Growing opposition to proposed federal hiring quotas

Back in December of last year, the Obama Administration's Department of Labor's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs posted a notice that the agency was planning to impose hiring quotas for individuals with disabilities on federally-funded projects. This proposal has drawn fire from a wide range of business and professional organizations who have expressed concerns about the adverse impact of this policy upon the business sector.

The proposed OFCCP policy would mandate a seven percent hiring quota for disabled and an additional two percent hiring quota for those with undefined “severe disabilities.” Patricia Shiu, director of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, claimed this policy will help reduce a thirteen percent unemployment rate for those with disabilities. Shiu defended the proposed mandates, claiming that "specific goals" and "real accountability" were needed to ensure increased hiring of disabled individuals on federally-funded projects.

Employee handbook rulings expand NLRB's reach into non-union workplaces

As an HR professional, I write professional blog in addition to the Blogland. Occasionally, I cross-post articles, such as this one, which discuss issues relative to the upcoming election, such as labor law, where the current administration and Mitt Romney hold very different views.

Employers who think that having a union-free workplace will protect them from National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) actions should think again. The federal labor agency has been broadening its reach into examining employer practices in non-union workplaces with no union activity taking place.

One area which is drawing increased scrutiny from the NLRB is the content of employee handbooks, as indicated by recent rulings issued by the board (Banner Estrella Medical Center, 358 NLRB No. 93, Hyundai America Shipping Agency Inc. 357 NLRB No. 80 and Karl Knauz Motors, 358 NLRB No. 164).

Unless the November elections result in a shake-up of the Board, employers and HR staff responsible for writing and maintaining the content of employee handbooks may want to scrutinize these documents for potential troublespots.

Questions about effectiveness of state OSH programs may lead to changes

Federal OSHA officials efforts to come up with effective measures for state-run Occupational Safety &  Health (OSH) programs keep coming up short, according to several reports which have examined how state-run programs are assessed. These measures are needed to ensure that state-run programs meet, if not exceed, standards and performance levels of the federally-run OSHA program which is applied in states without self-run programs.

Concerns about OSH programs in a number of states now include a report from the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of the U.S. Department of Labor which has criticized the federal agency's ability to develop effective state OSH program measures. More bad news came in an August report from the Federal Annual Monitoring Evaluation (FAME), which criticized a number of states for the poor quality of whistle-blower programs.

These criticisms present major concerns for the quality and effectiveness of workplace safety and enforcement as the federal agency delegates the enforcement of workplace safety in many states, thus relying upon those states to develop effective safety programs that balance promoting safety with proper and effective enforcement.

Cahaly cleared of campaign misconduct charges

Long-time SC political strategist Robert Cahaly was cleared of charges related to campaign robo-calls made in the 2010 election cycle on Friday.

According to the Charleston Post and Courier, charges against Cahaly were dismissed by the First Circuit Solicitor’s Office, which was asked to handle the case after the S.C. Attorney General’s Office recused itself. An assistant solicitor with the office said Friday that prosecutors didn’t believe the statutes SLED cited in the charges  applied to the robo-calls, clearing Cahaly of any wrong-doing.

Cahaly was charged with six counts of automatically dialed announcing device violations in the fall of 2010. The calls were delivered to voting households in House Districts 26 (Greenville and Pickens Counties), 78 (Richland County), 79 (Kershaw and Richland Counties), 98 (Dorchester County), 108 (Charleston and Georgetown Counties) and 115 (Charleston County). 

Republican candidates won in all but one of those districts, knocking off Democratic incumbents in the races for Districts 108 and 115.

Will cruise terminal ruling draw Policy Council attacks?

The Coastal Conservation League  has become well-known for wrecking efforts to improve the economy and quality of life of the South Carolina Lowcountry by opposing economic development efforts and opposing pretty much every major infrastructure project. 

The recent announcement of their political alliance with the South Carolina Policy Council drew questions from those who thought there was little common ground between a group known for anti-capitalist activities and a group which claims to advocate broadening free-market activities. 

But when the Policy Council attacked House Speaker Bobby Harrell shortly after the Coastal Conservation League's (CCL) efforts to block the completion of Interstate 526 in Charleston County suffered a major blow when a mass survey indicated overwhelming public support for the project, a project which Harrell vocally supported, it suggested an active political alliance between the two groups. We're not the only ones who've asked this question.

It's not the same old Dick Harpootlian

There was a time when Dick Harpootlian was the SCGOP's worst nightmare. A tough-talking, bare-knucked politico, he inflicted major damage upon Palmetto State Republicans during his tenure as state Democratic Chair in the late 1990s - a role so legendary that they asked him to come back for a return engagement, hoping to bring back his old political magic and inflict more pain upon Republicans.

But judging by how he's trying - and failing - to keep Richland County Democrats from abandoning his efforts to topple GOP Senate President Pro Tem John Courson from his Richland County Senate District, it seems like Harpootlian has lost his magic touch.

