Rep. Gailliard: Get SC inmates offline


Lowcountry State Representative Wendell Gilliard doesn't want inmates using Facebook or other social networking sites, nor does he want third parties setting up Facebook pages for them, which is why he's sponsored H 3527, to outlaw the use of social networking sites by prison inmates. Looking at the list of co-sponsors, it looks like it's picking up a wide range of bi-partisan support in the House.

In talking with Charleston TV 4 News recently, Lori Teseniar, the stepmother of Christopher Teseniar, who was murdered in 2007 by Michael Maxwell, who showed up on Facebook, voiced her support for this bill:

They're using this form of technology as a form of intimidation, solicitation, to talk to other prisoners. It should never happen.

We've discussed this issue before and agree with Gailliar, Teseniar and others who want this stopped. While this bill won't likely end the problem, it's certainly a step in the right direction and legislators should support it.

A Clarendon Cover-up?

As the race to fill the vacant District 64 seat in the State House enters its final week, a race which was supposed to be a quiet, engineered succession by local Democratic party leaders has turned into a trail of embarassing news, including reports of political arm-twisting, angry threats and abuse of official resources, to help the Democrats hold onto a seat they had long taken for granted.

Republican Sonny Sanders will face Democratic nominee Kevin Johnson next Tuesday.

Asking "what is Kevin Johnson hiding", Sanders accused his Democratic opponent, who is Mayor of the Town of Manning, of stonewalling a FOIA request into reimbursements for expenses incurred by Johnson, pointing out that the Town did not respond to a request filed on February 24 until March 11 - nearly three weeks later - claiming they could not have the information ready until May, which would be several weeks after the special election was held.

You can see the Town of Manning's response to the FOIA request here.

The timing of this delayed release does seem suspect, but it's far from the first instance of political funny business that we've seen take place during this race.

Guest Op-Ed: Billy Simons - "Pursuing the blessings of America"

Today's guest editorial was written by Billy Simons, a Blogland reader who lives in Summerville with his wife Ana. You can email him at maito:billysimonsrealestate@gmail.com.

I wanted to give thanks for a being born into what some might consider a life of privilege. The phrase is often thrown around that someone has been born with a “silver spoon in their mouth”; well I am one of those people.

The distinct “privilege” to which I refer to is that I was born a citizen of the United States. It truly is a blessing to have been born in this greatest country that the world has ever known.

Guest Cartoon: "Crisis?"

More wit from Jamie Walton:

Redistricting: Rural representation


State Sens. John Matthews and Brad Hutto from Orangeburg County, along with Rep. Bakari Sellers of Denmark, have stressed that pending reapportionment should not result in even further loss of influence for rural areas. We echo their sentiment but fear that rural areas are going to suffer in the face of growth in urban locations from Columbia to the coast. Rural counties that have lost population stand a good chance of being attached to urban-based districts and likely even will be split among districts.

Matthews believes Orangeburg will be a key player in the redrawn 6th District, but the district likely will include Richland County. That will make Columbia the centerpiece. Such a district may be inevitable, but it should include all of Orangeburg and all of Calhoun. Splitting the two counties is simply further diluting the impact of rural counties that need to have a place at the table.

The census results show that the long-term trends of declining rural population haven't changed and the kind of losses which they're concerned about are likely.

Why do Abramoff's associates love Charleston?


We're not sure why former associates of convicted former lobbyist Jack Abramoff seem to find the Charleston area to be friendly turf these days, but if someone has an answer, we'd love to know.

We recently took some heat for reporting information which showed that Jim Hirni, a lobbyist with ties to Abramoff ties who pled guilty to federal corruption charges two years ago, has been circulating in Lowcountry political circles for at least a year now. But it looks like he's not the only former Abramoff associate on the loose in the Lowcountry.

Ralph Reed, a former Abramoff associate well-known both for leading the national Christian Coalition and for representing gambling interests, recently held a private gathering in the Lowcountry to help build support for his newest political effort: The Faith and Freedom Coalition.

Redistricting: Assessing the national landscape

This year's redistricting which will have major impacts upon the national political landscape for years to come (especially in the South). Here in South Carolina, the options presented aren't going to be easy ones to make. No matter how they're made, these decisions will result in major changes in the state's political landscape for years to come and will be the most important political decisions made this year.

