The South Carolina Legislature has a lot of work to do in the final month of its session if goals set before January’s start are to be met. On many issues, lawmakers are struggling to find agreement within their own ranks and with Gov. Nikki Haley.
With regard to the fiscal crisis at South Carolina State University, lawmakers have been making a lot of headlines with talk since January. Along with Haley, they’ve criticized the leadership at the Orangeburg historically black university for failing to proceed with urgency to straighten out the problems.
In fairness, the trustees and administration at S.C. State are limited in what they can do about paying off debt that includes a $6 million loan from the state coming due June 30. Where there is no new money, the best that can be expected is operating in the black now and looking for assistance from the state and private sources to take care of the debt.
In public remarks, lawmakers and the governor are on the same page, pushing legislation to oust the board of trustees at S.C. State and put the university under state control. But more than three months after action seemed imminent, the debate in Columbia continues.
Meanwhile, the S.C. State board is down to six members, with the chairman and three other trustees resigning recently and three seats remaining vacant. And before that, the president who many lawmakers wanted gone was fired, leaving the university under the leadership of an interim chief executive.
The late Times and Democrat columnist Joyce W. Milkie was never reluctant to offer a critical assessment. Of the state's festivals, she wrote in 1997: "The loss of ‘something’ ... has happened to the S.C. Festival of Roses. Remember when we first started, the town opened its homes to visiting pageant contestants, there was a real 'community' feeling about the whole thing. Celebrities visited and there always was something special happening.
"Well, the festivals are still here and Branchville can be proud of what it has, just as we, in Orangeburg, brag each year about the S.C. Festival of Roses. But I have news for those who think things are 'bigger and better' than they were 'way back when' -- it isn't so. Maybe we should stop everything and start another festival.
''Don't know. Do know that the gardens always look gorgeous and there always are a few pretty girls in competition at the pageant, and people come and seem to enjoy. So guess this is only the 'old timers, traditionalists, complaining and griping again.' We helped start this whole thing, so guess we have a right to do a critique on how things are going now, don't we?''
Make no mistake, Milkie loved the Rose Festival (renamed the Orangeburg Festival of Roses) and festivals all around. She wrote about them for more than three decades, participated actively in many and was among the founding group for the first Orangeburg event in 1972. She worked as a volunteer on the festival committee for more than two decades and actively assisted with the Queen of Roses pageant.
Milkie knew festivals in South Carolina incorporate community pride and fun with a healthy dose of memories. Most began as a type of community reunion, bringing together people from home and those returning to their roots to visit and reminisce.
Consider the headlines and demand for action that would follow a report of 820 people dying in accidental fashion: fires, poisonings, boating, hunting, you name it.
Maybe it’s the price we have grown too accustomed to paying based on the number of people on the road and the necessity of people traveling the highways, but it’s hard to accept that we accept 820 people a year dying on South Carolina’s roads and highways.
Those numbers really don’t hit home until a person loses someone near and dear. Then the impact is intense and hard to take, changing lives forever.
To stress the impact of highway fatalities and to remember those who lost their lives by celebrating those lives, the S.C. Department of Public Safety on Saturday conducted its annual memorial service.
The event, which has been held since 1988, this year remembered the 820 people who died on the state’s roads in 2014, a number that was up from the 768 in 2013.
President Barack Obama said Tuesday there have been too many troubling police interactions with African-American citizens. He is right.
The president also said there's "no excuse" for violence such as in Baltimore Monday night. He is right.
Obama is equally on target in echoing the sentiment of Baltimore police spokesman Capt. Eric Kowalczyk regarding those who turned the funeral for 25-year-old Freddie Gray, who suffered a spinal cord injury earlier this month after being arrested by city police, into a reason to go on a rampage.
On Monday night, Kowalczyk called the demonstrators, who burned buildings and injured officers by throwing rocks, bricks and bottles, “lawless individuals with no regard for the safety of people that live in that community." He promised to identify the rioters and make arrests.
On Tuesday, Obama called for the same, saying the looters are not protesting but stealing. He said they should be treated as criminals.
With Hillary Clinton in the field and this time not shying away from the label “first woman president,” an issue certain to gain high profile is the gender-based wage gap.
For the recent observance of Equal Pay Day, an analysis released by the National Partnership for Women & Families using U.S. Census data shows the impact in South Carolina. Women employed full time in the state are paid 78 cents for every dollar paid to men, amounting to a yearly gap of $9,214.
