Tag: SC General Assembly

Curtis M. Loftis Jr., South Carolina’s treasurer

Fixing the SC Public Retirement System

It appears the SC General Assembly is finally realizing major work must be done to save the SC public retirement system.

This realization comes in the aftermath of a SC Legislative Audit Council report on the SC Retirement System Investment Commission (SCRSIC). “The LAC’s report reveals that our retirement and pension system’s longevity is in jeopardy and in need of immediate effective adjustments,” said SC House Speaker Jay Lucas.

What is bothersome is Lucas’ next quote attempting to take credit for discovering the deficiencies within the system: “Without the initiation of this report, we might not know the truly delicate state of South Carolina’s pension system. Although its findings reveal significant flaws and deficiencies, it gives the General Assembly a starting point to offer assistance to the RSIC by helping them institute corrective measures that will put South Carolina’s pension plan on a path to solvency,” Lucas said.

The LAC report called the retirement system “significantly underfunded” and that “it underreported risk” of its investments. It called for improvement in controlling conflicts of interest and pointed out the high fees paid and the low rate of return earned on its investments.

These are exactly the same criticisms SC Treasurer Curtis Loftis has leveled at the SCRSIC since taking office in 2011.

SC General Assembly and School Funding

The SC General Assembly is trying to make a constitutional crisis out of last year’s SC Supreme Court ruling on education funding.

SC House Speaker Jay Lucas and SC Senate President pro Tempore Hugh Leatherman filed a motion earlier this week with the SC Supreme Court requesting reconsideration of the Court’s November 2014 finding.

The finding stated the SC General Assembly was not providing enough funding for the poorer school districts in the state for even the ‘minimally adequate education’ called for by the state Constitution.

The main thrust of the motion was revealed in a press release by Speaker Lucas issued Monday:

“Arbitrary deadlines that seek to hijack the legislative process and meaningless approval from an unrealistic super-panel will not reform South Carolina’s education delivery system. Achieving actual improvement requires extensive study and input from those most familiar with the issues.

“The Court’s attempt to overstep its judicial authority further complicates the lawmaking process. More importantly, it negates the significant progress made by the House Education Task Force over the last ten months. Every child in every part of our state deserves access to a 21st century education. Because we must preserve the diligent work already completed by our task force, we think it is imperative that the Supreme Court vacate their most recent order and remove itself from the legislative process,” said Speaker Lucas.

General Assembly Failing Citizens Again

Winthrop Poll Supports Flag Decision

The first Winthrop Poll since spring has some interesting findings among South Carolina respondents regarding the removal of the Confederate battle flag.

The Winthrop Poll is a long-term survey initiative designed to keep public policy makers across the country in touch with the attitudes and opinions of residents of South Carolina. It is the only regular “snapshot” of public policy attitudes of the residents of the South or of the state of South Carolina.

Two-thirds of the respondents said the SC General Assembly made the correct decision this summer to remove the Confederate battle flag from State House grounds. Broken down by race, 54% of White respondents and 93% of Black respondents supported removal of the flag.

However, asked about the significance of the flag, 47% said it stood for Southern pride while 40% of respondents said it stood for racial conflict.

Only 25% of South Carolina respondents said they believed the national economy was going in the right direction. However, again the schism as 63% said the South Carolina economy is good or fairly good.

Respondents said the two most important issues facing South Carolina are jobs/unemployment and education, the two issues tied at 13.3%.

Gov. Nikki Haley received a 55% approval rating with Sen. Tim Scott receiving 53% approval and Sen. Lindsey Graham receiving 40% approval from respondents.

With respect to roads, 84% of respondents said the state should give priority to fixing existing roads over building new roads.

SC Supreme Court Tests Constitutionality

The SC Supreme Court agreed recently to grant two petitions or original jurisdiction that could have broad ranging consequences for the way the SC General Assembly does business.
Both petitions were filed by upstate activist Ned Sloane and his government watchdog organization South Carolina Public Interest Foundation.

One petition deals with a budget proviso for the current fiscal year. The proviso suspended for one year a sunset clause in a 2007 law that takes away the governor’s authority to appoint the Department of Transportation secretary.

The petition claims the proviso is unconstitutional because it violates Article III, Section 17 of the state constitution which requires that every law shall relate to only one subject. The petition alleges the proviso has nothing to do with the raising and spending of tax revenue.

In 2009, the SC Supreme Court ruled that in the future, a law successfully challenged under the one subject rule would see the entire law ruled unconstitutional.

Therefore, if this proviso is determined by the SC Supreme Court to be unconstitutional, the entire state budget for the current fiscal year could be declared unconstitutional.

General Assembly Failing Citizens Again

Aftermath of the Confederate Flag Controversy

The removal of the Confederate flag from the grounds of the SC statehouse last week seems to have unleashed a typical American overreaction.

