11/29, full issue: Regulating regulators; Freedom of the press; Right to privacy – Statehouse Report

INSIDE ISSUE 18.48 | Nov. 29, 2019

NEWS

By Lindsay Street, Statehouse correspondent | House and Senate members on both sides of the aisle are finding common ground in expressing frustration with the states utility regulators.

The S.C. Public Service Commission has drawn renewed scrutiny after a November staff directive that would create the cheapest solar rates in the nation, which solar industry advocates say would effectively ending new solar investment in the state. The directive isnt final yet.

Some lawmakers see the proposal, which would slash utilities reimbursement for solar field generation and keeping contracts to 10 years, as an affront to the unanimously-passed Energy Freedom Act in May.

The PSC decision shows they actually moved backward in regard to opening up solar markets to fair competition, Beaufort Republican Sen. Tom Davis told Statehouse Report. He was one of the lead advocates for the Energy Freedom Act.

There are at least two bills in the current 2019-2020 legislative session that seek changes on the commission:

Caskey

Its got to be a top priority to impose ethical restrictions so we can restore some confidence in the system but Im also at a point where we need to more seriously consider wholesale renovations of the system, Caskey said. In my mind, we made it clear in the Energy Freedom Act that South Carolina should be a state that has a balanced portfolio of power generation.

Caskey and others said more bills may be filed as the directive is finalized and lawmakers delve into the issue further. To be sure, the PSC has landed on the legislative radar. For Davis, though, he said he isnt sure any reform can fix what he says is broken.

The PSC is almost beyond the legislatures ability to cure, he said, adding he would advocate for complete system reform. We cant fix it because the very model is flawed whenever you have a PSC passing on what consumers pay.

Davis, who served as Gov. Mark Sanfords chief of staff, said he wants the market dictates the price and move the state toward a regional transmission organization, rather than a regulated monopoly. Regional transmission organizations, implemented in about half of the country, are independent nonprofits that nonprofits optimize supply direct to consumers from wholesale electric power. Read more.

In other S.C. news:

On protecting residents from lung cancer. New research from the American Lung Association says states like South Carolina need to do more to protect residents from lung cancer and aid in cancer-patient recovery. South Carolina ranks 36th in the nation for incidence of lung cancer, making its incidence of lung cancer above the national average. The state ranks 32nd for survival rates, mean those diagnosed with lung cancer in S.C. are less likely to survive than the national average. The nonprofit says state lawmakers need to support early lung screenings and protect health care access for those with pre-existing conditions. Read more.

ACLU hires new state director. The American Civil Liberties Union of South Carolina has hired Frank Knaack as its next executive director. He will come on board in January. He most recently led the Montana Innocence Project and prior to that he led the Alabama Appleseed Center. He also has held positions at the National ACLU and at ACLU affiliates in Virginia and Texas.

House budget writers release 2020 schedule. The budget schedule for the House Ways and Means Committee has been released. Budget subcommittee meetings begin Jan. 14 through Feb. 13. The deadline for proviso submittals is Jan. 31. The state Board of Economic Advisers estimate on revenues is due Feb. 15. Full committee budget deliberations are expected to begin Feb. 17 with House floor budget deliberations projected to start March 9.

Senate Education Committee to talk overhaul Dec. 12. The second full-committee hearing on a sweeping overhaul bill for public education will take place 2 p.m. Dec. 12 in room 308 of the Gressette building on the Statehouse grounds in Columbia. Education Chair Greg Hembree, R-Horry, told Statehouse Report last week he is pushing the committee to give a favorable report for the bill originally passed by the House before the start of the 2020 legislative session Jan. 14. See agenda here.

Related: The committees education funding formula panel will meet 10 a.m. Dec. 4 in room room 308 of the Gressette building on the Statehouse grounds in Columbia. Read the agenda.

Public hearings on judicial merit selections. The Judicial Merit Selection Commission will hold public hearings Dec. 2-4 at 9:30 a.m. in room 105 of the Gressette building on the Statehouse grounds in Columbia. See the agenda here.

2020 candidate calendar

Throughout the campaign season, we are working to keep South Carolina informed of candidate events in the state. Have an event you want us to know about? Email us at 2020news@statehousereport.com.

Klobuchar makes 2-day swing in S.C. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar will attend events over two days in South Carolina:

Buttigieg makes 3-day swing in S.C. South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg will attend five events over three days in South Carolina:

COMMENTARY

By Andy Brack, editor and publisher | The other day after a church meeting, someone commented, We need a free press now, more than ever.

Let that sink in.

