Projects

VOTING REFORM

The Network is working on a comprehensive package of legislative reforms that address voter registration and voting. The Network has made Electoral Reform a priority for the 2005-2006 legislative session. Click here to see the list of proposed reforms and legislation.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

The Progressive Network released a report in 2000 that indicated significant racial biases in South Carolina’s criminal justice system. FBI statistics indicate that nearly 10 percent of the black population is arrested for serious crimes every year in this state. This arrest rate is perhaps the highest in the world. While blacks make up less than a third of the state, they make up nearly 70 percent of the state’s prison population. Between 1988 and 1998, the state’s white prison population decreased by 4 percent. During the same time, the black prison population increased 60 percent. Black citizens are 2.5 times more likely to be arrested than whites and 20 percent more likely to be convicted and receive a longer sentence

Racial Profiling bill passes: While no statistics are being kept recording the race of people stopped and questioned or ticketed on the state’s roads, there is a consensus in the black community that people of color are targets of racial profiling.

Legislation was prepared by Network staff and introduced in 2001 by Rep. Joe Neal to require all cops to report all stops (H-3963, Police Stops Statistics Act). This law would identify patterns of racial profiling by requiring all cops to report all stops. The bill was attached to the Seat Belt bill which became law without the governor’s signature. The Dept. of Public Safety has until July 1, 2006 to implement the program statewide.

Alternative Sentencing for nonviolent offenders: 52% of the 23,409 inmates in juvenile and adult prisons are there for nonviolent offenses. Changes to DJJ and DOC regulations during the Hodges administration did away with a number of community based alternatives to prison. Not only is locking everyone up more expensive, it is less productive than community based programs that keep offenders in school or work and with their families. The Network is leading a coalition effort to promote rational sentencing alternatives.

Prison Reform

Sub-minimum Wages
It is quite possible that the gloves you have in your dresser drawer, the transmission in your car or the knit shirt you have on right now was produced in part by workers paid 65 cents an hour — not in some Third World sweatshop but right here in a South Carolina state prison working for sub-minimum wages.

In South Carolina, it has been against the law for 25 years to put inmates to work for private companies without paying them at least minimum wage. Inmate labor is not supposed to displace civilian jobs, and prisoners are to be paid the “prevailing wage” when they work in the private sector.

Legislation has been filed (S-0258 & S-0173) to change the state law to allow private companies to pay inmates sub-minimum wages in jobs that involve manufacturing and interstate commerce. The Progressive Network is committed to stopping this legislation.

Prison Privatization
The Department of Corrections is planning on privatizing medical care of inmates. This is a bad idea that was tried once in South Carolina and failed. There is no appreciable cost savings and health care is definitely worse. Currently, 550 state employees provide medical services for inmates of the DOC. The Progressive Network is fighting this and any other moves to privatize state jobs.

CLEAN ELECTIONS

The Clean Elections Act is designed to curb the influence of money in politics by creating a system of public financing for legislative and statewide races. The bill was introduced in April 2002 by Rep. Joe Neal and Sen. Clementa Pinckney.

The bill is being promoted by the SC Voters for Clean Elections, a nonpartisan coalition that includes the Progressive Network, the League of Women Voters, Common Cause and the NAACP. South Carolina does not have a citizens’ referendum process; only the legislature can put an issue on the ballot. Strategy for moving the issue forward is to press hard for legislation over the next two sessions but to give legislators an out by putting the question on the ballot in the general election.

ENVIRONMENTAL ACCOUNTABILITY

Poor, rural and communities of color have borne the brunt of pollution in this state. The Environmental Accountability Act would require DHEC to provide public notice before granting permits to pollute, and to check the past environmental record of applicants. The bill was introduced in 1999 by Rep. Joe Neal and Sen. Phil Leventis. The legislation has bipartisan support and strong Republican leadership. It is fiercely opposed by industry and corporate interests. Parts of the bill will be worked separately.

EDUCATION EQUITY

The Education Equity Act will require the state to provide equal and adequate funding for all K-12 students in the state. The Progressive Network has hosted meetings with educators, politicians and activists to determine what can be done to insure equal education opportunities for the state’s K-12 students. The conclusion of the group was to focus on the state taking full responsibility for funding education. The current system relies on about 50 percent state funding with whatever the counties can come up with from property tax — which often isn’t much.

