I thought Thanksgiving meant it would be a slow week for political news?
Lots of news on thestate.com this morning. Here's a roundup:
Clif LeBlanc dives into the strategies on both sides of the strong mayor debate in Columbia. The election is Tuesday. From the story:
Strategists on both sides of the intense strong-mayor campaign say higher turnout Tuesday will help them, but neither side expects large numbers of voters actually will show up to determine the future of Columbia’s government.
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That’s why both camps are targeting motivated voters and trying to convince them mostly through face-to-face, email and free-media persuasion.
Still, the “vote yes” crowd that wants an empowered chief executive in the mayor’s office has the money for TV ads, telephone campaigns, polling and, further, is being aided by big media.
“We’re up against a newspaper with lots of ink and business people who have lots of money,” said Howard Duvall, one of the organizers of the self-described grass-roots “vote no” group.
Duvall is referring to The State newspaper’s strong editorial-page advocacy for a strong-mayor system and the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce, which has put an undisclosed sum and effort into overturning the strong-manager form of government the city has had since 1949.
Cassie Cope has details of the Richland County Election Commission's apology for uncounted votes, with an ominous-sounding warning about possible leadership changes:
The five members of the Richland County Voter Registration and Election Commission issued an apology to county and city residents in the form of a letter to the editor of The State newspaper.
“I would like to offer my sincere apology to the citizens of Richland County for the most recent mishap of the Election Office,” chairman Allen Dowdy said in the letter submitted by him and Adelle Adams, Elaine DuBose, Samuel Selph and Herbert Sims. “We ask your patience as we evaluate the leadership and staff of this office.”
On Tuesday, the House Ethics Committee found probable cause that state Rep. Bill Chumley, R-Spartanburg, violated S.C. ethics laws when he used the state-owned airplane to fly a conservative pundit to Columbia tot testify in front of his House subcommittee:
The finding does not mean the Spartanburg Republican is guilty. But the committee – made up of five Democrats and five Republicans – found enough evidence that a violation might have occurred, according to committee chairman Kenny Bingham, R-Lexington.
In March, Chumley authorized $6,390 in taxpayer money to use the state plane to fly Walter Williams, a conservative radio host who occasionally fills in for Rush Limbaugh, to Columbia from Washington, D.C. Williams testified before Chumley’s House subcommittee about H.3101, a bill Chumley wrote that would try to stop the implementation of the federal Affordable Care Act in South Carolina.
State law allows lawmakers to use the state plane for official state business but does not define what that means. The law does ban use of the plane for news conferences, bill signings and political functions.
Democrats accused Chumley of using the state plane for political purposes. But Chumley said it was official state business to have someone he said is an expert testify about legislation before a House subcommittee.
Also on Tuesday, the House Ethics Committee held a four-hour public hearing into whether state Rep. Harold Mitchell, D-Spartanburg and chairman of the legislative black caucus, illegally spent his campaign money on personal expenses:
The only personal benefit state Rep. Harold Mitchell, D-Spartanburg, has derived from his campaign account – he and his attorney Bruce Byrholdt said – was spending $174 to buy gout medicine when Mitchell had no other money.
Two complaints the Ethics Committee filed against Mitchell detail questionable transactions from his campaign account totaling $20,000 in one complaint and $40,000 in the other, with some duplication.
The panel had questions about another $140,000 in transactions that were dropped from the investigation because they were not related to Mitchell’s account.
State Rep. Stephen Goldfinch, R-Georgetown, said Tuesday he is facing federal charges for mislabeling stem cells:
Federal prosecutors in Texas had not yet filed court documents naming Goldfinch. But Goldfinch said “the government” contacted him Friday and told him they would charge him with a simple misdemeanor and recommend probation.
If Goldfinch is convicted, it does not appear he will have to give up his seat in the state Legislature. State law would require Goldfinch to be suspended if he were convicted of a felony, a charge carrying a sentence of two years in prison or more or a “crime of moral turpitude.”
“At this point, we don’t believe I fall into any of those,” he said.
And a new report says S.C. cities and counties spent $600 million more than they collected in taxes during the 2012 fiscal year:
Since 2009, counties and cities have consistently spent more than they collected. The exception is school districts, which have not overspent their revenues since 2009. Other local government entities, like water and sewage districts, were not included in the annual Local Government Finance Report, compiled by the Office of Research and Statistics at the S.C. State Budget and Control Board.
City and county officials dispute those numbers. Robert Croom, deputy general counsel for the Association of Counties, blamed the deficit on reporting errors. Melissa Carter, lobbyist for the Municipal Association of South Carolina, pointed out the city revenues do not include money from water, sewage and power systems – often large sources of revenue for cities.
“I wouldn’t draw too much out of that,” Croom said. “It does not sound significant.”