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SC High School League “Stiff-Arms” Homeschool Family

October 3rd, 2014 No comments

Bureaucratic Action Defies Common Sense

Whether or not you have a connection to home schooling, this story will make your blood boil.

Let me set it up for you.

It was two years ago that we celebrated the successful passage of the “SC Interscholastic Activities Act.” This new law gave Governor’s School, Charter School and Home School students the right to play for their local public school athletics teams and to participate in school activities like band, chorus, orchestra, ROTC, chess club, etc. South Carolina finally joined 28 or so other states that recognized that Governor’s, Charter, and Home School students were the children of taxpayers and that having such an option for all kids can be good for a community. (Here is the video from the Governor’s bill signing.)

The Interscholastic Activities Act passed the SC General Assembly without a dissenting vote!
How often does that happen?

One of those home school students who has benefited from the new law is a Andrew Mitchell, a young man living in the northern part of Spartanburg County who was able to make the Landrum High School Cardinals basketball team.

But, between this year and last, Andrew’s family moved a few miles away. That put him in the attendance area of Chapman High School. “No problem,” the school district in essence said. “We’ve had public school choice in Spartanburg District One for over 40 years. Parents can choose any school in the district. Just have Andrew continue at Landrum.”

This was great for Andrew’s family, and for the Landrum team, which had become a true sports home for the young man. In fact, everyone connected in any way to Andrew was strongly supportive of his right to stay at Landrum—the coaches, the principals, and the school district superintendent.

Enter the South Carolina High School League (SCHSL).

The SCHSL Executive Director, head of all public school athletics in South Carolina, denied the district’s request. According to his interpretation of League rules and state law, because the student was home schooled, he would not be able to take advantage of the long standing District choice policy. (Even though other non-home schooled students from the Chapman area go to Landrum and we assume vice versa.)

Confused and disappointed, the family appealed the decision of the Executive Director to the full Executive Committee of the SCHSL. There, even with the full support of the school, the school district, the local legislative delegation, and an opinion from Attorney General Alan Wilson, the family lost on a close vote.

A year ago, the SCHSL Executive Committee would have been the end of the line for the Mitchells. But, due to frustration with the ongoing shenanigans of the League, the legislature considered shutting down SCHSL in 2013, described in a famous blog post. At the end of that legislative year, attempting to take a more temperate approach, the legislature kept the league in place but required that a new Appeals Panel be established. The Appeals Panel is composed of citizens outside of League control.

Today (Friday) morning at 10:00 in the offices of the South Carolina High School League, the Mitchell Family’s appeal will be heard before that new panel. Pray for them, won’t you? If justice is done, they will win.

But whether they win or not, it has been amazing to see how so many in the Landrum, SC area—parents, teachers, legislators, principals, school board members, and the staff and legal counsel of Spartanburg School District One—have rallied around Andrew Mitchell. God bless them!

A legal brief has been prepared in support of the family and the school district. It makes for good bedside reading, even for a non-lawyer like me. Please contact us if you would like a copy.

We will update you as soon as we have a decision today.

Yours sincerely,

Oran P. Smith, PhD
President

PS: If you are an attorney, perhaps you would be willing to assist the Palmetto Family Legal Resource Council with cases like this. We have at least five religious liberty and educational freedom cases on the front burner right now and could use some pro bono assistance. We especially want to chat with you if you have been to the Alliance Defending Freedom National Litigation Academy or have served as an ADF Blackstone Fellow. You can email me about the Legal Resource Council here.

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Palmetto Family Football

September 2nd, 2014 No comments

Legislative session final score is 13-3. A win is a win?

Although the calendar tells us summer is not officially over, students are back in school and college football has kicked off. I know you are thinking what I am thinking: an excellent time for a legislative report!

Um, right.

There is a reason for the timing. When the legislative session ended back in June, summer vacation season was already in full swing and no one really wanted to talk about the business of lawmaking for at least 90 days. Now, we can take a fresh look back.


So, how did family and values fare in the 2013-2014 South Carolina General Assembly?

The answer is…it was a defensive struggle…but the family values team won 13-3.

Let’s start with our opponent’s “offense.” [We call this our WATCH list.]

Here’s what happened when our opponents had the football. On their first play from scrimmage, they tried a Hail Mary pass to Over-Regulate Homeschooling. That plan didn’t work when two of the receivers ran off the field during the play and left the quarterback to fall on the ball. It was embarrassing to say the least.

