- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:

May 11

Herald-Journal, Spartanburg, South Carolina, on government being accountable:

The hacking of the S.C. Department of Revenue computer system and the theft of millions of South Carolinians’ tax returns was a colossal government failure.

The state required residents to give it their detailed personal financial information, and then the state failed to protect that data.

The state put its people at terrible risk for theft and fraud. It tried to make up for this by paying for free credit monitoring, but the government must be held accountable for this failure.

The people of South Carolina deserve to know how this happened and to be assured that it can’t happen again. Any secrecy on this issue will breed distrust and fear.

That’s why the report on the hacking should be available to the public. The complete report has never been made public. Only the members of the State Budget and Control Board have copies of it.

State Sen. Vincent Sheheen called for the release of the report last week, and a bipartisan group of senators agreed with him. Gov. Nikki Haley called the request a campaign stunt.

Both are right.

Sheheen is running against the governor this year. He wants to remind voters about the biggest scandal of Haley’s tenure. His call for the release of the report is clearly politically motivated. But he’s still correct in that we all have a right to see that report.

It’s been two years since the hacking, and it’s unlikely that the hunt for the hacker is going hot and heavy and that the release of the report will hamper that investigation. Law enforcement figures often claim that “releasing the information will hamper the investigation” when they simply don’t want to give out certain information.

If there are particular details that truly would hurt the chances of apprehending the hacker, those few details could be redacted from the report, but the vast majority of the report should be released to the public.

The financial lives of 5.7 million South Carolinians and 700,000 businesses were put in jeopardy by the state. We deserve to know how and why.

The governor should support releasing the report. Trying to keep it secret makes it look as though the government has something to hide.

Just as Sheheen’s push is transparently political, trying to keep the report hidden looks like an attempt to hide responsibility for this debacle during an election year.

Other senators speculated during debate that the federal government was able to recover and safeguard the information that was stolen. If so, that would relieve many minds worried about identity theft and fraud. It would also call into question the need for the state to continue to pay for credit monitoring.

There are still many unanswered questions about this situation. State leaders should release the report.

Online:

http://www.goupstate.com

___

May 10

Sun News, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, on texting ban:

The other morning on southbound U.S. 17 Bypass in Myrtle Beach, a small, brown car nearly ran into another vehicle in the left-turn lane at 29th Avenue North. Seconds after her near miss, the young woman driver was texting away on her phone.

The erratic move of the brown car in the direction of the other vehicle illustrates why Sen. Luke Rankin of Horry County told a S.C. House subcommittee that texting while driving can be more dangerous than driving while impaired by alcohol. The motorist who’s had too much to drink typically may drift to the left or the right; the texter is twitchy in driving, as illustrated by the sudden move of the brown car on 17 Bypass.

South Carolina has failed to enact a texting ban for at least four years. Montana, way out West, is the only other state without some kind of ban on texting while driving. Like Montana cowboys, many S.C. residents harbor a streak of opposition to limitations.

We are all for individual rights, whether guaranteed by the First Amendment or the Second Amendment, but there is no right to text while driving. No way, no how. Texting while driving a motor vehicle clearly puts at risk the lives of others, just as does driving under the influence. Sen. Rankin is a sponsor of a bill, passed in the Senate, that would ban all use of electronic communications devices for all beginner and restricted drivers.

The House has passed a much broader texting ban. It would prohibit all drivers from using a “wireless electronic communication device to compose, send or read a text-based communication.” Rankin and the co-sponsor of his Senate bill have endorsed replacing their bill with the House version, according to a report by Jamie Self of The State newspaper in Columbia. The House version allows “texting with hands-free devices, while parked or stopped, or for emergencies.”

Brooke Mosteller, Miss South Carolina 2013 and niece of Sen. Chip Campsen, Isle of Palms, was among scores of S.C. pageant contestants who visited legislators in Columbia and urged passage of a law prohibiting texting while driving, and seeking signatures on a pledge not to text while driving. Such pledges are supported by Gov. Nikki Haley. Rankin’s co-sponsor is Sen. Vincent Sheheen of Camden, the governor’s Democratic opponent.

Several S.C. cities and two counties have bans but they differ in several ways. Josh Rhodes of the S.C. Association of Counties told the House panel the differences in the municipal and county ordinances are creating confusion for motorists and law enforcement officers. The county association and the S.C. Municipal Association both support a state ban.

Here’s another reason it’s past time for the state to act. As Miss S.C. 2013 Mosteller pointed out, texting while driving is a leading cause of death for U.S. teens. Yes, it’s understood that a law per se does not fix a problem. A ban on vehicular texting, with penalties appropriate to the offense, will at the very least put some teeth in the pledges.

The House and Senate in Columbia need to reconcile the differences in the versions and we urge area legislators to support the best - toughest - measure they can pass. Stop fussing about details and watering down penalties and send a good bill to the governor.

Online:

http://www.myrtlebeachonline.com

___

May 13

Aiken (S.C.) Standard on trash scorecard:

South Carolina’s latest distinction as the nation’s “dirtiest” state won’t do us any favors when it comes to growing tourism, our greatest economic driver.

A national anti-litter group recently gave the Palmetto State the eye-raising ranking, which rates states based on a number of factors, including litter, recycling legislation and state waste disposal.

While such scorecards are hard to always give complete credence to, being recognized at the top of any list ranking dirtiest states is disconcerting. The report criticized the state for its lack of litter taxation, “container deposits” that it says are proven to reduce litter and “comprehensive” recycling rules and legislation. Imposing a litter tax is an ill-advised solution, but a greater concentration on cleanup efforts could prove beneficial, especially for a state that relies so much on tourist dollars.

The scorecard from the National Anti-Litter Group also alleges that South Carolina has failed to promote the state’s anti-littering slogan, “Keep it beautiful, South Carolina.”

That’s debatable, but South Carolina could certainly do better in punishing those who litter in our state. Fines for littering in South Carolina often get reduced to about $100, according to Rodney Cooper, solid waste field supervisor for Aiken County. In states such as Florida, however, when a $1,000 fine is charged to someone, it’s virtually always imposed. Less leniency for those who litter would be a step in the right direction.

Locally, Aiken County is taking the wise approach of trying to ensure younger generations don’t make the mistake of littering. The County sends a litter control officer along with a S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control representative to schools to speak with students about littering, recycling and penalties for not following the law.

The state’s Adopt-A-Highway campaign is another positive program that allows a group to “adopt” a two-mile stretch of a state roadway and commit to four litter pickups on that portion of the road each year for two years. Such an initiative should help to instill greater pride in our state and makes sure we’re working toward a cleaner South Carolina.

Keeping our state beautiful is vital for our economy as litter undoubtedly has a negative impact on tourism and the state’s ability to attract businesses. Ensuring litter laws are fully enforced makes sure our message of a beautiful South Carolina actually stays relevant.

Online:

http://www.aikenstandard.com

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