To help readers understand this process, the Blogland's ongoing redistricting series will look at what is taking place, examine some of the key elements that will shape the maps, as well as consider who could be impacted by these changes.

While some big changes are likely in South Carolina, the way the process is playing out in other states will vary widely. Some of these experiences will have no relevance to what's happening here, but in other cases, they may point out options to consider this time or trends to watch for in the future.

The best one-stop point for looking at the redistricting game nationwide (that we've found) is Chris Cilliza's "Mapping the Future" series, which is part of his regular political commentary on the Washington Post's website. In this series, he looks at a number of states where redistricting may result in noticable changes or force some tough political decisions to be made.

It's worth checking it out.

Redistricting: More trouble for State House Dems?


EDITOR'S NOTE: If you're interested in a copy of the state's county, Congressional District and State House population summaries in Excel format, email us.

Earlier today, the Blogland received census data which reflects the current populations for the state's Congressional and House districts. It shows the state's population grew by about 15% since the 2000 census, with enough for a new Congressional district and raising the number of residents for a State House seat to roughly 37,000 and Senate seats to about 101,000.

But these changes weren't consistent around the state, with some areas growing faster than the rest of the state, some just gaining population only as an absolute number and others losing population. Within those shifting patterns, reapportionment will rebalance the winners and losers in state politics, presenting bleak prospects for State House Democrats.

Overall, the numbers are a GOP strategists dream, offering the GOP, which already holds strong legislative majorities, three key avenues by which to pad their already-sizable House majority:

Mark your calendar: April 30, Clover-Lake Wylie GOP Women scholarship benefit

If you're in the Upstate on Saturday, April 30, we encourage you to attend the annual fundraiser benefit of the Clover-Lake Wylie Republican Women.

This event helps fund the Fay Bergman Scholarship for a female Clover High School senirior to attend college. Last year the Scholarship awarded $2,500. The goal this year is to be able to continue to award that amount.

26th Annual Tour of Homes and Gardens
April 30, 2011 10:00 am - 4:00 pm
Tickets: $20/person
Tickets available from CLWRW Members or
Contact Ethel Webb at 704-965-8703 or ethelwebb1@bellsouth.net
and
Q2U BBQ Pit & Catering, 4050 Charlotte Hwy., Lake Wylie
Lake Wylie Coffee Shop, 4937 Charlotte Hwy., Lake Wylie

Redistricting: Coming to a neighborhood near you


It's redistricting time again - that magical time where legislators take census data and maps and try to figure out which districts go where. It's a high-stakes game which sees lots of changes, some small, some big.

The Blogland will be following this process and trying to educate our readers as to how this works, how it might play out and who the winners and losers will be when it's all said and done.

Kudos to the House and Senate Judiciary Committees, led by Rep. Jim Harrison and Sen. Glenn McConnell, for taking the redistricting show on the road via a series of public hearings. These hearings aren't a lot of fun as few people show up pleased or confident they'll like the maps, and often upset or panicking over rumors or unsupported speculation.

Senate Bill 705: Long-overdue reforms for underground utility safety

Ongoing efforts to amend and update South Carolina's laws regarding underground utility safety took two major steps forward last week. The first was on Monday, when stakeholder groups reached consensus upon the entire draft legislation to be filed in the State Senate and then on Thursday, when Senate Bill 705 was filed.

The legislation, which would update laws which haven't been updated since 1978 ahead of a major disaster or pending federal intervention, features several key points:

Meet Jim Hirni: Corrupt lobbyist turned FBI informant active in Lowcountry politics

Having grown up in a cop household, I've learned that once caught, some people will do almost anything to avoid going to prison, including turn on friends and associates, and sometimes even lie and entrap others to save themselves.

We saw this tendency manifest itself in South Carolina politics twenty years ago during Operation Lost Trust, where a lobbyist and a couple of corrupt legislators turned on their own friends, sending over two dozen politicos, mostly legislators to prison. In the end, the main figure, former legislator and lobbyist Rob Cobb, got off scot-free for trying to buy a kilo of cocaine.

