- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:


Aug. 19

Post and Courier, Charleston, South Carolina, on providing foster care to children:

Imagine that every student at James Island Charter High School were in need of a foster family. They still would require fewer families than the state needs to serve the 1,400 children who are yet to be placed.

But beefing up the foster family rolls is time-consuming and requires additional money.

The state Senate’s DSS Oversight Subcommittee, which quizzed Department of Social Services Director Susan Alford on the subject Monday, should convey to their colleagues how important it is to care for the state’s most vulnerable citizens.

Children and babies who are in the care of DSS have already experienced trouble. With the shortage of foster families, DSS is hard pressed to fill their needs quickly and efficiently, so the children’s troubles multiply. They are sometimes temporarily placed in hotels and county offices, adding one more confusing and unhappy stop for children.

Or they are placed in group homes. A Post and Courier investigative report found that nearly a quarter of the children under 13 years of age who entered the foster care system in 2013 were placed in institutions. That is by far the highest placement rate for this age group in the country.

The report also revealed a high number of reports of suspected abuse.

Ms. Alford has begun to address the foster home shortage by shortening the time would-be foster families wait to be approved. It now takes up to nine months.

She expects to shorten that to about four months. That would help.

She also wants to place more children with their family members or friends, but doing that will take increased funding to ensure that those families are adequately supported.

As for group homes, Ms. Alford is working toward giving them grades that the public could see so that they would be able to make wise choices for their children.

At present, DSS reports publicly the number of suspected abuse cases but does not release information about whether the charges stuck or were determined to be unfounded.

The public has a need to know the quality of care children are getting at group homes and institutions.

And the children in the custody of the state have a right to a safe, supportive home.




Aug. 15

Aiken (South Carolina) Standard, on Yucca Mountain repository site and keeping South Carolina as permanent storage facility:

It’s long been known that the Yucca Mountain repository site was shuttered largely for political reasons. Even more credence was given to this reality after the recent release of a draft study by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission indicated the site in Nevada would yield “only a negligible increase” in health risk.

The nuclear safety agency is also planning public hearings in Washington, D.C., and Nevada in September related to the report. A supplement to an earlier Department of Energy study, the report has triggered another scuffle between Yucca supporters and opponents.

The Nevada repository has already been deemed to meet the requirements of federal regulators even after the project was essentially closed by President Barack Obama and his administration for so-called safety reasons.

This should only legitimize calls among some members of Congress, including in South Carolina, to revitalize the Yucca Mountain project, which was designated as the most suitable location for high-level radioactive liquid waste and spent fuel.

It’s hard to argue the administration’s choice to shutter Yucca Mountain in 2010 was anything but political.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who has announced he will not seek re-election in 2016, has tried to shoot down talk about reviving Yucca, noting that “as long as I’m around, there’s no Yucca Mountain.” Reid has already criticized similar reports related to the project as “useless” and a “waste of millions dollars.”

The move to close Yucca was a complete power play by Obama, especially since many tied it to Reid and concerns over wanting to carry the state of Nevada for the Democratic Party in the presidential election.

Trying to block Yucca Mountain is a case of Nevada residents having a “not in my backyard” mentality. The same certainly rings at least somewhat true of South Carolina residents and the state’s resistance to storing waste.

However, keeping South Carolina as a permanent storage facility represents a broken promise from the federal government. Yucca Mountain has been studied and examined for decades, and regulators have said it’s a legitimate site for the future. About 70 reactor sites around the country, including at Savannah River, have been accumulating waste while Yucca Mountain has been stalled.

South Carolina policy makers and others in Washington, D.C., should continue to beat the drum to make sure Yucca Mountain is revived as the long-term solution, and ensure Savannah River Site and South Carolina doesn’t become the perpetual dumping ground for nuclear waste.




Aug. 12

Rock Hill (South Carolina) Herald on state challenging gay marriage ruling:

The decision by Gov. Nikki Haley and S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson to launch a futile challenge to a federal appeals court ruling on gay marriage turned out to be costly for state taxpayers. And that came as no surprise to the many legal experts who had advised against the challenge.

A little over a year ago, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the ban on gay marriage in Virginia was unconstitutional. Both South Carolina and North Carolina, as well as West Virginia and Maryland, also are in the 4th District, so that ruling applied to those states, too.

Soon after the ruling, four of those states announced they would stop defending challenges to the state’s gay-marriage ban. But Haley and Wilson took the opposite tack, pledging to fight on for South Carolina’s ban.

A variety of legal experts said at the time that continuing the fight would be a waste of the state’s time and money. They said the effort was doomed to fail, and they were right.

In October the U.S. Supreme Court allowed the 4th Circuit ruling to stand. Then, in late June, the Supreme Court issued its 5-4 ruling that made same-sex marriage legal nationwide.

And last week the bill came due for South Carolina. A federal judge ordered Wilson to pay $130,600 in legal fees for a couple who challenged the state’s gay-marriage ban. Judge Richard Gergel also awarded them the full $4,700 they sought in other court costs and fees.

The bill covers 390 hours of work by seven attorneys on behalf of the couple. The seven attorneys’ hourly rates ranged from $175 to $400.

This, of course, does not account for the time and money Wilson and his office spent on the challenge - resources that could have been used for something worthwhile.

Some might say that $131,700 is a drop in the bucket in a $25 billion state budget. But it could have paid the yearly salary of a state employee or two.

What is more irksome is that the state’s case was hopeless from the start. Wilson was under no obligation to carry the challenge forward. He could have dropped it, as his North Carolina counterpart, Attorney General Roy Cooper, did.

By all appearances, the appeal was little more than an effort to appease opponents of gay marriage in the state. It was a political decision, not a practical one, and taxpayers had to pay for the charade.

It also demonstrated that both Wilson and Haley were determined to swim against the tide of changing public opinion. While their no-surrender stance might have resonated with a segment of voters, it was an unnecessary and expensive gesture.

For politicians who claim to be careful stewards of the state’s resources, this was money down the drain.



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