Rep. Jeff Duncan refuses Obama-ordered pay raise

For another example of politicos who put leadership ahead of ego, the Blogland commends Third District Congressman Jeff Duncan for showing real fiscal leadership during the ongoing disputes over how to resolve the "fiscal cliff" showdown in Washington.

This evening, Duncan was the first member of South Carolina's congressional delegation to reject the federal pay raise ordered by President Obama:

The timing of President Obama’s executive order to raise salaries for Members of Congress and the Vice President shows how out of touch with reality the President is when it comes to spending. Congress doesn’t need a pay raise, and if given a raise I will return it. This executive order highlights the President’s serious lack of judgment when it comes to spending money. President Obama’s decision gives every American the right to question his judgment in managing our nation’s finances. Raising taxes will result in more government spending, not less debt for our children and grandchildren. I will not be fooled into believing that Washington intends to use tax increases to pay down the debt.

It's hard to manage a spending crisis if you just want to spend more, especially considering many private sector employers haven't been able to give raises for years. It's time Washington got it and led by example.

*** about 11pm on 12/31, Senator Tim Scott announced that he would join Duncan in refusing the pay raise.

Paul Thurmond: Leadership ahead of ego

Paul Thurmond has gotten a reputation for being the kind of guy who keeps his ego in check and wants to get things done. Watching the way he didn't use his family's reputation as others will do to win elections as well as his quiet and thoughtful nature gives the impression of a real leader, not just the ego-centered politicos who thrive in South Carolina politics.

Today, Thurmond provided another example in shutting down speculation that he would seek to run for the First Congressional District seat being vacated by incoming Senator Tim Scott:

I am humbled by the numerous calls I have received encouraging me to run for Congress. While I never actively engaged in exploring a run for Congress, I felt obligated to listen to the opinions of the people that recently elected me. After thoughtful consideration and prayer, consultation with my family and countless calls from constituents, I am convinced that I can best serve the people of District 41 by ending any speculation about my interest in the open Congressional seat. I will not run in the 1st District Congressional special election. I will focus all of my energies on implementing the policies that are important to my constituents as their State Senator. I hope that by making this statement my supporters who have withheld support of an announced candidate pending my decision will be comfortable getting involved in this very important race. I also hope that this announcement assures the people of my district that my focus is on serving them not on political opportunity.

If only we had more people like him in state politics.

Today's Birthday Triple: Graham, Lisella and Martin

Sometimes, good things come in threes and there aren't many occasions better suited for good things and great times than New Years' Eve. In that spirit, the Blogland wants to wish a very Happy Birthday and an early Happy New Year's to three well-known and accomplished South Carolina politicos who are celebrating their birthdays today:

Moye Graham, the Chair of the Clarendon County Republican Party, a well-traveled international man of mystery and one of the legendary Four Horsemen of the Political Apocalypse. He's on a roll these days, having attended his second national convention as a delegate, this time carrying the votes of 87% of the Sixth District convention delegates.

Mark Lisella, a Lowcountry native who has become a well-known national Republican political strategist and direct mail guru. He's been on a long winning streak in recent election cycles, especially in North Carolina races, and is resting up after a tough election year.

Shane Martin, a Spartanburg County State Senator and automotive R&D engineering consultant who is gearing up for election to a second term in the Senate. His first race was a stunning landslide upset of the incumbent Senator by roughly two-to-one in the 2008 GOP run-off. He'll be kicking off his second term in the Senate and we look forward to working with him..

Secretary of State-run elections? Not a good idea.

With the recent election debacle in Richland County drawing attention to the flaws of county-run elections, there's been a lot of talk about how to reform the process to get local politics and backroom dealing out of the way of fair and efficient elections. While it's past time to overhaul how elections are run in South Carolina, having the Secretary of State's office oversee state elections would ask for trouble and politicize what has been a pretty professional and non-partisan office.

Before we go any farther, it's important to point out that the Blogland is a big fan of the current Secretary of State. He has done a good job with the duties of the office, raising awareness of charity issues, cracking down on counterfeit goods and making the office's business-related functions more user-friendly for individuals and businesses.

While it seems reasonable to look at other state government functions that might fit under his office, moving elections under the control of the Secretary of State's office could well invite trouble.

