- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:


March 2

The Greenville News on South Carolina’s role in the national political discourse:

South Carolina’s moment in the sun is over. It has been a remarkable several weeks that further solidified this state’s ranking as one of the most important political states in the nation when it comes to presidential politics.

Though at times the tenor of the campaign took on the aura of a circus, South Carolinians should not take lightly the honor bestowed on them by hosting First in the South primaries for both the Democratic and Republican parties.

The media attention is a nice benefit. Who doesn’t like hearing our state’s name, in a generally positive light, peppering the national news?

But the chief benefit of our being the national political epicenter for the month of February is that this state’s residents get an extended chance to thoroughly vet the candidates. That is ever more important given that South Carolina, a Republican stronghold in the general election, may well not see another candidate before November.

We saw the good and the bad in this campaign. The Peace Center in downtown Greenville was home to one of the high points and low points with the CBS News Republican debate held on Feb. 13. The pageantry of having all the candidates in our town for a nationally televised event was something to behold. Meantime, the debate inside quickly devolved into a shouting match, something of a trend at the Republican debates.

Another low point that deserves to be mentioned: A black professor from Clemson University and a black Ph.D. candidate who were peacefully protesting at a Donald Trump rally were escorted out by law enforcement with little explanation from the campaign.

As ugly as the politicking was at times, though, we should be thankful as a state for the opportunity we had over the first two months of the year. Candidates crisscrossed our state, residents had opportunities to shake hands with the individual who will be the next president of the United States, and all of us had a chance to form opinions about the field. Many states our size do not get such an extended chance as we had to meet and vet political candidates and see the often messy political process up close.

There also were significant economic benefits of candidates and surrogates spending extended time here along with the media entourage that follows them. These all are good things for South Carolina, though no doubt many of us now are breathing a long sigh of relief and saying something like, I’m glad that’s over.

In the end, voters had the final say. South Carolina Republicans gave Donald Trump what was perhaps a very important win in his march to the GOP nomination - and made a smaller statement by propelling Sen. Marco Rubio to a somewhat surprising No. 2 finish. South Carolinians also played a decisive role in narrowing the GOP field when Jeb Bush dropped out after the primary. Bush had actually been leading the Republican field throughout much of last summer. Hillary Clinton made a stunning statement and all but secured the Democratic nomination with a nearly 50-point margin of victory over Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Now, Democrats and Republicans can only watch to see if South Carolina continues to be a bellwether state. And brace ourselves for a summer and autumn of more arm’s-length presidential campaigning.




Feb. 28

The Post and Courier of Charleston on drilling for oil and natural gas off the shore of South Carolina:

Tourism is booming in South Carolina with a third record-breaking year demonstrating its continued strength as one of the state’s leading industries. Though centered along the coastal region, tourism has statewide economic benefits.

One in 10 South Carolinians is employed by the tourism industry, and the overall economic impact was $19.1 billion in 2014, the most recent year for which figures are available.

Those figures, from Duane Parrish, director of the state’s Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department, represent a 5.5 percent increase over the previous year.

“It enhances our quality of life,” Mr. Parrish said during a recent meeting of tourism officials in Charleston. “And it has a tremendous impact on the rest of our state’s economy.”

Of course, the health of tourism is closely related to the health of the state’s beaches and other public, coastal resources. So why do state officials, including Gov. Nikki Haley continue to push for offshore drilling for oil and natural gas, that could jeopardize the health of the state’s tourism industry?

So far, there’s been no good answer to that question.

Certainly, elected officials in towns from North Myrtle Beach to Hilton Head oppose offshore drilling, which would pose a continual threat of pollution to the state’s beaches. Twenty-two elected municipal and county boards have opposed the Obama administration’s plan to open up the Atlantic coast to drilling.

So have the state’s three House members who represent coastal districts: 1st District Rep. Mark Sanford, R-Charleston, 6th District Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-Columbia, and 7th District Rep. Tom Rice, R-Myrtle Beach.

Given the opposition of coastal officials, it seems remarkable that the governor and the remainder of the congressional delegation continue to support such an ill-considered plan, having limited benefits to South Carolina.

And it is a plan with substantial risks.

