By Charleston Mercury Staff

Dive in, the water is fine; five did just that in running for the GOP primary to fill the seat currently held by South Carolina State Senator Paul Thurmond (R) in District 41. Four attorneys and one businessman are in this heavily Republican district; no Democrat has filed to run.

Your salmon sheets posed some questions to the candidates; the print edition edited these for newspaper style purposes and for brevity. The full responses are posted here.

 

Questions for candidates in GOP Primary

1. Legislation heading for the governor’s signature will address road funding to some extent. Critics do not think we are spending enough and that we should raise the gas tax slightly to pay for better road maintenance and new construction. What legislative path would you prefer?

 

2. Politicians speak of “fixing education.” We obviously cannot control parents who neither read to their children nor encourage them to study. Of the available remedies to improve our K-12 system, what specific measures would you advocate?

 

3. Would you support giving the Department of Natural Resources more autonomy to set game and fish limits and limit your own legislative reach into what some consider to be the micromanagement of our game and fish regulations?

 

4. Is our State Ethics Commission sufficient for monitoring the conduct of our public officials? What changes, if any, would you suggest are needed?

 

5. The State Conservation Bank has been an effective tool for protecting our natural environment, yet it has critical weaknesses (i.e., the “Death Clause”). What would you do to strengthen financially the SCB so it can continue to protect our natural treasures?

 

6. What is your specific legislative remedy to the biggest issue you see facing the citizens of District 41?

 

Culver Kidd

1. I believe the legislation recently passed by the Senate is a step in the right direction on two fronts. First, it allocates $400 million dollars to the SCDOT without increasing taxes. While this alone is insufficient to address all of the problems statewide, it is a start that I hope to work from as state senator. Second, and more importantly, this legislation creates real accountability for the SCDOT and the State Infrastructure Bank (SIB). Hopefully, it can improve the efficiency within the SCDOT, so existing funding can be spent on our roads and not get tied up in the bureaucratic process. 

2. There is no singular answer to fixing our failing schools. As a criminal prosecutor, I have often seen how failure in education leads to failure as a productive member of society. As state senator, I will work to improve education by advancing the following:

Streamline funding to ensure it reaches the classrooms where it is needed the most and away from government bureaucrats;

With less money being spent on government bureaucrats, re-allocate existing funds to increase the salaries of teaching positions at failing schools, so our best teachers have real incentives to teach at such schools;

Empower teachers to handle disciplinary issues by permanently removing students who contribute to a toxic learning environment;

Create a vocational track for students who show signs of an inability to keep up with their academic studies, so they can learn life skills that will properly prepare them for the workforce upon graduation;

Remove tenure protection for teachers. Ineffective teachers should not be protected. Our schools should be run like a business; and, if a teacher is no longer effective at their job, we should have the ability to replace him or her with a more capable alternative;

School choice: Give parents and students options, so they are not forced into a failing school simply because of their zip code. Adding magnet and charter school options will also provide additional opportunities for motivated parents and students looking for the most appropriate learning environment for their families. 

3. While I believe the DNR is competent at the job of monitoring and implementing actions that are in the best interests for the conservation of our natural resources, there are many factors including economic impact that are not necessarily in the purview of the DNR. I think legislative involvement is necessary to balance the environmental impact of DNR proposals with the immediate impact on local businesses, tourism and local citizen’s quality of life.

4. Absolutely not. South Carolina is far behind the national curve in implementing ethics reform. First, an ethics commission made up of civilians and not legislators should be formed to investigate allegations of unethical conduct by legislators. Second, sitting legislators should be required to disclose fully all income and its sources. Additionally, all family members of legislators should be required to disclose any income that is directly or indirectly related to state agencies or contracts. Finally, legislators should be required to refrain from voting on any issue relating to an area in which a conflict of interest exists.

5. This is a relatively uncomplicated question. It simply a question of whether to continue funding the bank past 2018 and remove the “death clause” from its enabling legislation. I believe protecting and preserving our natural resources for the public benefit is a noble endeavor and worthy of continued funding. However, further limiting the banks expenditures to accomplishing goals within its specific scope would be prudent. 

