The Buzz

February 2, 2014

MORNING BUZZ: What school kids and lawmakers have in common this week

The Buzz

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

School kids are not the only ones who need to play catch up after last week's snow storm.

The S.C. House must make up for a missing week of budget meetings.

Ten budget meetings are scheduled in the House for Tuesday alone. Another nine are slated for Wednesday and Thursday -- for a total of 19 budget meetings this week.

That's a lot of numbers to crunch.

Throw in a vote by the House and Senate for chief justice of state Supreme Court (more on that below) and some issues raised in the Senate like creation of a public integrity unit and a ban on texting while driving and it's a packed post-storm week at the State House.

Gov. Nikki Haley's public schedule today

Note: Haley will attend a campaign fundraiser in the Raleigh-area Monday night sponsored by a lobbyist.

• 11 a.m.: Attend the Hope Center grand opening in Graniteville
• 1:25 p.m.: Visit Thales Academy in Wake Forest, N.C.
• 2:20 p.m.: Visit Franklin Academy High School in Wake Forest, N.C.

Happening today

Immigration news conference: Press conference featuring S.C. business leaders' reaction to the immigration standards released by U.S. House Speaker John Boehner last week. The leaders welcome the move and "urge Washington lawmakers to seize what is likely to be our final opportunity this year to find workable solutions for our broken and out-of-date immigration system," according to a news release. Scheduled attendees at the 11 a.m event at the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce: Mark Nix, executive director of the Home Builders of South Carolina; John` Durst, president of the S.C. Restaurant & Lodging Association; and Chalmers Carr, owner of Titan Farms.

Senate candidates in Hilton Head Island: Three of four GOP primary challengers to U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of Seneca will address the First Monday Republican Lunch Group meeting at noon Monday in Hilton Head Island. Lee Bright, Richard Cash and Bill Connor are scheduled to appear, according to a report in The (Hilton Head) Island Packet.

USC communications school celebration: The University of South Carolina will celebrate the start of renovations on the new home for the College of Mass Communications and Information Studies at the former health science building at Sumter and Greene streets. The college is slated to move from the Carolina Coliseum in fall 2015. USC President Harris Pastides and Dean Charles Bierbauer will to speak at the 11 a.m. event on Preston Green.

Clyburn: No football for grandson

Rep. Jim Clyburn and President Barack Obama agree on many things -- including not having kids play football, the Columbia Democrat told .

Clyburn asked his grandson to quit playing football because of the potential for brain injuries.

“I strongly urged my grandson to quit,” the No. 3 ranking House Democrat told The Hill, adding that his grandson “never answered me, but he finally quit.”

How South Carolina was not Atlanta last week

South Carolina avoided major highway backups, widespread loss of power and life-threatening situations in last week's winter blast with early planning, state emergency management officials told The State's Joey Holleman.

South Carolina emergency officials say the state escaped this week’s winter storm relatively pain-free in part because they follow one mantra: Make decisions early so you can manage the situation before the situation manages you.

It helped that the worst of the snow and ice arrived after sunset Tuesday or before dawn Wednesday, when most people were safely in their homes.

“But even if it came in at 2 p.m., by that time the decisions had been made, schools had been closed, the government offices had been closed, (the Department of Transportation) and (the Department of Public Safety) were out on the road doing their thing,” said Kim Stinson, director of the S.C. Emergency Management Division, on Friday. “So I’m sure the scope of it might have been a little bit different, but personally I don’t think the end result would be any different.”

The state learned some lessons after the Ravenel Bridge in Charleston had to be closed for two days.

The Ravenel Bridge “is a little bit of a unique animal,” (S.C. transportation department chief engineer Leland) Colvin said. Because its surface is a latex-concrete overlay, it can only be treated for icing with a brine mix. Rain washed off the brine, and the bridge surface quickly became a sheet of ice.

Tim Scott gets some Sunday news exposure

Tim Scott made his first network Sunday news show appearance since he was appointed to the U.S. senate last year. The North Charleston Republican called the GOP "the Great Opportunity Party" after host David Gregory raised a top NAACP leader's comments last month that the state's first black U.S. senator was a "dummy" of the tea party.

