SC lawmakers balk at mandating “In God We Trust” in all school lobbies

SC lawmakers balk at mandating “In God We Trust” in all school lobbies

By Sarita Chourey – COLUMBIA – South Carolina public schools will continue to display “In God We Trust” in schools, if desired, but state lawmakers are not pushing to require it. A House education subcommittee tabled H. 4395 on Tuesday, dealing a sizable setback to a bill that would have mandated that schools place a plaque or other display in the lobby of each school building with the phrase that Congress adopted as the national motto in 1956. The S.C. School Boards Association asked lawmakers to amend the bill so that the state attorney general, not county schoolboards, would be responsible for fighting any lawsuits to arise. According to the bill, the goal is “to increase student understanding of and familiarity with American historical documents, historically important excerpts from or copies of the documents should be prominently displayed in public school buildings.” Rep. Alan Clemmons, R-Myrtle Beach, introduced the proposal last December. It has drawn a handful of co-sponsors, including Rep. Lonnie Hosey, D-Barnwell. The bill states that “In God We Trust” was inscribed on all U.S. currency occurred in April of 1864, when Congress approved its use on 2-cent pieces. “We have amber of social studies members who have expressed concerns,” said Craig King, director of governmental affairs for the Palmetto State Teachers Association. He said members, including some in the SC Council for the Social Studies, wanted to be part of the discussion to suggest changes. Constitutional questions about the separate of church and state has come up in the past in other states. In several circuits, including the 4th circuit, similar language has been challenged, specifically...
Texas pipeline giant seeks SC permit

Texas pipeline giant seeks SC permit

By Sarita Chourey – Pipeline observers may have another chance to speak out and possibly thwart progress on the petroleum pipeline a Texas energy company intends to run through parts of South Carolina and Georgia and Florida. Kinder Morgan is seeking permission from South Carolina regulators to build eight new petroleum product storage tanks, along with piping and pumps, in Belton, S.C., as part of its Palmetto Pipeline project. The location is to be adjacent to existingcompany terminals. Bolton is also the Anderson County community where more than 300,000 gallons of gasoline escaped from Kinder Morgan’s existing pipe in 2014. On Feb. 26, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control’s Bureau of Air Quality received the company’s new air construction permit application. At issue is potential air pollution from the company’s proposed facility. “DHEC is currently in the process of planning our public participation,” said agency spokesman Cassandra Harris on Friday.?”As part of our public participation process, we are planning to hold a public meeting related to the Kinder Morgan proposed pipeline.” The Palmetto Belton Tank Farm and Pump Station, as its called in the application, will receive gasoline and other refined petroleum products. Ethanol, too, could come to the site, “by other means in the future,” according to the company. Kinder Morgan had asked DHEC for an expedited review of the permit application, but state regulators denied the request. The application calls for four gasoline storage tanks, three distillate fuel storage tanks, and one denatured ethanol storage tank. The company says the facility may operate seven days per week, 24 hours per day and will require four...
Effort to ban Kinder Morgan’s use of eminent domain ‘shortsighted,’ says S.C. Chamber

Effort to ban Kinder Morgan’s use of eminent domain ‘shortsighted,’ says S.C. Chamber

By Sarita Chourey – COLUMBIA – Pointing to an eminent domain conflict over a rail terminal in North Carolina, the S.C. Chamber of Commerce is warning against the effects of legislation that would bar pipeline giant Kinder Morgan from condemning private property against the wishes of South Carolina landowners. On Tuesday (NOATE: FEB.9), the S.C. Senate Judiciary Committee will take up S. 868, a bill intended to preempt any ability the pipeline company may have to force property owners to accept the sale of their land. Under the bill, the use of eminent domain would be off limits for a private, for-profit pipeline company, including a publicly traded for-profit company that isn’t classified as a public utility. While the Savannah Riverkeeper and other conservation advocates hailed the proposal last week, South Carolina’s business leaders are urging caution. “We feel this amendment is shortsighted and sets a precedent that could have unintended consequences,” said Ted Pitts, president and CEO of the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce, in a statement. “Today this negative attention may be directed at one specific industry, but look no further than our neighbors in North Carolina to see that it can filter over into other areas of commerce and infrastructure.” He was referring to the proposed Carolina Connector intermodal rail terminal planned for Johnston County, N.C. Last month Americans for Prosperity North Carolina issued a press release urging passage of a bill to limit eminent domain powers to projects for public use. However, support for the hub is reportedly welling up elsewhere in the region, creating a dilemma for state leaders and economic development proponents. If...
S.C. lawmakers consider refugee database, restrictions

S.C. lawmakers consider refugee database, restrictions

By Sarita Chourey – COLUMBIA – As South Carolina legislators weigh proposals to track and restrict refugees, a new view of refugees is emerging.  “There are a lot of misconceptions out there as far as who these refugees are how they get here and what they do,” said Sen.Kevin Johnson, D-Clarendon, on Wednesday. “The perception out there is that we have refugees just coming over here, and that’s it, he said. “And we’ve also been told there’s no vetting process and that it’s hard to vet these folk.” But that’s not the case, said Johnson, citing a state social services official’s testimony that detailed the 18-24-month background check that a refugee would undergo and information from the president of Lutheran Services Carolinas. In a letter submitted to lawmakers Tuesday, LSC president Ted Goins told legislators that none of the 1,500 newly resettled refugees to South Carolina over the course of 10 years has been involved with unlawful activity. The state has the ability to take in a maximum of about 320 refugees. Two resettlement organizations were cited to lawmakers, Lutheran Services Carolinas and World Relief. This week after two subcommittee meetings, senators took no action on two proposals, introduced and co-sponsored by Republicans.  The bills are aimed at addressing security concerns that refugees from Syria may include terrorists. “They are hardworking taxpayers with employers who can testify to their work ethic, dedication, and gratitude,” said Ted Goins, president of Lutheran Services Carolinas, in a letter submitted to legislators Tuesday. “Others are successful small business owners and professionals who are making a positive impact on the communities where they live...
SC prisons agency focuses on jobs

SC prisons agency focuses on jobs

By Sarita Chourey – COLUMBIA – South Carolina’s Department of Corrections is trying to boost its own workforce, while trying to get offenders who are incarcerated ready to earn a paycheck when they’re released. Sometimes the solutions are simple. One young man in South Carolina’s youthful offender program refused to apply for a job. “We thought it was because he couldn’t read. But he just couldn’t see,” Bryan Stirling, director of the S.C. Department of Corrections, told a House panel Tuesday. “We took him to get some eyeglasses. And guess what? He applied and did fine. He was embarrassed he couldn’t see.” The mentoring program assigns offenders, convicted at 25 or younger, a mentor who checks in on them to keep them off drugs and out of illegal activities. “A lot of these young men, they just don’t have anybody to go to,” said Stirling. Corrections officials also pointed to what they dubbed a “one-stop-shop” housed in the Manning prison in Columbia, which offers interview training, resume help, keyboarding, life skills coaching, vocational training and help from the S.C. Department of Workforce and Employment. “It’s a phenomenal program, and we’re lucky to have it,” said Sandy Barrett, a corrections official. A three-man budget subcommittee listened to the agency’s request Tuesday, which included the director’s outline of ways the state could help the department hold onto its own workforce. Retaining and attracting corrections employees is a challenge that grows when the state unemployment rate dips or when a huge company opens up in a part of the state where prisons also draw their workforce. Stirling pointed to the new Volvo...