Court Room Gavel

Over the past four fiscal years, the state Attorney General’s Office settled 33 civil cases against various companies for a total of nearly $210 million, though agency records show that the proceeds typically didn’t go directly to affected South Carolina consumers.

Instead, most of the money was used by lawmakers to help cover an annual list of one-time expenses by state agencies, while another $40 million collectively went to the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) and outside law firms hired in the cases, a review by The Nerve’s found.

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Pyramids of Egypt

As many as 17 S.C. lawmakers traveled to Egypt last month, most of whom paid their way with campaign funds, State Ethics Commission records show.

Two legislators who used campaign money for the trip – Reps. Todd Rutherford, D-Richland, and John King, D-York – also tapped their campaign accounts for costs related to trips to Greece and Peru, respectively, according to their latest expense statements.

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Piggy Bank 1

As state agencies prepare their proposed fiscal 2020-21 budgets, what they likely won’t reveal is the amount of “other” fund surpluses carried over year after year – collectively billions of dollars.

As of June 30 – the end of the 2018-19 fiscal year – state agencies and divisions, plus several major state funds, had a total of nearly $3.9 billion in other-fund cash balances, according to S.C. Department of Administration records released to The Nerve under the Freedom of Information Act.

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Money

In 2018, University of South Carolina head football coach Will Muschamp received a new six-year deal that paid him $4.2 million in the first year and is worth a total of more than $28 million over the life of the contract.

His total compensation includes $1.1 million in state salary – the highest-paid employee in the state salary database of nearly 23,000 workers receiving at least $50,000 yearly.

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Gavel 2019

Under a new city of Columbia ordinance, “extreme risk” residents who are poor might get a court-appointed lawyer – despite not facing any criminal charges – before they could be ordered by a municipal judge to turn over their guns.

But in South Carolina, the appointment of a public defender even in a criminal case isn’t a guarantee under state law and court rules.

The U.S. Supreme Court in 1963 ruled that criminal defendants who can’t afford a lawyer have a right to a state court-appointed attorney, which S.C. law recognizes. Under state law, the S.C. Supreme Court has the authority to set rules for the appointment of public defenders and court-appointed attorneys.

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SC State Capitol

When in session, S.C. lawmakers routinely introduce legislation dedicating an existing road section, bridge or intersection to a living or deceased person – including ex-legislators.

Their road- and bridge-naming proposals are made through concurrent resolutions, which unlike general bills, can’t be reviewed by the governor.

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Start Turtle

With the start of the third year of the state’s gas-tax-hike law, the S.C. Department of Transportation had completed less than 16% of $711.4 million in identified “pavements” projects statewide, newly released DOT records show.

The Nerve last month revealed that DOT plans to complete about 2,300 miles of road repairs by the end of 2021, though that number represents less than 7% of the approximately 33,600 miles of state roads that the agency says have to be resurfaced or rebuilt.

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SC Streets DOT

Some 37 years after the idea was first proposed, Interstate 73 in South Carolina exists only on paper.

Yet since 2004, the state Department of Transportation has spent at least $77 million on the project – much of it for design costs and land purchases along the proposed route from North Carolina to the Myrtle Beach area, The Nerve found in a review of DOT records.

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Money Everywhere

If the S.C. House of Representatives decided to forgo its entire $22.7 million budget this fiscal year, it could still pay all of its expected bills – with more than $650,000 left over.

That’s because the 124-member chamber carried over nearly $23.4 million in general funds into this fiscal year for its operations, state comptroller general records show. And the legislative body isn’t the only state agency with fat taxpayer-funded reserves, a review by The Nerve found.

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Road Construction Ahead Sign

Members of the State Transportation Infrastructure Bank (STIB) board recently discussed their desire to explore expanding South Carolina’s interstates through the STIB.

While nothing was voted on or confirmed, the ideas floated included finding additional funding streams, “encouraging” the state Department of Transportation to partner with STIB to build interstates, and expanding the STIB’s charter to allow it to circumvent DOT’s priority list and build interstates now.

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Federal probationary sentencing is a complex matter that began in 1908; it has continued to evolve. It’s extensively governed by many sections of the U.S. Code of Law and Policy Statements of the U.S. Sentencing Commission. It’s intended to be a substitute for imprisonment. Federal supervised sentencing is an unrelated system that began in 1984 and is in addition to imprisonment. Federal suspended sentencing was abolished in 1984.

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Columbia, South Carolina. – The South Carolina Republican Party released the following statement regarding the State Executive Committee's decision today to forgo the 2020 GOP Presidential Preference Primary and save South Carolina taxpayers over $1.2 million.

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SC Pot Hole

In January 2016, a driver swerved around a pothole on Bate Harvey Road in York County, crossed the center line and hit an oncoming vehicle, court records show.

The S.C. Department of Transportation last year paid, through the state Insurance Reserve Fund (IRF), $150,000 in damages and $26,592 in legal expenses to defend the agency in that case, according to IRF records.

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The S.C. Department of Transportation plans to complete about 2,300 miles of road repairs by the end of 2021, records released to The Nerve show, though that number represents a small portion of the major road work the agency says needs to be done statewide.

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Ex-state transportation commissioner John Hardee negotiated $1.57 million in payments since 2014 from government agencies and nonprofits for public service announcements through a billboard-industry trade group, though much of the revenues were not used to produce billboards, records reviewed by The Nerve show.

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Holly and Joseph Goshorn of Greer were excited to receive a $529 Future Scholar grant for their baby Maxwell as part of last year’s PalmettoBaby grant campaign.
Holly and Joseph Goshorn of Greer were excited to receive a $529 Future Scholar grant for their baby Maxwell as part of last year’s PalmettoBaby grant campaign.

COLUMBIA, S.C. – State Treasurer Curtis Loftis announced that South Carolina’s Future Scholar 529 College Savings Plan would once again celebrate National 529 College Savings Day (May 29) with its PalmettoBaby Grant Program.

The annual program, which is in its seventh year, promotes the importance of families saving for college and provides a privately-funded $529 grant to each baby born in South Carolina on May 29 to put toward a Future Scholar account.

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Mike Scruggs