Thursday, February 14, 2019

Lindsey Graham voted to protect Mueller in 2018. Now: "I think we're OK right now."

Lowering the Barr

Posted by Sam Spence on Thu, Feb 14, 2019 at 11:20 AM

Lindsey Graham is all like 'Nah, we're good.' - C-SPAN
  • C-SPAN
  • Lindsey Graham is all like 'Nah, we're good.'
Last year, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham voted to advance a bill that would have protected special counsel Robert Mueller and his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Now, with more power to do just that, and with a new attorney general in the wings, he's in no hurry to take steps to preserve the Mueller investigation.

On Tuesday, Graham told Politico, "If I see a reason to do it I will, but I think we’re OK right now."

Last year, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill to the floor that would protect Mueller from being fired except for cause by a Senate-confirmed panel. Republicans maintain control of the U.S. Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has signaled reluctance to advance protections for Mueller and his investigation. Graham publicly urged McConnell to allow the vote in the lame duck session between the election and the new Congress.

In recent months, Graham has cozied to President Donald Trump, who he called a "race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot" before he was the GOP nominee back in 2015. Graham went on to essentially deliver the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh for Trump in the face of allegations of sexual assault against the judge by getting very very angry and gesticulating wildly in front of the Senate hearing TV cameras.

Former South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Jaime Harrison announced last week that he was taking steps toward challenging Graham in his first re-election bid in the Trump era

Trump has repeatedly criticized the Mueller inquiry as a "witch hunt" and acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker was combative with Senate Democrats last week when questioned about his conversations with Trump about the investigation.

During confirmation hearings last month, William Barr, the nominee put forth to replace Jeff Sessions at DOJ, declined to say whether he'd release the final Mueller report publicly. Graham says he's confident that Barr will "be transparent."

The Republican-controlled committee approved Barr's nomination last month and he will likely be confirmed by the Senate this week.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Age limit for Charleston teens selling palmetto roses could soon be raised to 18

Charleston's "Palmetto Artisan Program" allows kids 9 to 16 to sell the roses downtown

Posted by Adam Manno on Wed, Feb 13, 2019 at 4:40 PM

  • Adam Chandler file photo
Teens aged 17 and 18 will likely be able to legally sell palmetto roses downtown pretty soon, thanks to a proposal from a city committee charged with reviewing the rules after a 16-year-old rose seller was arrested last summer.

On Thursday, Charleston City Council gave first reading to a proposal that would extend the maximum age of children who can participate in the city's "Palmetto Artisan Program" from 16 to 18.

Currently, children as young as 9 can join the training program.

The change stems from recommendations made by a 25-member task force assembled weeks after a 16-year-old palmetto rose seller was arrested following a physical altercation with a Charleston police officer near the City Market in July 2018.

The proposal is one of five that the task force plans to introduce to City Council in the coming month.

"That’s the first step of many things that will be occurring with that particular project," said Ruth Jordan, the city's minority business enterprise director who was also part of the task force.

City Council created the Palmetto Artisan Program in 2007 after complaints from Market vendors about business disruptions and the long hours some children seemed to work. 

Today, kids and teens between the ages of nine and 16 must complete a business course and obtain a parent's consent to legally sell the folded palmetto fronds at one of four official city kiosks, located at Aquarium Wharf, Market Street, the U.S. Custom House, and Waterfront Park.

Jordan says that raising the age limit will allow teens who have been selling roses for a while to continue to develop their entrepreneurial skills until they're either 18 or graduated from high school.

"Part of this age piece is that we know, at age 16, there is no off-ramp for those young people," she said. "I talked to a young man on the street on Monday night and he said, 'I go to West Ashley High, I’m 16,' I said, 'Why aren’t you on the program?' He said, 'I'm 16. I'm aged out.'"

Though the teen could still legally participate in the program, Jordan says the current rules create confusion, which explains why the child thought it better to continue selling the crafts without a permit from the city.

