When state legislators pack the State House Tuesday to begin the second session of the two-year General Assembly, the likely fodder for chatter will be S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson’s announcement Monday that he referred ethics allegations against House Speaker Bobby Harrell -- and a subsequent SLED inquiry and report -- to a state grand jury for further investigation.
Harrell, a Charleston Republican and arguably one of the most powerful men in the state, has been under investigation by SLED since February, after Ashley Landess, president of the S.C. Policy Council, raised questions about whether Harrell used his campaign account and position unlawfully.
The complaint questioned, for example, whether Harrell’s reimbursing himself about $300,000 from his campaign account for flying his private plane on state business was lawful.
Wilson asked SLED to investigate, and last month, the state law enforcement agency returned a report described as “voluminous” to Wilson.
“Shocked” and clearly surprised by the move, Harrell shot back Monday, accusing the attorney general’s office of not informing him of the decision before releasing the news to the media (the AG’s office said they called -- and reached -- Harrell’s attorney 30 minutes before news releases went out).
Harrell also said the attorney general’s decision to send the ethics allegations to a grand jury for investigation ran counter to what investigators had led him to believe -- that they found no cause for concern. Full story
’Freedom’ or ‘Truth to power’? Your pick at the State House Tuesday
Adam Beam reports that dueling rallies will take place at the S.C. State House Tuesday -- one pressuring lawmakers to restrict Obamacare, and the other, calling for the legislators to expand Medicaid. S.C. progressives are calling their rally “Truthful Tuesday” in what they hope will become a regular event.
State House meetings today
• 10:00 a.m.: House Ways and Means Economic Development and Natural Resources Subcommittee (Blatt Room 523,
• 10:30 a.m.: House Ways and Means Legislative, Executive and Local Government Subcommittee (Blatt Room 511,
• 1 hr. after adjournment: House Ways and Means Higher Education, Technical, and Cultural Budget Subcommittee (Blatt Room 321,Agenda
• 1 ½ hrs. after adjournment: House Ways and Means Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Subcommittee (Blatt Room 305,Agenda
• 2:30 p.m. or 1 ½ hrs. after adjournment: House Judiciary Committee (Blatt 516,
• 1 ½ hrs. after adjournment: House Ways and Means Legislative, Executive and Local Government Subcommittee (Blatt 511,
• No Senate meetings today.
(Note: Meeting days, times and locations are subject to change.)
Gov. Nikki Haley's schedule today
• 3:05 p.m.: Participate in the S.C. Business and Industry Political Education Committee annual meeting, Columbia Marriott in Columbia
Haley: revenue growth will pay for roads
Adam Beam reports that Gov. Nikki Haley’s $6.6 billion budget released Monday did not include money for road repairs -- but she’s pushing for them anyway.
That’s because Haley expects projections for how much additional money the state will have to spend next year to increase -- like it did last year -- opening up money to spend, again, on roads. Full story
State comptroller gets primary challenge
City of Columbia dismisses charges against NAACP leader
John Monk reports that the Columbia prosecutors dismissed three misdemeanor disturbance charges against state NAACP president Lonnie Randolph right before the case went to trial Monday because a key witness decided not to testify against Randolph.
From Monk’s story:
The charges stemmed from an incident when Randolph, apparently suffering from a diabetic condition, became confused in a Five Points dry cleaners last July 12 and caused a disturbance. Worried employees called police, who charged Randolph with trespassing after notice, public disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.
After municipal judge Steedley Bogan confirmed in court Monday that the city had decided to drop the charges, Randolph’s lawyer, Joe McCulloch, held a news conference and said he was “disgusted” with city attorneys for getting the case almost to trial and then dropping it.
McCulloch said it is well-known in legal and medical circles that – in a condition called hypoglycemia – a certain percentage of severe diabetics can become so disoriented so suddenly they appear to be drunk and those people should be given medical treatment and not arrested. Most diabetics have a longer time to feel an attack coming on and can take sugar to counter it, McCulloch said.
McCulloch said that for months, he’d made ample evidence about Randolph’s condition known to city prosecutors.
City prosecutor David Fernandez told Bogan that a major fact in the city’s dropping the charges was that a key witness originally against Randolph was now going to give testimony for Randolph.
According to a letter prosecutors received Friday afternoon from Tripp Penninger, owner of Tripp’s Fine Cleaner’s in Five Points, Penninger no longer wanted to testify for the city.
“In light of the extenuating circumstances, which have now become known, including Dr. Randolph’s diabetic condition, I sympathize with Dr. Randolph’s condition and situation,” Penninger wrote. “In that light, Tripp’s Fine Cleaners does not wish to pursue or prosecute any charges against Dr. Randolph.”
VIDEO: U.S. Sen. Tim Scott stops in West Columbia to talk ‘empowerment’
U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-North Charleston, spoke Monday at the Brookland-Lakeview Empowerment Center in West Columbia while business, church and advocacy group leaders ate lunch. Scott shared details of his 2014 legislative agenda. VIDEO: U.S. Sen. Tim Scott stops in West Columbia to talk 'empowerment'
In the race for U.S. Senate
Jay Stamper -- Columbia resident and the lone Democrat running for the U.S. Sen. seat currently held by U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-Seneca -- spoke to a group of Spartanburg County Democrats Monday, the Spartanburg Herald-Journal reported.
In case you missed it, a 2014 legislative preview from Adam Beam,who writes: Study up on some of the legislature's key issues as lawmaker return to Columbia on Tuesday, including growing concern about digital privacy.
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