August 28, 2014

New House committee formed to tackle domestic violence

SC House Speaker Bobby Harrell announced Wednesday he has created a special ad hoc committee that will be tasked with finding ways to end South Carolina’s status as the nation’s highest rate for women murdered by men.

The Special Criminal Domestic Violence Ad Hoc Committee had its first organizational meeting Wednesday afternoon.

Harrell named the ad hoc domestic violence committee after the Charleston Post & Courier ran a series of articles detailing serious legal and cultural problems that cause the rate of women killed by men in South Carolina to be nearly double the national rate.

The articles noted that 14 pieces of legislation have been proposed in the Statehouse concerning domestic violence in the last two years. But only one of those measures passed– dealing with custody of pets that may be caught up in the situation.

Committee chair State Rep. Shannon Erickson, R-Beaufort, said the panel will hear from experts, stakeholders, and the public to see if criminal laws could be toughened or the law enforcement and legal system improved to help reduce the violence. Erickson said she hoped the committee would be able to recommend comprehensive reform, not piecemeal changes. [Read more...]

SC House returns for one-day session

SC House of Representatives (FILE)

SC House of Representatives (FILE)

The South Carolina House of Representatives will return to Columbia for one afternoon Wednesday as they consider whether or not to override two of Gov. Nikki Haley’s vetoes.

Haley issued the vetoes just before the regular session ended in June for a bill that would make it a misdemeanor for repeated disruptors to enter a library and local legislation that raises the property tax cap on residents of Murrells Inlet and Surfside Beach to pay for fire control. While the Senate easily overrode both vetoes, the House never took them up before leaving for the year.

It will take a two-thirds majority to override the governor.

House Speaker Bobby Harrell decided to call the chamber in for the one-day session after saying a consensus was reached at a legislative retreat a few weeks ago.

Legislators are also holding a few study committee meetings Wednesday on expungement and school safety.

House members each receive $176 to cover meals and lodging for the day, plus mileage reimbursement.

College of Charleston clears first hurdle in bid to offer doctorate degrees


Interim Provost Brian McGee (Image: C-of-C)

Interim Provost Brian McGee (Image: C-of-C)

The College of Charleston has gotten the first level of approval it needs to become a research university that offers doctorate degrees.

A state Commission on Higher Education academic affairs panel on Tuesday agreed with C-of-C’s request to change its mission statement — a move that would eventually allow the school to become only the fourth public institution in South Carolina to offer doctorates.

The Associated Press covered the meeting and first reported the news Tuesday.

State law does not allow colleges to offer the degrees unless it is designated a “research university.” Currently only the University of South Carolina, Clemson University, and the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) have that designation.

“This isn’t a decision that’s being made about tomorrow or even a year from now,” Interim Provost Brian McGee told South Carolina Radio Network. “But it’s about future generations and how, in the coming decades, we’re going to create the kind of economy that we aspire to for this city and this region.”

Even though MUSC is also located in Charleston, McGee said the Lowcountry currently lacks a college that can give advanced degrees in industrial and high-tech fields.

“Having local talent produced in local universities has to be a part of the mix,” he said.

But he added College of Charleston is still years away from accepting doctoral students. Another vote of approval is needed at the full Commission on Higher Education meeting in October before the school can even present the plan to its own faculty and trustees for approval.

The College of Charleston sits in a unique position among the state’s 10 comprehensive four-year non-research colleges in that it houses a research program known as the “University of Charleston, South Carolina.” This graduate program is technically separate from the historically liberal arts college, although it is overseen by C-of-C officials.

Legislators representing the Charleston area tried to press their colleagues to change the law this past year to expand the school’s research capability. The bill cleared the House, but died in the Senate after two powerful lawmakers worried the measure needed more study. The bill was proposed as an alternative after the same Charleston legislators considered merging C-of-C and MUSC this spring.

Potential 2016 GOP candidates descend on SC this week

Photo: Matt Long

Gov. Perry visited the Spartanburg Rotary Club last year

Three Republicans who are rumored to be considering runs for president in 2016 will be in South Carolina this week.

As the first southern state to hold its presidential primary every year, South Carolina frequently plays host to candidates dipping their toes into presidential runs. Prior to the 2012 election, the winner of South Carolina’s GOP primary had gone on to become the eventual nominee in every election since 1980.

While that streak ended with South Carolina’s choice of Newt Gingrich over Mitt Romney in 2012, the Palmetto State is still seen as a proving ground for candidates’ running on their conservative credentials.

On Monday night, Florida Senator Marco Rubio is scheduled to be the speaker at Congressman Jeff Duncan’s Fourth Annual Faith & Freedom BBQ at the Anderson Civic Center in Anderson. The event, scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m., is billed as a tribute to members of the U.S. military and their families.

This will be Rubio’s first South Carolina appearance in the 2016 cycle.

At the same time, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul will be in Rock Hill attending a GOP fundraiser hosted by another South Carolina Congressman — Rep. Mick Mulvaney. The “Liberty BBQ” will be held from 6:00-7:00 p.m. at the Magnolia Room.

Texas Governor Rick Perry will be in the Midlands on Wednesday and Thursday — keeping to his schedule despite an indictment two weeks ago (it may help that Perry’s alma mater Texas A&M is playing South Carolina on Thursday). Perry will be attending an SCGOP “Victory Tailgate” at the First Citizens Café in downtown Columbia Wednesday at 5:30 p.m.

The next day, Perry will then appear at a fundraiser for State Rep. Kirkman Finlay, R-Columbia, at Doc’s Barbecue at noon. The Texas A&M-South Carolina game starts at 6:00 p.m. Thursday.


Report: South Carolina collected $266 million surplus past fiscal year

South Carolina ended the 2014-2015 fiscal year in June with a $266 million surplus, $32 million more than budget analysts had expected.

In its closing report issued Wednesday, the state Comptroller General’s Office said that surplus is being deposited into a reserve fund to be applied towards next fiscal year. The news also allows state government to cover every item on a priority list that was only to be funded with surplus revenue.

However, the Comptroller General’s report also warned that the 2.5 percent increase in revenue this past year had slowed from the 9.1 percent growth in Fiscal Year 2012-2013.

In all, general fund revenues grew by $163 million over prior year’s revenues. It is the second consecutive year that the surplus exceeded estimates.

The $235 million in legislative priorities list includes more than $48 million towards debt service and reserve funds, an additional $23 million for the Department of Education, more than $14.5 million for various technical colleges, $12.4 million towards the Department of Commerce’s Deal Closing Fund, and $5 million for the future African-American History Museum in Charleston.

State Comptroller Richard Eckstrom warned that South Carolina still faces more than $25 billion in unfunded liabilities for state employees retirement benefits that will come due in the future.