In Cobb's case, most of those legislators and other officials who got indicted went down, caught red-handed on video and audio recordings, but some didn't.

This desire to get off the hook at any price might explain why, two decades after the embarassment of the Lost Trust scandal, we find that Jim Hirni, after copping a deal to cooperate with federal authorities after getting nailed for bribing Congressional staffers, is active in Lowcountry GOP political circles, trying to cozy up to various politicos all the way up to Presidential candidates while he awaits a long-overdue sentencing.

Ken Ard: WTF?!?


When Ken Ard started running for Lt. Governor back in 2009, he spent over a year trying to convince us he wasn't some dumb hick from the swamps of Florence County. Moments like this can undo a year of efforts in a single day:


Lieutenant Governor Ken Ard will be charged with 69 counts of converting campaign funds to personal use, the State Ethics Commission announced on Tuesday.

At a meeting on Tuesday to discuss an ethics complaint regarding Ard's post-election spending, the State Ethics Commission found probable cause to bring charges, according to Executive Director Herb Hayden. Hayden said Ard will also be charged with 23 counts of failure to disclose campaign expenditures.


Given his statements that he's used campaign money, the violations don't seem criminal, but they seem awful shortsighted.

For those who wanted to keep the office of Lieutenant Governor an independent and directly-elected office, this can't be good news.

Mark your calendar: March 19 - 30th anniversary, Berkeley County GOP Women

The Berkeley County Republican Women are turning 30 this month and we think this is an occasion worth celebrating!

To celebrate, they'll be holding a Celebration and Membership Tea on Saturday, March 19, 2011 from 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm at Marrington Villas at Cobblestone, 201 Village Stone Circle, Summerville (mailing address is Summerville - location is in Goose Creek).

To RSVP contact Peggy Appler at 843-688-5171 or dappler@homesc.com by March 12, 2011

Here are some detailed directions:

From I-26:

Take Exit 199-B toward Moncks Corner
Merge onto Hwy 17A (N. Main St.) - 3.7 mi
Turn RIGHT on Hwy 176 - 0.5 mi
Cobblestone Village will be on your RIGHT

From Goose Creek:

Take Hwy 176 N (St. James Ave)
Cobblestone Village will be on your LEFT before Hwy 17

From Summerville:

Take Hwy 17 East.
Turn right onto Hwy 176
Cobblestone Village will be on your RIGHT

Guest Cartoon: One Day

More thoughts via artwork from Jamie Walton:

Sometimes miracles really DO happen


Today, stakeholder representatives and lobbyists met at the State House to work out the final details of language for a draft bill on a key Blogland issue: Underground utility safety.

In the last meeting, after reaching consensus on amending most aspects of state law (Title 58, Chapter 35), two issues were left for Senators to resolve in an upcoming hearing on the bill. During the today's meeting, stakeholders were able to reach agreement on those issues, completing negotiations aimed at updating the nation's oldest state law overseeing underground utilities.

All parties in the meeting from the wide range of stakeholder groups represented agreed to accept the legislation in its entirety, meaning the upcoming Senate hearing (to be scheduled) will likely be a formality with little or no opposition, placing the legislation on a fast track to be passed through the Senate, then to the House and then hopefully signed into law by June.

This is the outcome of an amazing amount of work by who were able to look beyond their own realm and work to put safety first, allowing these issues to be addressed by consensus among stakeholders, rather than waiting for federal intervention or a major disaster, as has often been the motivator for reform efforts in many states.

So what will change? A lot, including:

Bad for health? MUSC vs USC battle over Upstate medical school expansion

A fight is breaking out over the expansion of USC's medical school into the Upstate. This was sparked by news of progress of negotations taking place between Greenville Memorial Hospital and USC's School of Medicine to develop a full-fledged medical school campus in Greenville. This would be the capstone of a partnership nearly three decades old between the two institutions where many USC medical school students work in Greenville hospitals.

The fight over this expansion is likely to roll over into a House budget hearing scheduled for this week.

Backers of the USC expansion argue the state's inability to produce enough doctors and other health care professionals, as evidenced by the large numbers of doctors emigrating from other nations to South Carolina, especially in rural areas. Reports warn this shortage may grow even worse, creating adverse impacts which will be felt worse among the state's rural and retiree populations.

