By vetoing the bill pushed through the Legislature by the billboard industry that would have required local governments to reimburse them at exorbitant rates if local communities decide to clean up billboard clutter, the governor has struck a blow for that which is right and true.
To the industry, this is about billboards. That’s not what it’s about to me or to my colleagues on the editorial board. Quite frankly, I don’t have any big beef against billboards; I often find them interesting, and a nice relief from the tedium of the open road. I’m sorry I don’t recall ever having seen a Burma Shave sign before they disappeared into pop culture history.
But if a community decides they are a blight, it should be able to do something about it. For that matter, if a mere neighborhood doesn’t want them, it should be able to appeal to its government — its local government — for a zoning change that would ban them.
This is a fundamental tenet of the proper roles of different levels of government. For that matter, it is allegedly a fundamental tenet of Republicans and others who call themselves "conservatives:" That government closest to the people governs best, and the bigger government should butt out.
But "Republican" lawmakers are South Carolina legislators before they are republicans. And the S.C. General Assembly has never believed in Home Rule. Ever since it had its arms twisted to pass the Home Rule Act in the mid-70s, it has done everything it could to undermine it, and to retain control of matters that are purely, obviously, local in nature.
The governor put it well: "I do not believe it is the role of the state Legislature to determine community standards from Columbia." Neither do I, governor. Neither does any sensible person who cares about good government.
And yet, look for lawmakers to respond to this veto as quickly and as obnoxiously as possible. Don’t be surprised if the House overrides the governor’s action as soon as today. I am less certain what the somewhat more mature Senate will do.