When they got back on offense they tried a series of fifteen straight Cloud of Dust plays—running right up the middle in the name of liberalizing Sex Ed in the schools. That drive gained some momentum when our boys on defense got tired, but their drive stalled on our twenty yard line and they were forced to punt.

Later in the game, they tried a series of trick plays, all of which resulted in punts when our defensive unit held firm: the Unhitch & Go (making divorce easier), the JumbleRooski (same-sex couple income tax filing and gender identity discrimination), the Fake Feel Good (instant bingo tickets), the Reverse (bringing back video poker), the Hic and Ladder (alcohol tastings at drugstores), and the old Statute for Libertines play (redefining family).

After an exhausting two years, they kicked a field goal giving them three points, all related to alcohol—coupons for liquor, beer for NASCAR, and brewpub samples size increases. The latter was to attract a $31 million investment from Stone Brewing, which recently announced they are looking elsewhere. We watched the kick from the sidelines.

Unfortunately, during our time on the field, we weren’t able to generate much offense either. [We call this our HOT list.]

We were able to get a ban on Sweepstakes, the video-poker imitating scheme that had begun to spring up around the state as “business centers.” We were also able to get some legislative push back against the College of Charleston for the pornographic book they required all freshmen to read. Several laws relating to children were tightened up. New educational standards to replace Common Core are about to be written thanks to legislation passed late. We are also pleased that Emma’s Law to require ignition interlocks for repeat drunk drivers.

All of that was worth about 13 football points.

But, there is blood, toil, tears and sweat left on the playing field. No major pro-life or religious freedom legislation passed the General Assembly in the entire two year session (2013-2014). Two major pro-life bills were defeated, including the fetal pain bill. Three religious liberty bills died a slow death, including healthcare freedom and protection for collegiate Christian clubs.

To put it in perspective, a pro-family agenda in Bible belt South Carolina winning by a margin of 13-3 is like Clemson or South Carolina beating Newberry College by ten points. Sure, the coaches would tell the media they were “pleased with a win over a good program,” but the two teams are in vastly different leagues. It should have been a drubbing.

So, how do we win big next year? How do we live up to our God-given potential and calling in the Palmetto State?

One way to do this is to put more fans in the stands. We need your support at critical junctures if we are going to win. That may mean a contribution to help pay for our efforts, inviting other like-minded fans to take part in the game by signing up for our emailed updates, or by cheering loudly when the game is on the line (calling an elected official when we ask you to).

Will you help? 

Thanks for your prayers and financial investment.

Yours sincerely.

Oran P. Smith, PhD
President

PS: With the legislature out of session, the most important project we have is the Statement of belief in traditional marriage. This is designed as an encouragement for Attorney General Alan Wilson. You can sign it and pass it along here. To make a donation, please visit our PayPal page here. You can sign up for our emailed updates here.

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School Choice and Common Sense

May 12th, 2011 No comments

When a Senate panel recently took up school choice legislation, one of the senators made several statements that are worth noting:

  • “It is amazing to me how the ‘no government’ folks want to get something from the government.”
  • “A scholarship funded by business isn’t ‘charitable’ because incenting people to leave public schools isn’t in the public interest.”
  • “School choice isn’t in the public interest because individuals decide, not the public.”

Now add to that the statements from the School Administrators Association recently in the Orangeburg Times & Democrat:

  • “Everyone has a duty to support public education, whether you have a child in school or not.”
  • “Many families want their children to be involved with religious training during the school day and that is fine. However, tax incentives should not support these religious programs.”

If these quotations were tallied, two Rules would emerge:

Rule 1. From here in official public administrationdom, we are compelled to remind you, the taxpayer, that we don’t earn our wings every day, we earned them once. End of discussion. So pay us…and only us.  PS: (pause to take a big breath) Separation of Church and State!

Rule 2. If you are a parent considering asserting some “individual” right to oversee the education of your child or a “free” enterprise business wanting to choose what kind of educational effort you want to fund, see Rule 1.

I truly believe that one day we will look back and wonder why we ever had only one choice in schools, just like we wonder why it took so long to enjoy options for letters and packages, telephones, media, etc. Something about the arrogance and the defense of an often inferior, expensive product that the above statements represent sounds like the AT&T lawyers fighting the looming competition for Ma Bell in 1982.

And, not so different from the perspectives of Bell vs. MCI, pro- and anti- school choice advocates sound like they are from different planets.