Courson had already attracted the support of several Richland County Democrats, most notably Senator Darrell Jackson and Sheriff Leon Lott, but Thursday's announcement by a number of key Democrats who were endorsing Courson greatly bolstered the ranks and credibility of the Senate leader's crossover political support: State Senator Joel Lourie, State Rep. Jimmy Bales, Columbia City Councilman Cameron Runyan, Richland County Councilman Norman Jackson and former Richland Council chairman Tony Mizzell. Unable to keep the county's large contingent of Democrats unified behind Courson's challenger, Harpootlian opted for fire more attacks at those crossing over to support Courson.

Rex Rice's smoking fetish

In his attempts at making a political comeback, Rex Rice may want to tell Pickens County voters about his obsession with cigarette taxes.

While in the state House, Rice, who formerly represented parts of Greenville and Pickens Counties, was a perennial sponsor of bills creating and raising taxes on cigarettes for a variety of purposes - until the 2009/2010 session, when he was running for the GOP nomination for the Third Congressional District.

Maybe he didn't want to divide his time between convincing voters he was a fiscally-conservative candidate and raising taxes, but you'd have to ask him to be sure.

Mark your calendar: Spartanburg Bronze Elephant, Monday

When it comes to a party, LaDonna Ryggs and the Spartanburg GOP are known for pulling out all the stops. This year's annual Bronze Elephant Dinner, being held this Monday, looks like it'll be an event you don't want to miss.

Monday's Bronze Elephant dinner features Congressman Jim Jordan (R-OH) and South Carolina's Congressmen Trey Gowdy and Mick Mulvaney.

Tickets include an annual membership in the county party's Bronze Elephant Club:

  • $120 per family
  • $90 per couple
  • $60 per single
  • or $500 per table sponsorship (name in the program, table of 8 and reception/photo line)

RSVP to ladonna@thepalladiangroup.comMake checks payable and send them to: Spartanburg County GOP PO Box 5475 Spartanburg, SC 29304.

Poll shows Rice leading in the Seventh

The first public poll released in the Seventh Congressional District shows Horry County Republican Tom Rice holding a comfortable lead over Georgia Democrat Gloria "The Green Quitter" Tinubu. 

According to the poll conducted by Winthrop University, Rice holds nearly a thirteen point lead, leading Tinubu with 49% to Tinubu's 36%. As this district is not on the radar screen for the national parties, we suspect this poll paints a pretty accurate picture of where the race stands.

While Rice and Tinubu both scored strong run-off wins in June, Tinubu has struggled to make headway with the district's large bloc of GOP-leaning coastal voters. When you have a record of crashing colleges, alleging racism in the Olympics, opposing higher standards for education and suing airlines for losing elections because you bumped your head, voters just might not get the stuff you're shoveling.

It probably didn't help that Tinubu has aligned herself with every far-left group under the sun while running for a district with a modest GOP lean.

Maybe Tinubu thinks Seventh District voters are dumb, but apparently they're not. As such, expect Rice to roll to a comfortable win a month from now.

We're just wondering where she'll go next?

Happy Birthday to Crescent Magazine

Upstate veteran politico Taft Matney has earned a pat on the back today as his web venture - Crescent Magazine - marks its first year in business today, carrying on its mission of talking about life, culture, food and sometimes politics in the Palmetto State.

Matney, who was concerned about the state's reputation post-Appalachian Trail, started the venture as a way to share a different view of the state than what was being portrayed in the news media:

South Carolina has amazing stories to tell and amazing people to tell them. That’s why CRESCENT exists. It’s on your computer, your smart phone, and your iPad to see and hear and read about people, places, and things that you won’t find in most other places.

... and over the last year, he's done a great job telling those stories. He gets to people and places that few can reach and gives readers thoughtful and in-depth looks you won't find elsewhere, written by someone who is both a good writer and analyst and someone with a deep passion for South Carolina.

If you haven't visited the site, you should. It really is sweeter than South Carolina peaches.

E-verify mandate underway in North Carolina

Following the lead of South Carolina, which was one of the first states to pass workforce immigration compliance legislation following the Chamber of Commerce of the United States v. Whiting ruling, North Carolina is now mandating the use of E-Verify for screening all new applicants.

North Carolina will phase in compliance, based upon the size of a company's workforce, as follows:
  • Effective Oct. 1, 2012—employers with 500 or more employees will be required to use E-Verify to check work authorization for all new hires.
  • Effective Jan. 1, 2013—employers with 100 or more employees will be required to use E-Verify to check work authorization for all new hires.
  • Effective July 1, 2013—employers with 25 or more employees will be required to use E-Verify to check work authorization for all new hires.
For companies with multi-state workforces, the agency will consider just in-state employees towards the determination of the first date of enforcement.