U.S. Sen. Tim Scott on "Meet the Press" (Can't see the video? Click on this link)

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Buzz Clicks

Hearing on nuclear landfill scheduled: This week, the Sierra Club goes back to court in the group’s fight for tighter controls on a Barnwell County nuclear-waste dump. The S.C. Court of Appeals will hear arguments Wednesday that could force landfill operator Energy Solutions to change its burial practices, which the Sierra Club calls outdated and dangerous for the environment. Full story

How much do the justice candidates make?: Lawmakers have a chance to look under the (financial) robes of the opponents for S.C. Supreme Court chief justice before the vote Wednesday. Incumbent Chief Justice Jean Toal and challenger Associate Justice Costa Pleicones (below) released their personal finances. Full story

Law school fight heating up: Is this state big enough two public law schools? Perhaps so, if a few key legislators get their way. They are trying to stop the sale of the private Charleston School of Law to for-profit InfiLaw and put the school under the College of Charleston or University of South Carolina, Full story

Lee Atwater's widow running for office: S.C. GOP political operative Lee Atwater ascended to national political circles with his take-no-prisoners campaigns. Now his widow is entering the ring. Sally Atwater will join an already crowded field for state superintendent of education this year. Full story

S.C. DOT chief resigns after DUI: State Department of Transportation Secretary Robert St. Onge, a retired Army major general, resigned after he was arrested Friday morning for driving under the influence. Gov. Nikki Haley appointed Christy Hall, the department’s deputy secretary of finance and procurement, as acting director of the Transportation Department. Full story

Gas me up, maybe: A growing number of S.C. Republican lawmakers say the state needs to increase its gas tax to pay for roads. But that doesn’t mean they will vote for it. Full story

How guns have become a target in S.C.'s election: S.C. political watchers have seen a lot of guns from candidates lately -- from Gov. Nikki Haley's Beretta for Christmas to Sen. Lee Bright's AR-15 giveaway. Why are politicians firing away this election season? Full story

Congressional fundraising revealed: South Carolina's U.S. senators pocketed a lot of cash (especially Lindsey Graham) while the state's congressmen -- none of who is facing a serious challenge yet -- gathered more modest sums at the end of 2013. Full story

How much is S.C. State in the hole: State lawmakers learned Friday just how big of a financial hole exists at S.C. State University. They received letters saying the state’s only historically black public college has a $4.4 million budget deficit and needs $13 million to pay its bills and loans. Full story

Students fear campus killing will hurt S.C. State: S.C State University students said heaped on top of their grief over the campus shooting death of student Brandon Robinson last month is the worry that the intense media attention on the shooting will be a setback for the reputation of the school, which is just getting back on its feet after years of turmoil. Full story

Filling Ike's shoes: The Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce has received more than two dozen applications for a new chief executive to replace Ike McLeese, its longtime chief who died in October. The chamber hopes to have a new CEO in place by the end of February or early March. Full story

A fight over autopsy records: Are autopsies medical records or public records? South Carolina's Supreme Court will begin grappling with that question Wednesday, when it hears a lawsuit by a Sumter County newspaper against the county's coroner. Full story

Faking military service could become state crime: Imposters who lie about being a decorated war veteran for monetary gain could face more than federal charges in South Carolina under a new bill making its way through the Legislature. The legislation would establish a $500 fine and a 30-day prison sentence. Full story

More than the minimum: Increasing minimum wage for workers is a hot-button topic this year, with mounting talks of action by policymakers in Columbia and Washington, D.C. In South Carolina, some Democratic lawmakers are calling for raising the minimum wage to $8.25 or even $10 an hour. Full story

New Sanford trying to be old Sanford?: U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford appears to be having a hard time letting go of his former job. In recent weeks, he's been acting more like the governor he used to be, rather than the congressman he is now, critics say. Full story

Sanford's refund to Uncle Sam: U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford returned more than 25 percent of his annual office budget, roughly a surplus of $231,100, to the federal government at the end of 2013. Full story

Details of mentally ill prisoner's death in lawsuit: A mentally ill prison inmate with mental retardation was kept naked for 11 days in a state prison cell with faulty heating and had a body temperature of 80.6 degrees when he was taken to a hospital where he died, according to documents in a federal lawsuit. Full story

S.C. gets so-so rating from MADD: Mothers Against Drunk Driving gave South Carolina a three out of five star-rating in the national organization’s “Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving: 2014 Report to the Nation.” Full story

Rough takeoff: Seven hundred pages of emails between Canadian airline company WestJet and Horry County officials outlining warning signs and reactions to the carrier’s slow inaugural yeargive a behind-the-scenes look at what factors played into Horry County’s exposure for loss. The county has had to pay WestJet $551,000 because of shortfalls in WestJet’s expected revenue in Myrtle Beach, as outlined in a revenue agreement signed before the first flight. Full story

SRS decision delayed: The board in charge of deciding whether or not the MOX facility under construction at the Savannah River Site should be issued an operating license has delayed its judgment until late February. Full story

Jindal: Christie should stay as RGA bossLouisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal told CNN that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie should stay chairman of the Republican Governors Association. Jindal, the RGA's vice chairman. mentioned S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley, who sits on the group's executive committee, among "great governors" who show great leadership. Full story

Is GOP facing 2016 turmoil?: As Republicans look ahead to the 2016 presidential race, they are hoping to avoid the kind of chaotic and protracted nominating battle that dismayed party elders and damaged the eventual candidacy of Mitt Romney. That, however, could be a hard thing to prevent. Full story

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