Public School Only advocates argue that just like fire, police, and the National Guard, they and they alone should receive taxpayer support for their mission. Education is a job only government can do equitably. Competition for The System is silly, weird, elitist and even downright unpatriotic. To argue for any alternative to The System is to sully the aunt, mother, grandmother, cousin or best friend who gave her life to educating every child zoned for her classroom regardless of his academic aptitude.

School Choice supporters see K-12 like the other two education sectors, early childhood and college, where taxpayer dollars fund all alternatives and the individual taxpayer chooses what fits for her child best. They see K-12 education not like the National Guard, where a single force and a government chain on command is crucial, but more like every other vital service in the economy where the best product at the best price is a win for everyone. And, like every first year law student would tell you, there is no Church-State separation issue with school choice. Existing programs like Education Lottery scholarships are being used by students at Christian universities like North Greenville, the G.I. Bill being was used to send combat veterans to Bob Jones and state early childhood funding supports kids at First Baptist Preschools.

To provide a practical example, a microcosm of how School Choice would work is the enterprise of urgent package delivery. We may ship with the Post Office from time to time because it is convenient, but when it really matters, we will go with a private service. We also know if the private firm makes a mistake, we can demand satisfaction and there will be consequences for failure. I’ve never had FedEx tell me they lost my package because they were underfunded, and my UPS driver would be devastated if I weren’t 100% satisfied with his service.

If we are to move South Carolina forward economically, well-educated citizens are the key. But given our ranking, we must make quantum leaps. School Choice offers a tremendous opportunity.

As we move in that direction, School Choice advocates should respect public school teachers who work long hours for short pay and suffer under the weight of mounds of paperwork. They want to see change just like the rest of us.

In turn, public school only advocates should resist the sense of entitlement that Rule 1 and Rule 2 represent and understand the incredible sacrifices parents make to pay twice for school. In the case of parent tutors (home school), a mother’s life is totally dominated by educating her children. Talk about parental involvement! That should be encouraged, and at a tax credit of $1,000, it seems like a good deal for us all.

Oran P. Smith is President of Palmetto Family Council, a faith-based public policy research organization founded in South Carolina in 1994. PFC has supported School Choice from the beginning, and is not aware of any funding from billionaires.

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Senators Fight to Reduce Taxes, Against Abortion TODAY

May 11th, 2011 No comments

After being swept out of office for binge spending, trading favors and turning a blind eye to moral and ethical concerns, Republicans in Congress got the message and reversed course. After taking back the US House in 2010, the GOP got right down to business on its mandate in 2011, cutting the federal budget, defending free enterprise and defunding Planned Parenthood.

Republican majority state legislatures around the nation are also moving in an aggressive fiscal and social conservative direction this year, passing reduced budgets and strengthening laws to give unborn children a fighting chance.

With solid majorities in the House and Senate and an electorate that installed a Republican into every statewide office in 2010, South Carolina should be far outpacing the US Congress, as well as nearly every other state legislature. The South Carolina General Assembly should be a model for the country legislatively, celebrating at this time of year the passage of a post-election budget that rolls back state expenditures and advances the causes of life and economic development.

But this is not the case.

The SC Senate has drifted into another week of deliberation on the state budget, but judging from its content, it doesn’t appear that word of the 2010 election made it to the Gressette Senate Office Building.

As it reads today, H.3700 includes no significant rollbacks in spending, no advances for the unborn, and no real reform. According to Senator Tom Davis (R-Beaufort), it is the largest budget in state history and includes $600m more in general fund revenues. What’s more, liberal Democrats and their staff allies are playing puppet master to well-meaning but gullible Republican Senators in key fiscal areas. (Last week, Democrats fooled the GOP into believing that banning state taxpayer funded abortion in the state health plan would “endanger billions in federal Medicaid funds” until Americans United for Life and the Department of Health & Human Services set the record straight.)

When the Senate convenes today, the Majority Caucus has what may be their last chance to live up to the name “Republican.” A group of young conservative legislators is proposing a series of amendments that will provide the reforms the citizens of South Carolina expect from a conservative majority.

Ten (10) Senators have made it clear to the Senate leadership that without: 1) reform in the state employee early retirement (TERI) program, 2) a rollback in the huge Unemployment Tax increase, and 3) a defunding of taxpayer funded abortion, there won’t be a budget. As it is in their power, these seven plan to filibuster until these three reforms are included in H.3700.

