- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:

May 25

The Island Packet, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, on sales tax:

Local governments and organizations have certainly caught on that a new funding source may come online and haven’t been shy about vying for a piece of the proceeds. The University of South Carolina Beaufort wants a convention center. Port Royal wants to purchase its port. The city of Beaufort wants a parking garage. The list goes on and on.

Collectively, the projects total a whopping $375 million. A 1 percent sales tax increase, if approved by voters in the November election, could generate as much as $240 million during eight years for the projects. Of course, Beaufort County Council could choose to shorten the duration of the tax increase and lessen the amount of revenue generated.

The situation creates a mammoth task for a county tax commission charged with paring the list down and presenting it to County Council.

So what should come off the list?

We agree with several County Council members who say the list contains far more “wants” than actual “needs.” Council chairman Paul Sommerville’s assessment that the list resembles a grab bag sounds about right to us. It shouldn’t be too difficult for commission members to separate valid needs from Christmas wish lists. For example, an Olympic-size swimming pool for Whale Branch Early College High School seems excessive …

Beaufort County must do its due diligence. Each project should include a realistic cost estimate including a healthy contingency fund in case of cost overruns. Projects should also be as close to shovel-ready as possible so that work could begin quickly once the dollars start flowing. And the recipients should be financially capable of maintaining the project once the sales tax dollars cease …

County Council must approve the projects list by Aug. 15 if the sales tax measure is to go before voters in November. But the proposal could potentially die before then if county officials aren’t prudent in the current task at hand

Online:

http://www.islandpacket.com

___

May 27

The Times and Democrat, Orangeburg, South Carolina, on U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham:

The headlines following Tuesday’s political primaries proclaimed the tea party movement has been diluted as mainstream Republicans such as Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell scored victories.

From the Washington Post: “After years of intraparty turmoil that cost Republicans key races, voters this year are coalescing around the GOP’s strongest candidates ahead of November’s general election, when control of the Senate during President Barack Obama’s final two years in office will be up for grabs.”

Teaparty.net responds: “The headlines that we’ve seen since Tuesday are brutal for our movement. CNN, MSNBC, and even Fox News, have all been pushing a uniform narrative: the Tea Party is extreme and the defeat of individual candidates MUST mean the destruction of the entire movement. That’s wishful thinking on their part because we aren’t going anywhere!”

Among the politicians for whom the news about declining tea party influence should be good is senior South Carolina U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, who faces six challengers in the June primary, all of them trying to lay claim to being the conservative and tea party alternative. They claim the senator is not conservative enough for South Carolina.

And they claim the tea party, particularly in South Carolina, is not going anywhere, each looking to claim as much support in the name of the tea party as possible.

Orangeburg attorney and Afghanistan combat veteran Bill Connor continues to receive his share of such backing, with a state tea party movement leader Steve Rapchick of Mount Pleasant and the Charleston Mercury offering endorsements.

And state Sen. Lee Bright is trying his best to lay claim to the mantle of Graham alternative, citing a Wenzel Strategies survey that shows Graham remains below the needed 50 percent threshold to avoid a runoff.

Graham polled 48 percent, while Bright was at 19 percent and about 15 percent were undecided. The other 18 percent was split among the five other competitors,

“Lindsey Graham is not going to get to 50 percent, and then he’ll have to face us in the runoff,” Bright said. “It’s not like anyone can possibly find out anything new about Graham that will help him.” …

Despite polls that show Graham shy of the 50 percent mark, it remains likely that he will get at least a share of the undecided vote and get over the top on primary day. But if he does not, then South Carolinians will be put in the position of deciding just how influential the tea party is or is not. Defeating Graham would be a major political feat and open the door to real debate about who will claim the seat in November’s general election.

Online:

http://thetandd.com

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May 26

The Post and Courier, Charleston, South Carolina, on the National Security Agency:

A large bipartisan majority of the House of Representatives last week passed a bill, the USA Freedom Act, to end the bulk collection of American telephone records by the National Security Agency. The bill also would throw a modest amount of light on the decisions of a secret federal court that oversees intelligence collection by the executive branch.

While a welcome first step toward reining in a government with “Big Brother” powers, the House bill falls short of the objective of its original sponsors. Transparency measures intended to guard against secret intrusions on personal privacy were weakened. And there are concerns about an undefined “specific selection term” to theoretically limit the reach of government intrusion into personal records and personal communications.

Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., co-sponsor of the original bill with Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said the bill will require the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to make a public report of any decisions that define the “specific selection term” authority.

“This is the end of secret laws,” he declared. “If the administration abuses the intent of the bill, everyone will know.”

In 2006 the FISA court, in a secret order, overwrote limits in the Patriot Act to allow the bulk collection of all American telephone records despite the legal requirement that there be “reasonable grounds to believe that the tangible things sought are relevant to an authorized investigation.”

As Rep. Sensenbrenner noted, the House bill restores some limits on government searches ….

The House bill is better than the status quo, but it needs to be strengthened in the Senate.

Still, there is a larger issue that Congress has failed to take on. As long as business records - your phone bill, your bank statement, etc. - are not considered personal property protected by the Fourth Amendment, the government will be tempted to use bulk collection techniques to pry into personal affairs without having to present a specific reason to a federal court.

The non-protected status of business records was established by the Supreme Court in a 1979 case, Smith v. Maryland. That was long before computers made it possible for the government to conduct massive data sweeps of public records and match them up to get personal profiles of anyone it chooses.

The advent of this technology urgently requires a new definition of personal property that restores the balance between government and the individual that the Fourth Amendment established.

Online:

http://www.postandcourier.com

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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