So now you know.

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.

 

Apocalyptic language from the HBCU press

In light of the discussions we’re having about S.C. State, I was intrigued when Kevin Gray posted on Facebook a link to a piece from HBCUDigest.com headlined, “On HBCUs, White House Moves From Disregard to Dismantling.”

The piece takes the Obama administration to task for not sending enough federal dollars in the direction of historically black institutions, and ends painting the picture this way:

But the president couldn’t hide his coolness towards HBCUs for long. Before his first term could end, his Department of Education orchestrated and authorized the great Pell Grant/PLUS Loan debacle of 2011. Two years later, he announced plans to tie federal aid funding to a new rating system, one which will punish schools for low graduation rates, student loan defaults, alumni employment rates, and other measures which fly in the face of the HBCU mission and profile.

And here is the latest sign that the highest offices in the nation do not want HBCUs around – millions of dollars going out in an effort to stimulate innovation and opportunities to every type of school except those where the funding is needed most, and, according to data, where the dollars would be best spent.

The other side of this equation has been the easy out given to the Obama Administration with the growing movement towards support for Minority Serving Institutions, or, MSIs. Three little letters are overtaking the Big Four in the attention and support from federal and state resources, with eager legislators quick to find a way out of funding Black colleges but not taking support away from minority students.

The ironies of this movement? The hub for the research and talking points on MSI support is based at a northern, highly selective white institution, with most of its work centering on the outcomes and examples of excellence based at Black colleges. And yet, these same colleges, which totally fit the MSI billing, have found no traction from the center to advance the national HBCU narrative, or secure transformative funding for a historically Black campus from federal sources.

In the end, there aren’t enough HBCU students to boycott or march for long enough to reverse this trend. There isn’t enough wealth among HBCU graduates to stand in the gaps opened wide by federal and state neglect. And HBCU leaders have yet to figure out how to plead their own cases for existence through Black media.

At all levels, we’re all screwed up. And the people at the very top of political and financial food chains who know well our own lack of passion, knowledge, involvement or power to change the course of our institutions, are ready to deal the final death blows to our timeless institutions.

If there’s anything at all to the perceived attitude of the administration, it makes me wonder how Arne Duncan et al. would react to the proposals floating out there regarding S.C. State…

 

The Bingham-Mitchell plan for S.C. State

This came over the transom during the last hour:

BINGHAM-MITCHELL OFFER PLAN TO SAVE S.C. STATE

Bingham,Kenny4

Bingham

Two S.C. House Members, a Republican and a Democrat, have offered legislation to keep S.C. State University open and to return the institution to financial solvency.

S.C. Representatives Kenny Bingham (Rep-Lexington) and Harold Mitchell (Dem.-Spartanburg) are filing a bipartisan bill to rescue S.C. State from its current crisis.  Bingham and Mitchell said they believe their plan is the best way to keep the institution’s doors open, protect students and replace the leadership that has brought the school to the verge of ruin.

Bingham and Mitchell’s proposed legislation follows an unprecedented letter The S.C. Executive Budget Office sent to S.C. State University President Thomas Elzey last Friday, February 13, informing him that the University has not provided the State with a budget plan and is ending the fiscal year in a deficit which the University cannot eliminate on its own.

Harold Mitchell

Mitchell

“Declining enrollment and financial mismanagement have created a deficit of at least $18.6 million,” Bingham said.  “A clear indication that students and parents know how bad things are is the shocking 40% decline in enrollment.”

State Government was recently forced to loan S.C. State $7.5 million to pay bills and make payroll. Mismanagement has placed the institution’s national accreditation at risk.  Last June the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACSCOC) put them on probation for non-compliance with standards on finances and governance.

“We are witnessing a free fall at S.C. State, and something must be done,” Mitchell said. “Losing national accreditation would devalue diplomas, undercut the investment students have made in their future, and devastate one of the oldest Historically Black Colleges in the nation.”

The Bingham-Mitchell Joint Resolution would:

  • Remove all current S.C. State Board members
  • Put S.C. State under the control of the State Budget and Control Board (SBCB)
  • Direct the SBCB to remove the current president and appoint an interim CEO
  • Direct the SBCB to make recommendations to the Legislature on how to get S.C. State through its financial crisis and secure the institution’s accreditation.

S.C. State has been in a crisis for more than three years, beginning when federal indictments for a kickback scheme forced two board members to step down.  Later, news of serious financial mismanagement surfaced, causing several administrators to be replaced and board members to resign out of frustration.

This year S.C. State notified the General Assembly that they could not make their first loan repayment. “The legislature literally had to step in to keep the lights and electricity from being cut off,” Bingham said.  “Administrators have refused to give the General Assembly basic financial information, and they clearly do not have a plan to regain solvency or to keep their school’s accreditation.”