Why would someone say that? Is it because he doesnt like the bombast of President Trump or she doesnt like the preening of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi? Is it because theyre worried about the legitimacy of what they read on Facebook, Twitter or the Internet?

More than likely, its any or all of those things but also something bigger: Trust. Americans, divided into warring factions of what they believe, increasingly have problems with trusting information that they receive from institutions in government as well as those that say whats going on in government.

We are living in a period of history where we have more information than ever, but its blurred by unrelenting negative talk, fake news, lies, misrepresentations, soundbites and incomplete information. We are so overloaded by information that we find it hard to sift through and process everything before the next assault hits.

So how can you manage too much information? Perhaps you can curb and diversify your media diet. Find multiple sources of information not just newsjunk put out by the tribe that spouts what you want to hear. If youre a Democrat, you might need to focus less on The New York Times and more on The Wall Street Journal. If you lean Republican, tune in occasionally to CBS or PBS instead of Fox.

Despite what some people believe, reporters do not exist to make up news. Reporters are objective and report what they see, hear and uncover.

Our democracy depends upon citizens having information about the activities of our government, and a press free from governmental control is essential to the functioning of our society, says Jay Bender, longtime legal counsel for the S.C. Press Association.

The reason there is a constitutional protection for freedom of the press is because the British crown censored information during colonial times, Bender said. Patriots during the American Revolution fought to be free of the shackles of royal rule, including its curbs on information.

Then, as now, more information is better than less. Attacking verifiable facts is counterproductive and anti-democratic.

The instinct of those in government today to attack the press and restrict the flow of information to the public is inconsistent with a government by the people and for the people, Bender said. A vigorous, free press is a wall between us and an autocracy, and must be defended for our democracy to survive.

Richard Whiting, executive editor of the Greenwood Index-Journal, suggests the misplaced chants of fake news or the press being an enemy of the people are trickling into our towns and counties.

Its not just mainstream media that is under attack, he said. Its the hometown newspaper that shares with its readers little Johnnys victory on the football field, Suzies volleyball win. Its the hometown paper that shares the story of a familys struggles as their child battles a life-threatening disease, or the family burned out by a house fire. Its the hometown paper that attends the school board, town council and county council meetings while Mom and Dad busy themselves with their lives, their childrens lives.

And the irony, he says, is that those very same people will shout and raise Cain How did this happen? Why didnt someone tell us? when a local, duly-elected governmental body votes to raise taxes or change zoning. Had they been paying attention by reading their local newspaper they might have acted upon solid information to create change, instead of grumbling and picking up the pieces later.

A free press is essential to our democracy, Whiting said. It serves the public by being the watchdog of government so people can go about their daily lives. But more than that, we are the communitys mirror, reflecting the good, the bad and the ugly as we provide essential news and information right along with the stuff that crowds refrigerators and gets tucked away in scrapbooks.

The free press is not your enemy. Her reporters keep America honest a lot more than her politicians do. Ask questions. Consume diverse information sources. Challenge your media comfort zone. To do less is to get sucked into what anti-democratic forces desire.

Andy Brack is editor and publisher of Statehouse Report.

SPOTLIGHT

The public spiritedness of our underwriters allows us to bring Statehouse Report to you at no cost. This weeks spotlighted underwriter is the South Carolina Hospital Association, the Palmetto States foremost advocate on healthcare issues affecting South Carolinians. The mission of SCHA is to support its members in addressing the healthcare needs of South Carolina through advocacy, education, networking and regulatory assistance.

Founded in 1921, the South Carolina Hospital Association is the leadership organization and principal advocate for the states hospitals and health care systems. Based in Columbia, SCHA works with its members to improve access, quality and cost-effectiveness of health care for all South Carolinians. The states hospitals and health care systems employ more than 70,000 persons statewide. SCHAs credo: We are stronger together than apart.

MY TURN

By Elliott Brack, republished with permission | Times were far different in the age of the Founding Fathers. They thought long and hard, and recognized that mankind wanted certain guarantees from government. What they came up with was to recognize certain unalienable rights, such as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

They should have been pleased with that statement. It was an original idea. It appealed to people in the New World who were unhappy with their rights being trampled by what amounted to a foreign government, one at least an ocean away, which did not understand the new frontier called America.

Yet our young country-to-be was developing in what we look upon today as a relatively quiet and non-invasive time, when there was not the hubbub of constant activity we have today. The new atmosphere offered by our new government was exciting to these citizens of the new United States of America. They were joyfully independent now as a nation, and we suspect, almost giddy about being a new country with its own brand of government.

And what the forefathers eventually produced as our Bill of Rights contains certain liberties that we all cherish. However, life in todays world might need a little closer examination about what we may not realize we need.

