South Carolina editorial roundup: Friday, Sept. 25, 2020


Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:

The Post and Courier

Sept. 21

Flood mitigation bills would help with planning

It's only been within the past five or so years that Charleston and other coastal communities have come to recognize the existential threat posed by rising sea waters, and now our biggest challenge is figuring out how to hold back or live with the water - and how to pay with whatever options we choose.

The awakening has been understandably slower inland, but thanks in large part to three years of storm-induced flooding that crippled parts of the Pee Dee and Columbia over four years, it has begun.

This week, the Legislature has a chance to sign off on two bills that would help speed up the inland awakening and help plan and pay for the necessary mitigation along the coast and inland. Lawmakers need to pass both.

S.217 is a discrete but significant change, beneficial primarily to Charleston, that would allow cities and counties to use hospitality tax revenue to pay for flood-mitigation projects.

When the Legislature wrote the law to allow cities and counties to levy an extra tax on restaurant meals, the hospitality industry insisted that the money be spent on tourism projects, which were likely to generate more business for restaurants.

It seems pretty obvious that keeping the peninsula above water would help Charleston remain a tourist destination, but "control and repair of flooding and drainage at tourism-related lands or areas" is not among the allowable uses of restaurant tax funds. S.217 would add it.

When the Senate passed the bill in January 2019 - it did so by a vote of 34-2 - it allowed cities and counties to use both restaurant and local hotel tax revenue for flood-mitigation work, but the House Ways and Means Committee voted earlier this month to allow only restaurant taxes. It makes sense to allow both, but Thursday could be the last day of the 2919-20 Legislature, so senators should go along with the change. Once the House makes it and passes the bill. Which it needs to do on Tuesday.

Those same steps need to occur with the other important flood-related bill up for a vote in the House, S.259, which is actually much expanded from the version that passed the Senate.

The bill the Senate passed 44-1 in March 2019 created a revolving fund to help local governments secure FEMA grants to buy out properties that flood repeatedly and break the cycle of flood, flood insurance payout, rebuild, flood. But after Gov. Henry McMaster's floodwater task force recommended, and the governor endorsed, creating a new office to improve South Carolina's resiliency against future storms and flooding, House Ways and Means Chairman Murrell Smith took an interest.

Earlier this month, his committee added language to the Senate-passed bill to create the state resilience office, staff it with flooding experts (many already on the state payroll), require it to develop and manage a statewide resilience and risk reduction plan and require cities and counties to include resiliency planning in their comprehensive plans.

The pandemic forced Mr. Smith to delay his plan to put $50 million into the revolving fund, but this legislation creates the framework, so the money can be added once we recover. We'd rather lawmakers tucked the new office inside, say, the Department of Administration rather than creating a whole new standalone agency, but this proposal has the potential to do a much better job fighting the most important threat our coastal communities face.

And it demonstrates that the Legislature and the governor understand the serious threat that stronger and more frequent storms - and increasingly higher tides - pose to our state and the vulnerabilities that so many of our communities have to flooding, in some cases as a result of their complacency toward unchecked development.

The Index-Journal

Sept. 18

Absentee ballots compromise plan is a good one

We agree overall with the rule that when things are not broken, there's no need to fix them. However, there's generally room for improvement.

And right now, during this pandemic, we think Gov. Henry McMaster did the right thing by signing into law a change in the state's voting rules that allows people to vote by absentee ballot without needing to designate one of the standard reasons for not being able to vote in person at the polls.

While we don't see the harm in eliminating the need for a witness signature - really, how hard would that be to come by anyway - or the proposal to provide drop boxes that would be monitored, the compromise plan reached for the 2020 General Election is good.

Additionally, it is good that the Greenwood County Board of Voter Registration and Elections Logistics Committee is working on plans to establish a satellite absentee precinct. It won't violate the statewide no-drop-box rule but does provide another layer of convenience.

Both moves get a thumbs up.

Well, ole Sally came barreling northward like she was in a Mustang, dumping plenty of rain on the area and putting a temporary damper on seeing Uptown and Ninety Six scarecrow displays and Wild Hare's monologue performances, also slated for Uptown as a means of bringing theater to the people instead of the people going to the theater during the pandemic.

The weather will clear up, and the scarecrow contest will certainly proceed. The monologue performances were to launch Thursday, but not all is a wash after all. Apparently, as the weather forecast was just that, a forecast, things are not quite as bad as originally anticipated. The monologues will take place today, but take an umbrella in case. You know how that goes. If you carry an umbrella, it won't rain. If you don't carry one, well ...

At any rate, a thumb points upward for these events that can give us all some relief from our six-month-long detour from normalcy.

We also want to give a thumbs up to our high school football players, coaches and staff. It's been tough figuring out how to play real football instead of, perhaps, flag football with a 6-foot-long flag. Somehow that just wouldn't be the same. We just hope everyone does their part to ensure others' safety and good health. The number of COVID-19 positive cases in our surrounding area might seem to be in better standing, but who knows? This is not the time to let our guard down.