6. I believe in proactively preparing for the growth within our community is the most important issue facing those living on James Island, Johns Island, West Ashley and Summerville. Anyone who has lived within these communities during the past ten years has seen how fast our population has been growing and how our local and state government has failed to prepare for this growth. We need to increase the communication between local municipalities and the SCDOT to prioritize projects that would most alleviate traffic congestion. Further, we need to ensure that the necessary infrastructure improvements are in place to handle the rapid population increase before permitting additional high-density developments. Finally, we need to make sure that the extension of 526 is completed.

 

Timothy Mallard

 1. This problem has been building for some time and has gone largely unaddressed by the General Assembly, putting our citizens at risk as well as future economic development. I am generally opposed to raising taxes, especially when there are so many problems with the way we allocate resources for our roads and infrastructure. Our citizens are overtaxed and our government should not put another burden on them now because our politicians have failed to adequately deal with this issue.

2. I believe we need to provide more educational choices for parents and students. My daughter was fortunate enough to be able to attend the school that was best for her educational needs and I want to find solutions to allow more students to be able have the educational experience that will give the tools they need to succeed and to grow in productive adults.

3. DNR is entrusted to manage these areas. As long as they continue to keep the best balance of our natural recourses, environment and sportsmen in mind, I am in favor of less micromanagement by our state legislature.

4. Those running for the South Carolina House of Representatives or S.C. State Senate are actually subject to the Ethics Committee in their respective legislative body. The House has passed an ethics reform package supported by Governor Nikki Haley while the Senate has consistently failed to take up the legislation. Helping get that bill on the agenda and passed through the Senate would be one of my top priorities. I am in favor of our elected officials being held to higher standards of conduct and greater accountability.

5. I am in favor of fully funding the Conservation Bank. It not only helps preserve the natural beauty I have enjoyed as a lifelong Lowcountry resident, but it also helps encourage tourism and economic growth in our area.

6. Job creation and economic development are the most important issues facing our district and our state. While certain sectors of our economy have seen improvement since the economic collapse of 2008, we have a long way to go truly “recover” and make up for lost time. The best thing government can do to help encourage job creation and economic growth is to get out of the way. Lower taxes and fees on small-business and less intrusive government regulation will go a long way to getting us back on track.

 

Roy Maybank 

1. I don’t believe the question can be fully answered at this time (March 17, 2016) until we understand what the House will do with the Senate’s funding bill. Once the House and Senate Bills are reconciled and/or the House adopts the Senate’s plan and the bill is presented to the governor, then this can be answered with a better understanding.

There are critics who say the Senate plan is short sited because it uses “extra” or what I would call “non-recurring” money from the general revenue fund — funds generated by the resurgent South Carolina economy — to pay for road maintenance. Basically, the state has collected more in taxes and fees above what was budgeted resulting in a surplus. Simply put you can’t use “one-time” money for recurring roads and other infrastructure needs. I don’t operate our family or business budget that way and I don’t think most South Carolinians do either.

The bottom line is no one, neither individuals nor business, wants their taxes raised. The burden taxes place on a citizen/community can impair and impede growth and the success of that citizen/community, thereby hurting and depressing everyone.

However, a social contract exists within the fabric of a civilized society. In this case, that contract is implicitly grounded in the notion that the government owes the taxpaying citizens of its state a duty to ensure those core government services such as public safety, education, trash and infrastructure, such as roads and maintenance of these services conform to a basic minimum standards.

For years, S.C.’s legislature has failed in that regard. The legislature must pass a long-term road funding solution to meet the state’s road repair needs. There have been band-aid solutions in the past and this Senate proposal seems to continue this process.

History educates us that economies go up and down, sometimes slowly and sometimes rapidly. What happens when the state runs out of taxpayer’s “extra” found money? Everything will be shorted and improperly funded and once again, the roads will continue to suffer.   

2. First, all the above, everything should be on the table to give parents the choices they deem best for their children; charter schools, magnet schools, home schooling, school choice, everything. There is no silver bullet in fixing this problem. Although it is easy to blame teachers, we must realize as a state we have asked educators tasked with teaching to do much more with much less. I would challenge the S.C. Department of Education to work with school districts in developing policies that would create an environment with smaller class sizes, where parents have a shared sense of investment, especially in low performing Tier I schools. In addition we must create a better environment for the teachers who are in the classroom.

