Given the mounting pressure on the state to free wrongly convicted prison inmates, it took guts for Gov. Mark Sanford to veto the DNA bill passed last month by the General Assembly. Even though the veto denies S.C. prison inmates the right to use DNA evidence to prove their innocence, Sanford was right to exercise it.
Another section of the bill would have allowed the state to collect DNA samples -- genetic markers unique to individuals -- from all persons whom the police arrest for felonies. But as Sanford pointed out in his veto message, only about 40 percent of those arrested for felonies are ultimately convicted and sent to prison -- with the rest going free.
While it is rare for the police to knowingly arrest innocent persons, they do make mistakes. Victims of mistakes should not be forced to leave behind genetic samples for database storage when they're released.
Many of us -- let's face it -- tend to think that folks who come into contact with the police are lesser beings than those the police never arrest. For that reason, some will wish Sanford had taken the politically expedient step of disregarding their rights and signing the bill.
To be sure, it is disappointing that S.C. inmates will have to wait longer to use DNA evidence to prove their innocence and gain release from prison. The hope must be that the 2009 General Assembly will send Sanford a DNA bill speaking to that issue only.
Grant program wasteful
While the state prisons and schools face state funding shortfalls in a tough budget year, a legislative grants program is paying for a variety of festivals and other local projects throughout the state. A detailed list of beneficiaries of the "competitive grants" program shows funding at variance with the state's priority needs. ...
For example, grants were provided for the Great Southeast Balloon Fest in Anderson County; "Christmasville," a four-day holiday village and outdoor walking art tour in Rock Hill; the Round the Fourth Festival in Conway; the Christmas Prelude Festival in Holly Hill; Freedom Weekend Aloft in Simpsonville; the Fall Festival and Professional Rodeo in Swansea; the Pecan Festival in Florence; the Scottish Games in Greenville; the Peach Festival in Lexington; the Neighborhood Festival in Pine Ridge; Bike Town Events in Spartanburg; FestiFall at Walnut Grove Plantation in Roebuck; and the Blues Festival in Rock Hill. Civil War battle re-enactments for Honea Path and Liberty also were supported. ...
All of the funded programs have merit to their local sponsors. And the grants committee provided support to a variety of local public works projects, including water and sewerage, that are more essential.
But it's hard to defend the general expenditure of $10 million when the state's prisons and schools face what Gov. Mark Sanford says is a $30 million deficit.