By any measure, 2017 was a wild year.
Every one of the past 365 days seems to have brought its own surprising, earth-shaking and even bizarre headlines.
As we prepare to close out the year, The Buzz has been looking back at some of our favorite stories from The State this year.
Private jets and Hooters
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State regulators blocked utility giant SCANA from charging more than $200,000 to its customers. Among the items the Office of Regulatory Staff found to be excessive or inappropriate was $14,000 for a private jet flight by executives to Maryland to pick up a federal license that could have been mailed, as well as a $23 trip to Hooters.
The Cayce-based utility has been under intense scrutiny ever since two Fairfield County reactors it was building with the state-owned Santee Cooper utility went bust at the end of July.
A S.C. law, passed by the Legislature in 2007, allowed SCANA’s South Carolina Electric & Gas subsidiary to charge its customers $1.4 billion for the doomed project.
Customers weren’t the only ones upset.
Two days after the closure announcement, 60 construction workers who lost their jobs at the Fairfield County site showed up at a State House press conference, many still wearing their hard hats and reflective vests.
Expanding Medicaid – by accident
In February, the S.C. House approved a resolution congratulating new Gov. Henry McMaster on his inauguration.
The only problem was the resolution, filed by many Democratic sponsors, also called on the governor to expand Medicaid in the state – a policy the House’s GOP majority long has opposed.
Since the full resolution was not read in the House, it passed overwhelmingly, surprising even its sponsors.
Realizing what they had done, House Republicans returned the next day and rescinded the resolution with a motion saying it had been “improvidently adopted.”
The 2010 Affordable Care Act – aka “Obamacare” – gave states the option of expanding Medicaid to cover more low-income residents, something many conservative states have been resistant to.
The Holocaust disappears from S.C. school standards
South Carolina’s effort to revise its education standards raised some eyebrows in December when the new social studies guideline removed all mention of the Holocaust.
The Nazi-led effort to exterminate Europe’s Jewish population, which killed 6 million, was one of the defining events of the 20th century and had been highlighted in the previous standards.
A state Education Department spokesman chalked up the omission to housecleaning in the 124-page standards, with the writers assuming the Holocaust would be covered by the World War II requirement.
However, state Superintendent Molly Spearman said she was “committed to explicitly naming the Holocaust in the final version of updated social studies standards” when they come before the state Board of Education for approval in January.
SC won’t turn over voter info, but GOP chairman will
When President Donald Trump appointed a panel to investigate voter fraud this summer, many voters were nervous about the federal government collecting their information from state election commissions.
In July, South Carolina’s Election Commission declined to provide the presidential panel with a voter list, citing state law that said the state’s voter rolls only could be made available to a registered S.C. voter.
Within hours of the commission’s decision, state Republican chairman Drew McKissick, found a work-around. McKissick announced that, as a registered voter, he would get the voter rolls himself and turn them over to Trump’s voter-fraud panel.
“It is a critical function of self-government for voters to have confidence in the integrity of our voting process,” McKissick said.
Multiple states declined to provide the requested information, and the panel’s attempts to collect the data have been tied up in court for most of the year.
Graham claims Onion scoop
South Carolina’s U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham always has had a sense of humor, so when a website posted a mock article about the Seneca Republican, Graham played along.
Shortly after Donald Trump’s inauguration, the Onion parody website posted a story that showed an altered photo of Graham hiding behind a tree, under the headline: “Lindsey Graham Cowers Behind Tree Trunk as Trump’s Hunting Dogs Close In.”
Being a good sport, Graham retweeted the Onion, adding the mainstream media had missed the “scoop of the year.” Graham then said he would be seeking asylum from the new president’s hunting dogs in Ecuador, a la Julian Assange of WikiLeaks fame or infamy, depending on your point of view.
It wasn’t the only time Graham laughed at his often-contentious relationship with President Trump. On Inauguration Day, Graham joked to CBS that he might end up on the new president’s “kill list.”
Actually, Trump seemingly has developed a good relationship with Graham, his one-time rival for the GOP nomination for president. The two have gone on several golf outings together since Trump became president.
SC out of sync?
A legislative proposal could leave South Carolina out of sync with its neighbors, if the state drops daylight-saving time.
State Rep. Alan Clemmons, R-Horry, unveiled the proposal in November, saying ditching daylight saving time would end what some have called “humanity’s dumbest ritual.” If approved by legislators, Clemmons’ proposal — to keep S.C. clocks on the same time year-round — would be put to voters in 2018.
“We’re not just changing our clocks. It interrupts our sleep patterns,” Clemmons said. “That’s particularly impactful toward school-age children.”
The change would leave South Carolina an hour behind the rest of the East Coast between March and November, likely causing headaches for anyone who crosses the state’s border.
In the United States, only Hawaii and Arizona – which don’t need the extra sunlight – ignore daylight-saving time completely. (And who knows what time it is in Hawaii, anyway?)