Thursday, May 31, 2007
It is an evolutionary process. The legislative process, that is.
Every law, every regulation, every filed bill, every idea - is in constant flux, evolving toward something else. I have either heard or read somewhere that there are around 3000 pieces of legislation filed during every Session of the General Assembly. New ideas or the discovered need to tweak current laws are addressed in each bill.
You see, sometimes either current events or the application of the current law can reveal caveats or issues that weren't thought about during the original passage of the bill. And most times, bills rarely end in the same form that they began - due to the process of discussion, debate, public input, amendments, etc. I am a firm believer in the legislative process which has been in place for over 200 years.
I guess that is why I get so ticked off by the media's initial reporting on most bills filed in the General Assembly - they either only read the title and not the meat of the legislation, or they don't take the time to investigate and talk with the sponsors to discover the reasons behind the legislation - before they rush to report. Not all reporters are so quick to opine and I respect reporters who seem at least willing to talk with legislators prior to writing a story. I told Aaron Gould Sheinin @ The State that very thing the other day. My local paper, The Clinton Chronicle, was a prime example of this recently. They chose to report on the "Campus Carry Bill", relying on other media reports for their information (which had it wrong to begin with) and not bothering to contact me to say "Hey, Jeff - what's up with that legislation you filed?" I had to call them - after two weeks of their reporting and editorial columns, not to mention letters to the editor, all based on wrong and poor reporting in other journals - to ask when they were going to bother to call me. Go figure.
And how in the world does the press justify not commenting on Sen. John Land's rant and filibuster against the Worker's Comp Reform bill, when he profits hugely every year by practicing before the Worker's Comp Commission? In my opinion, he should have recused himself from the debate and not voted due to a conflict of interest. If that had been a Republican lawmaker doing the same thing, I believe the press would have hollered loudly!
I spoke recently with an acquaintance, who considers herself a liberal in the political sense, who was discussing something she saw on CNN. She watches all of the cable news channels, so I asked her: "Do you believe everything that FOX News says?" She said "Heck no - they spin it to their view!" I said: "Well, why do you believe that CNN or MSNBC reports accurately on everything they report on?" I can tell you that they don't - they report it how they want it to sound. That is OK for an editorial or opinion column, and for opinion shows like "The Factor." But when you are reporting the news, or holding yourself out to the public that this is news, I would love to see you guys in the press get it straight and let the opinions form from correct information. It is all coming so fast these days with the "McNews" formats that the lines between opinion and facts get blurred. Go Figure again.
Thursday, May 24, 2007
There are two realities in South Carolina - the first is one that most of the citizens live in - the one where you work hard, raise the family and figure out how to pay the light bill sometimes.
The other is the reality around the capital in Columbia. That is the reality which tends to cloud judgements and helps people find ways to justify their actions. It is a false reality, too. Recent votes and actions prove the first sentence of this post. Add the power of the purse - the ability to spend money without fear of accountability - and you create a scary mixture. Food for thought: Years ago I read that "Absolute power corrupts absolutely."
Why do we work so hard to pass pro-business legislation like Tort Reform, Medical Malpractice Reform and Workers' Comp Reform - along with bills supporting conservative ideals such as the pro-life Ultrasound bill, the support for Right to Work laws, protection against Eminent Domain abuse and affirmation of the institution of marriage between man and woman - if we aren't going to try to put like-minded judges on the bench?
These judges will one day have cases that deal with all of the issues just mentioned. That is why groups like BIPEC, SC Policy Council, NFIB and the Palmetto Family Council got involved. They have worked just as hard to support our efforts to pass legislation on the issues just mentioned.
I am putting this Supreme Court vote behind me and moving on as of today.
I am going to focus on what I consider to be a poor budget - one that spends way too much and doesn't give enough back to the taxpayers from whom it was taken. I don't know what I can do at this point, though. It looks as if we will spend all of the $1.5 Billion that we overtaxed you this year and I am truly sorry. (Excuse me - we did have $81 Million in tax relief in the House budget. So, the House's version spends $1.419 Billion of your money.)
