By any reasonable measure, the General Assembly gets a grade of “D” for its legislative performance — or lack thereof — over the two-year session that draws to a close at the end of this week.
In this case, “D” is for dysfunction. Why? Because members of the Legislature continue to thwart progress for the real needs of everyday South Carolina by paying too much attention to nonsense and their own political hides. Where, one can easily ask, is real leadership that seeks to push the Palmetto State into the 21st century?
Of the 204 bills ratified and sent to Gov. Nikki Haley to be signed into law over the last two years, she vetoed only four, not counting certain parts of last year’s budget. Of the remaining bills that became law, the vast majority dealt with the arcane — state armories (four); wildlife (17), such as limits on how much tarpon can be caught daily; school-related measures (20), such as snow days or changes for specific school districts; realigned voting precincts or election laws (23) and miscellaneous local legislation.
Yes, there were some successes, most notably in education as lawmakers increased 4-year-old kindergarten funding by $25 million last year and are poised to do it again this year, and infused tens of millions into a reading program for early learners. But at what cost? As in many recent years, lawmakers didn’t follow the state’s school funding formula, which requires them to appropriate about $2,800 per pupil. Instead, the proposed budget calls for $2,120 per student. Multiply that by 708,231 expected students and it’s easy to see how schools got shortchanged 10 times as much as the new funding will provide. Over the last six years, lawmakers have underfunded public K-12 education by more than $3 billion.
Another much-touted success was the new Department of Administration, a bill envisioned originally to give the governor more control over state agencies.
But last-minute compromises eroded the real reform of the bill into little more than a name change — kind of like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.
Accomplishments from 2013 included a big incentive package for Boeing, tax rebates to lure more movies to be made here, the new Public Employees Benefit Authority, a controversial photo identification requirement for voters and laxer rules to promote venture capital investment. In 2014, lawmakers got rid of a high school exit exam requirement, named a state fossil (the woolly mammoth) and toughened rules on drunken driving. And somewhere in all of that hoopla was the measure that lets folks take guns into bars and restaurants, yet another nod to America’s weird fascination with guns and more guns.
But look at all of the things that are missing in action:
• No Medicaid expansion to allow 200,000 people to get access to Obamacare.
• No reform of the Department of Social Services, which is under increasing attack for not protecting vulnerable children.
• No real reform of the state Department of Corrections, which is under a court order to improve conditions for the mentally ill.
• No systemic tax reform to better balance revenues, such as eliminating billions of giveaways from sales tax exemptions.
• No real efforts to deal with South Carolina’s hungry. Some 890,000 people in the state — one in five — get federal food stamps. Meanwhile the Haley administration wants a pilot program in three counties to curb people from getting them.
With less than a week to go in the session, two major pieces of legislation continue to vie for a compromise as lawmakers wheedle and cajole to get passage — real ethics reform and more money for highways, which are in a pitiful state. Don’t be surprised if neither passes.
Legislators are generally good people. But the environment in which they work — a state still gripped by a plantation mentality and a lack of a common agenda to push the state forward — makes it hard to get tough things done. Add to that the ascendance of the narrow agenda of the tea party and now reasonable people have a harder time solving real problems because they’re fending off more craziness.
Limited Seating—Reserve Now!
VIP Tables available for David Nail on August 22 at Jillian’s. Call to reserve: (803) 799-1688. More tickets available online.
Make Your Own Beer and Wine!
Come get started on your “liquid hobby” and help us celebrate our 46th year in the Columbia area. Bet Mar Liquid Hobby Shop: 736 St. Andrews Road.
Not Your Typical Greek Restaurant
Ariana’s in West Columbia serves up delicious all-natural, low carb dishes, as well as homemade bread and baklava. Come try the best salad dressing in town! Location info and hours here.
Delicious Downtown Breakfast
Tony’s is open for breakfast every day from 7:30-10:30! Conveniently located on Washington St. right off Main. Stop in for something filling and delicious before work! Follow us for updates on specials.
Happy Hour and Sushi Specials All Week
Red Bowl in Lexington now has great early bird and late night sushi specials 7 days a week, as well as 99-cent kids meals on Saturdays! Click here for special information and hours.
Back to School Tattoo Specials
Magnum Ink is offering 1/2 off all tattoos for students over 18 as well as 2 for $60 on letters or numbers for state employees. 1405 Rushmore Road, Suite B, right off of Broad River.
SEARCH FREE TIMES
Company seeking carpenters, plumbers, masons work is year around with a 40 year old company. Starting pay is $10.00 but experienced individuals will be compensated accordingly. Must have a clean driving record and must bring a copy of your driving record to the interview. Please call 803-865-1200.
U.S. Security Associates
Now hiring immediately for armed and unarmed security officers. WE TRAIN YOU! Columbia & surrounding areas. ussecurityassociates.com
Pool Cleaning-Full and part time available. Must have a clean driving record, be organized and have a professional appearance. Starting Pay is $10.00 per hr, please call for an interview, please bring a copy of your Driving record and a list of all past employers with duration of employment listed as well as telephone numbers for references. Cal 803-865-1200
Real Estate Spotlight
Mungo Homes. Celebrating 60 years of our family building for your family. mungo.com