That giant sucking sound you hear is South Carolina politicians exchanging their souls for nuclear booty.
Turning their backs on 15 years of work to keep South Carolina from being the nation's nuclear dump, the legislature, led by Gov. David Beasley, is on the verge of destroying the nuclear compact designed to share the nation's burden of radioactive waste.
"Originally, we took low-level waste from all the states," Sen. Fritz Hollings observed in May. "Then we worked to limit it to eight. Now, we're scheduled to stop getting all waste at the end of the year.
"And what do we hear now? That we want to take low-level waste again from 48 other states. Surely," he said, "this isn't a sane approach for dealing with nuclear garbage."
Sane or not, Beasley has strong-armed the legislature into an after-hours special session to consider a state budget that uses nuclear waste revenue to pay for politically popular property tax reductions.
Beasley wants to keep the dump open and to drop out of the compact that currently restricts all but eight southern states from dumping radioactive garbage in Barnwell's trenches.
The compact agreement, which has the weight of law unless the legislature votes to change it, calls for the dump to close at the end of the year. Beasley's plan would open the dump to every state but North Carolina.
"We're about to say, Send us all of your low-level garbage,'" Hollings fumed. "That's ludicrous. We won't have a leg to stand on down the road when the government tries to store more and more high-level waste at the Savannah River Site. This will keep us in the nuclear waste disposal business for good."
Sure enough. In May, Sen. Frank Murkowski (R-Alaska), chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, suggested that SRS could serve as an "interim" storage site for high-level commercial nuclear waste.
"They'll tell you it's interim, but you can bet your boots that they want to keep it here forever," Hollings warned.
When the legislature convenes in special session June 12 to consider the budget, there is a real possibility that the dump could be kept open without the House ever directly voting on the question.
Sen. John Drummond (D-Greenwood), a longtime supporter of the dump, represents the Senate on the Budget Conference Committee. Drummond says that the House is "beating its chest but not showing its hand" and insists that representatives should vote on the record if they want to keep the dump in the budget.
If the dump's inclusion in the budget can be forced to a vote in the house, there is hope that enough Republicans (three of four is all it will take) will abandon Beasley's nuclear garbage scow to sink it.
MONEY WELL SPENT
If you wondered why Laidlaw Environmental Services, owner and operator of one of the nation's largest toxic waste dumps - located on the shore of lake Marion - gets so much political consideration, consider this: Laidlaw spends about $1,500 a day to influence legislation.
During the Ethics Commission's reporting period of September through March, Laidlaw spent $252,080 - nearly 250 percent more than last year, and more than any other registered lobby.
You may recall that Laidlaw's clever use of the civic system saved them from putting up a multimillion dollar cash bond to guarantee their environmental compliance.
Surely a company that can afford to dump so much money into lobbying can be trusted to do the right thing.
(If you believe this you may qualify for the next open seat on the DHEC board.)
If you're a bit fuzzy on the details of this state's labor history, join the crowd. No part of South Carolina's heritage has been more suppressed than the violent response to the general textile strike of 1934. The killing of six textile workers in Honea Path during that strike marked the beginning of the end to organized labor here.
Accordingly, SC-ETV's decision to "defer" airing The Uprising of '34 from the national broadcast time of June 27 has caused some grumbling. This is the same documentary that was banned at Spartanburg Tech for fear of "sending the wrong message" to industry.
"We aren't airing Point of View (the program that is scheduled to show the documentary) currently," said an SC-ETV spokesperson. "We're recording them and will probably drop them back in the schedule in late summer or early fall."
The last few nationally broadcast shows that SC-ETV chose to censor had homosexual themes, prompting the station's brass to cower, afraid that fundamentalist fallout in the legislature could lead to even further budget cuts should the shows air.
SC-ETV needs to prove that it is not held hostage to the anti-labor bias that permeates this state's history, and should give the public a commitment that the film will be shown in the next few months.
To hear Attorney General Tommy Condon tell it, this session of the legislature will be remembered for standing up against sexism in public education.
With the legislature appropriating $3.4 million to fund a female version of the Citadel, Condon disingenuously argues that state has shown its support for single-gender education - regardless of gender.
Opponents of the separate but supposedly equal scheme to keep women out of the long grey line were disappointed that the trustees of Converse College would swallow the good ol' boys' bait. The cash-strapped women's school wants to pretend that its "Institute of Leadership" is a noble and necessary endeavor and not an opportunistic scam to keep women from wearing the ring.
"Assuming the court approves our plan," Condon said, "the time-honored, all-male tradition at The Citadel can now be preserved."
Federal Judge Weston Houck, who has to approve Condon's plan to keep women out of The Citadel, doesn't live on the same planation as Condon's hastily cobbled crew, and it ain't over till Judge Houck sings.
It wouldn't be the same if we didn't have the Confederate flag to wave in this column. We certainly can't be accused of keeping a dying ember alive when we point out that the crowning idiocy of this legislative session may be the decision to keep the flag flying.
Rep. Rick Quinn (R-Richland) was born after the Civil Rights Act was passed, and considers all the negatives attached to the banner to be ancient history. Quinn recently told a forum that racism isn't a problem in today's government and that opportunities are equal regardless of race.
Quinn, whose perception of the past begins with his birth in 1965, sponsored legislation that would replace all memorabilia after the renovation of the State House.
The bill passed, and provides the first legislative authority for the Confederate flag to fly from the capitol dome since it was first hoisted by resolution in 1962.
Quinn's bill provides the state Supreme Court with an out for not ruling on the banner, and insures that South Carolina's racist insensitivities will endure long enough for even young legislators to have no excuse to deny them.
This month's Sleazeball should have been the state's ex-officio governor who presides in abstencia while serving as a registered lobbyist to Chem-Nuclear. But since Warren Tompkins is too busy helping Bob Dole to serve as this month's Sleazeball, the award is up for grabs.
For a free trial subscription to POINT, be the first caller to correctly identify the constitutional officer who pushed the Right to Farm bill that would eliminate local regulations on hog farms.
This defender of corporate pigs' rights to gather en mass, unfettered by local zoning regulations, also puts out a monthly paper that is nothing more than wasted trees. Unlike the stench of a corporate hog farm, the bill was bottled up in committee.
Last month's sleazeball, credited with undoing 15 years of work to keep South Carolina from becoming the nation's nuclear dump, is Gov. David M. Beasley.
© Copyright by POINT, 1995
Last modified 6/9/95