To the Contrary

State DUI laws ineffective

South Carolina has ineffective drunken driving laws for one clear reason: too much influence wielded by lawyers in the General Assembly. ...

Criminal defense lawyers wanted to maintain complex laws that would allow them to confuse the issue and get acquittals for their drunken driving clients. These attorneys filled legislative debate with talk about preserving the right of drunken drivers to mount a vigorous defense.

These attorneys hated the concept of a law so clear that if a motorist was found driving a car with a blood-alcohol level higher than .08, he was guilty. It left them too little wiggle room.

So they added that room into the bill. They created loopholes, exceptions and complex rules to hobble the law. The result was a law that is so bad prosecutors say they can't use it. ...

The trial lawyers in the General Assembly must learn to see past their own financial self-interest to recognize their obligation to the safety of their fellow South Carolinians. If they won't, the rest of the legislature should override their concerns and improve the law without them.

S.C. sales tax removal

The final three cents of the 5-cent state sales tax imposed on unprepared food came off the bottom of the register tape in South Carolina last Thursday. But if you didn't notice much impact on your grocery bill, don't feel too out of the loop.

The state Department of Revenue estimates the average family of four will save $225 annually. It's another of those cases that the more you buy, the more you will save.

At first glance.

Doing the math doesn't tell the whole story. We found one Web report that touted that "a family will save $5 for every $100 spent." Not exactly accurate. Although it's true 5 cents of the state sales tax on food is gone, much of what we buy at a grocery store is anything but. So it's irrational to assume a 5 percent, across-the-board savings. ...

Rest assured that lost income will be regained somewhere. Check your other pockets. What's not coming out for food will find its way out for something else.

Meanwhile, go shopping and revel in your savings. Now you can buy that health insurance you've been needing.

The (Myrtle Beach) Sun News on undecided voters in S.C., Nov. 7:

In a South Carolina poll taken last week, Fred Thompson had a thin lead over Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney in the race for victory in the Jan. 19 state Republican presidential primary. But that isn't the most significant finding in the poll of likely primary voters, conducted by Winthrop University and S.C. Educational Television.

The Winthrop-SCETV snapshot of voters' attitudes shows Thompson, former U.S. senator from Tennessee, with 17.9 percent approval. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani showed a few clicks back at 16.5 percent each.

U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, came in fourth at 9.2 percent, with former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee polling 5.4 percent. ...

The poll's most significant finding, however, is that nearly 30 percent of likely primary voters remain undecided. So the numbers that Thompson, Giuliani, Romney, McCain and Huckabee racked up do not yet mean much. ...

What is clear? That the winner of the S.C. Republican primary will be well-positioned to win the 2008 party presidential nomination. For that reason, folks here and across the state -- like it or not -- can expect top-drawer attention from the candidates during the next 73 days.

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The (Columbia) State on campaign disclosure, Nov. 5:

First the good news: South Carolina was the second-fastest-improving state last year when it came to how much the public can find out about who's trying to influence our votes.

Our improvement from the last report, in 2005, came with the implementation of a searchable Internet database of donations to and expenditures by candidates for statewide office. Although the Legislature passed a law in 2003 requiring this system, it didn't get around to funding it until 2005, and even then the system wouldn't have gotten off the ground last year had Gov. Mark Sanford not come up with a way to work around bureaucratic foot-dragging. ...

Now the bad news: We still merit only a D-plus, and we're still ranked just 33rd. That's a lot better than 49th, and the F that we have received in all the previous analyses by the Campaign Disclosure Project, but nothing to write home about. ...

Legislators promised to out those shadowy campaigns, and even bragged that they had passed a law to do that, but it turned out that their law required the secret groups to tell us only how they spent their money, not where it came from -- and some of the groups refuse to do that.

... Until our legislators force these surreptitious spenders out of the closet, our campaign disclosure law will be compromised, and our lawmakers' ability to represent the people of South Carolina will be jeopardized.

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