SC politics: Sheheen picks up conservation endorsement

February 18, 2014 

South Carolina Rep. Bill Chumley, R-Spartanburg is congratulated after charges against him were dismissed by the House Ethics Committee in December. The public hearing was over allegations that Chumley violated state ethics laws by using a state plane to fly an Obamacare critic to a state hearing.

TIM DOMINICK — tdominick@thestate.com Buy Photo

Sheheen picks up conservation endorsement

The Conservation Voters of South Carolina endorsed Vincent Sheheen for governor on Tuesday, saying it was “announcing our endorsement earlier than ever before because we will do more than ever before in this election.”

The group said it plans to add Democrat Sheheen, a state senator from Camden, to its “GiveGreen” online fundraising tool, allowing people to donate directly to Sheheen’s campaign.

Sheheen, wearing a green tie, said South Carolina must focus on alternative energy, adding, “We have one of the best offshore wind potentials off the East Coast, and we are not doing what we should to utilize that.” He said South Carolina needs a governor who “has a vision of how we can promote solar energy.”

Gov. Nikki Haley’s campaign countered that, as governor, the Lexington Republican has signed into law budget increases for the state Forestry Commission, including $600,000 to hire eight new firefighters and $284,000 for six conservation officers.

Senate gives OK to state plane restrictions

The state Senate gave unanimous preliminary approval to a restriction on the use of the state’s planes by lawmakers and state board members. If it becomes law, legislators would have to ask for permission from the House speaker or Senate president pro tempore, and board members would need permission of their board chairman to use the state planes.

The bill needs one more vote in the Senate before going over to the House.

The issue was raised last year when state Rep. Bill Chumley used the state plane to fly a columnist to testify at a health-care hearing at the cost to the state of $6,390. An ethics complaint against the Spartanburg Republican was dismissed.

DSS request for computer program aid rejected

A state budget panel rejected the S.C. Department of Social Services’ $7.5 million request Tuesday to help install a long-delayed computer system for child-support enforcement.

Social Services is fighting with Hewlett Packard, which the agency fired last year on a project that is now 16 years past its federal deadline.

The federal government has issued $115.7 million in fines to South Carolina with the state paying about 70 percent and Hewlett paying the rest, Social Services said.

The legal wrangling is delaying the work, lawmakers said, adding they are concerned about more than the $4.5 million in legal fees that Social Services has paid since 2012. “We’re not interested in helping you out,” House Ways and Means Chairman Brian White, R-Anderson, said about the funding request. “You made your decision, and you need to stand by you decision.”

Sides could sit down to resolve prison spat

Next week may offer a chance to begin working out fixes for the care of mentally ill S.C. inmates.

In a letter to advocates for inmates suing the agency, Corrections director Bryan Stirling said Tuesday that he is willing to meet Feb. 24 to begin talks on how to deal with court-ordered repairs.

Earlier this year, a judge ruled the state’s prisons need to fix issues concerning the care of mentally ill inmates, giving the agency six months to come up with a plan.

Stirling wants both sides to reopen formal mediation. Advocates say they would rather sit down more informally.

Staff writers Andrew Shain, Adam Beam and Jamie Self and The Associated Press contributed.

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