Check those employee handbooks

This story is cross-posted from my professional blog: Earl Capps: On The Job as a professional guide to keep you out of trouble in the workplace.

While the employee handbook was once an afterthought of companies, seldom reviewed and updated even less often, it's one of the biggest liabilities for employers with regard to lawsuits and actions by federal regulatory agencies.

The truth that catches some employers off-guard, especially smaller ones who don't have dedicated HR staff or who don't have well-supported human resources operations, is that the employee handbook is one of the most widely-circulated company documents. Thus employers should take it seriously and make sure whatever goes into it should be reviewed with a fine-tooth comb.

Walton Cartoon: "Santabama"

Senator Tim Scott: Major NLRB critic moves to the Senate

If there's anything one can be sure of about the appointment of South Carolina Congressman Tim Scott to replace Jim DeMint, who is resigning from the Senate to lead the Heritage Foundation, is that he's not going to be any friendlier to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) or organized labor than DeMint was.

If anything, Scott's record in the House suggests he'll be even more vocal on these issues than DeMint. WScott sponsored three bills in the last session of the House related to the NLRB and union activity in workplaces:

  • H.R. 1976 and 2587, both sponsored by Scott, would bar the NLRB from directing companies to close or move plants or jobs.
  • H.R. 2810 - The “Employee Rights Act”, would require the use of secret balloting to unionize a workplace and require a renewal vote every three years. It would also set guidelines on how these elections are to be conducted.

While in the House, Scott received very low scores on scorecards issued by three labor unions:

  • AFL-CIO: Voted with them on just one out of 20 votes in 2012 and received a zero score in 2011.
  • AFSCME: Zero score
  • SEIUVoted against their position on 8 out of 9 bills, no score assigned

With the direct impact of the NLRB being felt in South Carolina, where it moved to try to block Boeing's expansion in Charleston, as well as threatened to block the state from enacting legislation to codify the 2010 referendum allowing workers to decide workplace issues via secret ballot, it's not likely that Scott will back off his stance when he crosses over to the Senate next month.

Attacks on Tim Scott overlook the facts

As speculation grows over who will be appointed to replace the Senate seat being vacated by Senator Jim DeMint, a number of activists have decided to attack First District Congressman Tim Scott, who is considered one of those most likely to be appointed to the seat by Governor Haley.

Instead of taking these attacks at face value, the Blogland decided to obtain the Congressional ratings and voting scorecards kept by seven groups, three conservative and four liberal. In looking at these scorecards, the claims that Scott is liberal don't seem very credible. In fact, scorecards issued by three of the more noted conservative groups out there, including the long-running American Conservative Union, give Tim very high ratings:

Walton Cartoon: The Cliff

SCDOR Hacking: Where's the email?

Yesterday, legislators in both the House and Senate held hearings regarding the hacking of the state Department of Revenue.

First up in the House seatingwas Marshall Heilman, an IR security consultant with Mandiant, an IT security company. In the process of giving legislators in the House hearings an overview of the chronology of the hacking and an assessment of what was done and how, he alluded to the likely cause of the hack as a "phishing" email, which encourages readers to click on a link or open an attachment, either of which breach security protocols and allow hackers to gain access to a computer network. 

During questioning, Beaufort State Rep. Shannon Erickson questioned Heilman's "theory" about the email being the cause and asked what other possible causes could have contributed. Heliman indicated there was no other likely cause. 

Later in the questioning, Erickson asked for a copy of the email and was told no copies of the email could be found.

Yeah, that does seem strange that in the less than two months' time that lapsed between the alleged first entry into the system and the detection of the breach of security, that no email archives were kept. But it's not the first time questions have been raised about email archiving in state government, but with an issue like this, the lack of email archives present additional challenges.

Senate vacancy update: ACU likes Scott, Wilkins not interested, Colbert in lead, Haley not saying today

For those of you who are following the ongoing developments, here's a look at the last 24 or so hours of the Senate vacancy process:

American Conservative Union leader backs Tim Scott:

Al Cardenas, the Chair of the ACU, released a statement last night backing Scott:

On behalf of the American Conservative Union, I urge South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley to make history and appoint Representative Tim Scott to the United States Senate. A strong conservative leader, Rep. Scott has an ACU rating of 96 and was elected as one of two members chosen by his colleagues to represent the 85 member Republican freshmen class at the leadership table.

