How SC gummint looks from the outside

One of the obstacles I had to overcome to get the Power Failure project done back in 1991 was persuading my managing editor and executive editor that the problems I proposed to write about were indeed particular to South Carolina. They would ask, "Is it really different from the way other states do things?" and I would say "Yes!" with supporting evidence.

A reader shares with me this item from Governing magazine, which might have helped me make my point more quickly if it had been written back then:

The Budget and Control Board is just one reason why South Carolina’s
governor arguably has less power than any other in the country. And
that has been true for more than a century. As recently as 15 years
ago, the governor didn’t even have a cabinet or submit a budget.
Legislation in 1993 changed that but, even today, the governor can’t
hire or fire the heads of many agencies without the legislature’s
permission. This is separation of powers beyond James Madison’s wildest

That Madison reference is a bit off — the S.C. way violates the fundamentals of separation of powers by allowing the legislative branch to trample all over the executive (and the judicial, in many cases). But on the whole, it’s a very good piece. It essentially provides the point of view of the informed outsider, bemused at just how oddly we do things in the Palmetto State. There’s nothing new in it — you’ve read all this stuff in The State before — but it’s a decent step-back piece. The writer even saw through the governor’s thin pretense to be restructuring’s best hope, getting to the core of why Mark Sanford has set the cause back:

Although Sanford has been the strongest advocate of restructuring, he
has also, in a sense, been its greatest enemy. He has clashed
repeatedly with his fellow Republicans in the General Assembly over
even the smallest issues. He’s targeted legislators’ pet projects and
pushed for spending cuts that virtually no lawmakers were willing to
accept. He’s continued to press for school vouchers in the absence of
legislative support.

Anyway, the piece is a nice primer on the problem. It sort of reminds me of some of the initial pieces I wrote on the subject back in ’91.

Of course, the writer was guided by a good source. You’ll see Cindi quoted several times in the piece. In fact, before posting this I asked Cindi about this Josh Goodman (whether he was indeed the outside observer I supposed him to be), and she said,

He DID speak to me; came right here and chatted. He is NOT from around here, although I don’t recall where he’s from. I gave him a copy of the restructuring special section/reprint, not sure if I gave him Power Failure or not, as my supply is dwindling.

In other words, his message is so familiar to me because he was working from our text — just as Sanford did in his 2002 election. (So in other words, something like this likely would not have been written before Power Failure.)…

Towards the end of his piece, Mr. Goodman adopts a hopeful tone about the possibility of future reform, noting some of the same positive developments you’ve read about here, from Vincent Sheheen’s efforts to the sudden turnaround of some black Democrats (long among the most committed foes of restructuring) who were persuaded by the recent Highway Patrol scandals to change their minds.

We’ll see. As usual, we’ll keep pushing for these changes, and keep hoping…