May 29, 2015

Domestic violence bill heads to governor

S.C. Statehouse

S.C. Statehouse

A domestic violence bill now headed to the governor would increase penalties for offenders, bar higher-level abusers from owning guns, and revamp how such crimes are prosecuted in South Carolina.

The House voted 81-23 Thursday to accept a compromise version of the bill that was introduced last week. The vote came two days after the Senate approved an identical version

“This battle has been about creating a better tomorrow for all South Carolinians. Our laws reflect our values, and until recently, our values were not accurately represented by our laws,” State Attorney General Alan Wilson said in a statement released after the vote. “While this problem won’t be overcome with legislation alone, South Carolina has taken its first giant (step) in the long journey to changing the culture of violence.”

Many of the “no” votes against the bill came from Democrats who felt the bill did not do enough to provide counseling for batterers and their victims. Some opponents also questioned why a domestic violence intervention program was being moved from the state Department of Social Services to the Attorney General’s Office and circuit solicitors.

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Former Charleston legislator avoids jail, must pay $70,000 and community service

Former State Sen. Robert Ford following his guilty plea in January (File)

Former State Sen. Robert Ford following his guilty plea in January (File)

A former Charleston state senator avoided prison time Thursday, but will have to serve 350 hours of community service and repay nearly $70,000 after pleading guilty to four ethics-related charges.

A circuit judge sentenced State Sen. Robert Ford, D-Charleston, to a total of 12 years in prison for the charges, but suspended the sentence in favor of five years probation, $69,000 restitution, and community service.

Ford had agreed to plead guilty back in January to two counts of False Reporting, one for Misconduct, and another for Forgery. He was given seven years suspended on the misconduct charge, three for forgery, and one year each on the false reporting charges. He was given five years probation for each conviction, to be served concurrently.

Circuit Judge Robert Hood mentioned recent examples of other state politicians avoided prison on ethics charges before making his ruling. Former lieutenant governor Ken Ard also received five years probation and community service in 2012 on seven counts related to illegal personal reimbursements and filing false campaign reports. Former House Speaker Bobby Harrell had a prison sentence suspended last year in favor of three years probation and a $30,000 fine after pleading guilty to six counts of using campaign funds for personal expenses. Both of those men were Republicans.

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Clinton focuses on women’s pay during first public SC appearance

Clinton spoke to the Democratic Women's Council for roughly 30 minutes

Clinton spoke to the Democratic Women’s Council for roughly 30 minutes

Hillary Clinton catered her speech towards female voters Wednesday during her first visit to South Carolina since announcing her 2016 presidential candidacy.

Clinton lost to then-Senator Barack Obama by 23 percentage points during the 2008 South Carolina Democratic primary, turning fortunes in Obama’s favor after Clinton had won the previous two primaries in New Hampshire and Nevada. But the former Secretary of State made no mention of that race during her appearance in Columbia on Wednesday, speaking to a few hundred attendees at the South Carolina Democratic Women’s Council and the state House Democratic Women’s Caucus.

“I do know how hard this job I’m seeking is,” she said in the roughly 30-minute speech. “I have seen it up close and personal. You’re not going to catch me wondering what it’s like. Instead, I’m spending my time planning for what I will do for you when I get there.”

Her speech primarily focused on the women’s pay gap, which was also the only time she made specific policy proposals. They included passing the Paycheck Fairness Act which she sponsored while serving in the US Senate, promoting “pay transparency,” which she said would give salary or wage information to help give women the “information they need to negotiate fairly,” and raising minimum wages for low-level jobs that are more likely to be held by women.

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Uber bill stalls in Senate with only two weeks remaining in session

UberA temporary license that is allowing the carsharing phone app Uber to operate in South Carolina will expire next month — and legislators have only two weeks remaining to address the issue before they end this year’s session.

The state Public Service Commission is allowing Uber to operate through July after initially issuing cease-and-desist orders against the company. However, the approval is based upon lawmakers crafting new regulations that would cover the ridesharing company. Uber maintains it is not a taxi service but only uses a smartphone app to connect customers with potential drivers.

A bill that would regulate Uber as a “transportation network” was introduced before the session started and passed the South Carolina House by a 96-13 vote back in March. However, it has since stalled on the Senate floor, where legislators leading the negotiations say they are having trouble bringing all sides together.

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Hillary Clinton’s visit just one of several candidate appearances this week

Image: Hillary for America

Image: Hillary for America

Hillary Clinton will make her first South Carolina trip of the current presidential election cycle on Wednesday, but she won’t be the only White House hopeful stumping in the Palmetto State this week.

In fact, Clinton will not even be the only candidate appearing in Columbia on Wednesday afternoon. Former Hewlett-Packard CEO and Republican candidate Carly Fiorina will be speaking less than a mile away.

Clinton is scheduled to meet with “minority women small business owners” in a closed event Wednesday, before delivering the keynote address to the South Carolina House Democratic Women’s Caucus and the South Carolina Democratic Women’s Council at 1:45 p.m. The event is being held at the Marriott hotel in downtown Columbia.

Fiorina will be speaking to a South Carolina House GOP luncheon at the Hilton Hotel earlier that afternoon at 12:30.

Meanwhile, Ohio Governor John Kasich will be speaking to the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce at noon that day as he considers a run for the Republican nomination. He will later attend a Charleston County GOP function in Mount Pleasant.

Earlier in the week, Congressman Mark Sanford will be hosting retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson Tuesday at the Mount Pleasant Farmers Market. The 3:45 p.m. event is part of Sanford’s neighborhood office hours. He has not endorsed a candidate.

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul will be making a swing through the Upstate on Friday. He will attend a York County GOP barbecue at Historic Old Town in Rock Hill at 1 p.m. He will then travel to The Beacon Drive-In in Spartanburg at 3:30 p.m, before attending a Greenville County GOP pizza party at the party’s headquarters around 5:30 p.m.