"That has been a miscommunication and a disconnect," she said.

In October, the city quietly replaced street signs that referred to the young sellers as "roaming peddlers." The new signs simply point pedestrians to "authorized kiosk" locations.

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Charleston passes resolution urging S.C. lawmakers to ratify Equal Rights Amendment

37 of the required 38 state legislatures have approved the Constitutional amendment

Posted by Adam Manno on Wed, Feb 13, 2019 at 4:09 PM

A woman holds a sign at the 2018 Charleston Women's March, billed a "Rally for Electoral Justice," at Brittlebank Park on Jan. 20, 2018. - SAM SPENCE FILE PHOTO
  • Sam Spence file photo
  • A woman holds a sign at the 2018 Charleston Women's March, billed a "Rally for Electoral Justice," at Brittlebank Park on Jan. 20, 2018.
On Tuesday night, Charleston City Council unanimously passed a resolution urging South Carolina lawmakers to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, an almost 100-year-old women's equality effort that has yet to be added to the U.S. Constitution.

Written by feminists and suffragettes Alice Paul and Crystal Eastman, the amendment was first introduced to Congress in 1923, according to the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center.

It reads as follows:
Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

Section 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.
The U.S. House and Senate passed the amendment in 1971 and 1972, respectively, but to this date, the document has not received the 38 state ratifications it needs to be added to the Constitution.

Thirty-seven states have approved it so far, meaning that the hard-fought effort only needs one more state, though it has run afoul of multiple deadlines, and five states — Idaho, Kentucky, Nebraska, Tennessee, and South Dakota — have voted to rescind their ratifications.

Illinois was the latest state to ratify the amendment last May.

Two joint resolutions calling for the passage of the ERA, H. 3340 and H. 3391, are currently awaiting consideration in the S.C. General Assembly. They are co-sponsored by Reps. Peter McCoy and Leon Stavrinakis of Charleston, along with Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter of Orangeburg, the principal supporter of the proposal.

"I want to start building a coalition of folks to support this, because it’s all about timing and how you present things in the legislature," McCoy said in a phone interview with the City Paper. "That gives us a serious boost of momentum what the City of Charleston did."

The S.C. House voted to ratify the ERA in 1972 by a vote of 83-0, but it did not pass in the Senate.

Multiple residents stood up to voice their support for Charleston's resolution last night, including Melinda Hamilton, president of Charleston's League of Women Voters.

"This city is an icon in the Deep South, and because the League works closely with the United Nations, this work is always being held up as an example for change for positive in the South," she said, before praising the work of state lawmakers on the ERA. "The league is so proud of the grit, the grace, and the leadership that is being represented by  this bill."

Charleston's resolution urges S.C. lawmakers to ratify the amendment soon:
Now therefore be it resolved by the Mayor and City Council in Council assembled that the City of Charleston encourages and supports the timely passage by the South Carolina Legislature of the Equal Rights Amendment to the United States Constitution, making South Carolina the final state required to ratify the amendment.

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The Agenda: Lawmakers hear from teachers, Nikki Haley returns to her S.C. education nonprofit

An orange gator is just a rusty gator

Posted by Lauren Hurlock on Wed, Feb 13, 2019 at 12:39 PM

  • Creative Commons License - librarygeek
  • S.C. Statehouse
On Tuesday, S.C. lawmakers got an earful from teachers about a bill that aims to be the starting point for education reform. Issues teachers expressed included that they weren't included in the drafting of the bill, it doesn't focus enough on fixing the staffing crisis, and the bill would create another layer of bureaucracy by creating a politically appointed committee. Source: AP

The Original Six Foundation, founded by former S.C. governor Nikki Haley in 2011, announced on Tuesday that she will be returning to the nonprofit. The Original Six Foundation focuses on education in poor rural parts of S.C. She will continue to be based in New York City. Source: P&C

If you see an orange alligator, it probably just woke up from its rust nap. S.C. Department of Natural Resources says the orange color is from the gators hibernating in rusty water, and that they will eventually turn back to their normal color. Source: WYFF

