Long Form Your SC Politics Briefing

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Welcome to your weekly South Carolina politics briefing, a newsletter curated by The State’s politics and government team.

The SC Legislature is back out of Columbia as quickly as they returned, meaning the State House is clear aside from a few committee meetings here and there. Lawmakers wrapped up their special session work Tuesday, and the main event was the state budget.

No shock to anyone, the House and Senate overrode most of Gov. Henry McMaster’s nearly $153 million budget vetoes that aimed to strip out all the lawmakers’ special projects, known as earmarks.

It means money has been set aside for an expansion of Columbia Convention Center, pedestrian improvements in the Five Points neighborhood, a renovation for the Sumter Opera House, construction of a new Greenville Cultural and Arts Center, a Lexington County Convention Center and construction of a memorial for the victims of the Mother Emanuel Church shooting in 2015.

One amendment didn’t make it: curbside alcohol pickup.

The governor had allowed it temporarily during COVID-19 but that ended once his executive order did.

And, sadly to many, it didn’t stick when lawmakers were negotiating the budget, therefore didn’t stick in the final product.

Maybe next year.

With veto overrides, the state has its $10.8 billion spending plan for the fiscal year which started Thursday.

Naturally, this doesn’t mean the Legislature is done completely for the year.

Remember, they’ve got redistricting to deal with and more money to spend.

They’ll return in the fall to debate how to spend $2.5 billion in American Rescue Plan money and $525 million from the Savannah River Site settlement. The state has until December 2024 to spend the COVID relief money.

Expect to see lawmakers on both budget committees back, possibly in August, and likely in September.

Tim Scott gets back on the stump

The favorite to win and keep his Senate seat for another and final term, Sen. Tim Scott launched his reelection bid this week.

It included a video with some high-profile endorsements from the Trump universe and a slew of Republican leaders from the governor to lawmakers and statewide officials speaking on his behalf. But there’s a bigger elephant in the room hanging over Scott.

Scott has long said the 2022 race would be his last political run, but that hasn’t stopped speculation from swirling about him making a possible 2024 White House run.

He’s only fueled that speculation by stumping for Republicans in Iowa, the first presidential contest state.

State House corruption update

Richard Quinn Sr., once a top South Carolina Republican consultant, told a state grand jury that Attorney General Alan Wilson was not paying him for drafting press statements and other documents — but that was a lie, according to a new indictment.

The new 38-page indictment, issued May 20 and supervised by new special prosecutor Barry Barnette, accuses Quinn of 12 different counts of perjury and two counts of obstruction of justice. Until now, the indictment had not been publicized. The State newspaper obtained the public record from the State Grand Jury’s Office in Columbia.

This indictment is modeled on a 33-page indictment from April 2019, issued by a former state grand jury and directed by former special prosecutor David Pascoe. The 2019 indictment had 11 perjury charges and one count of obstruction.

This week, former state Rep. Jim Harrison was ordered to prison to serve out an 18-month sentence after being convicted of perjury and misconduct in office.

The judge’s order makes Harrison, now 70, the first former state lawmaker sentenced to prison out of five others convicted so far in a multi-year investigation into corruption inside the General Assembly.

“Good luck to you sir,” the judge told Harrison.

Read more about the State House corruption probe and who still faces prosecution here.

Buzz Bites

House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn said he doesn’t support calls asking US Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer to retire to ensure he’s replaced by a liberal judge.

Four public interest groups sued the federal government seeking to stop construction of multi-billion dollar nuclear factories in South Carolina and New Mexico that would make components for new atomic weapons.

Former state Rep. Katie Arrington, who also launched a failed congressional bid, has been placed on leave from her Pentagon job during a probe into allegations of an unauthorized release of classified information, according to her attorney.

A federal judge sentenced a Lexington County man who was at the Jan. 6 Capitol riot and was an affiliate of the Proud Boys to 28 months in prison for making interstate phone calls to threaten a former federal prosecutor.

The State Fiscal Accountability Authority approved a $6 million settlement offer for the inmates injured and the families of the inmates killed in the 2018 riot at Lee Correctional Institution. That same panel also approved the sale of Providence and KershawHealth hospitals to the Medical University of South Carolina.

US Rep. Nancy Mace was the sole South Carolina Republican to vote on legislation that would remove Confederate statues from the Capitol.

The inmates who were originally set to be executed before the end of June have dropped their appeals for injunctions now that they have been granted stays of execution.

US Sen. Lindsey Graham says he’s requesting $12 million to pay for construction and completion of I-73.

South Carolina Republicans are celebrating after Darlington County’s Clerk of Court, Scott Suggs, announced he’s switching parties.

The Senate confirmed former House member and U.S. attorney Peter McCoy as the chairman of the Santee Cooper board. They also confirmed Harry Lightsey to succeed Bobby Hitt and become the next secretary of commerce.

Mary Poole, the former Department of Disabilities and Special Needs director, wants the commission’s vote to fire her voided by a court. Documents obtained by The State also show Poole had a tense relationship with the agency’s internal auditor.

EMILY’s List is wading into the city of Columbia’s mayoral race by endorsing Tameika Isaac Devine.

The Department of Juvenile Justice is giving workers raises and bonuses and upping its advertising and recruitment efforts to help attract and retain frontline staff amid reports that employees feel unsafe at work and routinely log double shifts due to staffing shortages. But DJJ Director Freddie Pough’s attempts to turn around the agency are “too little, too late,” according to Senate lawmakers, who cast a vote of “no confidence” in his leadership.

Jim Clyburn announced he is holding a town hall tour over the next two weeks with stops in Ridgeland, Manning, North Charleston, Santee and Hopkins. He’ll discuss the expanded Child Tax Credit payments, increased Affordable Care Act subsidies and the Medicaid coverage gap. COVID-19 vaccinations also will be available at the town hall events.

The vast majority of South Carolina’s colleges and universities don’t plan to require students to be vaccinated against COVID-19 before they return to campus in the fall, a decision that runs counter to the recommendation of the American College Health Association.

Mark your calendar

Aug. 2

Filing opens for Columbia City elections

Aug. 13

Filing closes for Columbia City elections

Aug. 16

US Census starts to release district-level redistricting data

Before we adjourn

By the time the two deputies entered his cell and fired their Tasers into his back, it was too late. The institutions, systems and individuals that were supposed to protect Jamal Sutherland had already failed him at nearly every level.

The mental health facility where he sought help in North Charleston sent him to jail.

A crisis stabilization center that would have given Sutherland a place to calm down in other circumstances was not only powerless to assist, it was also closed the night he was arrested.

Read more from our colleague Caitlin Byrd, who detailed how Charleston County officials failed Jamal Sutherland.

Who pulled together this week’s newsletter?

This week it was reporter Zak Koeske, a member of The State’s government and politics team who currently focuses on South Carolina’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. Keep up with him on Twitter @ZakKoeske or send him story tips at

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This story was originally published July 15, 2021 8:47 AM.

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