A “voluminous” report by the S.C. Law Enforcement Division about Republican House Speaker Bobby Harrell of Charleston is in the hands of GOP Attorney General Alan Wilson, an AG spokesman said today.State police agents have been investigating the Speaker since last winter after a group of activists urged Wilson to look into Harrell's campaign spending and whether he abused his power. S.C. Policy Council president Ashley Landess outlined a list of ways in which she believed Harrell might be violating the state's ethics laws and delivered it to Wilson. Widespread attention to Harrell came after the Post & Courier ran a series of stories beginning last September that raised questions about how Harrell handled his campaign money. Specifically, Harrell had reimbursed himself hundreds of thousands of dollars from his campaign account with much of the money going to operate a private plane he pilots. Among other issues, Landess also questioned whether it was proper for Harrell to appoint his brother to a state government panel that screens judges in the state. Harrell has said repeatedly he did not violate any laws.
I will enroll in Obamacare’s South Carolina health care exchange and forego the special taxpayer subsidy available to Members of Congress.— Lindsey Graham (@GrahamBlog) December 9, 2013
U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham tweeted this morning that he'll sign up for healthcare under the federally-operated S.C. health insurance exchange.
During a talk on Kiawah Island on Friday, state HHS Director Tony Keck took an alternate viewpoint on the narrowing of medical choice as a result of Obamacare, calling it "ill-advised" for consumers in a subsidized healthcare market to have an expectation that they can get what they want, when they want it. [P&C]
Sunday's Post and Courier published a six-part package looking at recent changes—good and bad—in the Upper King Street area, including a large three-block parcel currently owned by the P&C's parent company, Evening Post Industries. [P&C]
The brother-in-law of Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin was shot and killed in Charlotte Friday afternoon. [WIS-TV]
A 32-year old woman was shot and killed by a stray bullet after a fight broke out at a Goose Creek bar Sunday night. [P&C]
Former S.C. lieutenant governor Andre Bauer tells The State that he wouldn't rule out another run for governor in 2014, dropping hints that a run with a third-party could be possible. [The State]
The always quotable Bauer to The State: "I tell people I got out of politics for health reasons. The voters were sick of me."
Submitted without comment: #12 Clemson will take on #7 Ohio State in the Orange Bowl on January 3 and #8 South Carolina will play #19 Wisconsin in the Capital One Bowl on Jan. 1. [AP, GoGamecocks.com]
Gloria Tinubu says she will run for Congress in the 7th District again in 2014. [The State]
The State reports that activists pushing for stronger ethics laws met with the attorney general's office to discuss state Speaker Bobby Harrell's ethics investigation recently, but few answers came out of it. [The State]
The Charleston County Council says it may reconsider an easement for Legare Farms on Johns Island that had previously been denied over concerns about public money being used on private property. [P&C]
A new federal study shows that despite our best efforts to restore critical wetland ecosystems along the coast, stronger storms and rising sea levels outpace mitigation. [WaPo/AP]
Charleston's proposed city budget for 2014 would provide for the hiring of 10 new police officers, plus full funding for eight officers who started partway through 2013.
Of the 10 new officers, two would be assigned to DUI enforcement and would be entirely paid for from a federal grant administered by state government. Eight would be Community Action Team officers assigned to work in the Neck and upper peninsula area, including the Rosemont, Bridgeview, and Athens Court neighborhoods. Those officers would be largely funded by a Community Oriented Policing Services grant from the U.S. Department of Justice, and the city would have to pitch in $150,000 in the first year. The city's share of the tax burden for those officers would increase in subsequent years, according to city CFO Steve Bedard.
Police Chief Greg Mullen says the Neck area has historically been plagued by violent, property, and drug-related crimes, and that while the rates have gone down in recent years, "we still see some underlying problems in those neighborhoods that more direct attention by officers would help break the cycle."
The police department already has Community Action Teams assigned to the Eastside neighborhood and a swath of West Ashley that includes Ardmore, Ashleyville, and Maryville. "The same officers work there every day, and they're consistently getting to know the people in those areas, looking to solve problems, not just respond to calls for service," Mullen says. "They're very proactive, and they get involved with children's programs and do what they can to prevent crime in these neighborhoods."
In addition to the 10 new officers, eight officers were hired in October specifically to work in the Late-Night Entertainment District, funded by a transfer from the city's hospitality tax to the general fund. 2014 would be the first year in which those officers' salaries are funded for a full year in the city budget, at a cost of $600,000.
While the 2014 budget includes no tax increases, the budget is being raised from $163.5 million to $172.8 million based on a projected increase in revenues. Charleston City Council passed a first reading of its 2014 budget on Dec. 3. A final vote on the budget will come at the Dec. 17 Council meeting.
In other police news, the Department of Justice turned down the Charleston Police Department's application for a $500,000 predictive policing grant that would have helped pay for IBM software that uses historic crime data to predict when and where certain types of crime will occur. Mullen says the department will continue seeking grant money for the predictive policing project.
"One of our underlying goals is to get that in place," Mullen says. "We might not be able to do it as big as what we wanted to initially, but we're going to get it in place next year."
Part of Mullen's plan for 2014 is to set up a real-time operations center in office space that was vacated when police dispatchers moved to Charleston County's consolidated 911 center. He says he hopes to pay for the high-tech center with a combination of grant money and existing city funds.
"We'll bring together all the data for the predictive policing, we'll bring together all the cameras that we have in the city, and then we'll put our analysts there," Mullen says. "So not only will they be able to do strategic analysis, looking at trends and patterns, but they'll also be able to help officers from a tactical level. If we have a bank robbery or a shooting situation, as those officers are responding, the analysts can be pulling information up about possible suspects, putting that out to the officers even as they are responding ... It's just pulling it all together in one place."
Mullen says he hopes to have the space renovated in the first quarter of 2014 and have software installed in the second quarter.
Not to brag, of course, but if it pleases you, do look into this delightful report that shows South Carolina as the most courteous state in the nation. [The State]
Vincent Sheheen takes an incredibly awkward shot of apple pie moonshine at a liquor store in Sea Pines. [Hilton Head Island Packet]
Mount Pleasant's new Boulevard development is kicking open its doors after a decade in the making. [Live 5]
A new state study points to GrowFood Carolina as a signal of the potential of the produce economy in South Carolina. [P&C]
New venture capital firm, Silicon Harbor Ventures has launched to help support the city's growing tech community. [CRBJ]
South Carolina Medicaid officials say they're frustrated by the influx in incomplete enrollment data they're receiving from federal health insurance marketplace processing. [WaPo/AP]
Interstate-526 took its first major step forward in a year when state transportation commissioners approved an updated version of the intergovernmental agreement yesterday after hearing messages of support from Charleston Chamber officials and House Speaker Bobby Harrell. The State Infrastructure Bank still needs to approve the agreement before the project can move forward. [P&C]
The Daily Gamecock scored a scoop yesterday from Richland Sheriff Leon Lott told the student paper that the Bloods, a national gang, had been operating in Five Points, and that they had been playing "knockout" there—a game where gang members supposedly compete trying to knock strangers unconscious. Columbia Chief Ruben Santiago says no such incidents have been reported in the city. [Gamecock, The State]
As a group of about two dozen demonstrators chanted and waved signs reading “America can't survive on $7.25” outside a McDonald's today, a young bro in a baseball cap walked toward them with a rather purposeful gait.“Is this a gay rights thing, or for minimum wage?” he shouted. “If you don't want minimum wage, go to school.” He walked briskly back to his SUV and drove off.