ELECTION GUIDE 2006 ‌ Amendment Voting for Dummies 

Despite a clause to "delete obsolete language" in Amendment 2a, the changes to the state constitution on this year's ballot read like the old-school language of our founding fathers. Rather than leave you to untangle the gub'mints tricky wording while standing behind the curtain, we've translated the Amendments into plain English. With the exception of the first, there is general bipartisan support for all of these. Democrat Aaron Polkey and Republican Lanneau Siegling, vice-chairs of their parties in Charleston County, lent a hand to the deciphering effort. No longer shall we be fooled by word trickery. —Stratton Lawrence

"The Marriage Amendment" or "The Family Discrimination Amendment"

What you'll see on the ballot:

1. Must Article XVII of the Constitution of this State be amended by adding Section 15 so as to provide that in this State and its political subdivisions, a marriage between one man and one woman is the only lawful domestic union that shall be valid or recognized; that this State and its political subdivisions shall not create, recognize, or give effect to a legal status, right, or claim created by another jurisdiction respecting any other domestic union, however denominated; that this amendment shall not impair any right or benefit extended by the State or its political subdivisions other than a right or benefit arising from a domestic union that is not valid or recognized in this State; and that this amendment shall not prohibit or limit the ability of parties other than the State or its political subdivisions from entering into contracts or other legal instruments?

Translation: Proponents of Amendment 1 claim they are "protecting marriage," but this amendment doubly underscores the fact that gay couples are not equal to straight couples in South Carolina, with an asterisk implying that judges may no longer have to recognize common-law marriage. It will make it even more impossible for gay couples to obtain insurance coverage together, not to mention the legal and financial advantages that straight couples receive, including benefits from employers. Furthermore, domestic violence laws and protections will not include same-sex couples. What happened to "equal protection under the law," or President Eisenhower's declaration that "There shall be no second-class citizens?"

The amendment has possible implications for straight people as well. If a deadbeat knocks up his 17-year-old girlfriend, fathers three children, never marries her, and leaves her after seven years together, a judge can legitimately ignore common-law marriage and rule that he doesn't owe child support. The "family discrimination amendment" is a hastily written, self-righteous product of fear, leaving too many loopholes to be legitimate. Religious feelings and the word "marriage" aside, something must really be stuck up our state's conservative ass to have such a problem with allowing gay people civil unions and equal benefits under the law.

Republicans: Want to protect marriage from gay couples.

Democrats: No word. Scared to upset conservatives and gays.

City Paper: We'll vote no. We dig the Golden Rule.


What you'll see on the ballot:

2a. Shall Article III, Section 9 of the Constitution of this State be amended so as to provide that the annual session of the General Assembly shall commence on the second Tuesday in January at the State Capitol Building in the City of Columbia, but that each body shall be authorized by majority vote to recede for a period of time not to exceed 30consecutive calendar days at a time, or by two-thirds vote to recede for a time period of more than 30 consecutive calendar days at a time, and to sit in session at the State Capitol Building in the City of Columbia, and to provide for meetings as each body shall consider appropriate, and to provide for an organizational session for the Senate in those years in which the membership of the Senate is elected and to delete obsolete language relating to earlier sessions of the General Assembly?

Translation: This gives the House and Senate the power to take steps to shorten their sessions. South Carolina's legislature currently meets longer than other states of similar size and budgets. It should encourage efficiency, thus saving money, and allow people who aren't self-employed to pursue civil service by lessening time away from jobs. If they're just sitting around, this allows them to go home and organize. "It has positive ramifications," says Democrat Polkey. "It'll get people out of the Columbia lifestyle. It's not healthy partying and dealing with lobbyists."

Republicans: Yes.

Democrats: No official stance.

City Paper: Go for it, who wants to be stuck in Columbia?


What you'll see on the ballot:

2b. Shall Article III of the Constitution of this State be amended by deleting Section 21 which provides that neither house of the General Assembly shall, without the consent of the other, adjourn for more than three days, nor to any other place than that in which it shall be at the time sitting?