We are proud to lend our support to their efforts of Senators Lee Bright, Kevin Bryant, Tom Davis, Larry Grooms, Shane Martin, Phil Shoopman, David Thomas, Mike Fair, Chip Campsen and Danny Verdin, and encourage all South Carolina conservatives to urge their Republican colleagues in the Senate to join them.

Call the legislative switchboard at 803-212-6200 and ask to speak to your Senator.
You can also send an email to your Senator (or to ALL Senators) from the Statehouse web site at http://www.scstatehouse.gov/html-pages/senateemail.html
If you’re not sure who your Senator is, use this link to find out: http://www.scstatehouse.gov/cgi-bin/zipcodesearch.exe

Categories: South Carolina Tags:

The Freedom of Conscience Act and the Huh? Caucus

April 15th, 2011 No comments

Americans United for Life analyzes state laws related to Life every year. AUL even goes so far as to rank the states in the strength of their laws on abortion, protection of the unborn (in contexts outside of abortion), bioethics, the end-of-life, and health care freedom of conscience.

South Carolina is currently ranked 19th of the 50 states. 19th. We can do better.

But in order to be rated among the Top Ten pro-life states in the country, we must close two serious gaps: Born Alive Infant Protection and Conscience Protection. We discussed Born Alive in our last message to you.

When it comes to Conscience, though South Carolina law is very strong on the right to object to taking part in abortion, there is no protection for health care professionals or institutions in other ethically questionable areas such as stem cell research or euthanasia.

So, we were glad to see H.3408, the South Carolina Healthcare Freedom of Conscience Act, which came up on the House floor for an extended debate last Tuesday.

If you read the online voting score sheet on H. 3408 posted on the statehouse website, you will see that 69 members voted in favor of final passage of the bill, 41 voted against, 5 were excused, and eight 8 just didn’t bother to vote.

We win. Sounds good. But what does it really mean?

To get a clear picture of the real position of each individual legislator on the larger issue of Life, we must consider all votes cast on Born Alive and Conscience last Tuesday. So, Palmetto Family took all 9 roll calls and analyzed them in a huge spreadsheet (1,107 cells for those of you who appreciate such things).

When tallied, the nine roll call votes reveal three distinct groups of legislators as pie charted above:

  • 60% voted pro-life every single time. This Consistently Pro-Life group of 74 voted pro-life right down to procedural motions like tabling and “carrying over,” as well as amendments and final passage.
  • 20% were equally as consistent on the other side. These 25 or so Consistently Pro-”Choice” members of the General Assembly voted wrong every single time, whether it be procedural or passage.
  • 20% could be called The Huh? Caucus (24). These state representatives did everything they could to water down the bill by voting for amendments that would have weakened it. Or, they voted to kill the bill procedurally. But, with 60% of the House sticking with the pro-life position every single time the voting bell rang, these folks eventually reversed course and voted for final passage. That way they could say they voted for the bill while actually trying to eviscerate it. This group voted Aye only when the outcome was inevitable. Of the 24, seven (7) members in particular were all over the map. They voted for some weakening amendments and not others, and some didn’t vote for final passage after voting against some of the weakening amendments.

Palmetto Family Alliance will continue to monitor the voting records of the members of the South Carolina House and Senate in preparation for our 2011-2012 Legislative Scorecard. The Scorecard will include The Huh? Caucus. To review the Scorecard from the last legislative session, please visit this page.

Categories: life Tags:

Shocking Vote in South Carolina House

April 1st, 2011 No comments

22 members vote against infants already born

Late Tuesday afternoon, the SC House took up two bills related to the Life issue.

The second of the two received the most attention. It could be considered “controversial” because it would opt South Carolina out of abortion coverage in the new Exchanges mandated by the new health insurance law. It would also allow health care workers to refuse to participate in procedures that violate their consciences. Abortion = controversial. We get it.

But the first bill wasn’t about abortion and shouldn’t have been controversial. It was about infants who are already born.

Known as the “Born Alive Infant Protection Act,” the federal version of the law was passed in 2002 on a voice vote in US House, and a 98-0 roll call vote in the US Senate. In the Senate, Senator Edward Kennedy and Senator Barbara Boxer supported it and voted for it. The last time it was taken up in South Carolina, it passed by a whopping 105-5.

But, according to the new online vote system of the SC House, at 4:24 p.m. on Tuesday, the vote on H.3403 was 91-22.

