Summary of recent South Carolina newspaper editorials


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Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:

July 22

The State, Columbia, South Carolina, on Governor Haley's regulatory statements at a campaign event:

"Over 3,000 recommendations were made to where we saw South Carolina needed to improve. Everything that came from that recommendation list has been dealt with, whether it's gone through and those agencies have changed it, or whether we've put legislation in place."

That's Gov. Nikki Haley, speaking at a recent campaign event about all that bureaucratic red tape that her regulatory review task force has spent the past year dealing with. If you think from that quote that South Carolina has 3,000 fewer regulations today than it did when she started, think again.

As The Associated Press reports, the task force recommended eliminating fewer than 50 regulations. And as a result, the governor's Cabinet agencies have made 23 policy changes, and the Legislature has eliminated seven regulations. Which is to say that the actual reduction in regulations is precisely 1 percent of the number the governor is throwing around.

In defending her claim, Gov. Haley's staff "clarified" — that's the AP's term — that 3,000 referred to the number of regulations that had been reviewed. And technically, the governor didn't say otherwise; but there is simply no other message that a reasonable person could take from her words. ...

In 2011, the governor was forced to acknowledge that she had never even tried to verify the claim — which she said she had repeated "a million times," and used as the basis of her push for mandatory drug testing for unemployed workers — that half the job applicants at the Savannah River Site had failed drug tests. The actual number turned out to be less than 1 percent.

It was the most dramatic in a long string of incidents where she had said things that were demonstrably untrue, and at the time she told The Associated Press, "I'm learning through you guys that I have to be careful before I say something."

That was an extraordinary thing for a governor to be "learning," but we thought she had indeed become more careful. This latest incident makes us wonder if we haven't been grading on a curve, making allowances for her . carelessness. ...

We don't know the governor's heart, or precisely how her brain works, so we can't say for sure whether she is merely reckless with the facts or whether she deliberately misstates them. ...

That's something voters will have to sort out for themselves. ... But here's one thing that seems sadly clear: The fact that our governor says something doesn't mean it's true. It might be, but it still needs to be verified.


July 22

The Post and Courier, Charleston, South Carolina, on allowing offshore ocean drilling:

The Obama administration won't allow construction of the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to the United States, citing environmental concerns. But it is willing to allow ocean drilling off the Atlantic coast - a risk to the environment and to the economic well-being of states like South Carolina that depend on coastal tourism.

Indeed, the administration is willing to let the anticipated Atlantic oil boom start off with a bang. Exploratory work preparatory to sinking offshore wells will be done with sonic cannons, which help determine where oil might be located.

The federal government's own review of the project acknowledges the potential damage to marine mammals and other marine life. ...

The underwater confusion created by sonic blasts is like the cognitive dissonance created by the president's energy policy.

The Keystone XL pipeline has been vetted for years by a variety of federal agencies and has passed every test. It is a project that would create thousands of construction jobs in the U.S.

It would provide a conduit for Canadian tar sands oil, which will be produced in any event. Sending that oil to U.S. refineries would help make this nation energy independent. And it would be an economic boon to Canada - one of our closest allies.

Keystone is a shovel-ready project. There is nothing speculative about the venture. ...

Drilling off the Atlantic, however, will require exploration that risks the well-being of marine mammals, including a whale species on the brink of extinction.

And assuming oil or natural gas is discovered, there will be further hazards to the coastal environment - for example, the threat of spills and oil rig accidents.

Coastal tourism, in contrast, is a clean industry, and an economic mainstay of South Carolina.

It's highly unlikely that offshore drilling will somehow improve the quality of our clean beaches and wetlands.

So why buy a pig in a poke? Elected officials in this state should oppose it.

If the administration wants to increase the quantity of oil flowing into the U.S., allow the Keystone pipeline to be built.

But keep ocean drilling off limits.


July 22

The Greenville News, Greenville, South Carolina, on a recent FOIA ruling by the state Supreme Court:

The South Carolina Supreme Court last week dealt another serious blow to the public's ability to know what government officials are doing with a curiously reasoned ruling that autopsy records are exempt from the state Freedom of Information Act because they are medical records. The court's decision ... reflects a dangerously limited view of the state law designed to ensure that citizens have access to the actions and records of public bodies and public officials. ...

Government allowed to operate in the dark can quickly become a threat to the very citizens that it is supposed to serve. Public officials allowed to hide their actions eventually are allowed to operate with impunity because people lack the means to track what they are doing and hold them accountable for misdeeds. ...

In last week's 4-1 decision, the court ruled that an autopsy is a medical record and therefore not a public document to be shared with citizens. This opinion is shocking in and of itself, and furthermore it's discouraging for the trend it seems to reflect. The ruling takes a very generous and seemingly erroneous view of what is a "medical record."

The incident that led to this court case proves why on occasion it is imperative that the public is allowed to examine an autopsy. The case came from Sumter County where the local newspaper, The Sumter Item, sued because the coroner would not release an autopsy report after a 25-year-old man was shot by police.

The first official account was that the young man fired on officers. When the newspaper got the autopsy report from another law enforcement agency, it discovered several important points, such as the victim did not have gunshot residue on his hands and he had been shot in the back.

The difference between the first official account and the facts revealed in the autopsy prove why these reports must be open to the public. ...

The state Legislature needs to quickly correct both Supreme Court rulings that undermine the state law that gives people access to public information essential to holding their elected officials accountable.


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