News. Brief.

Columbia Votes on Strong Mayor Question

By Free Times
Wednesday, December 4, 2013

As Free Times went to press Tuesday, city voters were trickling into polling stations to answer a single ballot question: Should Columbia change from its current form of government, in which a hired city manager handles the city’s day-to-day operations, to a strong-mayor form, in which the mayor would take on those administrative powers? Visit for up-to-date results and reactions. —  Eva Moore

Lawmakers Face Ethics Investigations, Charges
The S.C. House Ethics Committee found probable cause last week to investigate whether Rep. Bill Chumley (R-Spartanburg) violated ethics laws when he used the state-owned airplane to fly in a right-wing radio pundit to testify in favor of Chumley’s bill that would nullify Obamacare, The State reported. State law allows legislators to use the plane for official state business but not for political functions, which has left a few scratching their heads in this case.  The news broke the same week the committee held a four-hour hearing into whether Democratic state Rep. Harold Mitchell misspent campaign funds; it has yet to render a decision. Meanwhile, not to be outdone, GOP Rep. Stephen Goldfinch announced he is facing federal charges in Texas related to “the alleged illegal mislabeling of stem cells during harvesting,” according to the Charleston City Paper . — Porter Barron Jr. and Eva Moore

Southern Avenger Sorry
Jack Hunter, formerly known in Southern conservative circles and to Charleston City Paper readers as the Southern Avenger, tried to right some wrongs with a lengthy mea culpa in Politico Magazine. Hunter, who recently lost a job with Sen. Rand Paul after some of his earlier rhetoric came to light, disavowed his old alter ego who donned a Confederate flag Mexican wrestling mask while denigrating gays, blacks, Muslims, etc. — Porter Barron Jr. 

City Will Force Sex Toy Store to Close
The City of Columbia has no love for porn peddlers. On Tuesday, the city denied adult store Taboo an exemption from a zoning ordinance effectively aimed at eradicating such businesses. Under that ordinance, businesses grandfathered in were able to stay open in order to recoup losses from their pending closure. Taboo claimed it had not been given enough time to do so. City officials gave no quarter. —  Porter Barron Jr.

Insurer Extends Health Insurance Plans
According to a press release from BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina, the insurance giant has notified the S.C. Insurance Department that it will allow non-grandfathered individual and small group policyholders to renew their health insurance for one year. The policies had been canceled to conform to a provision of Obamacare that imposed a higher standard of coverage on health insurance policies, but consequently drove up their costs. The provision has since been suspended till 2015. —  Porter Barron Jr.

State Health Agency Takes On Feds
Led by Catherine Templeton at the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, South Carolina is threatening to hit the U.S. Department of Energy with $154 million in fines for failing to achieve agreed upon milestones in its cleanup of nuclear waste at the Savannah River Site, The New York Times reports. —  Porter Barron Jr.

BMW Apprenticeship Program A Model
The New York Times visited BMW’s South Carolina plant to report on a European-style apprenticeship program to train younger workers in manufacturing jobs. It’s not every day someone says something like this about the Palmetto State: “‘South Carolina offers a fantastic model for what we can do nationally,’ said Ben Olinsky, co-author of a forthcoming report by the Center for American Progress, a liberal Washington research organization, recommending a vast expansion in apprenticeships.” —  Eva Moore

Has Lexington County Got A Job for You
The best county in South Carolina for job seekers is Lexington, according to personal finance website NerdWallet, which rated the state’s 46 counties based on unemployment rates; median income compared with cost of living; and the county’s growth rate. Richland County clocks in at No. 5. NerdWallet only lists the top 10 counties, though, so we don’t know who’s at the bottom of the barrel. —  Eva Moore

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