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South Carolina editorial roundup

Associated Press Updated: June 10, 2015 at 3:32 pm
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Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:

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June 10

Aiken (South Carolina) Standard on veteran tuition bill:

For too long, South Carolina law kept college out of reach for too many student veterans.

Before the passage of a bill sponsored by South Carolina Sen. Tom Young, R-Aiken, during this past session, a one-year wait time existed for service members leaving the military to receive in-state tuition.

These are the men and women who have fought to protect us. Shutting out veterans from receiving a quality education merely because they haven't lived in our state quite long enough was a totally misguided stipulation.

Thankfully, Young's bill was actually passed by the General Assembly last month, and on Tuesday, Gov. Nikki Haley held a ceremonial bill signing at USC Aiken, which was hosted by the school's Veteran and Military Student Success Center.

It was clear that because this stipulation was in place, the extra expense that came with out-of-state tuition caused some veterans to decide not to attend or to defer enrollment. Lawmakers sensibly moved forward with the bill this session after it was noted that all veterans attending schools in the state who were on the Post 9/11 GI Bill would lose their benefits after July 1 unless such a measure was approved. Its passage also rightfully and wisely brings the state in line with a federal law approved last year that would penalize those states who lag in providing in-state tuition to veterans. Backers of the measure have said the proposal will attract more military veterans to the state and thereby boost the quality of the state's workforce. This is undoubtedly true.

The bill also makes the state more "military friendly," which the Pentagon takes into consideration when deciding whether to close or reduce the size of the state's military installations amid cutbacks.

This legislation clearly carried a common-sense approach and was overdue. Our state and country are already so indebted to members of the armed services.

This should be seen as a relatively small, but needed gesture in showing a tangible piece of appreciation for all that our veterans have done.

Online:

http://www.aikenstandard.com

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June 10

Post and Courier, Charleston, South Carolina, on drainage fix:

Phase 2 of the city's plan to stop flooding on the Crosstown began Monday. Very likely that's when the complaints began, too.

For the next two years, motorists will have to adjust to some detours as workers drill eight shafts between 120 and 154 feet deep. Six will be along the Crosstown between Coming Street and the Ashley River and two along President Street between Harmon Field and Cannon Street.

Steve Kirk, Charleston's senior engineering project manager, predicted that the detours won't cause significant traffic disruptions after people get used to them.

But anyone inclined to complain about the inconvenience should remember the community's insistent — and warranted — demands for the city to fix severe flooding problems on and near the Crosstown, formally known as the Septima P. Clark Parkway.

Chances are delays due to construction will be a lot less of a headache than those due to flooding. Just focus on the time when it rains and motorists won't have to worry that their cars will stall in the middle of knee-deep water.

But the city still must be vigilant about traffic problems, particularly involving emergency vehicles, which need assurance that they can get to the hospitals in a hurry. Medical emergencies don't wait until rush hour is over.

Traffic flow is already compromised because of work being done on nearby Spring and Cannon streets.

And as construction begins on WestEnd, a complex of tall buildings for residential and office use, just north of the Crosstown, traffic solutions might have to be tweaked,

Many of the same people who will be taking detours were also inconvenienced during Phase 1 of the drainage project. At least this time, they will have some vegetation to look at in the median — added during Phase 1.

Work will go mostly underground for Phase 3 — tunnels connecting the shafts.

Then the last two phases will involve building a "wet well" for large stormwater pumps and a pump station at the Ashley River.

So if your daily route is altered during the drainage work, enjoy taking in new sites along the way, while envisioning a functional Crosstown during a rain storm at high tide in 2020 when Phase 5 is complete.

Online:

http://www.postandcourier.com

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June 9

The Herald, Rock Hill, South Carolina, on domestic violence law:

During a legislative session in which state lawmakers managed to accomplish almost nothing, passage of a domestic violence law was a bright spot. This bill exemplified what can be achieved when lawmakers from both parties and the governor unite to get something done.

The need to address the problem is dire, as highlighted by a 2014 Pulitzer Prize-winning series by The Post and Courier of Charleston that detailed the plight of victims of domestic violence. South Carolina perennially ranks near the top nationally in its rate of domestic violence deaths, and part of the problem has been lax laws regarding those offenses.

Formerly, prosecutors had only two options for charges: a misdemeanor carrying a possible 30-day sentence or a felony punishable by up to 10 years. Prosecutors often resorted to handing out sentences based on the number of past offenses, which allowed many serious offenders to escape with a wrist slap.

Attorney General Alan Wilson, who took a lead role in lobbying for changes in the law, was highly critical of the discrepancies in penalties for domestic violence compared to less serious offenses.

"Our laws reflect our values," Wilson said. "We cannot live in a society where you can beat your dog and get five years and beat your wife and get 30 days."

Victim advocate groups noted that penalties for hunting out of season were greater than those for domestic abuse. And hunting out of season carried the possibility of gun confiscation, a penalty rarely faced by domestic abusers.

The changes approved by lawmakers and signed into law last week by Gov. Nikki Haley went a long way in remedying those disparities. The law establishes penalties for repeat domestic violence offenders based not just on the number of prior offenses but also on the severity of the attack. If a victim is strangled during an attack, is pregnant or was abused while children are present factors into the sentence.

The new law also creates a four-tiered system of possible charges ranging from a misdemeanor with a 90-day sentence to a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Significantly, penalties also can include confiscation of guns. The law imposes a lifetime gun ban on the worst abusers and an automatic three- or 10-year ban in other cases.

Gov. Haley has called the reforms the first step in changing the culture that allows high rates of domestic violence to persist. She created a special task force to study domestic violence and its causes, which has met throughout this year, and has asked the panel to report back by Aug. 6 on solutions.

We agree with Haley that stiffer penalties are just one component of dealing with the epidemic of domestic violence. The culture that keeps domestic violence under wraps and prevents victims from speaking out must change, and that will require a concerted effort on the part of concerned residents, victims' advocates, elected officials and others.

But while the new domestic violence law is only a part of that process, it is an essential part. As Attorney General Wilson stated, our laws reflect our values, and we need to send the message that our values will not tolerate the continued violence against women.

Online:

http://www.heraldonline.com

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