Translation: Or not 2b? This one simply allows 2a to happen by eliminating a provision that requires the House and Senate to vote on whether the other may adjourn. If the House is working on the budget, the Senate will no longer have to wait around for them to get that done. Then when the Senate comes back, the House can go home. There's no opposition to this from either side.

Republicans: Yes. No flip-flopping here.

Democrats: No official stance. "It makes sense to not hold each other captive."

City Paper: Yes. Getting it right the first time is never a bad thing.


What you'll see on the ballot:

3a. Must the first sentence of the fourth paragraph of Section 16, Article X of the Constitution of this State relating to the equity securities investments allowed for funds of the various state-operated retirement systems be amended so as to delete the restrictions limiting investments in equity securities to those of American-based corporations registered on an American national exchange as provided in the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 or any successor act, or quoted through the National Association of Securities Dealers Automatic Quotations System or similar service?

Translation: 3a allows the state to invest its retirement funds in foreign markets. In the free trade 21st century, if public money is to be invested in the stock market, it makes sense to use the most profitable avenue. Currently the state must invest only in American companies, harking back to "Buy American" Reaganesque ideals that even Wal-Mart no longer meets. Although some feel that we shouldn't be investing retirement savings in the stock market at all, incumbent Treasurer Grady Patterson (D) is touting this as a positive move. If we're investing, it makes sense to do so where we'll get the highest likely return.

Republicans: Yes.

Democrats: No official stance.

City Paper: Get rich before they die trying.


What you'll see on the ballot:

3b. Must the second through the seventh sentences of the fourth paragraph of Section 16, Article X of the Constitution of this State relating to the establishment and membership of the State Retirement Systems Investment Panelbe amended by deleting these sentences thereby abolishing this constitutionally established panel?

Translation: No one seems to know what the State Retirement Systems Investment Panel is, or what it does, so why not get rid of it? As an "advisory" panel, it has no real power and is considered a waste of money. It's somewhat baffling to eliminate the investment panel while simultaneously expanding our investments. This amendment must assume that we won't elect an idiot as our Treasurer.

Republicans: Yes.

Democrats: No official stance.

City Paper: Can we wait and see if Thomas Ravenel gets handed a blank check?


What you'll see on the ballot:

4. Must Article III and Article X of the Constitution of this State be amended to authorize the General Assembly to establish the method of valuation for real property based on limits to increases in taxable value, adjusted for improvements and losses, of no more than fifteen percent over a five-year period, unless an assessable transfer of interest occurs; to provide that for purposes of calculating the limit on bonded indebtedness of political subdivisions and school districts, the assessed values of all taxable property within a political subdivision or school district shall not be lower than the assessed values for 2006; and to provide that the General Assembly, by general law and not through local legislation pertaining to a single county or other political subdivision, shall provide for the terms, conditions, and procedures to implement the above provisions?

Translation: If you live on the water, vote yes. This is tax relief for those who own valuable homes, so the Republicans are expectably adamant about pushing it. Under current law, if the value of your home increases 50 percent over five years, you can owe 50 percent more on property taxes. If you intend to sell your home, that tax might make sense, but for those sitting tight, their disposable income has likely not increased with the home's value, and that's a big hit to take. It's only fair that families living in rapidly gentrifying areas not be forced to cough up huge tax bills for the house they've always owned, just because it's suddenly worth more to outsiders. "Poor families have been taxed out of their communities when their property value has risen," says Democratic Vice-Chair Polkey.

Unfortunately, the amendment fails to account for where the difference will come from. Logically, it can only come from those who aren't "capped" – the folks with less valuable homes who are more likely to be in financial straits. "If a house on Kiawah appreciates 45 percent, they pay only 15 percent. If the government continues to operate at current levels of service, it's got to account for that money. The person whose home went up only 5 percent may find their tax goes up 15 percent as well," explains Polkey.

Homeowners of valuable properties have undeniably been overtaxed, and this amendment remedies that, but at the cost of the middle and lower classes. It's a decision each voter must base on their personal situation.

Republicans: Yes. Save the little old ladies and the beach front homes.

