- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:

March 23

The Greenville News on passing “Emma’s Law”:

If South Carolina had a law that requires ignition interlocks on vehicles owned by first-time drunken driving offenders, a little girl named Emma Longstreet could still be alive.

Longstreet, 6, was killed on her way to church on the morning of New Year’s Day 2012 when 28-year-old Billy Patrick Hutto Jr. was driving with a blood-alcohol content of 0.208 and caused a three-vehicle wreck. Longstreet’s father was injured in the accident.

Hutto had a prior drunken driving conviction. Less than three years before this crash he pleaded guilty to drunken driving.

Longstreet’s family is advocating for a state law - called Emma’s Law - that would require any first-time drunken driving offender to have an ignition interlock installed on any cars he or she owns. If passed, South Carolina would join 21 states that require at least some first-offense drunken drivers to use ignition interlock systems.

About 15 of those states require all first offenders to have the interlock devices; the rest require an interlock if the offenders blood-alcohol content passes a certain threshold, generally around 0.15 percent.

It is in the latter category that South Carolina’s law would fall. A subcommittee last week weakened the threshold to 0.15 percent from 0.12 percent.

The proposal is a step forward. However, there certainly is room - and plenty of emotional incentive - to strip away the threshold completely and simply mandate the device for all first-time offenders as the 15 toughest state laws do.

Opponents say the law would be ineffective; some have questions about how reliable the devices are. Certainly they are more effective than not having them in place. And if having an ignition interlock in place can help to train a potentially habitual drunken driver to call a cab or ride home with a sober friend, then they are serving their purpose.

This law is not draconian by any means. It would make it more difficult for a driver who already has been caught driving under the influence of alcohol to get behind the wheel of another car and cause the sort of pain that the Longstreet family and countless others in this state have had to endure because of someone else’s irresponsibility.




March 23

Herald-Journal of Spartanburg on state suit against the U.S. Department of Energy:

Gov. Nikki Haley and state Attorney General Alan Wilson announced last week they are suing the U.S. Department of Energy for the Obama administration’s decision to cancel a planned plant at the Savannah River Site.

The legal merits of the state’s case will be determined in the courts, but logic and sound government are on the state’s side. The administration’s entire nuclear waste policy, including the decision on this plant, is unjustifiable. It puts partisan politics ahead of the health and safety of South Carolinians.

More than a decade ago, the federal government started decommissioning nuclear warheads and consolidating its surplus plutonium. It sent this highly dangerous material to the Savannah River Site near Aiken.

The site was not designed for the purpose of long-term storage of this material, and it is located in an extremely sensitive environment.

Federal officials promised the material wouldn’t stay in South Carolina long. The federal government had two plans to get rid of the plutonium. Part of it would be sealed in glass logs and buried at a high-level nuclear waste storage facility in Yucca Mountain, Nev.

U.S. taxpayers have spent billions designing and building the facility at Yucca Mountain. It is ideally located for this purpose and is guaranteed by the Department of Energy to hold the material securely for 10,000 years. But that’s not good enough for the Obama administration, which wishes to placate Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. So the administration has pulled the plug on using Yucca Mountain.

Although billions have already been spent on design and construction, billions more are necessary, and the president’s proposed budget puts the plant on indefinite hold, meaning it won’t be built.

The bottom line is that he is happy leaving this dangerous material in South Carolina in an environmentally sensitive area in a facility that is inadequate for the purpose.




March 25

The Times and Democrat of Orangeburg on selection of Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell as the new president of The College of Charleston:

The faculty wanted a candidate with experience as a college president. The NAACP and some students made clear they did not want a person connected with controversy surrounding Confederate issues.

The College of Charleston board made a logical decision Saturday in looking beyond both positions and selecting Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell as the institution’s new president.

As the trustees’ unanimous choice, McConnell brings major assets, not the least of which is a lot of influence in state government overall and the Legislature in particular.

Greg Padgett, chairman of the college board of trustees, said the board considered all the feedback about all the candidates, including the other finalists, retired Harvard University professor Jody Encarnation, also a College of Charleston alumnus, and former University of Southern Mississippi president Martha Saunders.

The Associated Press reported that Padgett was asked during a Saturday news conference whether the board weighed campus concerns about McConnell’s Southern heritage activities.

“Our different campus constituencies are never going to agree on who should be the top choice for the presidency and it’s the job of our board to make the tough choices between the candidates and I’m confident we have made a careful and thoughtful choice,” he said.

Padgett added that what tipped the scales in favor of McConnell was “he has decades of experience as a state leader.”

McConnell does not have experience as a university president and he is not an academic, but he is a solid choice as a transformational leader trustees wanted as College of Charleston president.


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