Mayor Tecklenberg campaigned on the promise to slow down the "hotelification" of Charleston and so far has come up empty on the pledge. Among the reasons posited are that he can't get other city council members on board. Source: P&C

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Tuesday, February 12, 2019

No $1,000 refunds, but SCE&G customers should see their bills go down ... by a few cents

Average customers may or may not feel the $0.43 difference

Posted by Adam Manno on Tue, Feb 12, 2019 at 3:46 PM

Construction on the VC Summer nuclear expansion was halted in 2017 after $9 billion were spent. - SCE&G PHOTO
  • SCE&G photo
  • Construction on the VC Summer nuclear expansion was halted in 2017 after $9 billion were spent.
Dominion Energy told S.C. residents that they could get $1,000 if the Virginia utility was allowed to bail out SC&EG after its failed $9 billion nuclear project. Well, now that it owns SCE&G, Dominion says customers won't be seeing those checks, but their bills will be going down ... by about 75 cents.

One Charleston lawmaker, though, is pushing for the utility to make good on that $1,000 pledge.

Starting with this month's billing cycle, the average SCE&G residential customer using 1,000 kilowatt-hours will see his or her monthly bill drop from $125.34 to $124.91, a difference of 43 cents, according to a press release from Dominion Energy on Monday.

Natural gas customers will get an average bill credit of $1.07 for the year, which will be applied to the February bill. Similar credits for 2020 and 2021 will be applied in January.

Citing the Republican tax plan signed by President Donald Trump in 2017, the company says it will also give ratepayers a one-time credit, though that amount has not yet been specified.

The state's Public Service Commission voted to approve the SCANA-Dominion merger in December.

"The new billing levels are part of the recent combination of Dominion Energy with SCANA after a three-week public hearing before the Commission," said Rodney Blevins, president & CEO of the Southeast Energy Group, which oversees SCE&G's parent company, SCANA.

Notably absent from the givebacks is that $1,000 refund check touted in Dominion's media push last year while the company courted S.C. politicians and public support as it sought approval last year.

Dominion first proposed to buy SCANA in January 2018, after the private energy company and its partner, the state-owned utility Santee Cooper, pulled out of a failed project to build two nuclear reactors in Fairfield County after spending $9 billion.

"While this option eliminated the one-time payment of $1,000 for an average residential customer as we originally proposed, it produced a significantly larger decrease to electric bills," Blevins said. "We understand some customers will be disappointed that refund checks are not included in the final approved plan, but we believe customers and South Carolina will benefit from the lower payments."

Come May, Dominion says SCE&G customers can 
  • Jonathan Boncek file photo
  • Rep. Wendell Gilliard

expect other reductions, including:
  • $0.36 a month for a typical residential customer, thanks to a a January filing regarding energy-efficiency resources
  • $0.20 a month for a typical residential customer, thanks to a February fuel cost adjustment proposal filed with the Commission.
Dominion Energy will hold a public meeting about the new rates on Mon. Feb. 25 at The Schoolhouse, 720 Magnolia Road, in West Ashley.

"This will be a time for ratepayers to hear firsthand information and how it will affect them especially
with regard to electric rates and billing," said state Rep.
Wendell Gilliard in a statement.

Last month, Gilliard introduced a resolution urging Dominion to stick to its promise of $1,000 refund checks.

The resolution reads:
Be it resolved by the House of Representatives:

That the members of the House of Representatives, by this resolution, express the belief that Dominion Energy, Inc., now that its purchase of the SCANA corporation has been approved, should honor its first representations to ratepayers and pay them the average one thousand dollar refund of charges paid by them in regard to the construction of the now abandoned nuclear reactors at Jenkinsville, South Carolina, and to also express the belief of the members of the House of Representatives that if Dominion fails to honor in good faith this obligation, the South Carolina Public Service Commission, as part of future rate proceedings, should require Dominion to do so. 

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