At this time, the North Carolina legislation exempts employers with less than 25 employees as well as seasonal workers (but keep reading because federal requirements may still apply).

House 56 ballot suit ruling leaves two petition candidates on November ballot

House District 56 shown in blue
Today, a Circuit Court ruling in the lawsuit filed by State House District 56 petition candidate Dennis DiSabato against fellow petition candidate Mike Ryhal reportedly left Ryhal on the November ballot. Both DiSabato and Ryhal are seeking the Horry County House seat which was relocated from the Pee Dee in last year's redistricting. 

This ruling was the latest turn in a contest for this seat which has played out at least as much in courtrooms as it has in front of voters. Following the back-and-forth between these two is plenty confusing, so if you're trying to figure this all out, you're not alone.

It began when Mike Ryhal was removed from the ballot in the initial Supreme Court ruling which removed candidates from the ballot, leaving Dennis DiSabato as the sole GOP candidate for the seat, and then it just kept spiralling downhill with lawsuits and accusations between both campaigns.

Courson re-election bid gaining support of Richland Democratic leaders

Richland County's GOP Senator John Courson is one of the few survivors of the county's gradual transformation from a swing county to a Democratic stronghold. Holding onto a swing district, it's a goal which has repeatedly eluded Democrats, who would love to have the bragging rights of knocking off the recently-elected Senate President Pro Tempore.

In recent years, Democrats gained control of a long-time Republican-held Senate district and of the region's longest-held House seats, as well as swept out every Republican in the courthouse. While Democrats are waging a strong challenge to Courson, hoping the county's changing politics will give them a chance to knock off the county's last Republican Senator, other Democrats are breaking with their party to support Courson's re-election.

Martin leading, Rice floundering in Upstate Senate race

While some portrayed the Pickens County State Senate race between Senate Judiciary Chair Larry Martin and former State House member Rex Rice as a major battle in the making, it looks increasingly like Martin may be positioning himself for a big win next month, frustrating Rice's hopes for a political comeback. 

Polling shared with the Blogland suggests that Senate Judiciary Chair Larry Martin is well-positioned for re-election a month from now. Martin holds a sizable lead over former State Representative Rex Rice, polling almost thirty points ahead - 46% to 17%, but when Martin was named as the Republican candidate, his lead grew by ten points to 56% while Rice's support stayed about the same. 

We've seen other polling that says that Martin was polling a two-to-one lead in the primary which was cancelled by the Supreme Court ruling.

But polling numbers aren't the only big hurdle that Rice is struggling to overcome. Since entering the race, Rice has struggled to raise money, with only $750 raised in the spring and a mere $105.65 cash on hand when the most recent campaign finance reports were filed mid-summer. 

Both polls and finance reports show that Rice, who gave up his House seat in 2010 but failed to make the GOP run-off for the Third Congressional District that year, has a long way to go if he wants to score what looks like an almost impossible comeback next month.

Mark your calendar: Jim DeMint lunch in Winnsboro - Monday 10/15

Jim DeMint is coming to Winnsboro to have lunch and raise funds for the Fairfield County GOP on Monday, October 15. He'll be joining them at Honeysuckle Acres in Winnsboro and they're hoping you'll join them.

Tickets are ten bucks and sponsorships are one hundred - and you can even order your tickets and sponsorships online.

Honeysuckle Acres in Winnsboro is located at 70 Honeysuckle Lane in Winnsboro, South Carolina.

Policy Council hypocritical on transparency and disclosure

Controlling and reporting money spent to influence the political process has been a long-running issue in South Carolina. Recently, it exploded over questions about how well House Speaker Bobby Harrell reported reimbursements for campaign-related expenditures from his campaign fund.

In response to the matter, Harrell met with The State and shared specifics about his expenditures. After reviewing the matter, the wrote that "(a)lthough state law does not specify how itemized the itemized expenditures have to be, it’s difficult to argue that what Mr. Harrell provided is adequate. In fact, the attorney for the State Ethics Commission said she considered his reports incomplete" but believed Harrell "likely has not misspent campaign funds".

So nobody did anything wrong, the law wasn't clear but more should have been done to comply with it anyway. That's about as clear as mud to us.

Read more here:

We discussed this issue with Harrell's staff to get their take on things. While they answered our questions and we appreciate their promises to provide more specific reporting, we hope this episode, as well as other problems which have arisen with reporting weaknesses and loopholes, will prompt legislators to tighten ethics and disclosure laws in next year's session so higher standards aren't simply an option.

The problem with making progress on the issue of transparency and full disclosure is that, like other reform efforts, some of those who bark the loudest aren't always true to their sound-bites. One of the biggest offenders on this issue is Ashley Landess, the director of the South Carolina Policy Council, who jumped into the fray by demanding “to see the documentation to have complete confidence the speaker did indeed reimburse himself for actual cost and that the travel is legitimate”.