The Buzz

February 4, 2014

MORNING BUZZ: Lindsey Graham finally getting to the core

The Buzz

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

Some can define it. Some can't. Some launch political campaigns to fight it.

Today at the State House, a Senate panel will hold a public hearing on it: Common Core education standards.

Developed by state governors and schools chiefs, the standards outline what students should know and be able to do at each grade level. South Carolina schools are pretty far along in the process of switching over to the Common Core math and English language arts standards.

But opposition to the standards has been bubbling up over the past few years, reaching what appears to be a boiling point just in time for the 2014 elections for the state's next Superintendent of Education.

Gov. Nikki Haley and state schools' chief Mick Zais oppose the standards, along with some GOP candidates to replace Zais, who isn't running for re-election.

Bills in the General Assembly would void the standards.

But the anti-Common Core effort has extended beyond the state's borders, into Congress, where U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-North Charleston, and the state's conservative members of the U.S. House have expressed opposition to national standards.

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-Seneca, is the most recent singer in a chorus of opponents, announcing plans to introduce a resolution Wednesday in the U.S. Senate opposing the standards.

The Daily Caller reported :

"The resolution will call on the federal Department of Education to stop strong-arming states into adopting the standards by making federal grants contingent upon them. It also establishes that local education authorities, not the federal government, should set curriculum requirements."

Some of Graham's grassroots, Tea Party opponents have criticized the senator for not knowing much about Common Core.

In this YouTube video posted last year by the Republican Liberty Caucus of S.C., Graham fields a question -- albeit not a well-informed one -- from the audience about Common Core. (Can't see the video? Click here )

To hear more debate on the education standards, the Senate Education committee's K-12 subcommittee will take testimony today at 10 a.m. in Gressette 105.

Are Lindsey Graham's foes making a dent?

Not according to a trio of D.C.-based reports on Tuesday.

• The Washington Post -- "Sen. Graham (R-S.C.) ended the year with $7.6 million in the bank, and his opponents have done nothing to make that figure look any less imposing than it does on first glance." Full story
• The Hill -- "And while conservatives are frequently incised by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C), none of his four challengers showed much muscle, not raising even a quarter of what the incumbent raised in the last month." Full story
• CNN -- "None of the four candidates gunning to beat him – businesswoman Nancy Mace, state Sen. Lee Bright, activist Richard Cash and attorney Bill Connor - have displayed the kind of political touch or fundraising muscle required to oust the two-term Senator." (CNN also reported that Graham got a fifth challenger. Columbia pastor Det Bowers has filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission and met with donors in Washington and Texas last month.) Full story

USC calling a timeout at the State House

The State House turns garnet and black when University of South Carolina leaders (and the school mascot Cocky) invade to pitch the state's flagship college.

USC's big push this year is a proposed "tuition timeout."

The school will freeze student bills in exchange for $10.1 million (the equivalent of a 3 percent tuition hike) plus whatever state-ordered hikes in salaries and health insurance and retirement expenses.

USC President Harris Pastides wants legislators to develop long-term solutions that reward colleges with additional public dollars for, among other things, how much they aid the state economy.

Pastides pitches his "tuition timeout" (Can't see the video? Click here)

Half dozen now seeking GOP nod for schools job

The state schools chief race just got two more Republicans with powerful allies, bringing the total running in the June primary to six.

• Charmeka “Meka” Childs – deputy superintendent for school effectiveness under state Superintendent of Education Mick Zais and a former education policy adviser to then-Gov. Mark Sanford – will announce her bid for the GOP nomination Wednesday. Zais, who is not seeking re-election, encouraged her to run.
• Amy Cofield – a Lexington attorney, former public school teacher and friend of Gov. Nikki Haley – announced Tuesday. She is the sister and law partner of Haley's appointee to the University of South Carolina board of trustees, Tommy Cofield, who replaced the school's biggest benefactor, Darla Moore. The siblings and their Lexington law firm have contributed $15,000 to Haley's two gubernatorial campaigns.

Let's debate education

Some of the state schools chief candidates debated in the Pee Dee, The (Florence) Morning News reported :

The three candidates for State Superintendent for Education -- State Rep. Mike Anthony, D-Union; his Democratic opponent, Montro Belton, of Fort Mill; and Republican activist Sheri Few, of Lugoff, attended a Tuesday debate hosted by the Chesterfield County School District.

