To the Contrary

Guard unit returns

The South Carolina Army National Guard's 218th Brigade Combat Team is coming home -- and not on mere leave. The team began its final return from a year-long mission in Afghanistan early Monday morning, with about a tenth of its ranks warmly welcomed at Pope Air Base, N.C. ....

Unfortunately, not all of the 218th survived this dangerous assignment. Last October, Sgt. Edward Philpot, 22, of Latta died in a convoy accident. A week later, Staff Sgt. James Bullard, 28, of Marion was killed in an insurgent attack. Early this year, Sgt. Shawn Hill, 37, of Wellford died of wounds suffered from the explosion of an insurgent bomb.

Those three men made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. ...

America's all-volunteer modern armed forces could not fulfill their far-flung obligations without the dedication and skill of its citizen-soldiers in the National Guard and Reserves.

Raising tobacco tax

For nearly three hours, senators argued over how to divvy up the spoils, sparring over philosophy and pragmatism and slights real and imagined, rejecting one plan after another by the narrowest of margins before finally adopting one, by a single-vote margin that all but guarantees it won't pass the full Senate.

And somewhere near the end of the debate, Sen. Wes Hayes reminded everybody of the most important issue -- the one practically nobody was discussing in the rush to claim the cash: the cigarette tax itself. He would support a plan to pump $53 million into Medicaid even though he preferred to finance health insurance tax credits, he told the Senate Finance Committee, because it accomplished a goal larger than raising money.

Just so no one missed the point, Chairman Hugh Leatherman elaborated after the vote: "I want to see the cigarette tax go up so we can cut down on smoking, particularly among the teenage youngsters out there." ...

If the Senate, or the House, or the Senate and the House can't agree on how to spend the money from a higher cigarette tax, then they should set that question aside for now. Lock the money away in a vault until they can agree on what to do with it, if need be. Just increase the cigarette tax -- and start saving children from one of the deadliest addictions on earth.

Domestic violence

South Carolina has a serious flaw in its criminal domestic violence law. Hopefully, the General Assembly is on the path to fixing it.

Currently in the Palmetto State, a criminal domestic violence conviction may be treated as a first offense at sentencing even if the convicted party has been found guilty of prior offenses outside the state. ...

Originally, the legislation called for "similar" previous out-of-state convictions to be considered at sentencing. Before approving the bill, however, the committee OK'd an amendment by Rep. Ben Hagood, R-Mount Pleasant, that would instead require out-of-state convictions to have "the same elements" as the South Carolina offense.

The new language opened the door for possible judicial hairsplitting over whether these prior acts may be considered at sentencing. ...

Rep. Scott Talley, R-Moore, ... recognized the change in language as detrimental and promptly filed an amendment calling for the bill's original language to be restored. The House acted swiftly in turn passing Talley's amendment and then the bill itself. Now it's in the Senate's hands.

Our current CDV law represents an egregious miscarriage of justice for women, and this legislation is vital in a state with such a horrendous domestic violence track record. The Senate should follow the House's lead and take quick action to pass the bill.