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South Carolina editorial roundup

December 19, 2018

Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:

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Dec. 19

The Times and Democrat of Orangeburg on DUI:

The South Carolina Department of Public Safety and law enforcement partners statewide have begun stepped-up enforcement of impaired driving laws as part of the Sober or Slammer! campaign. Troopers are encouraging drivers to make a plan now for a safe ride home from parties and celebrations this holiday season.

The annual “Sober or Slammer!” Christmas/New Year’s campaign began Dec. 14, building on the “Drink. Drive. Die.” messaging that was introduced during the Labor Day Sober or Slammer! campaign. SCHP and local law enforcement agencies will also conduct a series of public safety checkpoint events throughout the state during the New Year’s holiday period.

Motorists will see the “Drink. Drive. Die.” messages through many venues including radio, television, digital billboard, and online/social media advertising emphasizing the serious consequences of driving while under the influence of alcohol. The advertising campaign runs as a companion to enforcement. The enforcement emphasis will run through Jan. 1, 2019.

To kick off the campaign, S.C. Highway Patrol community relations officers in each of the seven SCHP troops will post videos and information to social media highlighting the variety of options for a safe ride home.

“Our message this holiday season is just how serious the consequences of driving impaired can be,” SCDPS Director Leroy Smith said. “If you’re at an event over the holidays - and alcohol is involved — take advantage of ride-share apps, cabs or have a designated driver planned before your event.”

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According to SCDPS totals through Dec. 16, 962 people have died on the state’s highways. That is more than the horrific toll of 947 at the same time a year ago.

Nearly a third of the deaths each year, on average 300 people, result from impaired driving. Last year, seven people died over the Christmas holiday travel period (Dec. 22-25).

Law enforcement will do its part to be sure impaired drivers are taken off the road. It’s up to drivers to do theirs by taking steps to ensure they are not impaired behind the wheel.

The Christmas and New Year’s holiday season is about happiness and celebration. Being arrested for driving under the influence will definitely put a damper on it. And dying or killing others while driving impaired has nothing to do with happiness and celebration.

Online: https://thetandd.com/

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Dec. 16

The Post and Courier of Charleston on deregulating utilities:

Electricity is delivered to South Carolina residents through two regulated monopolies — Duke Energy and SCE&G, which is soon to be Dominion Energy — and state-owned Santee Cooper and its various electric cooperatives.

It’s a system that dates to the New Deal era, when big interstate holding companies were broken up and hundreds of utilities were granted monopolies in exchange for providing reliable power to customers at regulated rates.

At the time, it made sense for regulated monopolies to own both the means of producing electricity and the transmission lines. But perhaps not so much today.

Part of what led to the multibillion-dollar V.C. Summer boondoggle can be traced to having a system of regulated monopolies and, of course, the Base Load Review Act that allowed SCE&G to charge ratepayers in advance for the now-abandoned nuclear project.

Economic incentives push for-profit utilities to make expensive, risky investments rather than, say, try to help customers reduce their energy consumption.

But adding more competition to the mix through deregulation, as many other states have successfully done, could shift the balance of power back to ratepayers.

State Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, broached the topic in a recent column, and the Palmetto Promise Institute just published a study that showed consumers have generally benefited from deregulation. It’s an idea worth exploring.

In its simplest terms, deregulation starts with separating generation from transmission. Transmission is turned over to an independent, quasi-governmental agency that operates the “grid,” blindly buying wholesale electricity at the lowest cost and matching supply to demand.

The electricity market is then opened to producers, giving customers a choice between providers and the types of generation: solar, hydroelectric, wind, gas or coal. That creates competition among electricity producers and, at least theoretically, pushes consumer rates down.

And that’s particularly important given that the state Public Service Commission approved a deal Friday that will leave SCE&G ratepayers on the hook for $2.3 billion related to the failed V.C. Summer project and let Dominion take over SCANA.

It’s also possible that Santee Cooper could be sold in the near future, leaving its customers vulnerable to rate hikes.

Without a major shift in the way utilities are allowed to do business in South Carolina, it’s all but inevitable that rates across the state will keep going up.

Energy-rich Texas has probably had the most success with deregulation, driving down rates for gas and electricity while expanding consumer choice. But some states like Ohio have started to reverse course after encountering problems that caused consumer costs to rise. In California, the manipulation of the wholesale electricity market had disastrous results in 2001.

Certainly, such a substantial change in South Carolina would require serious study.

But South Carolina’s regulated monopoly system has obviously failed ratepayers. Lawmakers should at least be willing to have a conversation about South Carolina’s energy future, and that discussion should include some form of deregulation.

Online: https://www.postandcourier.com/

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Dec. 19

The Charlotte Observer of North Carolina on a Post and Courier report about the Carolina Panthers planning to build a team headquarters and practice facility over the South Carolina border:

It’s hard to top a late-season swoon or the star quarterback’s bum shoulder, but the winner for Headline Carolina Panthers Fans Didn’t Want To See Right Now is likely one that had nothing to do with the team’s on-field woes. Instead, it was a report from the Charleston Post and Courier that the Panthers plan to build a team headquarters, practice facility and a development of hotels, retail and residences over the South Carolina border in York County.

But fans in Charlotte — and especially Charlotte officials — shouldn’t overreact to the report, credible as it appears. Let’s break down what it means and what it doesn’t.

At least a few things could be happening here. The Panthers could be looking to expand their Carolinas footprint while finding a more affordable place to build the kind of PanthersLand retail and entertainment complex that owner David Tepper has envisioned since he took over the team. The Panthers also could be dangling the South Carolina possibility to get a better deal for a similar complex in Charlotte. Or this could be a very early negotiating ploy to soften up Charlotte officials for talks about improving or replacing Bank of America Stadium.

As for the first possibility, the team has long wanted to represent both Carolinas, and York County would likely be able to provide cheaper real estate — and lots of it — to fulfill Tepper’s multi-use vision. Losing the team’s 300-plus jobs would sting Charlotte, but such a move shouldn’t be seen as a harbinger for a larger Panthers move. Although not impossible, it’s unlikely the team would buck a trend of pro sports franchises building stadiums in downtown areas instead of the lesser-populated suburbs. Given that, building a splashy new headquarters in nearby York would be good news — a signal of a longer-term Panthers commitment to the Charlotte area.

Still, it’s curious that few officials in York seemed to know anything about the Panthers’ plans. That’s sparked some speculation that the team is merely trying to remind Charlotte that its headquarters (and perhaps even its stadium) are not tethered to uptown. The report did set some hearts racing in the Government Center, and even N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper reportedly visited with Tepper this week in Charlotte to discuss the importance of the team remaining in the city. So if the speculation about York was simply a negotiating tactic, it wasn’t a bad one.

None of which is comforting to Charlotte fans or public officials who remember the heartache of losing the Hornets to New Orleans 16 years ago. But the political climate surrounding pro sports franchises and cities has changed since then. There’s more pushback against public officials opening the vault to keep teams from leaving, especially in progressive cities where leaders recognize the many other needs that demand our public dollars. Just this week, when Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver threatened to move his NBA team if an arena deal fell through, the backlash was so severe that Sarver retreated and said the team is committed to the city.

Charlotte remains a thriving NFL market that the league likely has no interest in leaving. The team remains an integral, valuable part of the city’s brand. As we’ve said in this space, there’s opportunity for the city and team to get creative, perhaps by partnering on a sizable uptown entertainment district near Bank of America Stadium. What Charlotte shouldn’t do is panic, no matter how discomfiting a headline may be.

Online: https://www.charlotteobserver.com/

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