March 5, 2015

SC Big Story: Senator tells of sister’s abuse during domestic violence debate (AUDIO)

State Sen. Katrina Shealy, R-Lexington, speaks on the domestic violence bill Tuesday (Image: SCETV)

State Sen. Katrina Shealy, R-Lexington, speaks on the domestic violence bill Tuesday (Image: SCETV)

A roundup of what’s making news in South Carolina state government.

South Carolina’s only female state senator spoke about her own family’s struggles with domestic violence on the floor Tuesday.

State Sen. Katrina Shealy, R-Lexington, spoke as the Senate continued debating a bill that seeks to impose tougher punishments for convicted batterers. It also came as opponents continue to hold up a vote because the bill would bar an offender from owning a gun after a misdemeanor domestic violence conviction.

During her five-minute speech, Shealy said her sister struggled with an abusive husband for thirty years. The senator said her brother-in-law often made threats to kill his wife and children. “She would sit in her room and she heard him in another room cocking a gun over and over again,” Shealy said. “Finally, one Friday night in November of 1999, she had had enough after almost 30 years of living in torment.”


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Senate panel gives OK to replacement of SC State trustees

Members of the Senate Higher Education subcommittee discuss the bill Tuesday

Members of the Senate Higher Education subcommittee discuss the bill Tuesday

A state Senate panel on Tuesday advanced a bill that would remove the South Carolina State University board of trustees.

The Higher Education Subcommittee voted unanimously in favor of a bill that would replace the current board with a new five-member panel. That panel, appointed by the governor and legislative leaders, would serve through 2018. The proposal slightly differs from House budget language that would replace the board with the State Financial Accountability Authority (consisting of the governor, Senate and House budget chairmen, State Treasurer, and Comptroller General).

The measure now heads to the Senate Education Committee for its meeting Wednesday. It will likely be taken up on the Senate floor next week then sent to the House.

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Lawmakers push to require CPR training as part of high school curriculum

SC Statehouse

SC Statehouse

South Carolina high students would need to learn how to perform CPR on a manikin under a bill that is now headed to the state Senate.

High school students are already required to learn CPR as part of their health education credit. The legislation approved by unanimous vote in the House last week will require training on a dummy as part of the curriculum.

The bill’s sponsor State Rep. Don Wells, R-Aiken, said he felt an application section in the course would better prepare young adults should they be around when someone suffers a heart attack.

“We’re all a little afraid of something we’ve never done before,” he told South Carolina Radio Network. “But actually showing them the proper way to do CPR and them practicing on a dummy makes them much more comfortable in that type of situation.”

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DHEC nominee withdraws her name

DHEC nominee Eleanor Kitzman answers questions from senators on Thursday (Image: SCETV)

DHEC nominee Eleanor Kitzman answers questions from senators on Thursday (Image: SCETV)

A new search will be needed for South Carolina’s next top environmental official, after the woman the governor initially wanted for the post withdrew her name this weekend.

The State newspaper in Columbia first reported the news Sunday.

The board at the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) had nominated Eleanor Kitzman for the post, but she came under immediate criticism from state senators who questioned Kitzman’s political fundraising for Governor Nikki Haley and her lack of public health or environmental work experience. Kitzman is a former state insurance director and once held a similar job in Texas.

She withdrew her name in a letter to DHEC board chairman Allen Amsler on Sunday. “While it is not my nature or history to retreat when confronted with difficulty, I know from recent personal experience how this scenario plays out,” she wrote. While Kitzman did not explain the “personal experience,” it was likely a reference to her recent job as Insurance Commissioner in Texas, where state lawmakers refused to confirm her in 2013 out of concerns she was too close with the industry.

“My only purpose in becoming Director was to serve the Board, the agency, its employees and stakeholders, and the citizens of South Carolina,” she continued. “None of which will benefit from a protracted confirmation process, regardless of the outcome.”

The DHEC board, whose members are appointed by the governor, will now have to choose a new nominee. The state Senate must then confirm that choice.

Kitzman told a Senate hearing last week that Gov. Nikki Haley had approached her about getting involved in state government again. Haley then recommended her to the board. She was the only candidate ever considered by the board, a departure from its usual practice.

Democrats opposed to the choice had warned they did not expect Kitzman to have enough votes to receive the Senate’s approval.

Clyburn: Plan for state takeover of SC State “a step in the right direction”

Congressman Jim Clyburn (File)

Congressman Jim Clyburn (File)

Congressman Jim Clyburn, perhaps South Carolina State University’s most prominent alum, said he supports a state House proposal that would fire his alma mater’s board of trustees and have the state temporarily take over.

During an appearance on Greenwood affiliate WCRS, Clyburn called the move a “step in the right direction.”

“You’ve got to be accountable to the people who are funding you and you’ve got to credible to the people who are evaluating you,” he told host Anne Eller. “And I think that the current administration down at South Carolina State, including the policymakers, have lost all accountability.”

The House and Ways Means Committee on Wednesday gave its approval to a plan that would remove SC State’s board and replace it with the State Fiscal Accountability Authority (formerly known as the Budget and Control Board). The Authority could appoint an interim president and oversee day-to-day operations at the school until legislators appoint a new board, likely once the school’s roughly $17 million deficit is under control.

Clyburn said he does not think current president Thomas Elzey, an Illinois native who never attended a historically-black college, is the right man for the job. He said he thinks any interim leader or CEO must come from an HCBU background. “Where there is no vision, the people perish,” he said, referencing a passage from the Book of Proverbs. “And the school, the students at South Carolina State, are perishing because the leadership has no vision.”

While the House is expected to include the changes as part of this year’s budget, state senators are working on an alternative, though similar, plan. A bill sponsored by President pro tempore Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, would remove all trustees off the college’s board. A new five-member board appointed by Governor Nikki Haley, House Speaker Jay Lucas, and the President Pro Tem would instead run the school for three years.

Clyburn stayed away from criticizing state lawmakers during Thursday’s interview, but previously condemned a separate House plan which would have close the school temporarily until its budget could be stabilized. He complained legislative budget writers have not adequately funded the school for years and appointed many trustees that he called a “joke.” House members counter they provided more state funding for SC State than for most state institutions of a similar size and scope.

Anne Eller of Greenwood affiliate WCRS contributed to this report