- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:


Dec. 2

The Post and Courier of Charleston on Duke Energy:

Bravo to Duke Energy for deciding to abandon plans to build a 45-mile power transmission line across the mountains of South Carolina and North Carolina. The power company clearly heard the many residents and environmentalists who objected to the intrusive project.

Electric power providers who have met with strong objections over plans for a transmission line across the Santee Delta should take note.

The Duke compromise required coming up with another way to replace an old coal-fired plant in Asheville. The new plan will require at least two gas fired plants to be constructed so that the transmission line won’t be needed along the scenic route.

Duke also plans to build a solar power facility in conjunction with the new gas plants. While environmentalists praised that decision, as well as the abandonment of the power line plan, they urged the energy company to do more with renewable power.

The objections to a power line marring the landscape near the mountain town of Campobello are much the same as those that residents in coastal McClellanville have expressed.

Many who live in and around the fishing village in northern Charleston County would rather rely on existing, less dependable electrical service than to see a massive power line built across the Delta. The transmission towers would rise 70-100 feet above the ground.

Altogether, six proposals were presented to the public last year. None was considered acceptable. Indeed, all were strongly opposed.

To its credit, Central Electric Power Cooperative, which would build the 20-mile transmission line for Berkeley Electric Co-op, has listened to the critics of the proposed power line, and continues to examine alternative solutions.

The Duke Energy solution in western South Carolina should further encourage those efforts on behalf of the coast.

The Coastal Conservation League has recommended that Berkeley Co-op avoid the transmission line altogether by providing solar power, while additionally improving the existing system so there would be a dependable level of redundancy in case of a serious outage.

SCE&G; has offered to improve its existing power distribution service coming from the south to Awendaw and McClellanville as an option to the Santee Delta line. So far, however, it hasn’t been accepted as a viable alternative.

Duke Power’s decision to include solar power in its new plant suggests that such a system might be applied to serve the comparatively sparsely populated area of northern Charleston County.

The idea is worth exploring, both for the coastal region, and as a prototype for the state.




Nov. 30

The Sun News of Myrtle Beach on animal shelter regulations:

Licensing and regulation of animal shelters, including controversial restrictions on mobile veterinary services, are features of a S.C. Senate bill scheduled for a committee hearing Tuesday in Columbia.

S 687 was approved in October by a subcommittee and advanced to the Senate Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee. S 687 requires that animal shelters, typically nonprofit operations, will be supervised and regulated by the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation. Shelters will be required to keep medical records for animals in their care and to “document the number of animals admitted and the method by which they exit the facility.”

Prescription drugs must be “properly labeled and prescribed by a licensed veterinarian.” Sen. Greg Hembree of Little River says this part of S 687 addresses situations where pet owners are handed pills in unlabeled plastic bags. Hembree is a member of the agriculture committee and the subcommittee that held hearings and heard testimony in five locations. Senators Kent Williams of Marion County and Ronnie Sabb of Williamsburg County, whose districts include portions of Horry County, are also on the Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee.

Limiting mobile veterinary services appears to be the most controversial aspect of S 687. “There’s consternation about that,” Hembree says. Mobile veterinary services for pets may not be “within two miles of the nearest privately owned veterinarian practice” in less urban areas and one mile in more urban areas. Earlier versions of the bill had a seven-mile restriction and “that was excessive,” Hembree says.

The distance requirements are of concern to some representatives of animal shelters. Kim Kelly, S.C. director of the Humane Society of the United States, said in an email: “The legislators purportedly tried to reach a compromise by scaling back the distance requirements for mobile clinics, but really, any restriction is undesirable and maintains the anti-competition concerns.”

Animal shelters include state, county and municipal facilities for seized, stray or abandoned cats, dogs and other animals, veterinary hospitals or clinics also operating as pounds, and facilities of humane societies, animal welfare societies or other nonprofits. Hembree, who attended the subcommittee hearings, says there is “not much pushback” on the aspects of legislation requiring “basic, very standard” records.

Shelters may continue to provide veterinary services such as sterilization, microchip implantation, vaccinations and medical services. However, S 687 limits shelters’ veterinary services only to low-income pet owners, who provide “written documentation of low-income status.” Shelters “can’t provide full service vet care to everybody,” Hembree says.

Shelters and private veterinary practices “both have a critical function in taking care of animals, that can’t take care of themselves.” From the subcommittee’s perspective, the purpose of the legislation is “to avoid problems with shelters being in unfair competition with private veterinary practices (and) to keep both entities healthy.”

The 2014 hearings illustrated that “shelters are very different depending on the area of South Carolina,” Hembree says. Shelters typically have some economic advantages in being nonprofit operations, perhaps with volunteer workers and in a municipal building.

Developing for two sessions, S 687 “is farther down the tracks” than other animal welfare legislation pending in the General Assembly. The bill, as amended, is a balanced approach and the Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee should advance S 687 to the Senate calendar for 2016.




Nov. 29

The Herald-Journal of Spartanburg on South Carolina lawmakers’ approach to police officers:

Police should be trained not to shoot into moving cars, but the state shouldn’t pass a law tying the hands of law enforcement officers.

Upstate residents have seen plenty of this type of shooting recently.

Delvin Tyrell Simmons, 20, was killed by a campus police officer at Spartanburg Methodist College who was responding to a report of vehicle break-ins. The officer said Simmons tried to run over him with his car. There is no video of the shooting.

There is video of Seneca Police Lt. Mark Tiller shooting and killing Zachary Hammond, 19, in a Hardee’s parking lot. Tiller also claimed that he feared for his life because Hammond was trying to hit him with his car. Although the circuit solicitor has refused to prosecute Tiller, two lawmakers - one Republican and one Democrat - have asked the attorney general to revisit the case.

Last year, a Duncan police officer killed Rebecca Lynn Oliver, 24, when she got behind the wheel of his patrol car. The officer said she was trying to hit him with the car. Her family was awarded $700,000 in a civil suit.

In 2012, Lacey Denise Lamb, 28, was a passenger in a car that was stopped by a Woodruff police officer. The officer shot and killed her, saying she took control of the car and tried to run him over. Her family also was awarded $700,000.

There are similar incidents across the state. An investigation by the Post and Courier of Charleston found that one in four officer-involved shootings in South Carolina consist of a police officer shooting into a moving vehicle.

Lawmakers have proposed strengthening the laws regarding use of excessive force and even outlawing police shooting into moving vehicles.

That’s not the best course.

Many law enforcement agencies already have policies against shooting at moving vehicles. The Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office’s policy prohibits it “except when all other means have been exhausted and it is necessary for the defense of the deputy’s life” or to protect others.

Sheriff Chuck Wright is correct when he says: “Every situation is different. Decisions are made on split seconds.”

We have a framework of laws that allow officers to shoot to protect their own lives and the lives of others and prohibit them from shooting without such provocation. Fine-tuning those laws is unlikely to change the number of officer-involved shootings. Instead, we risk creating an overly complex system that restricts police and complicates their decision-making.

South Carolina would do better to invest its efforts into better police training. Make sure officers know what to do when someone tries to escape in a vehicle. Run them through several such scenarios in training. Drill into recruits that it is always best to step out of the way of a moving vehicle than to shoot.

Officials with the state Criminal Justice Academy say officers are trained to take cover rather than shoot at a vehicle. The state should ensure that this training is effective and adequate.

South Carolina law enforcement officers have a difficult and dangerous job. They are required to make instantaneous decisions that affect themselves and others for life. Lawmakers should focus on giving them the training necessary to better equip them for their jobs, not burdening them with complex new laws.



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