South Carolina boasts home of cheap cigarettes

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By Greg Summers

Shampoo rinse, repeat, repeat – Unlicensed salon employees will no longer be required to complete 300 hours of cosmetology training in order to wash hair. Will this result in a reduction in the cost of my wife’s hair care? It can’t hurt.

Status quo strikes another blow – South Carolina upheld its reputation as the “un-reform state” with the beating back of several good government proposals. Succumbing to the forces of darkness and self preservation were bills to restructure state government, enact spending caps and post the spending of local governments online.

The most important of these bills would have granted the governor similar executive powers as governors in the other 49 states. It is wishful thinking to believe there will be any significant progress made in this state as long as it is run by 170 Indians (legislators) instead of one chief (governor).

“Pitchfork” lives – Meanwhile, legislation to remove the statue of former governor and race-baiter

“Pitchfork” Ben Tillman was also defeated. Coincidentally, Tillman’s administration largely influenced the state’s current constitution and system of government. So concerned was he that a black would be elected governor he helped split the executive branch into nine separate branches. This decentralization ensured no one person would have the authority to run the government. That may have worked somewhat in an 18th century agrarian society. However, in the 21st century it’s a disaster. Perhaps we should be more concerned with removing Tillman’s antiquated system of government than his statue.

Mayday payday – Significant restrictions on payday lending failed to pass. Most legislators approve of greater regulation of the industry, but not an outright ban. Expect another round of debate on this issue next session.

Grace period – Parking violators have at least 30 days to pay fines with the passage of S588. This will cut into a cash cow of local government. If one thinks that the rates charged by payday lenders are exorbitant they should check out the triple digit rates charged by cities and utilities for late payment.

Personal fouls – Legislation designed to keep hockey moms from turning into pit bulls became law. Persons who physically abuse sports officials can now be punished by fines up to $1,000 and up to 60 days in jail.

Buzz killer – Habitual offenders of South Carolina’s DUI law will face greater difficulties in avoiding convictions and stiffer penalties under a revision of the law.

Finer from Carolina – Local farmers and fishermen received a boost with passage of H3028, a bill making it an unfair trade practice to represent that food is from South Carolina or South Carolina waters, when it is not. Perhaps an amendment should have been added banning the sale of June peaches. As the saying goes “they are fit only for Yankees and hogs.”

Shoring up the lines – Due to, among other things, drunkenness, politics, Indians, disagreements and rough terrain, South Carolina has an erratic border with North Carolina. Lancaster County’s border is the most extreme example. Anyway, this legislation revises the boundaries by re-establishing the lines that have been negotiated with the Old North State. Mostly, it affects the northwestern part of South Carolina.

Safer cigarettes – All cigarettes sold in South Carolina must now meet certain ignition-restriction tests. In other smoking-related news the tax on cigarettes remains at seven cents per pack, or less than 5 percent of the national average. With regard to regulation, local governments were awarded the authority to regulate smoking in public places by a S.C. Supreme Court ruling. So, in summary, one can still smoke cheaply here, but not in as many places.

Holy Moses – Proponents of displaying the Ten Commandments executed an end-around play on the ACLU with passage of H3159. This bill grants political subdivisions of the state – school boards, city councils, etc. – the right to display certain historical documents including the Ten Commandments. Other documents in the group include the Magna Carta, Bill of Rights and MLK’s “I Have A Dream” speech. By displaying the Ten Commandments with other historical documents it becomes constitutional to do so on public property.

Immigration legislation – The most hotly contested issue of the year was that of illegal immigration. Fueled by talk radio and the unwillingness of Congress to address what is clearly a federal issue, state legislators grabbed this hot potato with both hands. Several received third degree burns via the voters as a result. Briefly, employers will be required in 2009 to verify the legality of new hires by using the E-Verify System or the presentation of a valid S.C. driver’s license or ID. Violations of the law can result in the revocation of a newly created business license given to them by the state.

Lean times – High fuel prices and the economic downturn are having a direct impact on the state’s revenues. Belt tightening is the operative phrase for all agencies for the current fiscal year.

No sooner was the budget back from the printer than it had to be revised downward. Less than forecast revenues led to the tapping of a reserve fund and a 3 percent cut to state agency budgets. With tepid growth in revenue expected for the foreseeable future, further cuts may be necessary.

Due to money being tight there were very few capital projects, or earmarks, in the 2008-09 budget. K-12 education received first priority with the EFA being funded with an additional $94 million. Funds were provided to raise the average salary for teachers to over $47,000. State employees received only a 1 percent raise, but health costs were held constant.

In conclusion – It has been an honor to serve the people of District 16 and South Carolina during the four terms they elected me to the S.C. Senate. Being a S.C. senator is truly the best political job one can have. Like all elected officials I have strengths and weaknesses, successes and failures. My best efforts went toward preserving the natural resources of this beautiful state – our land, waters and the creatures that inhabit them. It is my hope that this is the small legacy I leave.

Thank you for your faith in me and the opportunity to serve as your senator. If I can be of future service, let me know.

Contact information: Sen. Greg Gregory, P.O. Box 1381, Lancaster, SC 29721, (803) 289-6211 or e-mail: sfg@scsenate.org

Notable/Quotable: “Many a man would rather you hear his story than grant his request.”

Lord Chesterfield