Have you ever considered your right to privacy? Its no longer what it used to be since the arrival of a new form of communication. Now we are forever being invaded via the telephone and the Internet and all sorts of media with comments and advertising messages, and with unsolicited offers popping up for products we dont want. Most troublesome, we have learned, much of our most private information is collected by private companies and our government. It is readily available for the world to see on the Internet, mostly put there without our individual permission.

Europe is well ahead of our country in this area. The European Union countries have General Data Protection regulations, setting rules and standards of what companies can do with data. These countries generally give individuals more rights to privacy than the United States does.

Another element Europe thought of is the Right to be forgotten, that is, having public information about an individual expressed online and stay there forever.

The right of privacy is an element of various legal traditions to restrain governmental and private actions that threaten the privacy of individuals. Over 150 national Constitutions mention the right to privacy.

With Europe tightening what Internet storage companies can do with information, it is beginning to create some momentum about these issues in the United States.

The concept of privacy uses a theory of natural rights. Even as far back as when Louis Brandeis was on the Supreme Court, (1916-1939), his work is often cited as the first explicit declaration of a right to privacy in the USA. Both Brandeis and Earl Warren wrote of the right to be let alone, focusing on protecting individuals. Brandeis had earlier even written that the government (was) identified .as a potential privacy invader.

That sounds like Brandeis could foresee the future!

Perhaps, someday in our country, when the United States returns to a more normal news cycle, without constant Twitter manipulations by a president, the issue of a right to privacy may become more significant to modern everyday life. The forefathers would probably approve of some restrictions on the technologies we have developed.

Elliott Brack, a Georgia journalist for more than 60 years, is editor and publisher of GwinnettForum.com. Have a comment? Send to: feedback@statehousereport.com.

FEEDBACK

To the editor:

Great column today on the first South Carolina Thanksgiving. My wife is a native of Beaufort and we lived there for several years and the area is full of history. Because of the great people, restaurants and marketing in Charleston, it gets all the publicity, however. The Beaufort area is overlooked and that is a shame.

South Carolina has much history to study and I fear our schools do not teach South Carolina history the way we learned it more than 50 years ago in school. With the huge number of todays state residents that have moved here from other states and countries, there is no better time to study our South Carolina history. If challenged, I could probably still name all of our 46 counties because we learned them in school.

Andy Sullivan, Honea Path, S.C.

We love hearing from our readers and encourage you to share your opinions. But youve got to provide us with contact information so we can verify your letters. Letters to the editor are published weekly. We reserve the right to edit for length and clarity. Comments are limited to 250 words or less. Please include your name and contact information.

MYSTERY PHOTO

Heres an interesting brick building in Charleston County. What and where is it? Send your best guess to feedback@statehousereport.com. And dont forget to include your name and the town in which you live.

Our Nov. 22 image, Field art, shouldnt have been tough if you live in Newberry. (Heck, we gave everyone a clue with Newberry as the S.C. Encyclopedia entry last week!)

Yet only one photo sleuth the always-curious George Graf of Palmyra, Va., tracked down the story behind the image, which pays tribute to the former Indian mascot of Newberry College.

Somehow, Graf figured out the marker was located on the campus of Newberry College on Cheek Street near the Darrow House parking lot. And then his curiosity got the better of him. So he called the Newberry Museum and connected with a local historian who shared this story:

Back in the early 20th century, Newberry organized a baseball team and needed uniforms. Just so happened that the red uniforms were on sale at the time. After donning the uniforms, someone remarked about them looking like redskin Indians. So, Newberry College adopted the team nickname of Newberry Indians which stuck until around 2005 when the name was changed to Wolves.

The college reportedly changed the name after the NCAA deemed the use of Indians as hostile and abusive, Graf shared.

S.C. Encyclopedia | Patriot Charles Cotesworth Pinckney was born in Charleston on February 14, 1746, to Charles Pinckney, a lawyer and member of the provincial council, and Elizabeth Lucas, who helped introduce indigo cultivation in South Carolina. In 1753 Pinckney accompanied his family to London, where his father served as the colonys agent until 1758. Young Pinckney received private tutoring before entering the prestigious Westminster School in 1761. Three years later he matriculated at both Christ Church College, Oxford, and at the Middle Temple, the London legal training ground. While at Oxford he attended lectures by the famed legal scholar Sir William Blackstone and listened to debates in the House of Commons pertaining to the American colonies. Pinckney was admitted to the English Bar in January 1769. Following a tour of Europe, he returned to South Carolina, where he began a successful legal practice.

