- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:

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June 11

The Sun News of Myrtle Beach on moped regulations:

In the waning session of the S.C. General Assembly, legislators approved and sent to the governor non-controversial, comprehensive moped reform and also overrode Gov. Nikki Haley’s veto of legislation allowing Myrtle Beach to extend for another ten years a one-cent sales tax. The added penny raises millions of dollars for marketing tourism, real estate tax credits for city residents and capital improvements.

While there is widespread agreement on the need to regulate the pesky mopeds - for years completely unregulated and outside the traffic laws governing other vehicles - many have objected to extending the sales tax without voters having a say via referendum.

Throughout South Carolina, mopeds have frustrated law enforcement officers as well as all who drive S.C. roads. It’s difficult to imagine motorists who have not experienced moped mutterings as they are delayed by the slow-moving two-wheelers bearing only a MOPED label where motorcycles, for example, display a state license tag.

Sen. Greg Hembree of Little River, the former solicitor for Georgetown and Horry counties, has worked on moped regulation for the four years he has served as a state senator representing Horry and Dillon counties. One of the concerns is traffic officers’ inability to cite (write tickets) inebriated moped operators. Because mopeds are not covered by the traffic code, DUI violations don’t apply.

The need for reform was recognized in both the House and Senate. Hembree says the bill sent to the governor will subject “mopeds to the same traffic regulations as vehicles and motorcycles.” Mopeds must be registered and licensed and operators must be licensed and at least 15 years of age. The two-wheelers would be restricted to “roads with a speed limit of 55 miles per hour or less.”

Online: https://www.myrtlebeachonline.com/

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June 13

The Times and Democrat of Orangeburg on legislation for road improvements:

Gov. Nikki Haley’s reluctance to sign legislation that will fund road improvements in South Carolina is understandable in light of her stated priorities. But she made the right call in pushing ahead with the plan sent to her by the Legislature.

Haley did not get what she wanted as the state’s chief executive: control of the S.C. Department of Transportation. She contends the DOT reforms by the General Assembly fall far short of what is needed to ensure accountability.

The governor is politically savvy. She is aware South Carolinians were going to blame her as much as lawmakers if another legislative session passed with a continuing stalemate on roads.

So the plan for an immediate infusion of money for road and bridge improvements will move forward.

The bill allows for $2.2 billion in borrowing over 10 years for infrastructure. Funding will come from $200 million annually in existing fees and vehicle sales taxes. Coupled with other money from the DOT, the total package for road and bridge repairs is $4 billion.

In a letter to legislators, Haley said: “To claim this law as anything close to a victory, to represent it in any way as a true solution to our infrastructure problems” would be deceiving the public.

For their part, lawmakers have acknowledged the legislation is not a permanent fix, but finding one that is satisfactory to the governor is going to require compromise on the part of the chief executive as well as the Legislature.

The key issues are Haley and her allies’ unwillingness to go along with an increase in the state’s gasoline tax and their insistence on further DOT reform.

Painting the Legislature as the “bad guy” in this is not fair.

Lawmakers signaled a willingness to go along with an increase in the state’s lowest-in-the-nation gas tax, with the money to be an ongoing source of funds for road and bridge repair. But even the prospect of having out-of-state travelers pay a share of the tab - in effect a user fee - was not enough to convince opponents.

Those foes used to their advantage the governor’s insistence on no gas tax increase without a corresponding reduction in state income taxes. Coupled with Haley’s insistence on DOT control, the opponents had all the ammunition needed to tie up any plan that could be considered a permanent solution for roads.

In making changes in DOT governance, lawmakers maintained legislative controls that Haley does not want for her or future governors. But disbanding the commission that governs DOT and handing full control to the governor is a major shift in power - one that does not ensure better operation of DOT.

To argue that putting the power in the hands of the chief executive ensures political influence will be removed from DOT and its priorities and operations is being naïve. What the change would do is consolidate more power permanently in the executive branch.

For now, South Carolina gets new money for repairing roads and bridges. That was the top priority - one that the governor and legislators wisely decided not to delay any further.

Left for resolution and as priorities in 2017 are a recurring source of funding for roads and bridges and how the agency using those funds will be controlled and operated.

Online: https://thetandd.com/

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June 15

The Greenwood Index-Journal on Tuesday’s primary elections:

Well, you did it. Or did you?

If you did, then great. Congratulations. If you did not, then shame on you.

We are referencing Tuesday’s primary elections, extending congratulations to those who participated. Of course, congratulations are not really necessary; after all, voting is not the same as winning a prize in a drawing, it’s not the same as getting married, having a baby or graduating from high school or college.

No, voting is a privilege we are given thanks to the democracy and the Constitution that provide our very foundation. We have beaten this drum often, but not necessarily often enough. Check the voter turnout numbers in many elections and you realize the drum beat is lost on far too many people still. People complain about the people elected to office, but then they forfeit their privilege to vote them out of office. Or, in some cases, they support officeholders, but apparently not enough to vote and retain them. It’s puzzling, really.

Our process of electing people to various offices is hardly perfect. That’s a given. And yes, there is graft, there is dishonesty, there are plenty who are elected whose objective migrates from doing the will of and representing the people to simply being re-elected. And the motivation behind that can be - or should be - rather transparent. That there are huge sums of money pouring into candidates’ campaign war chests as a means of buying influence is no surprise, but it is no reason not to exercise the right to vote. Here again is an opportunity to right a wrong, create change, send a message. You might not win the fight, but you cannot wave the flag of surrender before the battle even begins.

We are so fortunate in this country to have our system - again, even flawed as it seems or may be - of choosing our representatives at all levels of government. We should not take this privilege for granted, nor should we forget that voting is far more than a privilege. It is a duty and an obligation we have to ourselves, to each other and to the very foundation of our country.

So if you are among those who voted on Tuesday, well done. You carried out your duty, you exercised your right and privilege to make your voice heard via the balloting process. If you are among those who did not vote, refrain from complaining about anything those in elected office do for you. Or to you. You have no voice because you willingly chose to mute it.

Online: https://www.indexjournal.com/

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