“This was a difficult decision for us,” Rep. Mitchell said.  “But for years the Legislature has tried to bring new leaders to the board, only to see them resign in frustration as the financial crisis deepened.”

Bingham and Mitchell said in a joint statement: “We believe this type of aggressive action with immediate accountability is needed to prevent turning a very bad situation into a total disaster for the students, their parents and this historically important institution.”

# # #

So what are we to do with S.C. State?

A couple of weeks ago, I raised the question here of whether South Carolina should continue to prop up S.C. State University, given the institution’s repeated failures to be accountable for the money that keeps getting sent its way.

Now, a legislative committee has gone farther in that direction that I expected, proposing to shut the school down completely for two years, fire all the faculty and staff, and start over in 2017.

Which is really one of the bolder moves on any issue I’ve seen SC lawmakers seriously consider in quite some time.

According to The State:

Under a budget proposal approved Tuesday by a panel of the SC House, the state would:

•  Close S.C. State for the 2015-16 school year; there would be no classes or sports also in 2016-17

•  Fire trustees, administrators, faculty and staff. Halt athletics programs

•  Allow current students to get state scholarships to attend other S.C. public college or historically black universities

•  Assume the school’s debt, more than $100 million

•  Working with a panel of current and former college presidents that is advising S.C. State, develop a plan by Jan. 1, 2017, to re-open the school in the fall of 2017…

This seems unlikely to make it through the General Assembly, but it’s already changed the conversation. The next day, the Black Caucus called for S.C. State president Thomas Elzey to be sacked.

Thoughts?

I had forgotten about Rep. Funderburk voting against Haley on ethics charge

Funderburk,Laurie

Rep. Funderburk

There are good reasons for us to change our way of choosing judges in SC. Stronger ones than the fact that the husband of a legislator was elected to the bench the other day.

I briefly wondered why Nikki Haley seized on that incident to push for reform — after all, such a situation didn’t bother her in 2009 (although she hates to be reminded of the fact) — but then I set it aside. Different people are motivated by different things at different times. I suppose a lot of folks agree with the governor on this reason. So I set it aside.

And frankly, I’m still inclined to think the governor actually wants reform. But I did find this interesting:

Rutherford: Haley attack on Funderburk ‘Political Payback’ for Ethics Committee Vote
 
Calls on Haley to apologize to members of the General Assembly and come clean about her previous vote
Columbia, SC – House Democratic Leader Todd Rutherford released a statement in response to The State article revealing Governor Haley’s previous support for a Republican legislator’s spouse running for the Supreme Court in 2009 after criticizing the legislature this week for electing a highly-qualified Democratic member’s husband to be an Administration Law judge. Rutherford suggested Haley’s criticism of the legislature’s support for Judge Bill Funderburk was simply payback for his wife’s, Rep. Laurie Funderburk, vote to not dismiss ethics charges against Haley in 2012.
“Representative Laurie Funderburk had the courage and integrity to stand up three years ago and call a crook a crook, and now Governor Haley wants payback,” said House Democratic Leader Todd Rutherford of Richland County. “When Governor Haley was in the House, she clearly voted to elect spouses of Republican legislators to judicial posts. Her new-found outrage can only be attributed to Rep. Funderburk’s vote to not dismiss charges against Haley for illegally hiding income she received from a company that did business with the state. We’ve always known Haley was a hypocrite, but she continues to prove it on an astonishingly frequent basis.”
Rutherford also blasted Haley for lying to a reporter on Thursday about her vote to elect Kaye Hearn to the South Carolina Supreme Court while her husband, George Hearn, was a member of the State House of Representatives.
Jamie Self of The State reported in Friday’s newspaper that Haley denied voting for Hearn after the House journal from May 13, 2009 clearly shows Haley casting an ‘aye’ vote in favor of tabling a motion that would reject Hearn from consideration.
“It isn’t often that you see a politician blatantly lie about a previous vote when roll-call votes are public record,” said Rep. Rutherford. “I was flabbergasted when I saw Governor Haley try to rewrite history and then call it ‘offensive’ that the reporter would even bring it up. But people often act erratic when they’ve been caught in a lie. Governor Haley owes the entire General Assembly an apology for this unbelievable display of hypocrisy.”
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You know I had forgotten about that — Laurie Funderburk being the only one on the ethics committee who voted against the governor that time. But that’s what happened:

The committee voted unanimously to dismiss three charges against Ms. Haley. On the fourth charge, accusing the governor of failing to properly disclose her payment by the engineering firm, one member, Representative Laurie Slade Funderburk, a Democrat, voted against Ms. Haley….

By all means, let’s change the system, as long as it’s to something better. And to me, something better means something like the federal system, through which both political branches get a measure of control over who becomes a judge. There are systems that are worse than what we have in South Carolina, and I wouldn’t want to switch to one of those.

But this incident is an interesting thing to remember at this time…