Pinckney entered public service in 1769 with election to the Commons House of Assembly, where he represented St. Johns Colleton Parish during the remainder of royal rule. Pinckney also served in the local militia, eventually attaining the rank of colonel. In 1773 he was made attorney general for the judicial districts of Camden, Cheraws, and Georgetown. That same year, on September 28, he married Sarah Middleton, daughter of the wealthy and well-connected Henry Middleton. The marriage produced four children.

Through this marriage Pinckney became closely affiliated with some of the provinces leading radicals in Americas contest with Great Britain, such as Arthur Middleton, Edward Rutledge, and William Henry Drayton. By early 1775 Pinckney was a member of all the important revolutionary committees, from which he advocated aggressive measures, including stealing royal arms from the Statehouse, penning inflammatory epistles to backcountry inhabitants, and planning the defense of Charleston against a possible British attack. At the same time, Pinckney served in the extralegal Provincial Congress, where he assisted in creating and training a rebel army and chaired the committee responsible for drafting a temporary frame of government for the province.

Once hostilities erupted with Britain, Pinckney switched his role as a politician to that of a soldier. Appointed commander of the First Regiment of South Carolina troops, he assisted in the successful defense of Charleston at the Battle of Sullivans Island in June 1776. When the British moved north following this defeat, Pinckney followed to serve as an aide-de-camp to General George Washington. He participated in the battles of Brandywine and Germantown before rejoining the southern army to command a regiment in the expedition to East Florida and at the siege of Savannah.

During the defense of Charleston he commanded Fort Moultrie and made a futile attempt to convince General Benjamin Lincoln, commander of the southern army, to defend the capital at all costs. When Charleston fell, the British placed Pinckney under house arrest and made a hapless attempt to lure him away from the American cause. The British later sent Pinckney to Philadelphia, where he was exchanged in 1782. He rejoined the southern army but saw no further action. Pinckneys first wife, Sarah Middleton, died in 1784, and he married Mary Stead in 1786.

Following the war, Pinckney devoted his efforts toward rebuilding his law practice and his rice plantations. In 1787 he served as a delegate to the constitutional convention, where he ardently and ably defended the exporting and slaveholding interests of southern planters. A staunch Federalist, Pinckney was important in South Carolinas ratification of the federal Constitution in 1788. He later helped draft the states 1790 constitution.

Over the next several years Pinckney rejected President Washingtons numerous offers to serve in federal officeas commander of the army, as associate justice of the Supreme Court, as secretary of war, and as secretary of stateexplaining that he needed to remain at home to restore his fortune. However, in 1796 Pinckney accepted Washingtons offer to serve as minister to France. The next year President John Adams appointed him as one of three commissioners to negotiate a treaty with the French government. When French diplomats demanded a bribe from their American counterparts to facilitate discussions, Pinckney is credited as having exclaimed no! no! Not a sixpense and urged his government to raise millions for defence but not one cent for tribute. In 1798 President Adams, anticipating war with France, appointed Pinckney commander of the southern department of the United States Army. He was discharged from military service in 1800.

Pinckney returned to politics in the election of 1800 as the Federalist Partys vice-presidential candidate. In 1804 and 1808 he was the Federalist candidate for president, but realizing that he had little chance of winning, he never actively campaigned. Instead, Pinckney devoted the remainder of his life to agricultural experiments (he was a member of the South Carolina Agricultural Society) and civic service. He helped establish South Carolina College in 1801 and served on its first board of trustees.

He also busied himself as president of numerous organizations, including the South Carolina Jockey Club, the Society for the Relief of Widows and Orphans of South Carolina, the Charleston Bible Society, the Charleston Library Society, the South Carolina Society of the Cincinnati, and the national Society of the Cincinnati. Near the end of his life Pinckney campaigned against dueling in South Carolina. He died in Charleston on August 16, 1825, and was buried in the cemetery of St. Michaels Church.

Excerpted from an entry by Keith Krawczynski. This entry may not have been updated since 2006. To read more about this or 2,000 other entries about South Carolina, check out The South Carolina Encyclopedia, published in 2006 by USC Press. (Information used by permission.)

Statehouse Report, founded in 2001 as a weekly legislative forecast that informs readers about what is going to happen in South Carolina politics and policy, is provided to you at no charge every Friday.

Now you can get a copy of editor and publisher Andy Bracks We Can Do Better, South Carolina! ($14.99) as a paperback or as a Kindle book ($7.99). . The book of essays offers incisive commentaries by editor and publisher Andy Brack on the American South, the common good, vexing problems for the Palmetto State and interesting South Carolina leaders.

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11/29, full issue: Regulating regulators; Freedom of the press; Right to privacy - Statehouse Report

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