The Colonials in the 1700's protested about taxation without representation. Remember the reality that you live in and think about where your representation is.
Sunday, May 20, 2007
Here is what I know: In 1996, the South Carolina Legislature wrote our current Concealed Weapons Permit (CWP) laws and in doing so, created a number of exemptions in the right to carry laws, one being an exemption from the right to legally carry a firearm with a concealed weapons permit on college and school campuses. In the 10 years since this law was enacted,
The Bill: I didn’t draft a new bill to address the issue. I had legal counsel take the existing CWP law, with its campus exemptions, and strike everything that dealt with school campuses. Why? So that we would have a clean slate as we began the process of discussing this issue, because safety and security are important enough for us to consider everything, leaving no stone unturned or argument unanswered. I knew that there would be cynics and critics, and that I would catch a lot of heat over this issue. That heat I am willing to take for tackling the difficult and emotional issues in order to insure that our children and college students are as safe as we can make them.
Many folks think the idea for this legislation came directly from the Virginia Tech incident. It did not. As a matter of fact, a Clemson student asked us to look into this same issue late last spring, as he was concerned for his safety and the safety of other students in the wake of several violent episodes on and around the Clemson campus. There was no time at the end of the Legislative Session to begin the process of changing or creating laws. Then the massacre happened and the idea bubbled back to the surface. So we began looking into the way our state had created the so called “gun-free zones” on school and college campuses, to see if there was anything we might need to address.
What has it gotten us? Exactly what I had envisioned. Now we are thinking about and discussing the issues surrounding campus and school security. I have talked with the chiefs of campus security at Clemson, USC, MUSC, the
The national media has sensationalized the events at Virginia Tech to the point where normally rational and reasonable people are speculating that this legislation’s intent is to “arm school children and allow college students to carry firearms around in their book bags.” That couldn’t be further from the truth and simply reading the legislation would answer those questions.
More that I know: I am alarmed to find that not every school in
I chose the existing law as the template from which to work as we move forward. I have stated very clearly that it has NEVER been the intent to allow CWP holders to carry firearms into the stadium or coliseum for sporting events, and I would support an amendment addressing that. Some folks, however, would use the sensationalizing of this one facet of the bill to cloud the true objective – the safety of our campuses and that simply is not fair.
This bill is most likely not the answer and it does have its legitimate questions. Even with 20 Co-Sponsors, I am not pushing it. But rather, I am letting the tried and true legislative process of discussion, public input and debate work. The issue is so important to the American people that the topic has made all of the major newspapers in the state, every Columbia TV station, along with national news channels like CNN, CNN Radio, HNN, FOX NEWS, CBS, ABC and multiple radio stations across two states. The discussions cover everything from school/campus safety to a citizen’s right to personal protection on down to the meaning of the United States Constitution. Who can argue that it is not healthy for us to discuss the issue?
Conclusions: I do know that
Just Added: Good Read: A Principal & His Gun
Saturday, May 19, 2007
"Its a hard drive deep to left-center field...getting by Sen. Kevin Bryant I believe...Duncan rounds second, rounds third...he is headed for home!... Sen. Mike Fair takes the relay throw and fires towards homeplate...its going to be close, folks ... Duncan plows into the catcher and has an in-the-park HOMERUN!!"
I am feeling my 41 years today while nursing the huge strawberry on my arm.
The Filibusters beat our Amenders at the 14th annual Legislative Softball Game - Score 22 to 5. (Only 4 Senators played - the rest were staffers!)
Friday, May 18, 2007
He said: "I keep my voter's registration card in my gun cabinet. They protect each other." Mike, I am giving you my pocket copy of the United States Constitution to put in your gun cabinet for protection, too.