David Wilkins - not interested: 

The former state House Speaker and Ambassador to Canada told the Greenville News he wasn't interested in the appointment. Wilkins said he would have considered serving as a two-year placeholder but Haley's decision to appoint a Senator interested in long-term tenure shut the door.

Colbert leads Scott for seat in poll:

poll released by Public Policy Polling showed Stephen Colbert, who grew up on James Island, leading other potential picks for the Senate seat. Tim Scott and Trey Gowdy followed Colbert.

Haley not talking - today:

Late yesterday afternoon, Haley's office put the word out that a meeting with Scott or an announcement would not be in her schedule today, when she is scheduled to visit the Charleston area, the heart of Scott's congressional district.

Florence County crony hire "saves" money?

Only in places like Florence County could hiring an unqualified good ol' boy be considered a way to save money - which is exactly what the hiring of Rusty Smith, Florence County Council's Chair, to serve as County Administrator is being called.

The "Rusty Re-Do", the second attempt by Council members to give Smith the job, hired Smith for roughly the same salary as the outgoing administrator, who was sent packing with a six-month salary severance after his first year on the job.

Not surprisingly, the departing administrator, who was hired after Smith's first attempt to get the job was torpedoed by negative publicity, was shown the door after he faced "resistance" in his job. We're pretty sure some of that resistance came from Council members who wanted to give Smith the job in the first place, which they did just before several members of Council left following the November elections.

Haley rules out "placeholder" Senator, to visit Lowcountry tomorrow

According to the schedule for Governor Haley, she has scheduled to visits in the Charleston metro area for tomorrow:

Tuesday, December 11, 12:00 PM: Gov. Haley will hold a media availability at Boeing’s welcome center after she tours the facility and visits employees, 5400 International Boulevard, North Charleston, S.C.  

Tuesday, December 11, 2:00 PM: Gov. Haley will join Mayor Riley and other officials for a business visit and economic development announcement, Benefitfocus, 125 Benefitfocus Way, Charleston, S.C.

Will this include an announcement regarding the appointment of a replacement for outgoing Senator Jim DeMint?

Congressman Tim Scott, who lives in North Charleston and was a key player in bringing Boeing to the Lowcountry, is considered by many to be a top prospect for the appointment and was recommended by DeMint to fill the seat. Of the names which have been floated, including former AG Henry McMaster and State Rep. Ralph Norman, Scott is the only Lowcountry name which has been given any serious regard by political observers.

DeMint resignation to fuel Senate feeding frenzy in 2014

The announcement by Senator Jim DeMint to step down from his Senate seat early is bound to make the 2014 election cycle a circus in South Carolina.

The decision by the Senator to accept the job to replace outgoing Heritage Foundation President Ed Fuelner only halfway surprised some. A lot of politicos we talked with recently figured he'd seek some role to stay in national politics once he left the Senate, but nobody expected him leave the Senate with four years left in his second term.

This opens up two cans of worms: first in appointing a replacement Senator to fill in until the 2014 election, and then by setting up a two-seat Senate race for the 2014 cycle, to elect a replacement for the remainder of DeMint's term, along with the regular race for Graham's seat.

With the holiday season upon us, the appointment process will be interesting to watch.

Already talk is circulating about a number of appointment prospects, including former AG and SCGOP Chair Henry McMaster, who ran for the Senate in 1986, as well as Congressmen Mick Mulvaney and Tim Scott, both of who have been mentioned as prospects for DeMint's seat in 2016.

It's interesting to note that South Carolina appointed Senators have a history of never going on to serve full-terms, being rejected in their quests to return to Washington with voter support. Even though these took place in the pre-Civil Rights days when South Carolina's political landscape was run by Democratic machines, it will be interesting to see if/how voters will accept an appointee. 

Hang on to your hats, folks, this could get strange real soon. 

You shouldn't believe everything you hear about Alan Clemmons

You hear a lot of big talk and hot air in Columbia.  The Blogland has to sort through it all the time, as part of our ongoing missing to try to get to the truth of the matters to help inform and influence our readers.

