To the Contrary

Smoking bans help business

You might have read that bar owners report no collapse in bar traffic since the dreaded workplace smoking ban went into effect earlier this year in much of Beaufort County. Granted, it's down at a few bars, but not nearly as much as businesses there and elsewhere had direly predicted. And it's actually up at many restaurants and bars, where people who don't think cancer makes the perfect accompaniment to an afterwork drink finally feel safe to belly up to the bar. ...

It's no surprise that reducing people's exposure to other people's cigarette smoke would improve their health. But most people think of the bans as a way to protect against cancer, in which case the impact would take a lot longer to show up. The fact that what the study's lead author termed "a public health intervention that hardly costs anything" could have such a significant and immediate effect on the public health -- and by extension on the cost of medical care to the entire community -- is really quite remarkable.

And it reminds us -- yet again -- why our own Legislature needs to either ban workplace smoking itself or else repeal the law that forbids Beaufort and other renegade communities to pass those local bans.

Cut state spending

Gov. Mark Sanford has emphatically warned the Legislature that its spending habits can't be sustained, given the up and down cycle of state revenues. Unfortunately, the Legislature has continued to ignore Mr. Sanford's frugal advice, while consistently vetoing his efforts to bring the state budget back to earth.

Maybe the latest forecast of declining revenues from the Board of Economic Advisors will succeed in encouraging a more careful approach to the budget next year. But bad budget habits will make an adjustment more difficult. ...

Less than 10 years ago, a sharp decline in state revenues made the legislative budgeting process nearly irrelevant, with sharp midyear across-the-board cuts required for state agencies. The Legislature's failure to learn from that experience or to heed the governor's recurrent fiscal warnings could mean more of the same next year. ...

Legislators should pay attention to the governor's ideas for limiting budget growth to a level that reflects the growth in state population and inflation. The hazards of budgeting as if good times will never end are all too apparent.

New laws

South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster has told the court he agrees with much of what a Greenville activist asserts in a lawsuit claiming five laws passed by the General Assembly this year are unconstitutional.

It's no surprise. Ned Sloan was right the last time he sued the General Assembly over the same issue.

Lawmakers believe they can dictate county and municipal affairs to local governments, they can set school calendars for school districts and that they, rather than the governor, should run state agencies.

When agency mismanagement results in scandal and refusal to follow the rules results in lawsuits, they are not fazed. Clearly, the answer for the General Assembly is to put even more former lawmakers on the courts and take over the judicial branch as well.