This means that, collectively, South Carolina women lose more than $6 billion every year that could pay for basic goods and services that strengthen the state’s economy and are essential for the more than 273,000 South Carolina households headed by women, according to the National Partnership.
The analysis also found South Carolina’s African-American women are paid just 58 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men in the state.
“At a time when women’s wages are essential to families and our economy, the persistence of the gender-based wage gap is doing real and lasting damage to women, families, communities and to our nation. It defies common sense that lawmakers are not doing more to stop gender discrimination in wages,” said Debra L. Ness, president of the National Partnership. “This analysis shows that women and families are losing thousands of dollars in critical income each year that could pay for significant amounts of food, rent, gas and other basic necessities. The effects ripple throughout our economy.”
The number of cases of sexual violence on campuses nationwide increased 50 percent over three years, according to a recent Washington Post analysis of federal campus crime data from 2012.
Addressing long-term issues that have led to the increase is important, but prevention becomes the immediate priority.
In 2015, Claflin University found itself dealing with a high-profile case of sexual assault that involved breaking and entering at female dormitories. A suspect was arrested and remains in jail awaiting a hearing.
A key figure in helping law enforcement make an arrest in the case in March was Claflin Vice President of Student Affairs Dr. Leroy Durant, whose job mission includes the safety of students and campus security.
Recently, Durant spoke to Claflin student journalists, making the case that prevention is as much about what students can do as what any level of law enforcement and security apparatus can accomplish.
The national focus on South Carolina and the shooting death of 50-year-old Walter Scott by then-North Charleston police officer Michael Slager has shifted elsewhere, but there are miles to go in pursuing justice in the case.
In the court of public opinion, cell phone video of Slager firing shots at a fleeing Scott is considered evidence enough of the guilt of a white officer in killing an African-American man. But the murder charge that resulted is only an accusation – and the state must prove that Slager is guilty, as he is presumed innocent.
Ensuring the evidence against Slager was, first, sufficient to warrant a murder charge and, second, will prove his guilt falls to the State Law Enforcement Division, as the lead investigating agency.
The Scott case has put SLED investigative integrity and its policies on informing the public in high profile. The Times and Democrat asked Chief Mark Keel to address SLED’s handling of the case. He did so in an interview on April 23.
As to the bystander’s cell phone video being released to the media if SLED or other law enforcement agency had been provided it first:
Golf has been at the forefront in South Carolina in recent weeks unlike at any other time of year.
To see the popularity of the Masters in Augusta, Georgia, and the RBC Heritage Presented By Boeing on Hilton Head Island is as gratifying as it is expected. And this weekend brings the annual Orangeburg Festival of Roses Golf Tournament at Hillcrest Club Club, the city-operated facility that continues to offer golfing opportunity to all.
Springtime in our state and in the South is a great time for a sport that has suffered during recessionary times with courses struggling to stay afloat with decreased play. Many have not made it.
Efforts such as those this week at the Orangeburg Country Club are part of ensuring the future, growing the game among young people, particularly women, who will determine its popularity and future.
The Women's South Carolina Golf Association Junior Foundation raised more than $12,000 at the Jane Covington Classic on Monday. The foundation in 2015 will support the South Carolina High School Golf League, which consists of more than 700 junior girls, hosts a High School Invitational in September, supports the Georgia/South Carolina Junior Girls Challenge Matches, and gives financial assistance to juniors to help support the growth of their golf game.
ISSUE: S.C. infrastructure improvement
OUR VIEW: Senate and House compromise must be strong enough to overcome veto
South Carolina business leaders are reluctant to take sides in the debate in Columbia over fixing South Carolina’s roads, which just about everyone placed at or near the top of the legislative agenda in January.
The danger continues to be legislative stalemate.
That is why it makes news when leading business figures step forth to remind the governor and lawmakers there is a cost for failure to act.
Today’s Earth Day observance was created in 1970 by then-U.S. Sen. Gaylord Nelson as a way to force the protection of the environment onto the national agenda. The idea caught on with 20 million Americans demonstrating in cities across the country for a cleaner environment.
Congress subsequently authorized the creation of a new federal agency to tackle environmental issues: the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The EPA notes that "before 1970, a factory could spew black clouds of toxic smoke into the air or dump tons of toxic waste into a nearby stream, and that was perfectly legal. They could not be taken to court to stop it. ... there was no EPA, no Clean Air Act, no Clean Water Act. There were no legal or regulatory mechanisms to protect our environment."
