September 21, 2014

Former SC governors push for civics portion of citizenship test in schools

Former Governor Dick Riley served as Education Secretary in President Clinton's administration

Former Governor Dick Riley served as Education Secretary in President Clinton’s administration

Three former South Carolina governors have joined an initiative that would encourage high school students to take the civics portion of a test required for immigrants seeking American citizenship.

Former Republican governor James Edwards, along with ex-Democratic governors Jim Hodges and Dick Riley announced their support for the South Carolina Civics Initiative in a Wednesday conference call. The call was intentionally scheduled on the 227th anniversary of the U.S. Constitution’s signing.

Riley said civics education merits more attention than it’s currently receiving in schools. “This idea of civics education is so important for American students, all of them, to know the very basics,” the initiative’s co-chair said in the conference call. “I think it’s important to the country and it’s important to our country’s future.”

The group cited an Annenberg Public Policy Center study which found only one-third of Americans could name one of their government’s three branches.

“Understanding basic civics and how our government works needs to be a priority,” said Columbia restaurateur Bill Dukes, also a state co-chair. “Civic education will enable us to sustain our constitutional democracy.  Our citizens must be informed and responsible.  Our free and open society cannot succeed if our citizens don’t understand the fundamental values and principles of democracy.”

The Civics Education Initiative is asking state lawmakers to consider having students take the test, but not requiring it for graduation. Students could get extra credit on their GPA for a good score, according to a release from the group.

Sabb takes advantage of increased turnout, wins Pee Dee Senate race

State Rep. Ronnie Sabb, D-Kingstree

State Rep. Ronnie Sabb, D-Kingstree

Voters in the Pee Dee on Tuesday decided to promote State Rep. Ronnie Sabb, D-Greeleyville, sending the second-term South Carolina House member to the state Senate.

Sabb took 58.7 percent of the vote in Tuesday’s Democratic runoff election for Senate District 32, eclipsing Kingstree attorney Sam Floyd’s 41.3 percent.

District 32 centers around Williamsburg County, but also includes western Georgetown County and slivers of Florence, Berkeley, and Horry counties.

The seat was held for 22 years by State Sen. Yancey McGill before McGill resigned to become lieutenant governor earlier this summer. Since no Republicans have entered the race, the winner of the Democratic primary will almost certainly take the seat in November.

Sam Floyd (Image:

Sam Floyd (Image:

It was a come-from-behind victory for Sabb. The Williamsurg County attorney had more than 1,100 fewer votes than Floyd in the initial September 2 Democratic primary. But he took advantage of higher turnout from two weeks ago, going from 3,485 total votes in the primary to 9,639 in Tuesday’s runoff. Floyd’s total votes also increased, but not nearly as much.

Sabb, a former assistant solicitor and general counsel at Santee Cooper power utility, has served in the House for 4 years.

His victory means another special election is now required for Sabb’s seat in the House. Elections officials say that special election will likely occur in early 2015.

“Welcome to Moe’s!” Christie makes campaign stop at Charleston restaurant

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Gov. Nikki Haley stopped at a Moe's Southwest Grill in Charleston Tuesday

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Gov. Nikki Haley stopped at a Moe’s Southwest Grill in Charleston Tuesday

A Moe’s Southwest Grill in downtown Charleston was briefly the focal point of South Carolina politics Tuesday afternoon, as New Jersey Governor Chris Christie made a campaign stop during a whirlwind Carolina tour.

Christie was officially campaigning with Gov. Nikki Haley, who is seeking a second term in November. But the attention was on the northeast Republican and whether or not his trip to the Southeast is laying the groundwork for a future presidential run in 2016. Many Republicans had asked him to seek the office in 2012, but Christie instead decided to finish the rest of his first term as governor.

Christie himself was mum on any presidential plans, but his South Carolina itinerary on Tuesday also included a pair of fundraisers with Haley in Charleston and another on Kiawah Island. It’s part of several national appearances for the chairman of the Republican Governor’s Association this week. He had been in North Carolina on Tuesday morning campaigning for a Senate candidate there. He will travel to New Hampshire on Wednesday for appearances with a pair of GOP candidates.

“I’ll be out of state for, I think it’s 29 of the next 49 days,” he told reporters at Moe’s. “So I’ll be pretty busy.”

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Spartanburg County park to replace ill-fated miniature train


Cleveland Park train, prior to the March 2011 crash (Image: "I Rode the Cleveland Park Train" Facebook group)

Cleveland Park train, prior to the March 2011 crash (Image: “I Rode the Cleveland Park Train” Facebook group)

Spartanburg County park officials are planning to get rid of a miniature train at Cleveland Park, eliminating a children’s ride which has not operated since a crash three years ago killed a Gaffney child and injured 28 other people.

The Spartanburg Herald-Journal first reported that Spartanburg County Council approved a plan Monday which would revamp Cleveland Park. The plan would eliminate the miniature train, which has not operated since the March 2011 crash. 6-year-old Benji Easler died in the crash, which investigators blamed on operator error. A $1.6 million settlement was reached with the victims’ families back in June.

The vote gives Spartanburg County Parks and Recreation the go-ahead to begin work on the project, which also includes additional walking trails, a new playground, new athletic field, and restoration of a stream that flows through the park. Agency spokeswoman Marcia Murff says the miniature tracks will be removed and replaced with a paved walking trail.

“We just determined that there was not a way to make the operation of the train as safe as we would be comfortable with,” Murff told South Carolina Radio Network.

Murff said officials were concerned that human error, which was blamed for the 2011 wreck, could be a factor again.

The old playground had been located in the center of the rail loop, but was removed in 2011. Murff said county officials did not want to replace it until legal proceedings were finished in the train crash.

36 stores suspended from SC lottery sales

36 stores have been suspended from selling South Carolina Education Lottery tickets because of their involvement with illegal gambling machines.

WIS-TV reports that lottery officials said the stores are being suspended for six months because of the illegal machines.

The stores’ contracts with the lottery include a provision for a non-appealable six-month suspension if a magistrate determines there are illegal devices in their stores. The stores have received a letter about the suspension.

About 4,000 businesses in South Carolina sell lottery tickets. Education Lottery officials on Tuesday would not name the individual suspended businesses, but said 24 were located in the Upstate, 7 in the Midlands, and 5 were located in the “Coastal” region. Spokeswoman Holli Armstrong said there were no affected businesses in the Rock Hill/Catawba River region.