Democrats: No official stance.

City Paper: Every man for himself.


What you'll see on the ballot:

5. Must Section 13, Article I of the Constitution of this State be amended so as to provide that except as otherwise provided in the Constitution, private property shall not be condemned by eminent domain for any purpose or benefit, including, but not limited to, the purpose or benefit of economic development, unless the condemnation is for public use; and to further provide that for the limited purpose of the remedy of blight, the General Assembly may provide by law that private property, if it meets certain conditions, may be condemned by eminent domain without the consent of the owner and put to a public use or private use if just compensation is first made for the property; and must Section 17, Article I of the Constitution of this State be amended to delete undesignated paragraphs that give slum clearance and redevelopment power to municipalities and housing or redevelopment authorities in Sumter and Cherokee Counties; and must the Constitution of this State be amended to delete Section 5, Article XIV, which provides slum clearance and redevelopment power over blighted properties to municipalities and housing or redevelopment authorities in Spartanburg, York, Florence, Greenville, Charleston, Richland, and Laurens Counties?

Translation: Eminent domain scares people, and this amendment is a Republican push to support individual property rights by disallowing economic development as a viable reason for the government to seize property. The lengthy text then outlines exceptions to the rule, meaning that "slum clearing" is still okay. There have been positive outcomes of seizing blighted land in Charleston: the S.C. Aquarium, Gaillard Auditorium, and, most notably, Charleston Place. Hopefully this amendment will discourage unjust land seizures, although the real solution is to elect public officials who won't allow them.

Republicans: Yes.

Democrats: No official stance.

City Paper: Stay off my property.


The Road Bond Referendum

QUESTION 1: Shall Charleston County be empowered to issue not exceeding $205,000,000 of general obligation bonds of Charleston County, payable from the 1⁄2-cent special sales and use tax approved by referendum November 2, 2004, the bonds maturing over a period ending no later than 2030, tofund the costs of highways, roads, streets, bridges, and other transportation-related projects facilities, and drainage facilities related thereto, including, but not limited to the following projects: 

Widening and improvements to US Route 17/Johnnie Dodds Boulevard from the Arthur Ravenel, Jr. Bridge to the Interstate I-526 Overpass 

Folly Road (SC 171)/Maybank Highway (SC 700) Intersection Improvements 

James Island Connector (SC 30) Interchange Loop to Folly Road (SC 171) 

Harbor View Road (S-1028) Improvements 

Interstate I-526 Loop Ramp to Glenn McConnell Parkway (SC 61 Spur) 

Bees Ferry Road (s-57) widening from US Route 17 to Ashley River Road (SC 61) 

Folly Road (SC 171)/Camp Road (s-28) Intersection Improvements 

Future Drive extension to Ladson Road and the extension of Northside Drive 

Maybank Highway (SC 700) widening from proposed I-526/Mark Clark interchange to Bohicket Road/Main Road (S-20) 

Roadway Improvements in the Medical University area including Lockwood Drive (S404), Courtenay Drive (S-550), and Bee Street (S-551) with additional improvements at the Courtenay Drive intersections with Calhoun Street (S-404) and Spring Street 

This amendment is the second step in the process of utilizing the half-cent sales tax. We approved the tax, now we have to approve the county's list of prioritized projects. The only problem here lies in our readiness to widen already huge roads. Perhaps we should be thinking about aggressively funding and encouraging alternative methods of getting people around. How about a Highway 17 monorail between the two 526/Highway 17 intersections?

Republicans and Democrats: No official stance. They all say yes though.

City Paper: Traffic sucks.


The Conservation Bond Referendum

QUESTION 2: Shall Charleston County be empowered to issue not exceeding $95,000,000 of general obligation bonds of Charleston County,payable from the 1⁄2-cent special sales and use tax approved by referendum November 2, 2004, the bonds maturing over a period ending no later than 2030, to fund the costs of greenbelts projects?

Hell, anything to help control our cancerous sprawl. Greenbelts are good.

Republicans and Democrats: No official stance. But they'll all vote yes.

City Paper: Of course.


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