I do not believe more money needs to be thrown at this problem. There is ample proof around the country that more money does not correlate to improved educational outcomes. Education decisions need to be returned back to the local communities and the parents where the schools are located. This is a local issue and “fixing education” should be the prerogative of those families and teachers in those local communities.

3. Yes. As a hunter as well as a legislator, I would defer to the expertise of the biologists at the Department of Natural Resources to set those limits through their game management program. They are the field experts. However, I would also empower local communities, after consulting with biologist at DNR, with the latitude to make decisions on harvesting animals deemed to be a blight/nuisance to communities such as coyotes, armadillos, pigs etc. I want my children and the next generation to have the same opportunities to hunt and/or fish our abundant natural resources. Being a sportsman, I want to be a legislator who facilitates giving everyone the appreciation and stewardship of what our lands not only provide us, but all citizens of S.C. and our guests.

4. No. First let’s begin by properly funding the commission so it can be fully staffed to perform its duty and then make lawmakers accountable to the state ethics commission like the other state government officials, rather than separate House and Senate Ethics Committees. This is the fox watching the hen house and it needs to end. All legislators should reveal their private sources of income (not amount) to avoid the appearance of any conflict of interest in passing and dealing with state funding. Third, shorten the legislative session. It is too long and prevents too many good people from serving. The public has lost confidence in many of our elected officials when it comes to ethics transparency. The public should be able to go to one place and find “all” the information on elected officials and have full confidence with that information. 

5. First and foremost, I believe in the sanctity of property rights vested in every American. I also believe everyone has the right to sell and/or encumber their property rights as they see fit. However, I believe the ultimate power to encumber one’s land rests with the individual and believe each property owner has the right to work with the state on ways to preserve those key assets and resources.

The State Conservation Bank is a critical tool in the government’s arsenal to help work with private individuals to protect lands cherished by South Carolinians, past, present and in the future. With the massive influx of new citizens, the bank is as important as ever. Since inception, the bank has protected hundreds of thousands of acres of historic lands, farms, forest/wetlands and urban parks from development and for the benefit of future generations to enjoy.

Having adequate funds allocated to the State Conservation Bank is just as important. You ask about the Death Clause, which as I understand it means cutting off further funding to the bank for future operations, if this is what you are referring to, this needs to be revisited and removed. The bank is critical and should be allowed to perpetually exist as a critical S.C. agency. Having resources to buy the land and/or confer a benefit to a land owner, through easement or purchase, is critical.

6. I’m not sure there is just one big issue.

Voters tell me they are concerned about inadequate infrastructure — citizens are spending too much time in the cars stuck in traffic and away from their families, businesses are losing productivity and resources. We need to complete I-526.

Voters tell me they are concerned that our school children are not prepared to enter the workforce or pursue higher education.

We must provide a quality educational opportunity for all children and we must do more to allow teachers to do what they do best and that is to teach. According to a recent study put out by the Tri County Cradle to Career Collaborative, 62 percent of Tri-County school children are not reading at a 3rd Grade Level, 66 percent are not ready for High School Math, 74 percent are not ready for College Math and 11 percent have no High School Diploma. That is simply unacceptable in this day and age of modern technology.

A quality education, bar none, is the most important factor in the success of a child through adulthood and into older life. A child may be poor, but if uneducated, he/she will likely continue on that track (with some exceptions). But a child born poor and provided a quality education, which prepares them for the workforce and/or college, will more likely than not become a productive and positive member of society. The upfront cost to ensure a child is properly educated far outpaces the financial burden that child will eventually become to society when they in effect become a ward of the state, for life.    

Joe Qualey

1. I have consistently been against any tax increases. I would be against a gas tax increase at this time. I believe the state government, like all other levels of government, is too large and too expensive and if run like a private enterprise there should be savings enough to fund road projects.

2. I would reduce the large salaries of the administrators and spend less money on buildings and more money on teachers, all in an effort to reduce class size and provide more personal attention to each student.

