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Poll: 56 percent of S.C. approves of Obama

A new Gallup poll shows South Carolinians giving President Barack Obama a 56.1 percent approval rate - middle of the pack among the 50 states.

At nearly 71 percent, Hawaii, Obama's birth state, gave him the highest approval ratings for overall job performance for January through December of 2009.

The lowest approval ratings came from the South and West, with residents of Wyoming giving the lowest approval rating, at nearly 42 percent.

Obama's overall approval average was 57.6 percent.

- Gina Smith

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CAMPAIGN TRAIL

Notes from election 2010

McGowan quits bid to unseat DeMint

Rock Hill trial attorney Chad McGowan, 38, announced Wednesday that he's dropping out of the Senate race against incumbent U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint.

McGowan said the demands of a U.S. Senate race were too much of a sacrifice for his young family.

"I've come to the conclusion that now is the wrong time for me to mount a successful campaign for the United States Senate," McGowan, a graduate of Irmo High School, Clemson University and Emory University law school, said in a Wednesday news release.

McGowan, who has described himself as a conservative Democrat, said he'll refund the $250,000 voters have contributed to his campaign.

Meanwhile, DeMint has $3.2 million cash on hand to defend his seat.

A Democratic challenger, Gary Stephens of North Myrtle Beach, remains in the race.

- Gina Smith

Bauer will begin running TV ads

South Carolina Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer says he's buying time to air his first television ads in his campaign to become the state's next governor.

Bauer said Wednesday he has filmed about half a dozen versions of ads that will begin airing over the weekend.

Bauer did not know exactly how much he would be spending out of his governor's campaign to air the spots. He said they are an effort to talk about things that others aren't willing to discuss.

He says he's still not ready to formally declare for the office, although he set up a governor's campaign account months ago.

Bauer has been in the national spotlight in recent weeks after likening people on government assistance to stray animals.

- The Associated Press

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CAPITOL CONNECTION

Point-of-sale bill stalls in Senate

The Senate failed Wednesday to give final passage to a compromise bill aimed at lowering property tax increases on second homes, businesses and other real estate taxed at the 6 percent rate. The vote puts the bill's future in doubt.

The plan to give some property buyers a tax break failed 28-13. The bill needed a two-thirds vote - or support from 31 senators - for passage.

Failure to garner final passage is indicative of the ongoing unease with the bill in the Senate.

After the vote, Sen. Harvey Peeler, R-Cherokee, moved to send the measure back to committee, which would have been its death knell for the year. But that effort was stopped, too.

Lawmakers can reconsider the bill as early as today.

Some senators think Wednesday's vote has placed point-of-sale legislation in deep peril. But there are others who see the close vote and the vote to preserve the bill's spot on the calendar a clear signal a deal can be reached.

Sen. Larry Martin, R-Pickens, Senate Rules Committee chairman, said what happened to the bill Wednesday means "nothing."

"There are any number of ways to deal with it (today)," Martin said.

It is clear, however, the Senate does not have the 31 votes required to pass the existing compromise.

"It's still that classic haves versus have-nots," said Sen. Gerald Malloy, D-Darlington, in explaining how he thinks the bill doesn't help.

The legislation was needed to address tax changes passed under 2006's Act 388, which gave homeowners a tax break but raised the state's sales tax by 1 cent. The sluggish economy has hurt sales tax revenue, a contributor to the more than $500 revenue hole lawmakers must patch this session.

Under that law, buyers of second homes and businesses - taxed at 6 percent - say they have been blindsided at real estate closings by higher taxes. Under Act 388, properties are automatically reassessed when they are sold. The new tax bill is calculated on the selling price of the property, rather than the county-assessed value. Often that means buyers face sharp increases in property taxes.

- Roddie Burris

School out on Veterans Day

A bill that makes Veterans Day a statewide holiday for schools is on its way to the Senate floor. The Senate Education Committee approved the measure Wednesday.

In an effort to honor and remember those who have served in the armed forces, the proposal would make S.C. students' third holiday of that month.

Sen. John Courson, R-Richland, the committee chairman, said questions from his eighth-grade son about the role of veterans sparked his interest in offering the bill.

Aiken Republican Sen. Greg Ryberg, who said he has a son serving in a combat zone, supported the bill.

But some lawmakers worried about adding another mandatory day off for schools.

If approved as passed by the committee, the bill would give school systems the option of implementing the holiday this November or by Veterans Day in 2011.

- Roddie Burris

Vote to save money

South Carolina voters would decide whether legislators should put more money in savings under a proposal approved by legislators.

The Senate approved the proposed constitutional amendment on Wednesday.

It would ask voters on November ballots whether 5 percent of the state budget should be set aside in a reserve account, up from 3 percent.

The amended measure returns to the House, which approved it unanimously last year.

- The Associated Press

QUOTE OF THE DAY

"I've got heartburn making this mandatory"

- Sen. John Matthews, D-Orangeburg, on forcing state schools to take the day off on Veterans Day. A bill making the day off mandatory passed a Senate committee. Matthews, who said he has three sons in the military - two of them in combat - opposed the measure because of the burden it might put on schools.

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