Thursday, May 17, 2007
CNN called this morning to ask if I would be willing to appear on Paula Zahn's show tonight with Rep. Todd Rutherford (D/Richland Co.). Putting off an opportunity to conduct an auction tonight and make some $$ (important around my house, since we are part-time legislators), I agreed. They called again around 3:00 PM and I went through the pre-show interview - feeling me out on the issues. I then went home, changed clothes and got in the car to head back to Columbia for the show --- only to get a call from CNN --- "Uh, Representative Duncan, we have found someone else to come on the show tonight to handle your side of the issue and so, we decided we will not need you." Now, no offense to the gentleman from the Grassroots Gunowners Association - but he didn't have anything to do with the drafting of this bill. Yeah, OK. He did testify last week at the Sub-Committee hearing. But I would think that you would want the author of the bill to at least be involved and to explain his reasoning behind the legislation. I am fine debating Todd Rutherford on this or any other issue. As a side note, I really like Todd and I have tremendous respect for him on a lot of fronts.
But, apparently CNN decided that they didn't want someone like me on the show - with a levelheaded, commonsense, non-sensational and non-emotional approach to the issue. Instead they wanted to create a flamboyant debate and give Rep. Rutherford a chance to win - Thus furthering the liberal agenda and promoting big government to protect us. Go Figure. How does Glenn Beck stand it over there?
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
Sunday, May 13, 2007
Our nation was built and civilized by men and women who used guns in self-defense and in pursuit of peace. One wonders indeed, if the rising crime rate, isn't due as much as anything to the criminal's instinctive knowledge that the average victim no longer has means of self-protection." - Ronald Reagan, Guns & Ammo, Sept. 1975
Thursday, May 10, 2007
The Facts: Concealed Weapons Permit (CWP) holders would be able to carry on college and public school campuses under this bill. To obtain a CWP in South Carolina, one must be 21 years old, undergo both a criminal and mental health background check, and take an 8 hour firearm safety & carry law class. The CWP law has been on the books in the Palmetto State for over 10 years with over 53,000 permits issued. Not a single incident has been reported of a CWP holder being involved in a crime with a firearm here in South Carolina.
Why not let responsible adults who take the steps to obtain a CWP carry a firearm for personal protection, protection of private property or protection of others carry on campus? Some argue that we shouldn't have concealed weapons on campus, as college kids have a tendency to act irresponsibly. Well, first-off, we are talking about 21 year-olds (so probably Seniors, right) who would be showing some responsibility if they went through the steps to obtain a CWP. And let's be honest folks: If a college kid was going to use a gun on a teacher who gave him/her a bad grade, you think they are going to go through the trouble to obtain a CWP? Breaking the law is breaking the law.
Let's debate this issue and see what comes of it. From where I am sitting, any law which infringes on my right to keep and bear arms is unconstitutional, so I would wager that the current laws are unconstitutional. But someone would have to challenge the existing laws in order to get the High Court to rule as to the constitutionality. Here is a GREAT article in US News & World Report: www.usnews.com/usnews/news/articles/070429/7barone.htm
Enough of the sensationalizing of the issue, juxtaposed against the sensationalizing of the VT massacre. We are looking for a solution so that South Carolina citizens can protect themselves, other citizens and their property. In other words, their Life, Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness.
Tuesday, May 8, 2007
As Republican legislators, we were elected by our folks back home. The people who sent us here made it very clear that they wanted the old system of wheeling and dealing to change. I campaigned on one very important promise: that I would vote to send qualified conservative judges to sit on the bench in this State. I know many of our colleagues in the Republican Party made the same campaign promises as well.
Today, we are watching what’s wrong with South Carolina’s system of electing judges unfold before our eyes. The SC Republican Party principles clearly state, “the existing system of electing judges in our state is flawed because it lacks public accountability and allows personal and political favoritism to overshadow merit and competence.” I know that there are many Democrats who also share this concern, as it is a concern that transcends party.
I am joined by colleagues today who want to make it clear that we will NOT be party to business as usual at the State House.
Today three candidates have passed through the screening committee process. Two of the candidates by any measure are qualified to serve on the South Carolina Supreme Court. The third, however, is clearly the beneficiary of the very problem I described above. We need accountability in this process and I think a quick glance at the records will describe clearly who is qualified and who is not.
