Archive for January 2006

S. 997 update: Jessica’s Law Plus

January 30, 2006

I have long been concerned that the penalties for the worst crimes against our most vulnerable citizens, children, carry far too light a punishment. Currently, criminal sexual conduct committed upon a child eleven or younger carries a mandatory sentence of only 10 to 30 years.

I cannot fathom the rationale in sentencing the rapist of a child as young as eleven, or younger, to not more than 30 years when the victim faces a lifetime sentence of fear and humiliation. I filed S. 997 to ensure that sentences for these unspeakable acts fit the crimes.

If passed, this bill will increase the penalty for sexual battery on someone 11 or younger to a minimum of 25 years to life. A second offense carries a minimum of life in prison and the option of imposing the death penalty. In fact, the last time South Carolina executed a criminal for something other than murder was 1972. He was convicted of rape.

Senator McConnell, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has assigned this bill to a subcommittee chaired by Senator Hutto with Senators Knotts , Jackson and myself. I have full confidence that they will give this bill a full and fair hearing, and should this new law face a court challenge I look forward to its review by our new and improved United States Supreme Court.

I’ll keep you posted on the developments with S. 997 and feel free to let me know your thoughts.


S. 1090 Taxpayer Empowerment Ammendment

January 26, 2006

We have finally wrapped up the Charter School Bill, and thanks to the good work of Sen. Courson, Sen. Hayes, and the resistance of our Caucus some of the previous “miscommunications” have been removed.
On another front, I was proud to join some of my colleagues and the Governor in a press conference to announce the introduction of the Taxpayers’ Empowerment Amendment. This legislation will allow voters to decide in November whether they want government spending capped at the rate of population growth plus inflation. I will bring you more details on this legislation in the coming weeks as it moves through the Senate. Below is a link to the full text of this resolution:
Also, you may want to look at a recent editorial:
I look forward to hearing from you on this and any other matter. Keep in touch.

Charter School Legislation Update

January 25, 2006

Well, we thought we’d wrapped up H. 3010, the charter school bill, when we left last night at about 8pm. But, as the old saying goes, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.
Conservatives were told that the only changes in the compromise amendment concerned the makeup and location of the new charter school authority. We agreed not to create a brand new bureaucracy and also to house the new statewide charter school authority in the State Department of Education instead of in the governor’s office.
But, when it took over an hour to draft these two changes into the amendment, I and others began to wonder. As it turns out, the defenders of the status quo and their allies slipped three major changes never previously discussed into the bill.
First, the provision allowing charter school students to participate in public school activities, such as band or athletics, was stripped. Senator Fair has fought for the fundamental right to equal treatment for charter school students for years. Unfortunately, opponents of simple equality snuck their designs into this bill.
Second, the opponents of charter schools extended the window for default approval of a charter school from thirty to sixty days. This existing law states that if a charter application to a local school board (not the new statewide entity) is not acted upon within thirty days, the application is automatically approved. Somehow, the current law got amended to sixty days, placing yet another burden upon charter applicants.
Third, as I have noted conservatives agreed to house the new statewide authority in the State Department of Education. But, in the drafting of the compromise amendment, somebody added the word “staffed” in that section. That effectively gives the very educrats so hostile to charter schools control over the new statewide charter school authority.
What happened here was a good old fashioned Shanghai. If you’re not familiar with the origin of that term, it refers to people of the late 19th Century who went out one night in San Francisco and woke up on a slow boat to China. THey had been drugged or knocked out and loaded onto the boat as a crewmember. Their next destination would be Shanghai.
It just goes to show that defenders of the status quo will fight hard, fight dirty, and fight after the bell to keep their monopoly. Fortunately, the sharp staff in the governor’s office caught the mischief overnight. We’re going to reverse these things in the chamber today. I just hope it’s not dark when we’re done.
If you don’t already know, you can follow the debate live at Click on the senate video feed link. And feel free to write me during session. I’ll answer as quick as I can. I have access to my e-mail ( while on the floor.

Charter School Legislation

January 24, 2006

Today’s debate concerns a bill, H. 3010, designed to create a statewide charter school district. The bill would create South Carolina Charter School District and thereby allow prospective charter schools another avenue to creation. This bill is necessary because although parents can currently form a charter school through their local school district, that rarely happens. Indeed, since the original charter school legislation passed in 1996, we have only 28 charter schools in existence.

Two reasons for this dearth predominate. First, only local boards can grant charters. Yes, the state board can hear appeals, but it can only remand decisions it disagrees with to the local board for the local board to rule again. Moreover, the state board hardly ever disagrees with a local board’s denial of a charter. The most frequent excuse used by boards to deny charters is racial composition. This seems disingenuous in the context that the places school choice is needed most are the urban and rural areas wherein the racial mix is already skewed. Despite the fact that the US government has given SC over $10m to study charters, we still have fewer than thirty. Effectively, the current Charter School law is impotent.

In a larger context, however, this debate (and their is one between conservatives and liberals) is not about strenghtening the charter school legislation in SC. It is about maintaining the status quo versus doing something that will improve the educational opportunities for all children in SC. Make no mistake as you follow this debate. Those who oppose the bill simply support the status quo. Those who support this bill want to move SC forward–and they want to move SC forward along lines already proven successful in other states. This debate really pits the minions of the State Department of Education against folks who realize that there has to be, and there is, a better way.