There is only one way to read the roll call sheet: 22 elected members of the South Carolina General Assembly voted against protecting children who are already born.

This is a shocking result. It is one thing to be “pro-choice” or even “pro-abortion,” but how could any elected official, when presented with the opportunity to protect a child who has already left her mother’s body, vote “No”? That’s like being “pro-death.”

At the bottom of this message, I have reproduced the text of the BAIPA bill for you. As you can see, there is no legislative sleight of hand. There are no words that could be misinterpreted. In fact, the bill even states that the rights of an unborn child can’t be expanded by the law!

Here is the list of legislators (including three pastors) who voted against the Born Alive Infant Protection Act. If you know any of these officials, or if you notice a member from your county, you can use this page to find contact information. You may wish to respectfully express your concern about his or her vote.

Terry Alexander
pastor, Florence

Karl B. Allen
lawyer, Greenville

Carl L. Anderson
pastor, Georgetown

Jimmy C. Bales
retired, Eastover

Curtis Brantley
retired, Ridgeland

Robert L. Brown
retired, Hollywood

Mia Butler Garrick
businesswoman, Columbia

Gilda Cobb-Hunter
administrator, Orangeburg

Chandra E. Dillard
community relations, Greenville

Wendell G. Gilliard
consultant, Charleston

Christopher R. Hart
attorney, Columbia

Kenneth F. Hodges
pastor, Green Pond

Lonnie Hosey
administrator, Barnwell

Leon Howard
businessman, Columbia

Joseph H. Jefferson
retired, Pineville

John Richard C. King
mortician, Rock Hill

David J. Mack III
businessman, North Charleston

Harold Mitchell Jr.
executive director, Spartanburg

Elizabeth R. Munnerlyn
attorney, Bennettsville

J. Todd Rutherford
attorney, Columbia

Ronnie A. Sabb
attorney, Greeleyville

Robert Q. Williams
consultant, Darlington


Text of the Born Alive Infant Protection Act (H.3403)

“In determining the meaning of any act or joint resolution of the General Assembly or in a regulation promulgated pursuant to Article 1, Chapter 23, Title 1, the words ‘person’, ‘human being’, ‘child’, and ‘individual’, must include every infant member of the species homo sapiens who is born alive at any stage of development.

As used in this subsection, the term ‘born alive’, with respect to a member of the species homo sapiens, means the complete expulsion or extraction from the mother of that member, at any stage of development, who after the expulsion or extraction breathes or has a beating heart, pulsation of the umbilical cord, or definite movement of voluntary muscles, regardless of whether the umbilical cord has been cut, and regardless of whether the expulsion or extraction occurs as a result of natural or induced labor, cesarean section, or induced abortion.

Nothing in this subsection may be construed to affirm, deny, expand, or contract any legal status or legal right applicable to any member of the species homo sapiens at any point before being ‘born alive’, as defined in this subsection.”

Categories: legislative Tags:

We want a roll call, too!

February 27th, 2011 No comments

The anti-life crowd may be officially off its rocker. We have know this for some time, but earlier this week it became even more apparent.

When the SC House Judiciary Committee met to consider Healthcare Right of Conscience legislation, not only did Tell Them! show up with video cameras, they instructed their legislative allies to make a huge production out of asking for a roll call! [sic] on each maneuver to kill or water down the bill. Every motion seemed to end with “…and I want a roll call!”

Well, la tee dah.

Given that the Conscience Act is wildly popular  with the public, that didn’t seem like a good legislative tactic. Those of us in the audience hoping for a pro-life outcome were thrilled that the Other Side thought of it. We figured that would help us…and man did it! All of the votes were lopsided (14-16 bipartisan votes for the pro-life position with only 3-5 partisan votes for the other side).

For one living in the pro-choice bubble, I guess a vote for life makes an incumbent vulnerable. We are glad that on the final vote (14-4), a full 78% of the Judiciary Committee thought the opposite.

Now for the Big Fuss on the floor of the House next week, where we expect the Other Side to somehow try to tie civil rights fo healtcare providers to their favorite red herring….rape. Read the bill guys, it just doesn’t compute.

But then again, there is the rocker issue.

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South Carolina Pro-Life Agenda 2011-2012

February 17th, 2011 No comments

We are pleased to announce our agenda for the promotion of a Culture of Life for the new legislative session.

