August 30, 2015

Other legislators respond to Majority Leader’s proposal for protest permits at Statehouse

State lawmakers say questions still linger after two rival hate groups held simultaneous tension-filled rallies at the Statehouse on July 18 — as to why state officials let it happen.

Jonathon Brooks of Mooresboro, NC, waves his personal banner in the midst of the Black Educators/New Black Panthers event on July 18 (File)

Jonathon Brooks of Mooresboro, NC, waves his personal banner in the midst of the Black Educators/New Black Panthers event on July 18 (File)

After a joint legislative committee hearing on the matter Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Harvey Peeler, R-Cherokee, has pledged to propose legislation next year that would require permits for protests and rallies.

“Common sense is needed in determining the who, when and where for demonstration activity, and I didn’t hear a lot of that in our State House Committee hearing,” Peeler said in a release. “When I hear a 40-year law enforcement veteran say the July 18th rallies were the worst situation he’s ever seen, it’s time to do something.”

The release did not give any specifics on the proposed law, but Peeler had asked the Division of General Services (which oversees the Statehouse grounds) to base their regulations on the U.S. Capitol’s standards.

State Rep. Chip Huggins of Columbia told South Carolina Radio Network he is favor of procedures that would prevent a repeat of the July 18 protests as long as they don’t violate the First Amendment. “It sounds like a pretty good thing to do. That way you know what you’re dealing with and that would help law enforcement I think,” he said. “As long as it is across the board for everyone.”

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SC Atty Gen.’s Office: State law could allow confidential execution drugs

All executions in South Carolina are performed at the Broad River Correctional Institution (Image: SCDC)

All executions in South Carolina are performed at the Broad River Correctional Institution (Image: SCDC)

South Carolina’s top legal office is arguing that state law already allows pharmaceutical companies to confidentially provide execution drugs. If true, that could clear a path for South Carolina to obtain the drugs it says it lacks to perform lethal injections.

The state Department of Corrections has not executed a Death Row inmate since 2011. Agency director Bryan Stirling has said pharmaceutical companies — worried about public backlash — have stopped selling execution drugs like pentobarbital to states. The European Union has also barred any corporations headquartered there from selling any drugs to entities and governments that plan to use them in capital punishment. South Carolina law allows inmates to choose their execution method. Most select lethal injection.

Stirling has been pushing to change state law so that pharmacies mixing the drugs would be confidential — the same secrecy that state law already uses for personnel who are involved in the execution itself. A bill that would change South Carolina law to match Georgia’s confidentiality requirements failed to overcome opposition in the Senate this year.

But an opinion by the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office released this week suggests such a legal change may not require Statehouse approval. Assistant Attorney General Brendan McDonald wrote that a broad interpretation of the state’s confidentiality laws may already cover the companies. “We believe the phrase ‘member of an execution team’ must be broadly construed to include an individual or company providing or participating in the preparation of chemical compounds intended for use by the Department of Corrections for ‘carrying out an order of execution by lethal injection.'”

The opinion is just meant to be advisory and is not legally binding. Stirling told the Associated Press he still plans to seek legislative approval first.

Death penalty opponents say such secrecy laws raise legal issues. Death Penalty Information Center director Rob Dunham has previously argued inmates would not know if the chemical compounds involved could be considered “cruel and unusual punishment.”

Sen. Pinckney’s family, friends announce new foundation on late senator’s birthday

State Sen. Clementa Pinckney (Image: SCETV/File)

State Sen. Clementa Pinckney (Image: SCETV/File)

The widow and friends of a former state legislator who was murdered last month said Thursday that they have launched a nonprofit to carry on his work across South Carolina’s Lowcountry.

The announcement was made Thursday, which would have been State Sen. Clementa Pinckney’s 42nd birthday. Pinckney was among nine people killed at a church he pastored in Charleston on June 17. Federal prosecutors have deemed the shooting a hate crime, saying the sole white gunman purposely targeted the historic, predominantly-black Emanuel AME Church. The suspected gunman Dylann Roof will be in federal court Friday to face the hate crime charges.

“While the shock has started to dissipate, we are still in a state of deep grief,” the senator’s widow Jennifer Pinckney said in an email. “But, we are answering God’s call to continue my husband’s work and that starts with establishing a charitable foundation in his honor.” Mrs. Pinckney is the foundation’s Chair.

Another founding member State Sen. Gerald Malloy, D-Darlington, said The Honorable Reverend Clementa C. Pinckney Foundation will try to improve the quality of life for disadvantaged South Carolinians. He said that would include a focus on education and healthcare.

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South Carolina Military Base Task Force receives a status update

The South Carolina Military Base Task Force is breathing somewhat of a sigh of relief now that that they know how cuts to the Army will affect the state. The biggest impact the cuts will have in the Palmetto State will be at Ft. Jackson, which learned this month it will lose about 180 active-duty members.

 Members of the South Carolina Military Task Force meeting July 29, 2015. South Carolina Radio Network photo.

Members of the South Carolina Military Task Force meeting July 29, 2015. South Carolina Radio Network photo.

Task force chairman Bill Bethea said Wednesday it could have been a lot worse. “We were fearful that it might be in the several thousands. And so we’re very blessed that’s not the case.” He said that there will be most likely an equal number of civilian employees cut at the base as well.

He said that some of the state’s other top military installations are untouched by the cuts. “Marine Air Corp Station (Beaufort) for example is actually expanding. (Marine Recruiting Depot) Parris Island is running about the same.”

He said that they always have to be looking forward. “We’re totally dependent on what Congress decides to do in the next year’s budget.”

Bethea also said they will try again next legislative session to get a bill passed that eliminates the state income tax on retired military members pay. “We fell that, that does several things for the state and that’s why we were so strongly in favor of it. And why we’re going to be pushing next year to get it accomplished.”

He said by eliminating the state income tax on retired military members pay, the state would attract more armed forces retirees who currently take advantage of the tax break in other states.




Race to replace Horry County legislator headed to runoff

Russell Fry (Image:

Russell Fry (Image:

The election to replace a Surfside Beach legislator who resigned amid sex harassment allegations this spring is down to a runoff.

Relative newcomers Russell Fry and Tyler Servant each got the most votes among the four Republicans running to replace former State Rep. Nelson Hardwick in SC House District 106. The State Election Commission said Fry received 45 percent of the votes to Servant’s 33 percent. They will face off again on August 11.

“What a stunning upset,” Fry posted to his Facebook page. “This was possible because of you, your hard work, and your dedication… Over the next two weeks, we will offer a clear difference in candidates, ideas, and solutions.”

Since there is no Democrat running, the winner in two weeks will almost certainly win the seat. District 106 covers the neighborhoods southwest of Myrtle Beach, including South Strand, Surfside Beach and Garden City.
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