- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:

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June 3

Aiken (South Carolina) Standard on Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s comments:

The Iraqi army essentially fell down on the job. That was the frank assessment, at least, given last week by U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, who said the city of Ramadi in Iraq fell to the Islamic State recently because the country’s forces showed “no will” to fight.

“They were not outnumbered: in fact, they vastly outnumbered the opposing force,” Carter said. “And yet they failed to fight.” While this prompted a quick backpedaling by President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, it’s hard not to find at least some validity in Carter’s comments.

The political system - and Iraq itself - is obviously still extraordinarily fractured and fragmented. America’s involvement and its strategy moving forward also seem to be completely muddled.

Given this reality, to say Carter wasn’t speaking the truth - as ugly as it might be - seems rather unlikely. Iraqi forces were certainly faced with an onslaught - one that reportedly included a wave of suicide car and truck bombs. And to be fair, the Iraqi forces had been trying to hold off forces for several months.

However, while Obama and Biden offered praise for the Iraqis, the White House also stood by Carter’s comments. White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Carter’s comments were “consistent with the analysis that he’s received from those who are on the ground.” Earnest added that the Iraqi government also “acknowledged” that the setback in Ramadi was “at least in part attributable to a breakdown in military command and planning.” That should be a telltale sign of the capabilities that the Iraqi forces have shown so far in combating the Islamic State.

What’s needed is for Obama and members of Congress to clarify exactly how intense U.S. efforts will really be against the Islamic State.

The president has rightfully called them a “cancer” that must be “extracted” from the Middle East. However, little has yet to be seen as far as putting the Islamic State on its heels. The U.S. is currently involved in an air strike campaign, but that doesn’t appear to have been too damaging with the extent of ground the Islamic State has gained. With that reality, there’s been talk of sending thousands of troops - possibly as high as an additional 10,000 - back to the Middle East, an enterprise that would undoubtedly be a highly unpopular one.

At this point, Iraq resembles far less a country and more a myriad of competing social, religious and political factions and divisions.

Finding the right path forward is a must. That path, however - whatever it may be - is no doubt made more difficult, convoluted and unattainable if the administration isn’t willing to be forthright and face the hard truths from its top officials.

Online:

http://www.aikenstandard.com

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June 3

Post and Courier, Charleston, South Carolina, on ending state Senate filibuster:

With two days left in the regular session, an ill-advised Senate filibuster has brought progress to a halt on road funding and capital projects for higher education. It’s no time for the Legislature to get bogged down in anti-tax rhetoric.

That would mean another year will pass without substantive progress on road funding. At this point, the most that can be expected for roads would be $150 million in surplus funding recommended by the House budget writing committee on Monday.

That might ease the pressure on lawmakers who can’t seem to find a long-term funding remedy for the state’s deteriorating transportation system. But a surplus funding allocation would be a sop, not a solution.

The state needs another $1.5 billion in transportation funding annually over the next 30 years, and that requires a regular source of additional revenue.

No question, the state’s roads and bridges could use the surplus funding, but it would be a one-time source of revenue and inadequate for the job.

The Legislature’s unwillingness to raise the gas tax would mean that the S.C. Department of Transportation won’t get a regular, dedicated source of additional revenue. And more than a third of the state gas tax is paid by out-of-state motorists.

South Carolina’s gas tax, one of the nation’s lowest, hasn’t been increased since 1987. Meanwhile, motorists pay increasingly high costs for car repairs and accidents caused by deteriorating and inadequate highways.

Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, has led the filibuster against a gas tax hike, arguing that the state should use revenue growth and surplus funds instead.

In doing so, he also is holding up consideration of a capital reserve bill that would serve as a funding vehicle for higher education projects, including the MUSC Children’s Hospital and the aeronautics center at Trident Technical College.

Late Tuesday, Sen. Larry Grooms, R- Berkeley, said that federal matching funds for the Children’s Hospital also will be jeopardized without legislative action on a state allocation this year.

The General Assembly and the state need action, not a Senate filibuster.

South Carolina voters elect legislators to take care of business, not hold up progress.

Online:

http://www.postandcourier.com

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June 2

The Herald, Rock Hill, South Carolina, on House needing to approve state line:

This isn’t the 18th century. South Carolina and North Carolina ought to have a defined border they agree on.

The original 333-mile border separating the two states was surveyed only once. The project consisted of a series of measurements done in pieces between 1735 and 1815, with wars, nature and lack of money interfering in the process.

While parts of the border have been surveyed two other times, in 1905 and 1928, the states essentially relied on the original survey for more than 240 years to mark the dividing line between them. But about 20 years ago, officials from both states decided to conduct a new, definitive study that would determine, once and for all, where one state ended and the other began.

The states didn’t want to draw a new line. That would have been more costly, and Congress would have had to approve the final result.

Instead, the task was to retrace the original border from yellowing documents and other sources. Unfortunately, many of the landmarks on those original documents were piles of rocks or trees scored with hatchets, many of which had long ago disappeared.

But despite those challenges, the line was drawn. The South Carolina Senate unanimously passed a bill in April approving the border that had taken 20 years to draw.

The only remaining hurdle for South Carolina is passage of the bill in the House. But state Rep. Raye Felder, R-Fort Mill, has stalled the vote.

Felder lodged an objection to the proposal, which prevented the bill from going to the House floor. She said she is representing the interests of about 14 constituents who could end up living in North Carolina if the border is approved by Legislatures in both states.

We understand her concerns. As she notes, the change can be disruptive for those who thought they were living in South Carolina, paid South Carolina taxes and chose school districts in South Carolina, only to learn that they might soon be North Carolinians.

Felder said she wants a hearing so her constituents can get explanations about how any changes would affect them. We hope that will resolve the issue to the satisfaction of all the homeowners.

The state already has carved out a special exception for at least one business, a Fort Mill gas station that has operated for years under South Carolina rules, selling beer, fireworks and gasoline that is cheaper than gas sold across the state line in North Carolina. Although that business’s property line now will be in North Carolina, in a county where selling fireworks and beer are banned, that business will be grandfathered to allow it to continue its current practices.

“That man would have gone out of business if we hadn’t done that,” said Rep. Wes Hayes, R-Rock Hill, who supports the bill.

While Felder may be protecting the interests of her constituents, we think she also needs to consider the long-term interests of both states. With the probability of significant development along both sides of the state line, a clearly defined border is crucial.

Both states have held numerous hearings at different locations to alert property owners about the possible impact of changes that might result because of the reconstructed border. Only 148 residences and four businesses ended up in the disputed areas, and none of them would have to pay back taxes because of their adjusted status.

Both states have been involved in this cooperative effort for two decades without resorting to legal battles over where the border should be. That, in itself, is a remarkable accomplishment.

While Felder’s constituents deserve to know how any changes will affect them, we hope she won’t jeopardize final approval of this bill. Without a clear state line, boundary disputes can only multiply as development increases in the future.

After more than 240 years of uncertainly, it’s time to draw the line.

Online:

http://www.heraldonline.com

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