Born Alive Infant Protection Act

Twenty-four 24 states have born alive protections

  • The federal law was passed on a voice vote in US House of Representatives on March 12, 2002 and in US Senate by 98-0 on June 19, 2002 and signed by President Bush on August 5, 2002.
  • The bill passed due in great measure to the testimony of nurse Jill Stanek about babies who survived abortions and were born alive being left to die alone.
  • Federal law applies in only limited circumstances (federal hospitals, federally-funded hospitals, etc), so state laws can provide additional protection.
  • This issue is even more important in the light of Dr. Kermit Gosnell’s “House of Horrors” Philadelphia abortion clinic where seven infants were born alive and stabbed to death with scissors. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, “one premature infant wiggled around on a counter for 20 minutes before an untrained worker slit his neck after first playing with him.”

Federal Abortion Mandate Opt Out Bill

Already opted out since March 23: Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Missouri

  • The new federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPAC) of 2010 requires states to operate health insurance exchanges.
  • These exchanges are eligible for federal subsidies.
  • Specific language in PPAC allows states to opt out of allowing abortion coverage to be offered for plans in their states; an “invitation” to opt out.
  • President Obama’s March 24, 2010 abortion executive order doesn’t prevent federal subsidies from going to plans that cover abortion.
  • More women have abortions when covered by insurance.
  • A state’s failure to cover abortion is not an “undue burden” [Rust v. Sullivan].
  • States can provide unequal subsidies of abortion vs. other medical procedures [Rust v. Sullivan et al.].

Freedom of Conscience Act

  • South Carolina’s conscience law on abortion is among the best in the country.
  • But, the statute does not include other areas where conscience is an issue, like cloning, euthanasia, artificial insemination, dispensing of drugs, etc.
  • There are numerous examples around the country where medical professionals are being coerced into violating their consciences, to choose between their values and their livelihood.
  • This bill would bring other procedures where conscience is an issue into the state statute as a new article.

Categories: life Tags:

February 14th, 2011 No comments


Two Meetings with Nikki Haley

Outlook for the New Administration

Candidate Haley (2010)

Gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley came by the Palmetto Family office in 2010 and we had a good talk about our efforts to defend and strengthen families in South Carolina. I was able at that time to present her with a plaque honoring her for her 99% Palmetto Family Alliance voting record.

Nikki was very proud of her close-knit family and spoke warmly that afternoon of the early years of her life spent in Bamberg with her siblings and her hard working immigrant parents. It was very clear to me that Nikki wanted all South Carolinians to enjoy the love, happiness and success that comes from the strong two-parent family she enjoyed.

Knowing she was campaigning for Governor primarily as a fiscal conservative, I shared with her “The Taxpayer Costs of Divorce and Unwed Childbearing,” which Palmetto Family co-released with the Institute for American Values last year.  She was struck by the fact that the fiscal cost of broken families in South Carolina had been pegged in that peer-reviewed study at $469 million per year.

Candidate Nikki Haley at the Palmetto Family -WIS Sponsored 2010 Gubernatorial Debate

As the campaign progressed and the legislature continued to meet, her legislative voting record kept pace. During her last term before being elected governor, the SC House voted on the Life issue an incredible 37 times (including the Born Alive Infant Protection Act, the 24 Hour Abortion Reflection and Abortion Funding Restrictions in the state budget). Of those 37, Nikki Haley supported the most aggressive pro-life position on 35 roll calls, or 95% of the time.

Governor Nikki Haley with Palmetto Family President Dr. Oran Smith and former PFC Board Chairman Hal Stevenson at their recent meeting.

Governor Haley (2011)

Our second formal meeting took place last week.

From the minute we walked into the “West Wing” of the Statehouse first floor, the atmosphere was markedly different from the Sanford years.

I will never forget that day Mark Sanford met with our board of directors. He chose to meet in a small, untidy conference room. Not only did he politely tell us he wouldn’t work for our legislation, he actually left the meeting to retrieve a series of fiscal charts and proceeded to explain each one. (I kid you not.) What Mark seemed to be saying was: “I agree with what you are doing and will sign your bills when they come to my desk, but promoting your agenda just isn’t my agenda…and, oh, by the way, please do me the favor of making my agenda yours.”

The meeting with Haley couldn’t have been more different. We were ushered directly into her immaculate office. As we went through a long list of policy proposals, not only did she express agreement as we went along, but in several cases the Governor indicated we weren’t going far enough in our positions. Wow.