An op-ed in last year's New York Times warned about the impact of this growing shortage:

Thank you Winston Smith


South Carolina political history will long note the fall of John Spratt as a major moment in the state's political history. One person who deserves a ton of credit for toppling Spratt and turning the 5th District red is outgoing Lancaster County GOP Chair Winston Smith.

Lancaster County had been a reliable Spratt county, only going against him once: during in his razor-close race with Larry Bigham in 1994. Since then, it had been a safe-bet for Spratt, allowing his campaigns to focus their efforts upon splitting off votes in GOP strongholds elsewhere in the district.

That was until the county was set on fire by a strong grass-roots effort which Smith played a key role in organizing. This included tea party events where hundreds turned out in a county where several dozen Republicans at an event would have been a major deal.

Guest Cartoon: Obama and the River of Red

More from contributing cartoonist Jamie Walton:

Guest Cartoon: Obama and the Hashish Highway

Jamie Walton, the Blogland's guest cartoonist, fires at the recent decision by the Obama administration to allow long-haul trucks from Mexico onto U.S. highways:

Mark your calendar: March 19 - 30th anniversary, Berkeley County GOP Women

The Berkeley County Republican Women are turning 30 this month and we think this is an occasion worth celebrating!

To celebrate, they'll be holding a Celebration and Membership Tea on Saturday, March 19, 2011 from 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm at Marrington Villas at Cobblestone, 201 Village Stone Circle, Summerville (mailing address is Summerville - location is in Goose Creek).

To RSVP contact Peggy Appler at 843-688-5171 or dappler@homesc.com by March 12, 2011

Here are some detailed directions:

From I-26:

Take Exit 199-B toward Moncks Corner
Merge onto Hwy 17A (N. Main St.) - 3.7 mi
Turn RIGHT on Hwy 176 - 0.5 mi
Cobblestone Village will be on your RIGHT

From Goose Creek:

Take Hwy 176 N (St. James Ave)
Cobblestone Village will be on your LEFT before Hwy 17

From Summerville:

Take Hwy 17 East.
Turn right onto Hwy 176
Cobblestone Village will be on your RIGHT

Senate Majority Leader: Deliver illegals to the U.S. Capitol?


Our state cannot afford to house illegal immigrants in our prisons. The federal government won't do it's job.

What do you think about an amendment to the illegal immigration bill that allows us to arrest illegal immigrants, bus them to Washington DC and drop them off on the Capitol steps?

This is somewhat the reverse of what Washington D.C. cops used to do with prostitutes picked up in the city, making them walk across the Potomac River into Virginia.

Since he's asking for your input, let him know what you think.

Mark your calendar: This Thursday - SCGOP officer candidates speak in Manning


This Thursday, four candidates for SCGOP offices will be speaking in Manning, addressing the monthly meeting of the Clarendon County Republican Party.
 
The meeting, along with dinner, will be at The French Hen Restaurant, which is located at 5 West Boyce Street in Manning (right across from the Clarendon County Courthouse). Dinner starts at 6 PM and the meeting begins at 7 PM.
 
The visiting candidates are:
  • SCGOP Chairman candidates Chairman of Barnwell County Ben Kinlaw, Chairman of Newberry County Chad Connelly and Chairman of Greenville County and also the current First Vice Chairman of the SCGOP Patrick Haddon.
  • SCGOP First Vice-Chair candidate Chairman of Charleston County GOP Lin Bennett.
There's even a rumor the Blogland will be covering this event, but in spite of all the big names who will be attending, we don't think the Clarendon County Auditor will forward around a notice about this event.

Clarendon Democrats using official resources in House special election?

The Blogland has caught yet another Democrat using official resources for political activities. Today's scoundrel is Clarendon County Auditor Patricia Pringle.

The Blogland received a copy of an email sent by Pringle seeking to turn out attendees at an upcoming Democratic Party event. Several phone calls confirmed the event was intended to rally support for Democratic State House candidate Kevin Johnson, who faces Republican Sonny Sanders in an upcoming special election to fill the vacant District 64 seat in Clarendon and Williamsburg Counties.