The South Carolina Bar Association’s evaluation of judges makes clear that Judge Beatty is the least qualified judge on two very serious measures. The Bar's evaluation on two critical considerations include:
- Fair and Effective Settlement Scores – High score, Judge Williams (83%); Low Score, Judge Beatty (35%)
- Not Influenced by Identity of Lawyers – High score, Judge Williams (80%); Low Score, Judge Beatty (38%)
I want to make it clear that I join my colleagues who argue that we need more African-American representation on the court. We need capable and qualified judges like Judge Reggie Lloyd, Judge Mathew Perry and Judge Ernest Finney. It is clear from the Bars own assessment that Judge Beatty does not meet this test.
I urge my colleagues to STOP the wheeling and dealing and keep their eyes on what matters most…ability. We will likely be selecting the next Chief Justice of the South Carolina Supreme Court this month. The gravity of this vote cannot be overstated – we need the most capable and qualified justice to fill that role. Our folks back home expect that of us as their elected representatives – anything less than the best is just an unacceptable continuation of what’s wrong with our system.
Sunday, May 6, 2007
The South Carolina Republican Party deplores the social engineering and "legislating" from the bench that the judicial activism of the United States Supreme Court has permitted and encouraged. Many of the problems faced by our society today, and the difficulties that we encounter in addressing those problems, arise from the Judiciary's grants of power to the government of the United States above and beyond the specific powers enumerated in the Constitution. Consistent with the concept of strict construction of the United States Constitution, all federal judges and justices are urged to exercise judicial restraint in their rulings. We specifically call upon the Supreme Court to return to its historic role of interpreting and applying the Constitution as understood and intended by its Framers.
The Party recognizes the existing system of electing judges in our State is flawed because it lacks public accountability and allows personal and political favoritism to overshadow merit and competence. As long as judges are elected by the General Assembly, former legislators will have an advantage in judicial races without regard to qualification or judicial philosophy. The current method of electing judges has resulted in a judiciary that often does not reflect the conservative philosophy or standard of competency expected by the majority of South Carolina citizens. Because confidence in the judiciary is an essential underpinning of our government, this method must be reformed so as to inspire the confidence of the people of this State. This is in the South Carolina Republican Party Platform. There is a lot of other good stuff in there, but this, I think, is apropos.
Thursday, May 3, 2007
Building on the words of James Carville, ("Its the economy, stupid"), I believe the most important issue of the day is the US Constitution and the related amendments, primarily the Bill of Rights (1st ten Amendments if you slept through the third grade). You see, I believe that the drafters of the Constitution were just as inspired by God as the writers of any book in the Bible. Have you read it lately? (the Constitution, that is - I hope you have read the Bible) How about within the last 10 years? No?
How about this question: What liberties are protected in the 1st Amendment? All we seem to really think about, due to the drive-by media, is Freedom of Speech and Americans equate the 1st Amendment to Freedom of Speech. In fact, the website for Emory Law School (hey, it was the first Google link, ok) had this title for it:
Amendment I: Freedom of speech, religion, press, petition and assembly.
It will surprise you, I think, to see the whole Amendment, which I have posted below. Notice what Emory Law School lists as the first freedom in their title and then notice what the Founders listed as the first freedom guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. Interesting.
I guess I am a strict Constitutionist, so to speak. I believe it is a clear document and that, over time, it has been polluted by interpretation. We need to go back and really read it to understand where the founders of this nation saw the role of government in our lives, along with the relationship of the Federal government to the states. (The 9th and 10th Amendments address this).
Amendment 1: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
On the National Day of Prayer, I prayed for our Constitution.
Juxtapose this to the emotions of the Columbine students as they recounted the events of that day. Now, granted, we are talking about high school students vs. college age kids. But that is not really my point.
The point is this: Have we in America become so de-sensitized to death, killings, murder, rape, drug useage, foul language and sex with children?
At one time I criticized the folks who were pointing their fingers at video games and the like as a contributing cause. Now, I am not so sure they are not at least partly right. It is apparent that there is little regard for human life or an understanding of the consequences of certain actions. The methodical way this boy at VT went about his killing was almost like he was going from level to level racking up "kills" like he was playing a game.
