Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:
The Index-Journal on the outcry surrounding ‘vaccination passports’:
Do you have a driver’s license? If so, do you keep it handy, especially when driving and shopping?
Do you have a concealed weapons permit? If so, do you keep it handy, especially when you’re away from home and carrying a weapon on your person?
Do you have pets? Do you have their shot records you can show at the boarding kennel as proof they’re up to date on their shots?
Do you have children in school? At college or university? Do you have their immunization records?
When you go to the Peace Center or Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville for a concert — you remember those types of events, don’t you? — do you have a clear bag in which to carry your possessions for when you proceed through the checkpoint before entering?
When you travel abroad, do you have a passport?
Do you have a RealID yet?
Do you have a Social Security card and can prove who you are to the IRS? When getting a loan? A credit card?
Ah, so many “do you” questions that could be asked, most of which would be answered in the affirmative.
And yet, some would have you believe that if we are asked to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination to fly, enter a stadium, theater or arena, we are most surely going to be herded onto train cars one day. Or, at the very least, hauled off to a tattoo parlor to have our vaccination record permanently placed on our arms.
That, readers, is not meant in any way to imply that there is any parallel between what happened in Nazi-controlled Germany. It is, rather, meant to point up just how ridiculous it is for anyone to imply that vaccinations and the so-called vaccination passports even come close to that.
The drumbeat that all things COVID-19 are about government control needs to be drowned out by a loud refrain: It’s about health.
The Times and Democrat on South Carolina politicians working on the state's own election law changes:
The fiery language surrounding states making changes in election laws reads a lot like some in this country want no election laws.
Put aside all the accusations and counter-accusations, name-calling and labels surrounding election 2020 and the allegations of fraud. The election results are history, but how the election was conducted in each state can and should be examined by state officials. That has never been more necessary than after 2020 when the coronavirus pandemic resulted in changes in voting procedures across the country, some approved by lawmakers and some implemented without lawmaker approval.
While Democrats in Congress want to change the voting landscape by essentially giving control of elections to the federal government, the Constitution gives that authority to the states, where it should remain.
South Carolina lawmakers are looking at making some changes following the 2020 vote. In advocating them, Gov. Henry McMaster states: “Millions of Americans hold legitimate concerns about the integrity of the 2020 election. Though there were no reported voting irregularities in South Carolina, voter fraud remains a persistent and pervasive threat to the strength of our democracy.”
South Carolina’s proposed changes won’t spark the outcry that has accompanied action by lawmakers in states such as Georgia, where reiterating ID and signature requirements have been wrongly mischaracterized as “racist” and labeled even by President Joe Biden as an “atrocity.”
In our state, the focus is on strengthening the State Election Commission’s authority to standardize election practices in the 46 counties. It would give the state commission power to “supervise” how county boards of elections operate in ensuring that state laws are followed in each county.
In a letter to lawmakers, McMaster cited state law requiring a witness signature on absentee ballots, with the governor saying the law was not followed by all counties in the state. “Some counties were employing a hodgepodge of different and inconsistent processes.”
While that was in part due to a series of court rulings that put the requirement in off-again, on-again status, ensuring consistency is necessary going forward.
The biggest hang-up in the legislation is changing the makeup of the State Election Commission.
Under current law, the governor appoints the five members of the board. One must be a member of the majority party in the General Assembly and another a member of the minority party.
The proposed changes call for five members of a nine-person board to be appointed by the governor. Four of those five could be from the governor’s political party.
The president of the Senate would appoint two members, one selected with the recommendation from the majority party in the Senate and one from the minority party. The speaker of the House would have to do the same as the Senate president and chose one person appointed by the majority party and one from the minority.
Democratic foes contend the changes will make the commission more partisan, while proponents say it diversifies the commission through new voices in making appointments.
Republican or Democrat, the bottom line for any member of the commission is not politics. It is ensuring that election law is followed by providing necessary oversight. The legislation reinforces the importance of that mission.
The Post and Courier on tackling South Carolina's affordable housing shortage:
Many of us have watched as rents and housing prices in the Charleston region have soared so dramatically that we might think we’re somehow unique in our struggle to ensure that workers can find affordable places to live. If so, we would be wrong.
As the new 2021 South Carolina Housing Needs Assessment documents, almost one of every four renters in the state was paying more than 50% of their income on rent in 2019. The situation likely worsened last year, given the pandemic. Meanwhile, the number of home sales pending in December for less than $100,000 was down 33% from the previous year. As The Post and Courier’s David Slade reported, the average worker’s wage in 40 of our 46 counties was too low to afford a two-bedroom apartment.
“This is not just a big-city challenge. It’s a suburban challenge. It’s a rural challenge,” said Bryan Grady, who authored the assessment. “There are a lot of moving parts, but there’s the basic question of can the people who make your community what it is afford to live in your community? In a lot of cases, for a lot of reasons, the answer is no.”
While the solutions to this problem largely lie on the local level, where zoning decisions about height, density and infrastructure are made, the state and federal government can help. Although our state government is doing little, a new initiative pending in Congress looks promising, particularly for homeowners in rural areas and places where property values aren’t rising as fast.
The proposed Neighborhood Homes Investment Act would create a federal tax credit to cover the cost difference between building or renovating a home in these areas and the price at which it could be sold. The legislation would incentivize new construction and also help existing homeowners make repairs and remain in their homes.
Supporters say it could help revitalize about 500,000 homes and create $100 billion in development revenue over the next decade; about 22% of the nation’s metro areas and 25% of our rural areas would meet the qualifications for help. These areas have poverty rates that are 130% or greater than their metro or state rate, have incomes below 80% of their area’s median income and have home values below the metro or state median value.
U.S. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina is among a bipartisan group of six senators who have signed onto the legislation, which President Joe Biden also has included in his American Jobs Plan. “Homeownership is an important part of the American Dream, and for far too long too many people have had to face an uphill climb to owning their own property,” Mr. Scott said. “The Neighborhood Homes Investment Act will help first time homebuyers across the United States further their dreams of being homeowners.”
Other parts of President Biden’s sweeping infrastructure proposal also could address housing affordability, but the Neighborhood Homes Investment Act would help some homeowners modernize their property without taking a big loss if they had to sell it anytime soon. “It certainly would help the more rural and distressed areas of the state,” Mr. Grady said.
Investors, not the government, would bear the risk; no credit would be disbursed until rehabilitation work is done and the home is occupied by an eligible homeowner, currently defined as homeowners making less than 140% of their area’s median income. The legislation is designed so residents of targeted communities get the help; the credit would be capped at either 35% of the total development costs or 80% of the median home price.
But even if new help arrives on the federal level, that’s no reason for cities and counties in the Charleston region and beyond to take their feet off the gas to address housing affordability locally.
Affordable housing long has been a challenge here, and the scope of the problem only seems to be growing. For instance, a new study commissioned as part of Charleston’s Comprehensive Plan has found the need for an extra 16,351 affordably priced homes and apartments in the city of Charleston alone over the next decade — if the city hopes to meet its housing demand for residents in all income brackets. As we’ve noted before, that’s the equivalent of 80 projects the size of Joseph Floyd Manor.
So Charleston County Council must continue to follow through on plans to create a new countywide housing fund that would help finance new, affordable projects, and Charleston City Council also must look for ways to do more, including raising fees on developers who opt out of including affordable units in their new projects.
And North Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Goose Creek and other municipalities must look at options either to subsidize or support — perhaps through planning and zoning tweaks — more affordable projects in their communities. That work has been ongoing but must continue with even more urgency.