Editorial Roundup: South Carolina

(Columbia) The State. Oct. 23, 2021.

Editorial: How will SC carry out the death penalty? Execution details must remain in public view

South Carolina currently has 35 souls listed on its “Death Row Roster,” a single-page document that lists inmates facing the death penalty.

Their names are public information, as they should be, because they have been prosecuted by the state in the name of its citizens.

We have every right to know what steps are taken on our behalf and that includes, should the day come, the manner in which each of these 35 people is put to death.

Support for the death penalty in murder cases remains high according to the Pew Research Center, and it remains the law of the land in South Carolina. As long as that holds true, the state has a duty and obligation to be open and honest about the process.

That’s why a push by Bryan Stirling, director of the state’s Department of Corrections, to see the State Legislature pass a law that would allow the drug companies that sell the ingredients for the lethal injection to remain anonymous is shameful and an insult to every South Carolinian.

It is also in direct conflict with the state General Assembly’s own stance embedded in the South Carolina Freedom of Information Act. The act states, in part, “The General Assembly finds that it is vital in a democratic society that public business be performed in an open and public manner so that citizens shall be advised of the performance of public officials and of the decisions that are reached in public activity and in the formulation of public policy.”

Read that again. The General Assembly finds that it is vital in a democratic society that public business be performed in an open and public manner.

Stirling and State Sen. Greg Hembree, R-Horry, would do well to memorize that passage.

Hembreee, who has already agreed to prefile a bill creating this shield law for drug companies told our reporter Emily Bohatch, “If we’re going to have the death penalty, having all the alternatives available, in something that is arguably inhumane, its the most humane way to approach it.”

Hembree was the sponsor of an execution bill that passed earlier this year making the electric chair the default method of execution. The electric chair is also the only means of execution currently permitted in the state, though work is under way to institute firing squads as another form of execution.

In the meantime, Stirling says the shield law is needed because the state can’t purchase the drugs necessary to carry out lethal injections because drug manufacturers don’t want it known that they are linked to executions.

Imagine having the audacity to suggest that a private company’s fear that its brand might be tarnished outweighs the public’s right to know.

Yes, other states, including neighboring Georgia, have shield laws, but that doesn’t mean South Carolina should follow suit. Instead, our State Legislature should use this opportunity to demonstrate to others that private interests don’t trump the public good in the state of South Carolina.

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The (Charleston) Post and Courier.

Editorial: SC should enforce COVID safety rules in workplace, not attack OSHA

We get it: S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster doesn’t want the federal government telling anybody to get vaccinated. Gates of hell and all that. We’re not sure we’re comfortable with a federal mandate either, although we do encourage all employers to require their employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

When the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced on Tuesday it was stripping South Carolina, Arizona and Utah of their authority to enforce OSHA rules, Mr. McMaster vowed another fight, warning that “With no state regulators in the way, the federal Labor Department will be free to penalize employers who do not comply with President Biden’s unconstitutional vaccine mandate.”

But the governor’s latest tirade has less to do with President Joe Biden’s promised mandate (which might or might not turn out to be unconstitutional) than his own administration’s refusal to fulfill its obligations under federal law and enforce basic workplace safety rules. If the federal government is in fact trying to launch a “preemptive strike” against South Carolina, it’s Mr. McMaster who’s supplying the ammunition.

Although the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration writes workplace safety rules, South Carolina and 21 other states enforce those rules themselves, which allows them to work more cooperatively with businesses. When OSHA updates its rules, the state must either adopt those new rules or write its own that are “at least as effective.” In other words, South Carolina asked for and received authority to enforce federal workplace safety rules, and agreed in return to enforce all the rules, not just the ones it likes.

In June, OSHA released its long-awaited COVID-19 rules, which to the dismay of many people applied only to hospitals, nursing homes and other health care employers. The rules require COVID-19 screening, masks, social distancing and paid time off when employees get vaccinated or have to quarantine. OSHA alerted the 22 states that enforce the rules that they had to add these or similar provisions to their own rules, and 19 states did. South Carolina did not. We’re sure that mask mandate was one of the hang-ups, although probably not the only one.