Other contributing factors that I think have played a part in our de-sensitizaton of things once seen as taboo include reality tv shows. Shows where Ozzy Osbourne and family use so much foul language that the audio is nothing but a series of beeeeeeeeps; bachelor/bachelorette shows glorifing promiscuous sex; island settings where couples are encouraged (I think temptation is the word used) to spend time with other parties - almost insuring adulterous actions, etc.
I am not prude. Admittedly, I use some language sometimes that would warrant a "R" rating by the movie board. For this I apologize. But I am a product of this popculture, too, and that is what I am getting at.
I long for times past when the lines were a little clearer as to right & wrong. When the media didn't glorify (or at least give so much attention to) acts of a maniac.
I want us to be shocked when we hear of incidents such as the VT massacre or teachers having inappropriate relations with children under their care and supervision. Not to have the feelings of "Oh, well, it has happened again."
Instead of us being shocked, society is looking for someone to blame. Folks, it is not the guns, but that is for a later blog. Let's lay the blame where it needs to rest: popculture; glorification of events (the kid at VT sent a video in the mail between shootings, knowing that the media was going to glorify this event); lack of parental involvement in the lives of our children; rewarding single-parent households, usually absence of the father; the list goes on.
In the words of Forrest Gump: That's all I have to say about that.
Wednesday, May 2, 2007
The picture of Tom Cruise in Jerry McGuier, rolling down the highway after he had sent his manuscript, singing "I'm Free Falling" came to mind!
Thanks to everyone who has taken the time to read this, post a comment or contact me with kudos. Don't worry - I'm going to keep on blogging.
Tuesday, May 1, 2007
Why a Blog? I guess that I have a few things to get off of my chest from time to time. I enjoy reading some blogs, so I figured - what the hay!
Let's discuss the state's budget which is currently being worked on. $7.875 Billion. WOW! We will see around $1.5 Billion in surplus money this year and had $1 Billion last year. Add 2005 in the mix and we have seen approximately $3 Billion in surpluses in the last three years. Now, I ask you: As the average Joe citizen in South Carolina have you seen any benefit? We ought to be giving some of this money back to the taxpayers. We tend to forget that it was the taxpayer's money before it was the governments. And we are proceeding to spend almost every dime. Aren't the Republicans in control? Super majority in the House; majority in the Senate; Lt. Governor; Governor; now the Treasurer, too. I don't get it and I am frustrated.
Why pick this year to pass a cigarette tax increase? And if that is the will, why miss the opportunity to do something for the citizens of the state? We could have used the money to fund Medicaid or create a small business insurance pool to allow small businesses to provide affordable health insurance to their employees. But the "Leadership" wanted to have a tax swap - to be revenue neutral. OK. But why do something half-way by reducing the tax on groceries. Why not a total elimination of the grocery tax? Not enough money generated by the cigarette tax increase to cover the elimination? Why not use some of the surplus to make up the difference? We have $1.5 Billion for the love of Pete!!! I put up an Amendment to totally eliminate the tax on groceries - a way to give every citizen in South Carolina some money back this year. Nobody took it seriously or cared to listen as they were dazed by the previous defeat of the Crawford / Harrell Amendment seconds before. Obviously we are not serious about giving the taxpayers some of their hard-earned money back. The cigarette tax bill was Mickey Mouse and will never get taken up in the Senate, I don't think. I wore my Mickey Mouse tie to the Statehouse today for symbolism of the things that go on there sometimes.
I remember reading somewhere that those who don't remember the past are doomed to repeat it.
November Elections 2006. The Republicans lost the US Congress because they had lost touch. They forgot that we are the party of smaller, limited government and controlled spending.
Sound familiar? Green Bean Museums, library expansions (have you seen the library in Florence! Picture Above. Geez Louise!) and festivals aren't cutting it as far as Conservatives in this state go. The taxpayers want some of the $3 Billion back or at least see us spending on common-sense things like roads and bridges. Ask them - they'll tell you.
Put me in Coach.