About the only thing the trio agreed upon was they were running for the kids. The hottest topic of the evening was the implementation of Common Core Standards.

'Just about anything of any value must be earned'

U.S. Rep. Mick Mulvaney is a lot like you -- he does not like politicians.

The Republican from Indian Land said the idea really hit him after watching the State of the Union a week ago.

From an op-ed column that Mulvaney wrote for The (Rock Hill) Herald:

Politicians refuse to treat people like adults. More specifically, we don’t tell people what they need to hear; we tell them what they want to hear.

And nowhere was that more apparent than in the president’s State of the Union speech last week.

While some commentators were lauding his compassion for the underprivileged, and others were accusing him of being a dictator, I was sitting in the back of the House Chamber marveling at the president’s overall tone.

He was making life sound really, really easy.

Are you in poverty? All you need is for the government to increase the minimum wage. Struggling to get a job? Solving that is easy, too: the government has these wonderful “high-tech” hubs (two of them!) where jobs are just there for the taking. Worried about your retirement? This new government MyRA will solve everything. It’s easy.

No it isn’t. None of those things are easy. They are hard. And they should be. With the exception of God’s Grace, just about anything of any value must be earned.

He goes on to say people need to get and keep a full-time job and not worry about a higher minimum wage. People also must develop good work and personal habits and stay off drugs: "It means putting off some of the things we want today in exchange for having something else later on."

Mick Mulvaney

Buzz Clicks

Supreme Court race decided Wednesday : The historic duel in which an associate chief justice has challenged a sitting chief justice was undecided Tuesday, and – unless one of the two candidates withdraws from the race – the issue will go to a vote Wednesday in the Legislature. Full story

No breaks for hybrids : As gas mileage increases, the number of gallons of gasoline purchased in South Carolina is decreasing — threatening the state’s gas tax revenues, the major way the state pays for road repairs. That looming specter was enough Tuesday for state senators to delay a bill that would encourage more South Carolinians to buy hybrid and electric cars. Full story

A college (funding) education : The leader of the S.C. House’s budget committee wants to hire a national private consultant to see how the state’s public colleges can do a better job of spending tax and tuition dollars. Full story

Restricted air space : A bill that would ban the use of a state-owned aircraft to bring people to Columbia or elsewhere to testify before legislative committees passed the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday. It's next stop is the Senate floor. Full story

A bridge too far? : Gov. Nikki Haley has her own bridge problem, according to state Sen. Vincent Sheheen. The Democratic candidate for governor criticized Haley for not going to Charleston during last week's snow storm that forced the closure of the Ravenel Bridge, causing traffic jams along I-526. Full story

Lone Star visit : Gov. Nikki Haley will be the keynote speaker at the Dallas County GOP Reagan Day Dinner on Feb. 28. Full story

Hodges endorses Anthony : Former S.C. Democratic Gov. Jim Hodges endorsed state Rep. Mike Anthony for state schools' chief Tuesday. Full story

MUSC worries about losing its identity : The interim president of the Medical University of South Carolina told state lawmakers on Tuesday he was concerned about a potential merger with the College of Charleston. Full story

Columbia leaders promise to keep a secret : The Columbia City Council agreed to a closed-door presentation from Greenville developer Bob Hughes, who laid out specifics about his construction plans for the 165-acre property that have yet to be released to the public. Council members signed a confidentiality agreement with Hughes before he disclosed his plans, pledging not to say what they learned. Full story

Bad check? No DMV services for you : Customers who write bad checks to the state Department of Motor Vehicles will be locked out of services, until the checks are paid along with fees, officials announced Tuesday. Full story

Tests would warn Beaufort County water officials of radioactive materials : As an environmental group goes back to court Wednesday to push for stricter controls on a nuclear dump site near the Savannah River, a Lowcountry water official said water from the river is safe. Full story

The Guv Saloon where guns are allows : Gov. Nikki Haley would allow concealed weapons in her bar or restaurant - if she owned one - under the concealed-carry bill passed by the Legislature that she intends to sign soon. Full story