There’s the hazard of a major spill, as was experienced in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 with the BP blowout that fouled beaches in five states. But there is also the pollution from the day-to-day operation of oil rigs, caused by leakage and spills.

That, too, fouls beaches and damages habitat.

But more than drilling endangers the habitat for marine life offshore. Ocean testing for the possible presence of oil and natural gas requires the repeated use of loud blasts from seismic air guns, which especially threaten the well-being of endangered whales and other marine mammals.

Regarding the latest tourism data, Mr. Parrish said: “It’s striking that economic indicators for tourism … are up across the board, showing significant levels of growth over previous years. The recent performance of our industry is unprecedented in South Carolina’s history and points to an exciting future.”

That future will be clouded if federal officials permit drilling off South Carolina’s coast.

The state’s leaders should recognize the risk and oppose as one the administration’s plan to lift the moratorium.

With a decision from federal officials expected in mid-March, it’s past time for Gov. Haley to reject this ill-advised change in federal policy.




Feb. 27

The Augusta Chronicle (Georgia) on concealed-carry reciprocity between Georgia and South Carolina:

We were enjoying lunch at a North Augusta, S.C., restaurant recently when a potentially violent incident nearly broke out.

We overheard a man telling his lady friend, odd as it sounds, that he should probably beat up another man seated nearby. “Why?” she asked him. Because of the company name on the man’s shirt, he told her. It was the name of a well-known national corporation.

The man spoiling for a fight was either mentally ill or perhaps had an unforgettable customer service problem with the company.

At any rate, luckily the completely innocent object of the man’s scorn appeared not to have heard the threat, and eventually the belligerent customer and his lady friend left.

But for a few tense moments, we realized we could’ve been caught in the middle of a brawl.

Feeling a sense of obligation to step in and protect the unwary patron against his would-be attacker, we briefly wondered if being armed would’ve been a good idea.

We don’t know, even in retrospect. But it would’ve been nice to even have had the option.

As Georgia residents, however, we didn’t. For some reason which makes absolutely no sense in the middle of a violent confrontation, Georgia concealed-weapon carriers are not allowed to pack in neighboring South Carolina, and vice versa.

It’s called “reciprocity.” States have it with some states, and not with others.

We find that goofy to begin with; we carry our First Amendment rights across state lines - why shouldn’t we be allowed to take our Second Amendment rights too? It is, after all, a federal constitutional right.

But reciprocity is even nuttier in its implementation: We know of a man with a South Carolina concealed-carry permit who applied for an additional permit in New Hampshire last year - because the New England state is reciprocal with Georgia, while South Carolina is not.

So, as a matter of convenience, to carry in Georgia he went knocking on New Hampshire’s regulatory door.

That’s the state of gun laws in 2016 America. And it’s just beyond absurd.

In fact, North Augusta state Rep. Bill Hixon reports that it’s the top issue his constituents bring up to him.

Moreover, as Rep. Bill Taylor, R-Aiken, notes, the ludicrous laws make lawbreakers out of otherwise law-abiding citizens who have cause to cross state lines for business or pleasure and who may forget to accommodate the other state’s law.

It’s time to stop this insane patchwork of concealed-carry laws - if not nationally, then locally.

Rep. Hixon introduced a law last year making South Carolina reciprocal with both Georgia and North Carolina. It passed the House easily, 101-5, but got bogged down in the state Senate.

Earlier this month, Hixon asked South Carolinians who border either state to contact their sheriffs and urge them not to block reciprocity. The state Sheriff’s Association has opposed it - even though both South Carolina and Georgia are already reciprocal with most of the other states in the country.

It’s as if the two states were isolating each other for an embargo.

Also muddying the water is a competing proposal in South Carolina that would eliminate gun permits altogether. That admittedly dicier prospect should make Hixon’s more modest proposal for mere reciprocity with Georgia and North Carolina more palatable.

We got off easily in our North Augusta near-encounter. But in Columbus, Ohio, recently, a machete-wielding man entered a deli and hacked four people, before being chased out by a bat-wielding employee and a customer throwing chairs.

Surely in a similar circumstance we would want more of a defense than that. We should at least have a right to it.

No matter where we live or choose to eat lunch.



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