July 3, 2015

Governor Haley calling for removal of Confederate battle flag

Gov. Haley calling for the removal of the Confederate Battle flag from State House grounds Monday June 22, 2015. South Carolina Radio Network photo.

Gov. Haley calling for the removal of the Confederate Battle flag from State House grounds Monday June 22, 2015. South Carolina Radio Network photo.

Governor Nikki Haley, along with other top South Carolina lawmakers, called on the state legislature Monday to remove the Confederate Battle flag from the grounds of the State House.

Haley made the announcement Monday afternoon inside the State House, flanked by a bipartisan group that included U.S. Sens. Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott, as well as former governor, and now Congressman Mark Sanford and Congressman Jim Clyburn.

“Today, we are here in a moment of unity in our state, without ill will, to say it is time to move the flag from the Capitol grounds,” said Haley, a statement that was met with nearly 40 seconds of applause throughout the capitol. “One hundred fifty years after the end of the Civil War the time has come.”

Any removal of the flag would require approval by at least two-thirds of state legislators — first to even take up the issue in special summer session and again to change a 2000 law that moved the flag from the Statehouse dome to its grounds. Haley on Monday threatened to order the legislature back into session if they do not take up the bill before adjourning for good this year.

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Lawmakers shifting positions on Statehouse Confederate flag

Democratic candidate for governor Vincent Sheheen called for the flag's removal last year

Democratic candidate for governor Vincent Sheheen called for the flag’s removal last year

For 15 years, the Confederate battle flag has flown in front of the South Carolina Statehouse.

Legislators put it there as part of a 2000 compromise that removed it from the top of the Statehouse dome. That compromise placed it next to the state Confederate Soldiers Monument near the corner of Gervais and Main streets. It also created a new African American Monument on the Capitol’s east side and made Martin Luther King Jr., Day a state holiday.

For more than a decade the vast majority of state lawmakers were willing to leave it there — including many of those who opposed the flag — not ready to dredge up the contentious fight a second time. While the NAACP and other civil rights groups have consistently pushed for the flag’s removal in its MLK Day rally every year since, no proposal has gotten far in the state legislature.

When then-candidate for governor State Sen. Vincent Sheheen, D-Kershaw, pushed for its removal as part of his losing 2014 campaign, the idea was largely shrugged off as unlikely even by fellow Democrats. Gov. Nikki Haley herself has avoided taking sides in the past, dodging a debate question last year by saying the state “fixed” its historic racial reputation when it elected an Indian-American governor and African-American senator.

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Uber bill one step away from governor’s desk

State Rep. Leon Stavrinakis, D-Charleston, sponsored the bill (File/SCETV)

State Rep. Leon Stavrinakis, D-Charleston, sponsored the bill (File/SCETV)

Gov. Nikki Haley is expected to sign a bill that would allow Uber and other Smartphone app ridesharing services to operate in South Carolina.

The Senate and House both approved the measure overwhelmingly last week that would create a new category in South Carolina for “transportation network companies” like Uber. The bill needs to clear one final procedural step before it heads to the governor’s desk later this week. A spokesperson for the governor has not responded to questions on the legislation, but Haley has previously supported it.

Uber has been operating in a handful of metro areas — Charleston, Columbia, Greenville, and Myrtle Beach — since late last year.

“Uber’s creating jobs. They’re promoting entrepreneurship, providing a valuable service to the people of South Carolina,” the bill’s sponsor State Rep. Leon Stavrinakis, D-Charleston, told South Carolina Radio Network. “There are just so many great things.”

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Confederate battle flag issue reignites after Charleston shootings

battle flag

The Confederate battle flag sits behind the Confederate Soldiers Monument on the Statehouse grounds (File)

As the nation reacts to the murders of nine people at a historically-black Charleston church by a white gunman earlier this week, more attention has focused on a Confederate battle flag that has flown on South Carolina’s Statehouse grounds for more than 50 years.

On Friday NAACP President Cornell Brooks said it’s time for the flag to come down. ”The governor and the state legislature have a central, critical leadership responsibility in removing that flag,” he said during a press conference outside the organization’s branch in Charleston.

Legislators first voted to place the flag atop the Capitol dome in 1962 in protest of federal civil rights legislation. The flag was moved to its present location next to the Confederate Soldier Monument in 2000 as part of a compromise that resolved years of debate and also established an African-American monument on the grounds. However, the NAACP and other groups have consistently said in the years since that the flag should be taken off the grounds entirely.

Even the White House weighed in Friday. “The president has said before he believes the Confederate flag belongs in a museum, and that is still his position,” spokesman Eric Schultz told reporters aboard Air Force One, according to a pool report.

With flags flying at half-staff across the state after the Charleston church shooting, the flag was not lowered. Brooks said if it was it would simply make no sense any way. “Flying a flag that represents violence and bigotry at half mast, as opposed to taking it down, seems to me to be not merely a half-contradiction, that’s a full blown contradiction.”

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Legislators vote to commission portrait of Sen. Pinckney after his murder

Senate Chaplain Dr. James St. John leads senators in prayer during Thursday's session

Senate Chaplain Dr. James St. John leads senators in prayer during Thursday’s session

South Carolina state senators on Thursday unanimously voted to honor their late colleague State Sen. Clementa Pinckney with a portrait in the Senate chamber — only the second African-American to receive that honor.

Pinckney was among the nine people killed when a white gunman opened fire at an all-black Bible study Wednesday night at the Emanuel AME Church. He had spent the past 19 years representing Jasper County in the Statehouse and was pastor of the historic “mother church” for the AME’s district in South Carolina.

“It’s about the spirit of Senator Pinckney living on,” State Sen. Gerald Malloy, D-Hartsville, said while introducing the resolution. It passed 41-0. Senate resolutions do not have to get approval from the House or Gov. Nikki Haley to take effect.

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