Electing nominees in S.C. not so conventional : Sometimes, political parties need a little bit of protection from themselves. That's the message that a state Senate panel sent Tuesday when it recommended a bill that would make it more difficult for Republicans and Democrats to choose candidates at party conventions, where typically only die-hard partisans and activists show up to make their voices heard. Full story

Problems reported at Boeing's North Charleston plant : Citing unnamed sources, a Seattle Times' story today details serious flaws in Boeing 787 Dreamliner production at the North Charleston plant, further damaging the operation's image. The newspaper reported the work in North Charleston is "poorly done" and "getting worse" and causing Everett workers to make up for mistakes being made at the South Carolina 787 assembly plant. Full story

He does your job : Instead of inviting voters to get to know him at rallies and town hall meetings, U.S Sen. Tim Scott is going to them to learn about the issues that concern them most, and in some cases, to spend some hours in their shoes. In the past several months, he has performed what he described as "entry-level jobs," including sweeping floors, chopping chicken and bagging groceries.

Choosing when to spend a penny : A S.C. bill that would require counties to hold referendum votes on the capital project sales tax, also known as the penny sales tax, only during general election years instead of in special elections, like Florence County did last November, passed out of a Senate committee. Full story

An Idol running for Congress in N.C. : Former "American Idol" singer Clay Aiken will officially announce his campaign for Congress in North Carolina on Wednesday, injecting a nationally known personality into what has been a quiet Democratic primary to produce a challenger to U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers. Full story

Clay Aiken with his campaign staff

Gov. Nikki Haley's public schedule today

Wednesday, 9:30 a.m.: Attend an economic event, Fairfield Commerce Center in Ridgeway

Wednesday, 11 a.m.: Hold a ceremonial bill signing for S. 22, South Carolina Restructuring Act of 2014, in the State House lobby

(See more of her schedule for the week here .)

State House meetings today


Full body meets at 11:45 a.m.

• 9 a.m.: Senate Finance Sales and Income Taxation Subcommittee on S.812, S.912, H.3021, H.3089 and H.3561 (Gressette 406, Agenda )
• 10 a.m.: Senate Education K-12 Subcommittee on Common Core (Gressette 105, Agenda )
• 10 a.m.: Senate Environmental Subcommittee (Gressette 207, Agenda )
• 10 a.m.: Senate Fish, Game and Forestry Committee (Gressette 209, Agenda )
• 11 a.m.: Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on S.811 and S.866 (Gressette 308, Agenda )


Full body meets at 10 a.m.

• 9 a.m.: House Medical, Military, Public and Municipal Affairs Subcommittee V, Social Services, Mental Health and Children's Affairs (Blatt 427, Agenda )
• 9 a.m.: House Ways and Means Economic Development and Natural Resources Subcommittee (Blatt 523, Agenda )
• 9 a.m.: House Agriculture Subcommittee (Blatt 410, Agenda )
• 9 a.m.: House Judiciary Criminal Laws Subcommittee (Blatt 511, Agenda )
• 9 a.m.: House Judiciary Constitutional Laws Subcommittee (Blatt 516, Agenda )
• 1 hour after the House adjourns: House Ways and Means Healthcare Subcommitee (Blatt 108, Agenda )
• 1 hour after the House adjourns: House Ways and Means Higher Education, Technical, and Cultural Subcommittee (Blatt 321, Agenda )
• 1 1/2 hours after the House adjourns: House Ways and Means Economic Development and Natural Resources Subcommittee (Blatt 523, Agenda )
• 1 1/2 hours after the House adjourns: House Ways and Means PUblic Education and Special Schools Subcommitee (Blatt 521, Agenda )
• 1 1/2 hours after the House adjourns: House Ways and Means Legislative, Executive, and Local Government Subcommittee (Blatt 511, Agenda )

Schmoozing today

• 8 a.m.: Foundation for the S.C. Commission for the Blind breakfast in Blatt Room 112
• Noon: S.C. Apartment Association luncheon in Blatt Room 112
• 6 p.m.: Municipal Association of South Carolina reception at the Marriott Hotel
• 7 p.m.: College of Charleston reception at the Palmetto Club

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