Today, with some factions in the country questioning the need for the EPA and others doubting the reality of climate change, Earth Day issues remain caught up in politics and perception.
Against that backdrop, the personal finance website WalletHub released its report on 2015’s Most & Least Eco-Friendly States.
In early March, a Winthrop Poll showed six in 10 South Carolinians, including nearly two-thirds of registered voters, did not want Republican U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham to run for president. The latest poll released this past week had the state’s senior senator finishing fourth among GOP presidential contenders.
While the numbers seemingly indicate South Carolinians’ rejection of a Graham candidacy, the real story is more likely doubt here that the senator is really serious about being a candidate in a crowded field of GOP contenders.
If Graham announces that he is running – and he said Sunday he is “91 percent” sure that he will – he will immediately become a strong contender in South Carolina’s early primary.
But South Carolina will not be the key battleground for Graham. With a “favorite son” in the field here, the result of the primary will take on less significance as Graham will be expected to win. Anything short of that would be absolute failure and a likely exit from the race.
The real test for Graham will come in the early Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary. Even if he does not win, he must show strength beyond also-ran status to move to South Carolina and on to other states.
Democracy is the greatest form of government but efficiency will never be its strongest selling point.
This past week served as an example when South Carolina State University found itself in an awkward position as host to Southern Association of Colleges and Schools representatives.
They were in Orangeburg to assess the situation regarding governance and fiscal matters that has the university on probation with the accrediting body.
Present members of the board were among those on campus interviewed by the SACS representatives, presumably discussing all issues pertaining to S.C. State's problems and certainly the governance issue.
Yet these are trustees who are an agreement away from being out of their jobs, being replaced by an entirely new board.
Speaker Jay Lucas is trying to put the best face he can on the South Carolina House of Representatives’ approval of domestic violence legislation.
He praised H. 3433, the Domestic Violence Reform Act, approved this past week, as comprehensive legislation that “puts in place significant provisions to protect South Carolinians from domestic abuse.”
Those pushing for strengthening laws on domestic violence disagree, saying the House bill is “watered down.”
They contend the House has caved on key issues, particularly pertaining to access to guns, and is also endangering the passage of any reform this year by going with its own bill rather than acting on a Senate-approved version.
“This is not a victim-friendly piece of legislation,” Laura Hudson, executive director of the South Carolina Crime Victims’ Council, told The Post and Courier of Charleston. “It was watered down in every way. I’m very disappointed.”
The millions of words written and spoken about the shooting death of Walter Scott and the murder charge now facing former North Charleston police officer Michael T. Slager will be followed by millions more.
The case is etched in the minds and conscious of America, as are a number of others that put emphasis on the real and the perceived in conflicts between white police officers and African-American men.
Two weeks after the incident that led to the arrest of Slager and release of a stunning video showing the officer shooting the fleeing Scott, commentaries run the gamut from analyzing the case to proclaiming solutions on a broad scale. Missing has been an old-fashioned, common sense look at what happened.
That’s what Dr. Glenn Mollette, a syndicated American columnist and author from Newburgh, Indiana, has penned in an offering titled “Bad decisions: Age is only a number.”
We offer it here:
Hillary Clinton has entered the race for the Democratic presidential nomination and will find South Carolina an important place for her during the primary process – but not so much if she gains the nomination as expected.
Eight years ago, the former first lady and U.S. senator was a frontrunner at the first-in-the-nation debate among Democratic presidential candidates held at South Carolina State University in Orangeburg in spring 2007. Yet even more than a year before the election, Sen. Barack Obama was gaining an increasingly high profile in a crowded field of contenders.
Obama would later prove his electoral prowess in South Carolina with an overwhelming Democratic primary victory that featured a huge turnout of African-Americans supporting him over Clinton. Months later in the general election, a record turnout of black voters pushed Obama closer to carrying the state than any Democrat since Jimmy Carter in 1976.
But he did not win here – and neither is Clinton likely to do so in the general election. We’ll see her for the primary and likely won’t see her again before November 2016.
South Carolina remains solidly in the “red” column for Republicans, who will have much more at stake in the Palmetto State in 2016 with the state’s primary early in the GOP nominating process.