Coronavirus 2020

Local governments all over the state are adopting emergency measures to combat the COVID-19 outbreak – but not all of them are making their emergency declarations and ordinances easily accessible. 

State law allows local governments to pass emergency ordinances in one meeting without giving the public any notice or a chance to read them first, and a number of local governments’ emergency actions are either incompletely published, difficult to find – or not published at all, leaving citizens in the dark on what their local officials actually enacted. 

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FAN South Carolina Logo

Last week, between making sure my kids did their schoolwork and grocery shopping, I saw on the TV that my Mayor had declared a “state of emergency”.

It went in one ear and out the other.

With all the turmoil going on, I didn’t really pay much attention what the Mayor of Mount Pleasant had declared.

I didn’t think it mattered.

When I hear about a local politician declaring a “state of emergency” two things come to mind:

1. They’re trying to get in the news to appear as if they’re “working hard”
2. It’s part of the “official” process to become eligible for help from the federal government...like when a hurricane strikes the state or county
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Every 10 years, S.C. lawmakers re-exert their authority to draw legislative and congressional district lines based on updated population counts – a typically convoluted process aimed at protecting incumbents.

While the 2020 U.S. Census is underway, state lawmakers quietly are planning to initially spend as much as $2 million on the “reapportionment” process, or the redrawing of district lines.

How those lines are drawn – largely controlled by legislative leaders – can greatly affect who wins elections, which areas are best represented, and what legislation gets approved.

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Convention of States & BBA Thurs. Feb. 13

The hearing will be starting at about 12:30 pm

Please contact the members of this South Carolina Special Committee
Please share this alert with like-minded friends and family

H3017 Article V Balanced Budget Amendment https://www.scstatehouse.gov/sess123_2019-2020/bills/3017.htm
H3125 Article V Convention of States https://www.scstatehouse.gov/sess123_2019-2020/bills/3125.htm

HEARING: Thursday, February 13, starts about 12:30pm Room 516 Blatt.

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SC State Capitol

A legislatively controlled committee violated state law in recent years by not giving the General Assembly annual performance reviews of individual S.C. Public Service Commission members, who set utility rates for residents and businesses statewide, a review by The Nerve found.

Timing could be everything.

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Laptop locked

Since Henry McMaster became governor in 2017, the state’s tourism agency has received more than $675,000 from renting the historic Lace House at the Governor’s Mansion complex in downtown Columbia, records show.

But the S.C. Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism (SCPRT)  ) – whose director, Duane Parrish, is a member of McMaster’s Cabinet – won’t reveal who has rented the public building, contending it would be an “unreasonable invasion of privacy” under the state Freedom of Information Act.

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Lately in the news there has been a great deal of controversy over what is being taught in public schools when it comes to Sex Education. There is indeed a disconnect between what Christian Conservative Parents want taught and what Humanist Progressives want taught to their children by the state.

Whose “right” is it to teach a child what they need to know about the birds and the bees? Is it the public schools responsibility to override what a parent wants their child to learn? Things are really getting heated up when it comes to Sex Education. Exactly what is age appropriate learning about sex? Do children in kindergarten need to be learning about sex during their academic day?

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Asphault Paver Machine

Last week, the S.C. Department of Transportation announced that it had completed rebuilding a nine-mile stretch of Interstate 85 in Spartanburg County.

Yet as of Oct. 31, DOT had completed just 17% of the total estimated cost of other identified “pavements” projects in the county with gas-tax-hike revenues, newly released agency records show. Spartanburg County was among at least 25 counties statewide that had completion rates of less than 25% in that category, The Nerve’s latest review found.

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Typewriter Investigation

At least 100 state agencies have filed budget requests for the next fiscal year that begins July 1, online records show.

But the S.C. House and Senate aren’t among them – despite a longstanding state law requiring all agencies to annually file budget requests with the governor by Nov 1. Both the 124-member House and 46-member Senate typically have ignored that law, as The Nerve previously has reported.

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Court Room Gavel

Over the past four fiscal years, the state Attorney General’s Office settled 33 civil cases against various companies for a total of nearly $210 million, though agency records show that the proceeds typically didn’t go directly to affected South Carolina consumers.

Instead, most of the money was used by lawmakers to help cover an annual list of one-time expenses by state agencies, while another $40 million collectively went to the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) and outside law firms hired in the cases, a review by The Nerve’s found.

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Pyramids of Egypt

As many as 17 S.C. lawmakers traveled to Egypt last month, most of whom paid their way with campaign funds, State Ethics Commission records show.

Two legislators who used campaign money for the trip – Reps. Todd Rutherford, D-Richland, and John King, D-York – also tapped their campaign accounts for costs related to trips to Greece and Peru, respectively, according to their latest expense statements.

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Piggy Bank 1

As state agencies prepare their proposed fiscal 2020-21 budgets, what they likely won’t reveal is the amount of “other” fund surpluses carried over year after year – collectively billions of dollars.

As of June 30 – the end of the 2018-19 fiscal year – state agencies and divisions, plus several major state funds, had a total of nearly $3.9 billion in other-fund cash balances, according to S.C. Department of Administration records released to The Nerve under the Freedom of Information Act.

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Money

In 2018, University of South Carolina head football coach Will Muschamp received a new six-year deal that paid him $4.2 million in the first year and is worth a total of more than $28 million over the life of the contract.

His total compensation includes $1.1 million in state salary – the highest-paid employee in the state salary database of nearly 23,000 workers receiving at least $50,000 yearly.

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Gavel 2019

Under a new city of Columbia ordinance, “extreme risk” residents who are poor might get a court-appointed lawyer – despite not facing any criminal charges – before they could be ordered by a municipal judge to turn over their guns.

But in South Carolina, the appointment of a public defender even in a criminal case isn’t a guarantee under state law and court rules.

The U.S. Supreme Court in 1963 ruled that criminal defendants who can’t afford a lawyer have a right to a state court-appointed attorney, which S.C. law recognizes. Under state law, the S.C. Supreme Court has the authority to set rules for the appointment of public defenders and court-appointed attorneys.

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SC State Capitol

When in session, S.C. lawmakers routinely introduce legislation dedicating an existing road section, bridge or intersection to a living or deceased person – including ex-legislators.

Their road- and bridge-naming proposals are made through concurrent resolutions, which unlike general bills, can’t be reviewed by the governor.

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Start Turtle

With the start of the third year of the state’s gas-tax-hike law, the S.C. Department of Transportation had completed less than 16% of $711.4 million in identified “pavements” projects statewide, newly released DOT records show.

The Nerve last month revealed that DOT plans to complete about 2,300 miles of road repairs by the end of 2021, though that number represents less than 7% of the approximately 33,600 miles of state roads that the agency says have to be resurfaced or rebuilt.

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Mike Scruggs