The Buzz

January 16, 2014

MORNING BUZZ: Vincent Sheheen targeting Nikki Haley on DSS now

The Buzz

A blog from The State's political team of Cassie Cope, Jamie Self and Andy Shain. Email tips to

State Sen. Vincent Sheheen hit all of his talking points when speaking with reporters on Thursday, including criticizing the governor for the data breach at the Department of Revenue and her handling of a tuberculosis outbreak in Greenwood County.

But then he flashed a new weapon: DSS

The Camden Democrat said the Department of Administration bill -- which lawmakers are set to approve next week -- requires lawmakers to review every state agency on a five year rotating basis.

"If the legislature was conducting regular oversight of the Department of Social Services, perhaps some children's lives would have been saved or perhaps children wouldn't have been placed in dangerous situations that we're beginning to learn about because of the incompetency of the administration," he said.

It was the first time the Democratic candidate for governor -- at least as far as The Buzz knows -- has criticized the Haley administration for child deaths that included some form of DSS involvement.

Sheheen's fellow Democrat -- state Sen. Joel Lourie, D-Richland -- has been hitting Haley hard on DSS, holding public hearings and taking emotional testimony from mothers and grandmothers about their experiences with DSS. Lourie is demanding that DSS director Lillian Koller testify before the committee -- which could happen next week.

Haley spokesman Doug Mayer told The Buzz that "final passage of the Department of Administration bill would be a great bipartisan achievement for our state."

"It's a shame, but I guess at this point not much of a surprise, that Sen. Sheheen would use this moment to try to promote his personal political agenda in such a silly way,” Mayer said.

Privately, Haley's aides wondered why Sheheen voted against the previous version of the Department of Administration billl, the 2012 version that died on the last day of the legislative session. Sheheen said he did not vote against the bill, but voted to allow his fellow senator to continue speaking -- a courtesy most senators extend to each other.

We expect to see more DSS criticisms popping up from the Sheheen campaign, especially as the Senate holds more public hearings.

Gov. Nikki Haley's public schedule today

• 10 a.m.: Attend an economic event at Sonoco Biomass Site in Hartsville
• 12:40 p.m.: Address the Chicora Rotary Club at the Dunes Golf and Beach Club in Myrtle Beach

Guns in bars close to hitting the mark

A bill that could allow people to literally have a shot with their beer won a key Senate approval on Thursday.

The bill that the Senate returned to the House would allow people who have licenses to carry concealed weapons to carry guns into bars or restaurants as long as they do not drink alcohol. Businesses also could decide not to allow firearms on their property by posting signs. The Senate vote, 34 to 3, was on an amendment to improve some of the bill’s language – changes senators said were minor.

If the House gives the bill final approval – as it is expected to do – and Gov. Nikki Haley signs it into law, it will prove a victory for 2nd Amendment advocates who had tried but failed to pass similar measures in the past. The proposal found new momentum last year in the national debate about gun rights that was sparked by mass shootings around the country.

Not everyone is a fan.

“Three, four, five o’clock in the morning, you can be in a bar or a club – anywhere you want to be – with a handgun,” said state Sen. John Scott, D-Richland, adding the House reduced the fine for breaking the law to $2,000 from $3,000. “The bill sends a terrible message to the community. ... I think a lot of innocent people are going to get hurt.”

Buzz Clicks

Plan to aid mentally ill prisoners demanded now: South Carolina mental health advocates are urging the state prison system to follow a judge’s order and draw up a detailed plan within 180 days to reform the S.C. Department of Corrections mental illness programs – even if Corrections appeals the judge’s decision. Full story

Private firm to build on a public college campus. University of South Carolina trustees agreed Thursday to have Holder Properties build a $94.6 million apartment complex and a $25 million office building in the Innovista research campus. Full story

Same-sex income tax filing equality bill filed: The S.C. House’s top Democrat filed a proposal Thursday that would allow same-sex couples married in other states to file joint state tax returns in South Carolina. Full story

Public cash for Columbia ballpark booed: A crowd hostile to any public funding for a baseball stadium in the proposed Bull Street neighborhood vented its ire Thursday. Full story

S.C.'s teen birth rate falling: South Carolina's teen birth rate has dropped 47 percent in 20 years, reaching an all-time low, said the S.C. Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. Full story

Call him ambassador Spurrier?: When Steve Spurrier hangs up his visor and headset, the football coach could become a special adviser for the Gamecocks and help raise money for the school under terms of his new contract. Full story

Investments landed the big fish of tournaments in the Upstate: It was an “I told you so” moment for Anderson County Council Chairman Tommy Dunn on Thursday when it was announced that the Bassmaster Classic fishing tournament would return to Lake Hartwell in 2015. Years earlier, at the start of the Great Recession, Dunn had pushed for the county to invest in one of its biggest assets, the 56,000-acre lake, as a way to further develop tourism and create jobs, he and Anderson County Administrator Rusty Burns recalled. Full story

Sen. Restaurant Waiter: U.S. Sen. Tim Scott said he tried out a number of low-wage jobs -- waiting tables and bagging groceries -- to help collect experiences for his recently drafted economic empowerment reform package. Full story

Another day in Myrtle Beach: Police investigate woman discussing children, Hillary Clinton. Full story

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