It would be easier to just buy them off, but we didn't have the budget for that, and a lot of them are too honest anyway.

As part of our ongoing fact-checking mission, we're going to discuss some things we've heard that Alan Clemmons may try to tell you today:
  • When he tells you he's just 37, he's probably handing you a line.
  • When he tells you today's his birthday, he's telling you the truth.
So be sure to wish him a Happy Birthday!

House ethics reform process good news, but it won't be enough

Yesterday's organizational session in the state House showed the leadership taking a welcome step forward by establishing equal membership for both parties in the State House, mirroring how Congressional ethics committees are set up. While it's a good temporary measure that will allow both sides to keep an eye on each other, more work is needed.

Legislators have begun work and are promising action in the near future with the intent of addressing the substantive needs for tighter oversight as well as convince the public that whatever reforms are adopted are real. For now, we'll watch closely and give them time to work on something meaningful.

The problem is that any reforms which are adopted won't address every aspect of the process, especially with regard to efforts to outside interests who refuse to open up the same kind of scrutiny that applies to legislators. Unfortunately, federal court rulings mean it's a lot easier for legislators and state government to regulate themselves than to apply those same standards to others, especially when it comes to greater transparency over cash spent to influence the political process.

This problem has long been a concern of the Blogland, which has regularly sounded off on the need for more oversight over third-party groups which seek to influence elections and policy in South Carolina.

Another reason for tougher Work Zone enforcement in South Carolina

Yesterday was another sad lesson in the need to crack down on work zone violators in South Carolina, when a motorist was charged with DUI with an incident which an SCDOT worker was hit and killed on Interstate 20:

The driver of the car that killed a state Department of Transportation worker on Interstate 20 in Lexington County Monday afternoon has been charged with driving under the influence and leaving the scene of an accident, according to the state Highway Patrol.
Thomas Lee Stafford, 39, is accused of driving drunk when his 2003 Nissan SUV hit Nicholas Johnson and fatally wounded Nicholas Johnson, who was walking along the road’s emergency lane near mile marker 62, according to Highway Patrol spokesman Brent Kelly.

Make no mistake about it, the dangers of work zones are real. If you doubt it, I invite you to spend some time in work zones, which is part of what I've done for a living for over a decade as an HR and Safety Manager.

While you might think it's just workers who are in harm's way, think again:

North Charleston, State reach deal for Charleston port rail access

A long-running battle between the state and City of North Charleston over rail access to port facilities at the site of the former Charleston Naval Base was settled earlier today, with North Charleston agreeing to end its efforts to block rail access from the north end of the facility in return for a number of concessions from the state to mitigate the impact of traffic.

A key concern was that the lack of northern rail access would leave the port dependent upon a single rail service provider, forcing the port to deal with rail rates based upon a monopoly and/or putting more of the port's shipping volume on trucks, creating additional traffic congestion. This concern was recognized by Mayor Keith Summey, who pointed out that "containers can exit our community by rail with less impact than exiting by truck".

In addition to Summey, Berkeley County State Senator Larry Grooms, who is the Chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, has been the other key Lowcountry politico in these efforts, working diligently to get both sides to compromise. In talking with the Blogland, Grooms recognized the port had the right to open the northern rail access (which Summey acknowledged the port could do), but desired to see both sides reach an amicable agreement.

In addition to North Charleston ending its objections to the northern rail access to the port, other key points of the agreement include:

SCGOP officer sells out - and often

There's been a lot of discussion about the role played by mercenary politicos in sinking the GOP in this year's elections, putting profit ahead of principle and creating ethical questions with conflicts between their loyalties and motives.

Here in South Carolina, the worst example may be found in how the current Secretary of the SCGOP, DeLinda Ridings of Columbia she sells her services as a political hired gun, working for a string of failed campaigns across South Carolina while holding a party office in which most expect her to play neutral.

Not only has Ridings likely set the record for working for the most Presidential aspirants in one cycle (Huckabee, Huntsman and then Gingrich), she's also gotten a reputation of working for one loser after another, including Seventh District Congressional candidate Chad Prosser.