Post Tagged with: "South Carolina"

South Carolina Education Problems

March 14, 2017 8:31 AM
South Carolina Education Problems

For once Mississippians are now saying, “Thank God for South Carolina!”

This is because South Carolina was recently ranked at the fiftieth in public education among the states, a spot previously held by the Magnolia State.

Many cite the lack of funding or quality of teachers as the source of this not so coveted distinction. These may be factors to our problems but they are not the source of our extremely dysfunctional system.

The source of our state’s education problems stem back to the early to mid-1900’s when the South Carolina General Assembly decided it was a good idea to override the general educational laws with local legislation to create special ways to govern public schools within localities.

Since that time the General Assembly regularly asserts its power to tinker with the governance and administration of the individual local public school districts through local legislation on a frequent basis. These bills have created to date the over eighty school districts, none of which are anywhere similar in size or governance structure.

Any astute politico will tell you that centralizing both government and administration is a recipe for disaster, and is purely bad governance.

The General Assembly needs to govern our education system in a centralized manner by defining what the qualifications are for having a school district, establish consistent forms of governance for those districts, and let them run with it without any more tinkering local legislation, much like how the Home Rule Act of 1975 works for municipalities and counties.

Doing this would level the playing field and equalize funding across the state. It would allow the localities to focus on their issues which are what they are supposed to do, being administrative divisions of the state government.

There are too many cooks running wild in this kitchen we know as the South Carolina public education system and it is time they know their place so the customers can be served in an effective and efficient manner.

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Public Pension Fund Contribution Increase Approved

December 14, 2016 5:00 AM
Curtis M. Loftis Jr., South Carolina’s treasurer, has pushed to learn more about private equity fees. Credit Dale W. Ferrell for The New York Times

South Carolina government employees will be paying more into their public pension fund in the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2017.

This is a result of a 3-2 vote by members of the State Fiscal Accountability Authority to approve an increase of 0.5%, the maximum allowed by state law in any one year. Voting to approve the increase were Gov. Nikki Haley, Sen. Hugh Leatherman and Rep. Brian White.

S.C. Treasurer Curtis Loftis and Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom voted against the increase.

The increase will take employee contributions from their current 8.66% earnings to a new rate of 9.16%.

In addition, the state’s taxpayers will contribute more to government workers pensions. The current employer rate of 11.66% of an employee’s salary will increase to 12.16% for state and local governments and school districts.

The increased revenue for the pension fund will be little more than a finger in the dike of future liabilities. The total of 1% increase in contributions is estimated to bring in $100 million in new revenue for the Public Employees Benefit Association.

For the fiscal year completed June 30, 2016, the actuarial firm of Gabriel Roeder Smith and Co. estimated a shortfall of $1.4 billion in unfunded liabilities just for that fiscal year.

The overall future unfunded liability for the state employee pension fund is estimated at approximately $25 billion.

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Press Release: Loftis’ Statement on Employee Retirement Rate Hike

December 13, 2016 2:49 PM
Press Release: Loftis’ Statement on Employee Retirement Rate Hike

Columbia, SC – Today, I voted against a request from PEBA to the State Fiscal Accountability Authority to increase both employee and employer retirement contribution rates to the state pension fund by .5% effective July 1, 2017. The increases are a result of years of mismanagement of the South Carolina pension fund, and now has state and public employees contributing 9.16% of their pay towards future retirement benefits, which is 55% more than the national average. Public employees and taxpayers are going to pay more, when they are guilty of nothing but working hard and trusting their elected officials.

This increase is not going to fix the problem. At this rate, the pension issue is going to continue to grow, until it’s too big to fix. Pension increase should not be measured in money, but by how many teachers, policemen, firefighters, and other public employees are taken off the streets.

Lawmakers have tough choices when it comes to fixing the pension fund problem. They must make the pension system their top priority in January when session starts. The pension is the most significant challenge of our generation.

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Home Rule Loses to Gov. Nikki Haley

October 6, 2016 5:24 AM
Home Rule Loses to Gov. Nikki Haley

No more proof is needed that Home Rule is a myth in South Carolina than Gov. Nikki Haley’s State of Emergency declaration Tuesday.

With a few words, Haley eliminated county governments and school districts from decision making processes that should have been left in local hands.

Our so-called conservative politicians complain all the time about big government intrusion on people’s lives, but it’s all talk. The conservatives in South Carolina love to exercise that power as much as any politician.

Specifically, Haley closed county governments and school districts for three days beginning yesterday because of impending emergencies associated with Hurricane Matthew. That closure applied not only to coastal counties, but rather to all counties east of Columbia.

It made no difference that Matthew was around Haiti and Cuba at the time the state of emergency went into effect in South Carolina.

It made no difference that students went to school in Florida on Wednesday, a state that will be affected by Matthew at least 48 hours before any storm effects make it to Horry County, but stayed home locally by order of the governor.

It made no difference that future hurricane track predictions are notoriously subject to change.

Haley had an opportunity to jump on the national stage again and she took it, ignoring local officials in the process.

And, Haley’s emergency declaration is conflicting. According to county officials, it applies to county governments and school boards, but not to municipal governments

Over the last six years, we have seen Haley’s reaction whenever she perceives the federal government intruding on her executive powers, but she had no problem doing the same to local governments Tuesday.

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Republican Presidential Primary Saturday

February 19, 2016 1:04 PM
Republican Presidential Primary Saturday

After nearly two weeks of non-stop mudslinging, Republican presidential primary candidates can sit back and see whose negative ads were most successful.

Or maybe not.

Voters will go to polls Saturday February 20 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. to vote for the Republican of their choice. The Democratic presidential primary is Saturday February 27.

