When the full S.C. House meets next week to debate the fiscal 2022 state budget, it will consider a plan that’s at least $1 billion bigger than the budget in effect when the COVID-19 pandemic hit South Carolina.

And that doesn’t include billions more in recently awarded federal Covid-relief funding for the Palmetto State, much it for K-12 schools.

Approved last week, the House Ways and Means Committee’s state budget version for the fiscal year that begins July 1 totals $31.1 billion, including state, federal and “other” funds, according to a budget record known as the summary control document (SCD).

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A new Port of Charleston terminal – named after powerful S.C. Sen. Hugh Leatherman – already comes with a related, massive state taxpayer bill that could skyrocket under a new proposal pushed by the longtime lawmaker.

The “Hugh K. Leatherman Terminal,” a state Ports Authority facility in North Charleston that is scheduled to open next month, is linked to:

  • The deepening of the Charleston Harbor from 45 feet to 52 feet to accommodate expected larger ships with the completed expansion of the Panama Canal;
  • A newly open road designed to provide truck drivers a direct connection between the terminal and Interstate 26; and
  • A proposed rail yard that will allow cargo to be transported to and from the terminal by CSX and Norfolk Southern trains.
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Two years ago, lawmakers created the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, a stand-alone state agency aimed at helping to provide services to the thousands of veterans in South Carolina.

With the creation of the new agency, county legislative delegations lost their sole power to fire the county veterans’ affairs officer (CVAO) in their respective counties. That decision now has to be made jointly by a majority of that county’s Senate delegation members, a majority of the House delegation members, and the director – called the secretary – of the S.C. Department of Veterans’ Affairs (SCDVA).

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If an ethics complaint is filed against a South Carolina judge, in most cases the public will never learn the details.

That’s because court rules adopted by the five-member S.C. Supreme Court – the state’s top court – largely ensure secrecy in the process.

For example, under court rules, misconduct proceedings against judges and related records become public if formal charges are authorized by a seven-member investigative panel of the 26-member Commission on Judicial Conduct, which is appointed by the Supreme Court.

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SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- Allan E. Parker, President of The Justice Foundation, who represents thousands of women hurt by abortion states, "SB 6 is an excellent vehicle for improving the health and safety of women in Arkansas and moving towards a more just and humane society. Since Arkansas already has a Safe Haven law, as does every other state in the nation, no woman in Arkansas will have to take care of an unwanted child when the bill becomes effective. Senator Rapert and Representative Mary Bentley's SB 6 is an excellent vehicle for challenging the Supreme Court's current view on Roe v. Wade, Doe v. Bolton, and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. The freedom of Roe can be preserved now for women without its human cost – killing children and injuring women.

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In South Carolina, it’s still illegal to challenge someone to a duel with a sword, pistol or other deadly weapon.

Other laws on the books that date to the last century or earlier ban such things as, for example:

  • Robbing a train after stopping it;
  • Swindling in card or dice games;
  • Committing adultery or fornication; and
  • Operating dance halls on Sundays

Although a number of old laws are no longer observed or enforced, lawmakers have done relatively little in recent years to revise or repeal them. But they’re moving quickly now to eliminate a longstanding law that they routinely have ignored but which supporters say would provide greater transparency in the state budget process.

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In just one year, the surplus from state gas-tax-hike revenues grew by more than a quarter of a billion dollars, or 50%, to $752 million as of Jan. 31, records show.

The Nerve repeatedly has pointed out the growing reserve that the S.C. Department of Transportation has been sitting on since the gas-tax-hike law took effect on July 1, 2017. Now, the agency contends that the surplus is committed to “pending vendor payments.”

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The S.C. Legislature these days is proving that the cover-up is as bad as the crime.

Not only have legislators routinely ignored a longstanding state law requiring public hearings on the entire state budget as initially proposed by the governor, they now are moving to get rid of the law itself – without debate.

A House Ways and Means subcommittee this week quickly approved, without discussion, a bill that would repeal a law requiring the House and Senate budget-writing committees (House Ways and Means, Senate Finance committees) to hold joint public hearings on the governor’s proposed state spending plan.

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It’s a railroad that most South Carolinians probably never have heard of.

The Charleston-based “Palmetto Railways” is classified as a “short line railroad,” which typically runs shorter distances and connects shippers to larger freight railroads.

Officially, Palmetto Railways, which was established in 1969, is a division of the S.C. Department of Commerce, though it has a separate website; and recent state budgets mention it only once in an obscure proviso under Commerce’s section.

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Longtime state attorney general Alan Wilson could receive bigger retirement paychecks under legislation sponsored by two House leaders who also are lawyers.

The bill, sponsored by Reps. Murrell Smith, R-Sumter, who is the House Ways and Means Committee chairman, and Chris Murphy, R-Dorchester, who is the House Judiciary Committee chairman, would allow Wilson to move from the retirement system covering general state employees to the retirement system covering judges and solicitors, effective July 1.

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An income tax credit that S.C. lawmakers created in 2017 to offset the state gasoline tax hike has been relatively unpopular so far, records show.

And state revenue forecasters are now admitting it.

After two years of wrongly predicting that taxpayers would claim the maximum-allowed amount of income tax credits, the state Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office (RFA) is predicting that taxpayers this year collectively will claim nearly $60 million less than the cap set by law, according to a letter from RFA director Frank Rainwater to Hartley Powell, director of the S.C. Department of Revenue (DOR).

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Since Gov. Henry McMaster in August gave the state Department of Commerce – which isn’t a public health agency – the authority to allow large-crowd events in South Carolina amid the coronavirus outbreak, the agency has approved more than 1,300 applications, records show.

Through Thursday morning, Commerce approved 1,345, or 90%, of the total 1,489 submitted applications, The Nerve found in a review of the department’s online applications database. Seventeen approved applications involved estimated crowds, either on a single day or collectively over a longer time period, of at least 10,000.

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As Americans saw, the 2020 presidential election was beset with fraud and irregularities. Although it is too late to rectify the 2020 election, voter fraud remains a clear and existential threat to the Republic’s electoral system. Fortunately, there is much that state legislatures can do.

Both Article I, Section 4, and Article II, Section 1, of the United States Constitution give state legislatures primary authority over setting the rules for federal elections. The first step toward restoring confidence in American elections is for legislators to reclaim their constitutional power from judges and executive branch bureaucrats.

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For the second time in recent months, the S.C. Judicial Department has sided with secrecy about how the court system operates.

In October, the department denied The Nerve’s request under the state Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for a list of judicial staff making at least $50,000 annually – records which are considered public for any government agency under the FOIA.

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2020 ended with a first in the 3½ years of the gas-tax-hike law, though many South Carolina motorists probably won’t be happy about it.

As of Dec. 31, more revenues were collected under the law, which took effect July 1, 2017, than the total estimated cost of all road and bridge projects identified by the S.C. Department of Transportation to be paid with the money, recently released agency records show.

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Over the last three months of 2020, the November general election wasn’t the only expense that top S.C. lawmakers covered with campaign funds.

The Nerve’s review of the latest campaign-spending reports filed this month by Senate and House leaders found that a number of them spent some of their campaign funds on sponsorships and other donations to their favorite charities, membership dues to various organizations, and gifts to their staffs or constituents.

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