To the Contrary

Ban payday lending

S.C. lawmakers jumping on the bandwagon to sue payday lenders and perhaps land a big payday themselves should redirect that energy toward passing legislation to end the predatory practice instead.

We have no use for payday lenders. They operate under a faulty business model that calls for extending loans to people who can't repay them. ... We prefer that S.C. lawmakers ban them as North Carolina, Georgia and other states have. ...

Those lawmakers who have joined these suits should stand down; there are plenty of non-legislators who are fully capable of trying these cases. If legislators want to hold payday lenders accountable, they should keep them from continuing to take advantage of borrowers by passing a strong law that brings this industry to heel.

Not only that, if lawmakers believe these lenders have broken -- and are continuing to break -- current law, they should demand the Board of Financial Institutions, which oversees the lenders, do its job. In addition, they should ask state Attorney General Henry McMaster to explore whether the lenders are breaking the law and, if so, to prosecute. ...

S.C. courtrooms

Will South Carolina judges get it this time? Courtrooms in South Carolina are supposed to be open to the public. Period. End of story.

Once again, South Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Jean Toal has had to make clear to judges in this state that courtrooms are open to the public. She shouldn't have to make this statement again. ...

In a most decisive ruling last year, the state Supreme Court protected the public by making it more difficult for judges to close hearings during criminal trials. The high court made a strong statement in favor of open courtrooms in the case brought by The Greenville News and WYFF-TV. The Supreme Court left no doubt that maintaining the integrity of open courtrooms is important to maintaining the public's confidence in the criminal justice system and protecting the rights of the accused. ...

Road projects

The state's highway commissioners stumbled out of the gate in their first go at prioritizing state road and bridge projects.

After spending hours going over a projects list using new objective criteria, the board voted 4-3 to add a project that didn't meet the criteria, The Greenville News reported.

This gets the board -- and the new ranking system -- off on a very wrong foot. ...

The criteria are very reasonable. They include financial viability, public safety, potential for economic development, traffic volume and congestion, environmental impact and consistency with local land-use plans.

Unfortunately, the law also includes the words "not limited to" when it comes to the criteria, leaving room for the kind of vote we saw at this board meeting.

One has to conclude the legislature's heart wasn't in this "reform" effort. The same people are in charge. The legislature maintains control through appointments and specific oversight. One substantive change was allowing the governor to hire the executive director (subject to Senate approval). And what does Gov. Mark Sanford do? He picks Buck Limehouse Jr., a former commission member hired by the commission before reform legislation was passed.

It seems the more things change, the more they stay the same. That's unfortunate because we needed real reform at this agency. ...

The commission will have to prove it can do better than business as usual.

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