That event seems to have been the catalyst for an overreaction by various groups to remove what they consider politically incorrect symbols throughout the country.

Louis Farrakhan has called for the removal of the US flag because slavery existed under it for a far longer period than it did under the Confederate flag. It seems Farrakhan forgets it was troops fighting under that flag that won the Civil War. The aftermath of that victory led to the 13th amendment and the abolition of slavery.

Which fact is more important? Neither, they are both facts of US history.

There are suggestions of removing the Washington monument and Jefferson memorial in Washington, D.C. because both presidents were slaveholders not to mention the statues and busts of the likes of Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson and Nathan Bedford Forrest to name a few.

We criticize ISIS, the Taliban and al Qaeda for destroying religious and other artifacts of history in the areas they control because those symbols offend them.

Talk about infidels, are we to act the same?

General Assembly Failing Citizens Again

Great Confederate Flag Debate – Update

The SC General Assembly is expected to at least begin its great confederate flag debate tomorrow.

I have stayed out of the great confederate flag debate discussion until now.

I frankly don’t care whether the flag flying on the statehouse grounds stays up, comes down or blows away.

My heritage is a little different from the sides engaged in this controversy. My great-grandfather being from Pennsylvania fought with the Union army from 1861-3 and 1864-5. For those of you stuck in revisionist history, the Union was the winning side – you know Grant, Sherman and all that.

It’s this revisionist history that has caused South Carolina to keep its head in the sand for so many decades.

The “War of Northern Aggression” was started right here in the Low Country when the newly formed Confederate States Army, under the command of Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard, bombarded the Union position at Ft. Sumter in Charleston harbor.

SC General Assembly Largesse to CTC

Thanks to the SC General Assembly, it is Christmas early for County Transportation Committees (CTC) and their buddies.

CTC’s are one of those independent agencies started before Home Rule which allow the county legislative delegations to appear to be doing something for the people back home while maintaining control of the purse strings.

In 36 of South Carolina’s 46 counties, the CTC is an independent agency appointed by the county legislative delegation. County government should be the recipient in every county, but that’s not the way it works in South Carolina.

Basic “C” funds come from 2.66 cents of the 16 cents per gallon state tax on gasoline and are apportioned to the counties according to a formula established in state law. Horry County receives about $3.5 million each year from this source.

However, the SC General Assembly had about $300 million in excess funds to distribute for next fiscal year. Instead of the normal $3.5 million, the Horry County CTC will be receiving $15.1 million this year.

If that money had been returned to county government, there would have been no need for county council to raise the county road fee from $30 per vehicle to $50 per vehicle in this fiscal year.

Bureaucracy to prevail at expense of the taxpayer

SC General Assembly, Much Ado About Nothing

It seems that it takes national news making events to make the SC General Assembly work at all.

This year’s edition of the SC General Assembly may be known as the group that removed the Confederate battle flag from the statehouse grounds and little else.

In the past few days, momentum seems to be building for removal of the Confederate flag in response to the massacre of nine Black citizens at a Charleston church.

Removal of the flag was nowhere on the SC General Assembly radar at the beginning of the legislative year, or last week for that matter.

But now it will be debated in a specially amended legislative session next month and members of the SC General Assembly are falling all over themselves to demand its removal.

A bill to require police body cameras throughout the state was passed after a North Charleston police officer shot a fleeing Black man in the back two months ago.

Both events were covered by major national and international news organizations so they got the attention of the legislators.

Does it really take a major tragedy to get the SC General Assembly to act?

Bureaucracy to prevail at expense of the taxpayer

The Devious SC General Assembly

The disconnect between the SC General Assembly and local political sub-divisions is highlighted by excess state budget appropriations.

House bill H 4320 amends the FY 2016 budget bill, H 3701, to appropriate excess state revenues certified by the SC Board of Economic Advisors.

Dealing with just three sections of H 4320 demonstrates how devious the SC General Assembly remains in limiting the ability of local governments to fund their services while taking care of its members.

According to H 4320, the SC Board of Economic Advisors has certified recurring general fund revenue for FY 2016 of $150 million (Section 1). This is additional recurring money that was not anticipated at the beginning of the legislative year.

In addition, the board certified $150.2 million in excess revenue collected during the current fiscal year (Section 3).

Those two excess revenues total slightly over $300 million.

But, that isn’t enough for the SC General Assembly. In Section 5 of the bill, state legislators reduced the state contribution to the Local Government Fund by $20.425 million.

Bureaucracy to prevail at expense of the taxpayer

SC General Assembly Ongoing Road Problems

The effort to find funding to fix the state’s roads will be the elephant in the room when the SC General Assembly convenes in January 2016.

With several road bills already in the legislative process, how to mix a possible gas tax increase with other proposals in an election year will cause big problems for legislators.

An astute political observer I have known for a long time predicts no road maintenance bill will be passed next year because of the elections.