South Carolina editorial roundup: Saturday, June 15, 2024


Times and Democrat

June 11

Clock ticking toward deadline for S.C. Real ID

If you want a South Carolina REAL ID for U.S. domestic travel, you officially have less than a year to get it.

The new federal identification requirements begin May 7, 2025, in South Carolina. Residents will need the identification card after that date if they want to fly in the U.S., visit some secure federal buildings or military installations.

The REAL ID requirement grew out of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Congress passed the REAL ID Act of 2005 in response to the 9/11 Commission's recommendation to standardize government-issued identifications. The act established new requirements for state drivers' licenses and ID cards that would be accepted by the federal government for "official purposes."

The deadline for when the card was to take effect has been delayed several times over the years, most recently because of the COVID-19 pandemic and from DMV backlogs caused by those delays.

South Carolina and other states fought the Real ID mandate for years. But in spring 2017, Gov. Henry McMaster ordered that South Carolina comply with the law and begin issuing REAL ID driver's licenses and identification cards that meet the federal standard.

In March 2020, the Department of Homeland Security announced it would extend the enforcement date of the Federal REAL ID Act of 2005 from Oct. 1, 2020, to Oct. 1, 2021, because of the coronavirus pandemic. But with agencies such as the SCDMV having limited and/or altered operations for a large time during 2020 and 2021, DHS extended the REAL ID full-enforcement date to May 3, 2023.

South Carolinians who satisfy the REAL ID documentation requirements can exchange their current driver's license for a REAL ID license at any SCDMV branch office for $25. Identification cards that are REAL ID compliant are available to people 17 and older for free. Identification cards for people 16 and younger are $15. You may not have both a license and an ID.

To obtain a REAL ID, a person needs to provide:

1. A government-issued birth certificate or U.S. passport.

2. Proof of Social Security number.

3. Two proofs of current S.C. address.

4. Records of any name changes.

Yes, you still have nearly a year to get your REAL ID, but putting REAL ID on your to-do list now will save time and ultimately aggravation - for you and SCDMV.

Visit for more information on REAL ID. And you may be able to purchase your new card from home.

Post and Courier

June 9

It was S.C. Freedom Caucus' biggest disruption. It needs to be reversed.

It's easy to miss the significance of Gov. Henry McMaster's attempts to help rescue the South Carolina Republican Party - which he played such a huge role in building into a behemoth - from the anarchists who have made a name by blaspheming its most loyal supporters.

Injecting himself into several House Republican primary races isn't just out of character for Mr. McMaster, as The Post and Courier's Alexander Thompson and Max White report. It's out of character for any S.C. governor.

Although then-Gov. Nikki Haley targeted Republican senators she didn't like, other governors in both parties have religiously steered clear of primaries, or at the very least of supporting anyone challenging an incumbent. (Gov. Carroll Campbell once made headlines for making a snide remark about an incumbent House member who was facing primary opposition, after that representative blocked one of his priorities.)

We suspect that, like us, the tipping point for Mr. McMaster was when the self-styled Freedom Caucus used a last-minute parliamentary maneuver to kill the most important bill of the 2024 session - a measure to merge six uncommunicative, overlapping health agencies into a single department controlled by the governor. This plan to finally put the governor in charge of the until-now autonomous public health sector is what the chaos sowers call creating a health czar. (Little-known fact: Three of the caucus members who claim that S.915 should be killed because of language about power in public health emergencies are co-sponsors of a bill that contains the very same language, which in both cases is simply included to show what's in current law.)

While Mr. McMaster's efforts are encouraging, what's not encouraging is the progress that's been made to revive S.915, which a caucus member stopped from clearing a procedural hurdle in the final hour of the regular legislative session last month. Without that intervention, House and Senate negotiators would have gone into conference committee and, by now, worked out the insignificant differences between the two versions of this landmark legislation.

Sen. Tom Davis told us last month that, with the blessing of Senate President Tom Alexander, Finance Chairman Harvey Peeler and other top leaders, he was working to revive the bill by adding it to the short list of items the Legislature could consider during brief limited-agenda sessions this month. Mr. McMaster has since endorsed that effort.

But when lawmakers returned to Columbia Wednesday to elect Letitia Verdin to the S.C. Supreme Court, no one tried to start that process, which could take more than one day.

S.915 passed the House and Senate with only 16 "no" votes in the 170-member General Assembly, 15 of them from the Freedom Caucus, and the bill only needed to be assigned to conference committee to remain alive. A study the Legislature authorized last year found that South Carolina's system of delivering health and human services is the most fragmented of any state in the United States. It was hardly groundbreaking.

Studies identified the problem of fragmentation in state government agencies as far back as the 1920s, and GOP Govs. Carroll Campbell and Mark Sanford made combining the overlapping, uncommunicative health agencies a priority but still couldn't push through the powerful, institutionalized opposition. Finally, S.915 was on the precipice of accomplishing what generations of elected officials had not, and allowing our elected governor instead of autonomous bureaucrats to control these agencies.

The problem now is that House and Senate leaders remain at odds over minute details that are not worth fighting about, Freedom Caucus allies in the Senate have simmering objections, and Democrats have signaled that if there's an effort to add S.915 to the sine die resolution (a change that requires a two-thirds vote), they'll try to add a House-passed hate-crimes bill; Senate Republican Leader Shane Massey told WCSC-TV that could kill the effort.

There's no reason it should.

There's a very good argument for adding S.915 to the agenda: It is monumentally important and overwhelmingly supported and fell a single procedural vote short of making it onto that agenda. There is simply no similar argument for adding anything else.

It would be nearly as irresponsible as the Freedom Caucus' antics for Democrats to block the health agencies merger because Republicans won't agree to debate the hate-crimes bill. It would be likewise irresponsible for Senate leaders to block the effort to revive S.915 just because they don't want to have to take a vote on the hate-crimes bill, or because they still have tiny disagreements with the House; that's what conference committees are made to reconcile.

Neither the hate crimes bill nor the save-the-bars bill that one Freedom Caucus member wants added to the agenda has even been debated in the Senate, much less passed almost unanimously, and so neither has the legislative history that would justify adding it to the June agenda.