Most hospitals and doctor’s offices have aggressively guarded their employees’ health throughout the pandemic, and some nursing homes and other health facilities have as well. Others have not. South Carolina’s inaction means that since June, nurses, doctors and other health care workers in our state have had less protection against workplace infection than their counterparts in 47 other states. You can add that to all the other reasons South Carolina has seen some of the nation’s worst hospitalization and death rates.

Although OSHA rules are designed to protect workers, South Carolina’s inaction also means that patients in those facilities have had less protection against contracting COVID from a health care worker.

And yes, that really happens. Recall that one of the first things Mr. McMaster did when COVID came to South Carolina was to lock patients inside nursing homes and keep their friends and family out. That made sense but for the fact that some nursing homes did little if anything to ensure that staff didn’t deliver the deadly virus to our state’s most vulnerable citizens. We know the tragic results of that.

South Carolina’s labor agency released a vague statement in late June announcing that it “plans to adopt a standard that will address all infectious diseases in the workplace, including COVID-19, as an alternative to Federal OSHA’s COVID standard.” But Assistant U.S. Labor Secretary James Frederick noted in a letter to state Labor, Licensing and Regulation Director Emily Farr that South Carolina waited until three days after the deadline to notify OSHA of that intention, and three months later, “OSHA has no knowledge of what this future permanent standard will cover.”

Most worrisome: Rather than explaining why South Carolina is taking so long to adopt its own rules, and what they will cover, Mr. McMaster tried to change the subject. And Ms. Farr, in a statement to Columbia’s State newspaper, pointed to South Carolina’s 2019 workplace safety statistics — as if they have anything to do with protection against COVID.

Mr. McMaster promised on Tuesday to “protect South Carolina employers” by instructing Ms. Farr “to begin immediate preparations for a vigorous and lengthy legal fight.” That won’t solve anything.

Instead of running to court, the governor should protect South Carolina employees, and their employers, by instructing Ms. Farr to stop giving federal regulators a reason to take over our state’s enforcement and instead do her job — which at this point has nothing to do with requiring anyone to get a vaccine.

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The (Greenwood) Index-Journal. Oct. 23, 2021.

Editorial: Grassroots elections the most important

We don’t endorse political candidates. Longtime readers know this. It’s an issue newspaper publishers and editors have debated for years.

Newspapers share their opinions on a host of other issues and matters of local importance, so why not weigh in on who they think is best suited for the elected office? That’s one side of the argument to endorse. Choosing not to endorse really comes down to a finer point. Once a newspaper has done its best to give readers useful information on candidates, their backgrounds, their reasons for running and such, then they have done their job and should let the readers decide for themselves. In short, inform and then get out of the way.

That policy hasn’t changed and likely won’t change, at least not under current leadership at the Index-Journal. Instead, we try our level best to do what was just said above: inform and get out of the way.

With that said, however, we remain impressed that an open seat on Greenwood County Council has elicited such broad interest that six people are seeking the position.

We were, of course, deeply saddened when news of Steve Brown’s death came Aug. 13. Brown was 73 and had been a voice of reason on county council, especially during his stint as chairperson of that body. Brown’s experience as a city manager in Greenwood was invaluable to bring to the table as a county council member.

Someone will be elected to fill his void in December, and we hope that whoever does succeed Brown will strive to emulate the high qualities he brought. He was a listener, he was a straight shooter but not unbending. He genuinely cared about the county and served on council for that very reason.

Off-year and special elections all too often result in light voter turnout. Only voters who live within the boundaries of Greenwood County Council District 5 can head to the polls Tuesday. They have two choices to make. First, they must choose whether to vote in the Republican or Democrat primary race. Second, they have to decide which of the three candidates will get their vote. Both primaries have three candidates on the ballot.

Nothing is more important than grassroots elections. The people elected have the capacity to affect the people’s day-to-day lives to a large extent more than those in Washington, D.C.

So we urge people to take the time and make the effort to vote, if eligible. And they will be asked to do it again in December, if not sooner, in the event a runoff election or two has to take place.

Remember, voting is your right, your privilege and, more important, your civic duty.

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