- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:

April 20

Herald-Journal, Spartanburg, S.C., on Gov. Haley and Supreme Court:

The S.C. Supreme Court sent Gov. Nikki Haley a needed reminder last week that she can’t make changes to established state law with a simple swipe of her veto pen.

Last year, as part of her line-item vetoes in the state budget, the governor vetoed the $2 million the state Department of Health and Environmental Control used to fund its Certificate of Need Program.

Hospitals must obtain a certificate of need from DHEC before they can buy expensive new equipment or start offering new treatment programs. The theory behind the program is that it holds down health care costs. If a hospital buys an expensive scanner that is duplicated at another nearby hospital, or if one hospital starts an open-heart surgery center that is already available at another nearby hospital, that duplication will drive up costs as the hospitals seek to recover the costs of the equipment. The Certificate of Need Program gives the state the ability to regulate where equipment and treatment programs go to ensure efficiency.

The governor claims that this government management is less effective than letting free market forces dictate which services are offered at each hospital. As a lawmaker, she fought the Certificate of Need Program when it denied a Lexington County hospital, at which she was employed, a certificate to start a heart surgery center.

If Haley truly thinks the Certificate of Need Program should be abolished, then she needs to convince lawmakers to change the law. She didn’t do that. She simply vetoed the funding for the program, convinced lawmakers to uphold that veto, and declared the program dead. Lawmakers who voted to uphold the veto have since declared that they didn’t think they were killing the Certificate of Need Program.

The veto put hospitals in a terrible situation. State law still required them to get a certificate of need for new programs and expansions, but the funding for the program had been killed, and DHEC wasn’t giving out certificates. Dozens of projects around the Palmetto State, representing about $100 million, were put on hold by this situation.

Several hospitals and a hospital association sued, and the Supreme Court sided with them last week, ruling that the veto killed the $2 million set aside for the program but did not end the Program, which is still required by state law. The justices ruled that DHEC must find another way to fund the program.

The ruling provided a necessary check on runaway power.

As the Supreme Court noted, a simple scratch-out on the budget is not enough.




April 22

The Times and Democrat, Orangeburg, S.C., on Earth Day:

Cities and towns across the country are celebrating Earth Day on Tuesday, April 22.

Earth Day was created in 1970 by U.S. Sen. Gaylord Nelson as a way to force the protection of the environment onto the national agenda. The idea caught on with 20 million Americans demonstrating in cities across the country for a cleaner environment.

Congress subsequently authorized the creation of a new federal agency to tackle environmental issues: the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The EPA notes that “before 1970, a factory could spew black clouds of toxic smoke into the air or dump tons of toxic waste into a nearby stream, and that was perfectly legal. They could not be taken to court to stop it. … there was no EPA, no Clean Air Act, no Clean Water Act. There were no legal or regulatory mechanisms to protect our environment.”

Earth Day remains an important symbol. It is a time when individuals can take direct actions that make a difference for themselves and help protect the planet.

The easiest and most cost-effective way people can reduce energy waste and expense is a home “energy tune-up.” A few steps can help homeowners reduce energy use, lower utility costs - and help preserve the environment.

1. Seal your doors and windows.

2. Service your air conditioner,

3. Install an electronic thermostat,

4. Use energy-efficient light bulbs.

The really nice thing: Protecting the environment and saving money appear to be two sides of the same coin.




April 19

The Herald, Rock Hill, S.C., on reading programs:

S.C. state senators engaged in a laudable bipartisan effort this month to help children learn to read. We hope they follow up with a plan to pay for it.

The bill that passed April 9 by a margin of 36-6 was a good example of compromise to meet a common goal. Senate Republicans have been pushing a reading program, called the Read to Succeed Act, that would hold back third-graders who have not mastered reading for another year of literacy instruction starting in the 2017-18 school year.

School districts would work with a newly created state reading office to develop reading plans. The program also would require teachers to take special training in reading instruction and would establish summer reading camps around the state.

But Democrats in the Senate argued that holding students back a year would be unfair if they are not first given a real shot at becoming successful readers. Democrats proposed expanding the state’s existing 4-year-old kindergarten program to all at-risk students who live in poverty or perform poorly academically.

We think both approaches are noteworthy.

But while the Legislature approved $26 million last year to expand the 4K program to children in the poorest school districts, the Senate legislation doesn’t include automatic spending to pay for either the reading or kindergarten programs. The Senate, however, now is considering its version of the state budget for the next fiscal year and could propose increased money for the 4K program.

Unfortunately, expanding 4K might be difficult in the House. On the same day the Senate was negotiating its bill, the House passed its own version aimed at reforming the way public schools teach reading.

House members also would require third-graders scoring the lowest on reading tests to repeat a year, but the bill did not include an expansion of the 4K program. The House also has approved more than $30 million in new money for reading coaches and $4.5 million for summer camps in the state’s budget starting July 1.

Differences in the House and Senate bills will have to be ironed out if either is to become law. We hope the spirit of compromise prevails during that process.

But neither of these initiatives should be allowed to become another unfunded mandate for local school districts. Every part of these programs - summer reading camps, training teachers, expanding 4K programs - will cost money, and if lawmakers are sincere about teaching more students how to read at an early age, they have to find a way to pay for it.





Click to Read More

Click to Hide