Those voters who cast a ballot in the Republican primary are not eligible to also vote in the Democratic primary.

Acceptable forms of ID to vote are driver’s license or other DMV ID, passport, military ID, or SC voter registration card.

I have spoken to several staunch Republicans in Horry County who plan to forego their own party’s primary in order to vote for Bernie Sanders in a week. As a group they support Donald Trump and feel confident in their favorite’s ability to win the South Carolina primary without their vote. Instead, they are in a “stop Hillary” frame of mind.

If polls are to be believed, Trump is on his way to a second straight primary victory. Ted Cruz is currently polling ahead of Marco Rubio for second with Jeb Bush, John Kasich and Ben Carson rounding out the field in that order.

Personally, I see Trump winning with Rubio scoring a surprise second and Cruz third. Rubio remains the choice of a majority of the Republican establishment while the Bush campaign continues to founder.

But, it looks more like a brokered convention is in the offing for the Republicans, the only hope that keeps the Bush candidacy alive.

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Presidential Politics 2016

January 4, 2016 8:19 AM
Presidential Politics 2016

On the first working day of the New Year, my thoughts are of presidential primaries.

For the next seven weeks, South Carolina will be in the national spotlight as candidates travel throughout the state hoping to convince supporters they are the best person to be our next president.

Of course, this will be mostly on the Republican side as South Carolina is one of the most intensely conservative states in the nation.

Right now that looks like it means Donald Trump and, possibly, Ted Cruz against the field.

The Trump phenomenon is holding, even gaining a little momentum as the voting nears. Cruz, who must be considered another outsider in traditional Republican circles, has been coming on strong in the minds of South Carolina voters for the last month.

More traditional, establishment candidates, such as Jeb Bush, are trailing miserably.

If nothing else, this is a year of protest against the system, something traditional politicos have been slow to pick up on.

And what better state to lead that protest than South Carolina?

When Trump first announced his candidacy, I thought we would have a couple of months of fun with his outrageousness, then, he would fade from view.

That hasn’t happened.

The more outrageous Trump’s pronouncements are, the more his support grows.

Because the general feeling throughout the country is the system needs change.

I have been socially liberal all my life, but, when Trump calls for an end to all Muslim immigrants into the country, it strikes a sympathetic cord within me.

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Taxes, Flag Top 2015 SC Newsies

January 1, 2016 6:44 AM
Taxes, Flag Top 2015 SC Newsies

Local tax increases and removal of the Confederate battle flag from the statehouse grounds topped the 2015 news stories.

Horry County Council passed the largest single tax increase in county history with a 7.2 mil increase in property taxes. Just for good measure, council also increased the road tax charged on every vehicle registered in the county by 67%.

Sold to the public as a means to increase public safety, the tax increase was really Horry County Council bowing to the will of county employees for a pay raise.

As council member Harold Worley said during debate of the tax increase, “Not one penny of the tax increase will go toward putting one extra officer on the street. Response times will not go down nor will community policing increase because of the tax increase.”

Adding insult to injury, the road annual tax was increased from $30 to $50 per vehicle, ostensibly to provide more money for maintenance of roads in the county road system.

Just a few months later, county council voted to use approximately $16 million in excess revenue from Ride II tax collections not for roads, but to buy a new radio system for public safety.

Five county council members will be up for re-election in 2016, but only one, Gary Loftus, voted to increase taxes.

Five of the six council members voting to raise taxes were elected or re-elected in 2014 and hope the voters will not remember this tax increase in 2018 when they face election again.

The statewide issue that was most intriguing was the removal of the Confederate battle flag from statehouse grounds.

This was done in just several days of a special session called by Gov. Nikki Haley. It demonstrated the General Assembly can act quickly when it wants to.

This special session followed a five month regular session when the General Assembly did absolutely nothing about the most important issues in the state – road maintenance and repair, ethics issues and school funding.

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House Ways and Means Chairman Prepares Palmetto Farm Aid

December 22, 2015 5:03 PM
House Ways and Means Chairman Prepares Palmetto Farm Aid

(Columbia, SC) – House Ways and Means Chairman Brian White (District 6-Anderson) today announced plans to introduce the first of several legislative responses to the catastrophic flooding the state received this October.

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PR: Speaker Statement on Retirement System Report

December 21, 2015 12:27 PM
PR: Speaker Statement on Retirement System Report

(Columbia, SC) – House Speaker Jay Lucas (District 65-Darlington) issued the following statement in response to the Legislative Audit Council’s (LAC) report of the South Carolina Retirement System Investment Commission (RSIC).

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Mia McLeod Requests Better Protection for Clinics

December 1, 2015 4:42 AM
Mia McLeod Requests Better Protection for Clinics

Rep. Mia McLeod calls on Gov. Haley to increase security at women’s health centers in South Carolina

Columbia, SC – On Monday, State Representative Mia McLeod called on Governor Haley to increase security at women’s health centers in South Carolina following the deadly shooting of three people at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Rep. McLeod (D-Richland) said Governor Haley’s personal politics should take a backseat to the safety and wellbeing of health professionals and patients at South Carolina clinics.

“It doesn’t matter whether you’re pro-life or pro-choice, our focus right now should be to make sure what happened in Colorado Springs doesn’t happen in Columbia or Charleston,” said Rep. Mia McLeod. “The anti-Planned Parenthood rhetoric has been more prevalent in South Carolina than anywhere else in the country, and Governor Haley would be wise to tone down her own rhetoric and instead beef up security at our clinics. The safety and wellbeing of patients and those who work at women’s health centers in our state should be our top priority.”

Rep. McLeod said Governor Haley should take seriously the FBI’s warning in September that attacks on women’s health centers were likely.

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