Almost three years after the Confederate flag flew for the last time at the S.C. State House, the fight over controversial historical markers still is going on in the Palmetto State.
A pair of bills filed in the Legislature would repeal the controversial, 18-year-old Heritage Act. That law paved the way for the rebel banner to come off the State House dome in 2000. But it also required all other public historical markers to stay in place.
That hasn’t sat well with some critics, including those who want to remove, rename or renovate existing markers. The problem? To do that now requires a two-thirds super-majority vote of the Legislature.
Bills filed by state Sen. John Scott, D-Richland, and state Rep. Wendell Gilliard, D-Charleston, would repeal the state-approval requirement, allowing cities, counties, school districts and colleges to decide themselves how to handle these historical lightning rods.
The proposals might not pass in a Legislature consumed by the fallout from the failed V.C. Summer nuclear expansion project, among other issues.
But there are “political subdivisions” in the state that would act if the law was repealed.
▪ Five Greenwood residents are suing the state to remove a racially segregated war memorial, including members of the American Legion post where the 90-year-old memorial stands. A plaque on the memorial lists local residents who died in World Wars I and II, separated into “white” and “colored” columns. The city raised $20,000 to replace the plaque with an integrated marker, only to be blocked by the Heritage Act.
▪ The Citadel’s board of visitors has voted to remove a Confederate naval jack that has hung in a campus chapel since 1939. But, barring legislative approval, the state’s military college has to leave the flag in place alongside other military banners.
▪ Both Clemson and Winthrop universities have main campus buildings named for Benjamin “Pitchfork Ben” Tillman, who helped establish both schools. But critics have decried the 19th-century governor as an outspoken racist who took part in the killing of African-Americans and disenfranchised black voters. Winthrop’s Tillman Hall has seen protests over its name, while Clemson’s faculty have endorsed a name change for their Tillman building.
Scott, sponsor of the Senate bill, says the Heritage Act’s restrictions are a pain for public colleges that want to promote diversity and inclusion on campus.
“They know it’s a problem they need to address as a group,” Scott said, “and we need to give them the flexibility to do that.”
On the House side, Gilliard has his own proposal for how to handle existing monuments.
“We can pass a resolution for local municipalities to create a Confederate memorial park and move them all there,” Gilliard said. “That will give them a chance to come and visit, have holidays, spend the night if they want to.”
The proposal isn’t the only monumental change that could be coming to the State House.
State Sens. Greg Gregory, R-Lancaster, and Darrell Jackson, D-Richland, have proposed a new State House monument to honor escaped-slave-turned-S.C. congressman Robert Smalls.
Meanwhile, state Reps. Bill Chumley, R-Spartanburg, and Mike Burns, R-Greenville, have said they want to add a State House memorial to African-Americans who fought for the Confederacy. (One problem? Historians argue there were none.)
None of the proposals have moved beyond the committee stage.
Sanford wants you to see classified memo on Trump campaign
Rep. Mark Sanford, R-Charleston, is among 64 members of the U.S. House who have signed a letter calling for the release of a classified memo that has become a source of controversy, even though — since it’s classified — most people don’t know what’s in it.
The congressional letter expresses “deep concern” about the contents of the memo, drawn up by the chair of the House Intelligence Committee. Reportedly, the memo contains details about surveillance of Donald Trump’s campaign before he was elected president.
“Sunlight is the best disinfectant, and the American public should be able to read the same memo I read,” Sanford said in a statement.
Republican congressmen who have seen the memo say it exposes abuses of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act by the Obama administration. Democrats say the memo — and the GOP ruckus about it — is part of an effort to undermine the ongoing investigation into contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia.
The memo was prepared by the Republican chairman of the Intelligence Committee, U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes of California, who previously removed himself from oversight of the House’s own Russia investigation.
Sanford has raised concerns about the federal government’s use of the Surveillance Act before. He tried to use the recent government shutdown fight to limit data collection on U.S. citizens.
“This memo on FISA abuse leaves me even more frustrated with the state of surveillance in our federal government, which ties back to the vote we had on the FISA court,” he said. “We must work to stop warrant-less searches on Americans.”
Former S.C. GOP chair goes solar
The former chairman of the S.C. Republican Party has a new job as head of the Palmetto Conservative Solar Coalition.
Matt Moore was announced as the solar energy group’s new chairman Wednesday. Moore was the chairman of the state GOP from 2013 to 2017, when Republicans won every statewide office and grew their majority in the Legislature to its largest since 1874.
The Conservative Solar Coalition, headed by former Republican U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett, is working to support the solar industry in South Carolina, including a metering policy — approved in 2014 — that allows solar customers to supply power to their neighbors. The coalition wants to protect that policy in 2018.
“As a conservative, I support the free market driven by innovation,” Moore said in a statement. “I’m excited to lead the PCSC because solar energy gives people a choice to power their own homes. I’m confident that lawmakers will continue to remove barriers and allow solar energy to thrive as an option for all South Carolinians.”