Perhaps the most positive sign for us was that Governor Haley seemed aware of the policies advocated by Governor Bobby Jindal in Louisiana and Governor Frank Keating of Oklahoma. These governors have made efforts to promote family, fatherhood, marriage, adoption, patriotism, and faith-based compassion initiatives a part of their public service. Nikki too indicated her willingness to use the staff and pulpit of her office to promote these causes.

The Haley term is new. But the signs are indeed positive, and a significant break from the past.

Action Item: Please pray for Michael & Nikki Haley as we do every night with our family.

Categories: South Carolina Tags:

Tread Carefully in Revising Gambling Laws

February 2nd, 2011 No comments

by Oran P. Smith

Things did not begin well for Warren Ferguson when he took over for Barney Fife in the Mayberry Sheriff’s department. In his first episode, Warren arrested and incarcerated the entire Mayberry Ladies’ Aid Society. Loyal fans of the show will remember the ladies’ crime: gambling. Aunt Bea and her cohorts, seeking to raise funds to help the underprivileged, held a bingo game. Even with cheap, donated prizes, the event put them at odds with a local ordinance. So off to the pokey they went, and there they stayed until Warren agreed to drop the charges. This sitcom episode shows how difficult the enforcement of gambling laws can be. Left to police, one law officer may demand that a law be enforced to the letter while another may honor the custom of applying it loosely.

From the mythical town of Mayberry in 1965, travel if you will with me to August, 1997 to a convenience store near Ridgeland, South Carolina. Joy Baker, a 10-day-old infant, sits in the back seat of a car while her mother plays video poker at one of the state’s 38,000 terminals.  As the minutes turn into hours, Joy’s mom continues to play video poker. Anyone who lived in South Carolina at the time can describe the horrible image of Sergeant Julius Baker clutching the photo of his late daughter. The coroner said Joy perished from dehydration, but the death certificate could just as well have said she died from video poker, a form of gaming experts called “the crack cocaine” of gambling because of the ease of access and its addictive properties. Thankfully, video poker is no longer legal.

Right now at the Statehouse, for at least the third time in as many sessions, the General Assembly is considering gambling legislation. This time there are three potential laws. One bill would amend the constitution, one would allow charitable raffles, and one would allow poker.

Palmetto Family Alliance, whose predecessor Legacy Alliance led the legislative fight against video poker, came to this fight four years ago with the best legislative strategy available to us at the time: stop all gambling bills. We were comfortable with leaving it to the discretion of local law enforcement to interpret the laws sensibly.

Our past modus operandi was understandable. With pro-gambling forces hard at work in the lobby and a horde of sharp lawyers nationwide looking for every opportunity to legislate loopholes in South Carolina law, why would the minimally-funded, under-lawyered side look for a fight? Our best answer to changing a jot or a tittle in our old but comfortable gambling statutes was always “No Way, No How.”

This year, we have taken the huge risk of agreeing it is time to change the law so that worthy non-profit organizations can hold raffles legally. But what should be the specific language of the new law?

We believe in keeping professional raffle promoters out. We also believe that only worthy organizations should qualify for raffle permits and that the number and raffles and their prize values shouldn’t make the fundraisers about gambling rather than helping the needy. These standards will require changes to the version of S.255 introduced into the Senate. But all of our proposals are currently the law in other states. We developed these proposals after attending all five of the Senate hearings around the state on revising our state’s gambling laws. The overwhelming consensus was for specific types of organizations with specific restrictions, not wide open gambling.

S.254, the bill concerned with poker, we are watching even more closely. This bill would completely rewrite an entire section of our law. Because just two words gave us video poker, every word is critical. Every sentence must be parsed to protect the family-friendly culture we have enjoyed here in South Carolina since the demise of video gambling.

This past Sunday, The State quoted a statement made by Senator Chip Campsen of Charleston during a markup session in the Judiciary Committee. This statement summarizes our response to those who believe our concerns about the danger of adding hundreds of words to our gaming statutes is a hallucination: “This is not speculation. It’s history.”

No one wants our laws to be a joke, but there is also an overwhelming consensus that South Carolina shouldn’t become another Atlantic City or Las Vegas.

We pray the Senate and the House will draft carefully and that we as a state will measure every word together. We owe that to Joy Baker.

Oran P. Smith is President of Palmetto Family Council, a faith-based public policy research foundation operating in Columbia since 1994. Contact him through the Palmetto Family website at www.palmettofamily.org.

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