Some 40 of the state’s 83 school districts are classified as “disadvantaged,” and eight have sued the state for more equitable funding. Funding disparities range from $2,000 for some students in poor minority neighborhoods to $10,000 for those in wealthy communities.

The Progressive Network advocates a legislative remedy for education inequity, as opposed to the courts ordering (once again) the state to do the right thing. The timing for promoting this policy is opportune. The legislature has committed itself to a full review of the state’s tax structure, and education is the acknowledged sacred cow.

H 3070 Joint Resolution, By Cobb-Hunter, Clyburn, Littlejohn and Clark
A JOINT RESOLUTION TO CREATE A PUBLIC EDUCATION FUNDING STUDY COMMITTEE TO STUDY THE SYSTEM OF FUNDING PUBLIC EDUCATION IN THIS STATE IN GRADES K-12.

H 3073 General Bill, By Cobb-Hunter, Clyburn and Clark
A BILL TO AMEND SECTION 59-20-60, CODE OF LAWS OF SOUTH CAROLINA, 1976, RELATING TO SPENDING PRIORITIES UNDER THE EDUCATION FINANCE ACT AND THE EDUCATION FINANCE REVIEW COMMITTEE, SO AS TO PROVIDE THAT THE COMMITTEE SHALL STUDY THE FUNDING FORMULAS FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION IN THIS STATE TO DETERMINE IF THEY ARE ADEQUATE AND EQUITABLE AND ALSO THE ISSUE OF UNFUNDED MANDATES CAUSED

WOMEN

Fair Pay Act
The Fair Pay Act was first introduced in 1998 by Rep. Bessie Moody-Laurence and Sen. Maggie Glover in conjunction with the Working Women’s project of the AFL-CIO and the Progressive Network. Research used to promote the act indicated that if women were paid equitably, it would cut by half the number of women and children living in poverty in South Carolina.

The Fair Pay Act would require all employers of 5 or more people to pay women and minorities the same wage as white males the same work. There is currently debate as to fair pay requirements should being restricted to state employees, in order to give the bill a chance of passing.

H 3094 General Bill, By Cobb-Hunter and Clyburn
A BILL TO AMEND SECTION 1-15-10, CODE OF LAWS OF SOUTH CAROLINA, 1976, RELATING TO THE COMMISSION ON WOMEN, SO AS TO PROVIDE THAT THE COMMISSION SHALL BE A SEPARATE AND AUTONOMOUS STATE AGENCY NOT A PART OF THE OFFICE OF THE GOVERNOR; AND TO AMEND SECTION 1-30-110, RELATING TO CERTAIN BOARDS, COMMISSIONS, AND COMMITTEES BEING A PART OF THE OFFICE OF THE GOVERNOR, SO AS TO DELETE THE COMMISSION ON WOMEN.

H 3151 General Bill, By Cobb-Hunter
A BILL TO AMEND SECTION 1-11-310, AS AMENDED, CODE OF LAWS OF SOUTH CAROLINA, 1976, RELATING TO THE ACQUISITION AND DISPOSAL OF VEHICLES IN THE STATE FLEET, SO AS TO REQUIRE FIRST PRIORITY FOR PURCHASE OF PASSENGER VEHICLES BEING DISPOSED OF TO HEADS OF HOUSEHOLDS RECEIVING AID TO FAMILIES WITH DEPENDENT CHILDREN (AFDC), OR TEMPORARY ASSISTANCE TO NEEDY FAMILIES (TANF) OR TO PUBLIC OR PRIVATE NONPROFIT AGENCIES WORKING WITH FAMILIES RECEIVING AFDC OR TANF FOR THE PURPOSE OF ASSISTING THESE FAMILIES IN BECOMING SELF-SUFFICIENT.

GLBT

Hate Crimes
The Network is committed to passing hate crimes legislation.

WORKERS RIGHTS

Corporate Accountability
The Network is working with the SCAFL-CIO and Good Jobs First to craft legislation that would address the burden placed on working families by corporate tax breaks.

WalMart campaign. The Network is supporting the national campaign by the AFL-CIO to highlight the terrible impact on workers and communities by Walmart.

Living Wage Campaign
The Network supports campaigns to require state and local governments to pay a living wage to their employees.