3. Every department needs oversight. I would not micromanage the day-to-day operations of the department but believe something as impactful as setting game and fish limits should be done pursuant to debate and approval. 

4. It is NOT sufficient. All expenditures should be submitted and scrutinized for proper purpose and an independent body should address any potential violations.

5. I would be in favor legislation that provides for the continued funding for this most effective and critical part of the state government. We in the Lowcountry have witnessed first hand the great things that the Conservation Bank has accomplished and I would have them continue unabated.

6. Traffic and lack of infrastructure threatens our way of life. All future developments should be approved only with proper infrastructure being already present. I-26 must be widened to address the major increase in truck traffic from the port and Boeing related projects and the SCDOT and the State Infrastructure Bank should be reorganized to allow road projects to be funded in an objective manner and not based upon political influence. 

Sandy Senn

1. Our roads are a priority and must be repaired. I am not convinced that the proposed gas tax bills, in their current forms, are best for the Lowcountry because here we will collect the lion’s share of the gas tax from tourists yet then be forced to give it to to the state for use mostly in smaller counties. If a gas tax is passed, we need to determine a way to split the money based on population and road usage. I do support the concept of offsetting any gas tax increase with a state income tax decrease thus ultimately placing the gas tax burden on visitors. We also need to explore installing a few toll roads to pay for costly maintenance on the interstates. Further, the state should cede control of state-maintained roads to our more accessible local officials along with the funding to bring those roads up to par. This approach will provide for faster fixes on potholes and other needed road repairs.

2. For older students, I would advocate that 11th and 12th graders be given more options to enter technological training to compete for the higher paying jobs with our new industries. The Chamber, Trident and CCSD have started an apprenticeship program that has been very successful wherein 11th graders begin training at Tech and actually get paid to train by the industries that later hire them. It is a small-scale program with awesome potential and it needs expanding. The last thing we need is to have good jobs given to out-of-state people who then move here. Our state has been wildly exceptional with recruiting new industries, but now we need to follow through and make sure that our students are prepared to capitalize on the job opportunities.

For younger students, clearly they must learn how to read and our new supervisor, Dr. Postlewait, is in a position to make that happen. Meanwhile, I would advocate for more “brain rooms,” which are classrooms that provide exercise stimulus which is proven to re-engage the brain through motion. It stops daydreaming and promotes learning. The cost to incorporate exercise in the classrooms can be free or minimal and not disruptive, yet it will cause our students’ minds and bodies to be strong and alert. Why chain our students to the same old desks and chairs and force them to sit without moving? Hooray to the teachers who are already incorporating the brain room approach in their classes and who are avoiding the old and boring classroom setup that has been used for too many years.

3. The director should have his finger on the pulse of what is happening with fish and game. He must trust his biologists and the scientific data gathered by them and then make decisions regarding wildlife without jumping through legislative hoops. As an agency leader, he is already accountable. Any misstep could cost him his job. So, his incentive would inherently be to exercise appropriate measures to protect fish and game while also making local sportsmen (and sportswomen) happy. If the sportsmen are not happy, the legislators will hear about it and will no doubt will listen.

4. There should be only one set of ethical rules and one commission governing all elected officials. Having both House Ethics and Senate Ethics seems duplicative and we should all be operating by the same standards. The appointees to the commission should be fair and trustworthy and avoid witch hunts. But the commission should have enforcement mechanisms in place in order to more quickly discover transgressions, such as the mandatory disclosure of campaign bank accounts.

5. Conservation is very important in this age of sprawl and unwise development projects which are made at the local level. I would agree with increasing the allocation of deed stamps to better fund the SCB and to extend the sunset clause. In the unlikely event that the so-called “death clause” ever comes into reality, then our state’s financial picture would be bleak indeed.

6. With roads and education already addressed, my next focus would be to support police, firefighters and EMT’s. Having represented first responders for 25 years, I have watched the liberal media tear down these honorable professions. Although there have certainly been mistakes, it is a fact that most officers are fair-minded good members of our community. Our Senate needs someone who understands law enforcement and other first responder procedures on the Senate subcommittee as each and every year there are bills put forth that affect those professions.

 

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