Even funnier is that while the email didn't come to our attention until some Johnson supporters began printing it out and stuffing it in mailboxes around the district.

This special election race has become a Keystone Cops circus drama for Democrats. In any other district, the fumbles, ethical screw-ups and botched plots would doom their chances at the seat, but in District 64, they may well succeed in spite of themselves. But in a special election, such bungling is exactly what Republicans need to win the seat now, and then make it more competitive later this year during reapportionment.

Posting #2000


Two thousand postings later and the Blogland is still going strong, thanks to our many readers across the Palmetto State and beyond. Just in time for the weekend - and festivities are planned to celebrate the occasion.

There's a lot of stuff in the works to make the Blogland's reach wider and allow our readers a greater role in using the Blogland to express themselves and make their voices heard. The guest op-eds and political cartoons from some of our readers are part of that effort.

Thanks for reading and please stay tuned. There's more to come ...

Lobbying over government email? Say it ain't so, Joe

Charleston Mayor Joe Riley is never one to underestimate his power - or at least his ability to use taxpayer-funded resources for his own personal agenda.

This week, he's using city email to encourage municipal employees to oppose House Bill 3713, calling it the "Anti-Police Officer, Firefighter, School Teacher and Local Government Employee Act of 2011". The bill, sponsored by Rep. Jim Merrill, is similar to legislation filed by Senator Paul Campbell (S 647), and would cap taxes on property taxes. Urging city employees to contact their legislators, he attached a PDF file of the Charleston County legislative delegation membership list.

We're not sure about the pros-and-cons of the bill, but we're sure the doom and gloom predicted in Joe's email is probably a little over the top. Somehow, we don't think they're out to outlaw cops, firemen, teachers and other government employees. Then again, when Joe Riley says something is anti-firefighter, trust him - his administration's policies set the standard for being anti-firefighter.

Sounds like typical Joe Riley - creating drama, spinning to prevent anything which could restrict his cash flow and using taxpayer-funded resources to do it. We appreciate the city employee who stuck their neck out to forward this email, which follows in its entirety:

Parole Alert: Brian Nelson, Lowcountry double cop killer

It's not every day we ask for Blogland readers to help us - but it's not every day that someone who killed two cops has a parole hearing in South Carolina.

Brian Nelson (the guy on the right) faces a parole hearing for the hit-and-run deaths of Summerville Police Officer William Bell and Berkeley County Sheriff's Deputy Gene Wright, who were killed in the line of duty while attempting to assist a motorist on U.S. Route 17-A in Summerville. To date, he has served just EIGHT YEARS of a twenty year sentence. In our view, you don't drive over and kill two cops and just serve eight years (in our world, he'd be swinging from the gallows).

So yeah, we're opposed to Nelson's release, and we hope you will will join us in doing so.

If you want to go ahead and register your objections without reading any further, plesae visit the Department of Probation and Parole website (http://www.dppps.sc.gov/oppose_parole.html) and state your opposition to the release of Brian Nelson, SCDC inmate # 00292367.

If you'd like to know more about what happened, Valarie Bell Wright, the daughter of officer William Bell, provided this narrative about what took place:

Winthrop University poll: Huckabee leads crowded field with S.C. GOP voters

According to a poll conducted by Winthrop University, 2008 GOP Presidential candidate and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee leads a crowded field of potential candidates for the 2012 GOP nomination.

The "Winthrop Poll" is a series of public affairs polling conducted by Winthrop's Social & Behavioral Research Lab. This particular poll sampled registered voters in 11 Southern states - AL, AR, FL, GA, LA, MS, NC, SC, TN, TX, and VA.

While we'll question the practicality of polling voters in states which will mostly play little or no role in the GOP nominating process, as well as the ability early polling to predict the outcome of the 2012 nomination process, it is worth noting that while the early polls don't always predict who will win, they're pretty good at telling us who won't win.

So how did the other potential GOP candidates fare?

We'll be back


There's a lot going on in the Blogland these days - work, kids, and teaching - and the worst of it has hit the last few days, so we've sort of slowed down the pace for a few days.

You can rest assured that this lull will not last forever and we'll be back and rolling strong again soon.

We'll be back.