SC politics: Rep withdraws plan to withhold money from colleges

March 12, 2014 

Lexington representative withdraws plan to withhold college money

S.C. public colleges will get to keep a little extra cash after a state lawmaker withdrew his proposal Tuesday that would have allowed the state to hang onto $1 million from each public college until each banned using “pornographic content” in classes and started teaching the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

State Rep. Mac Toole, R-Lexington, said he withdrew his proposal because he made the points that he wanted to make during a debate Monday of attempts to restore $70,000 in state money taken from the College of Charleston and University of South Carolina-Upstate for assigning gay-themed books to freshmen.

The House voted not to restore to the money by a nearly 2-1 vote. Supporters of taking away the costs of the reading programs argued that a line of community decency needed to be drawn.

Toole said he did not see any irony in sponsoring an amendment that called for teaching the Constitution but censoring pornographic content in the next sentence. “Anybody who supports pornography in an education process has got to have a sick mind.”

House rejects fully funding K-12 education

The S.C. House rejected an amendment Tuesday that would have taken $537 million from other parts of the state’s $24 billion budget to fully fund education at state-recommended levels.

That level is $2,742 per student for the state’s fiscal year that starts July 1, S.C. budget officials have said. However, the proposed state budget would spend $2,120 a student, or 22 percent below the state standard.

The amendment to increase education spending, proposed by state Rep. James Smith, D-Richland, would have taken money from other parts of the proposed budget, excluding debt service, employee health insurance, employee pay plan, capital reserve fund and the S.C. Department of Education.

However, the GOP-controlled House rejected Smith’s amendment.

House refuses to eliminate lieutenant governor’s security detail

The S.C. House rejected again Tuesday an effort to end the lieutenant governor’s security detail.

The House pushed aside a budget amendment Monday from state Rep. Bakari Sellers, the only Democrat to announce a run for lieutenant governor this year, that would have removed $375,358 in money earmarked for the security detail for the state’s No. 2 office.

Sellers rewrote the amendment Tuesday to keep the money with SLED in the state’s 2014-15 budget but allow the agency to reassign the agents to other priorities, such as gangs and sex crimes.

Sellers and Republican hopeful Pat McKinney both have said they would forgo a state security detail if elected.

But Rep. Mike Pitts, a Laurens Republican and former Greenville police officer, said the security detail started in the 1980s because “the lieutenant governor was a breath away from being governor.”

If anything happened to the governor, the lieutenant governor would be alerted through the detail, preserving the chain of command in the state, Pitts said.

The House rejected Sellers’ second try to end the security detail by a 86-24 vote.

House guarantees right to hand out Constitution

House members want to guarantee students’ right to distribute the Constitution on college campuses, though there’s no example in South Carolina of anyone being stopped from doing so.

The House voted 84-29 on Tuesday to bar public colleges from restricting anyone’s ability to distribute copies of the U.S. or state constitutions on campus, as long as it doesn’t disrupt class. The approved budget clause specifies distribution is OK at an athletic event.

State Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, D-Orangeburg, said the proposal is another example of legislators using the state budget to micromanage colleges. She questioned why it’s even needed.

Rep. Todd Atwater, R-Lexington, said he made the proposal after a college student in Modesto, Calif., was blocked last year from handing out the Constitution. Atwater said he is protecting free speech rights.

Andrew Shain and The Associated Press contributed

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