Thursday, January 7, 2010

Here We Go Again

By Will Moredock
As the Legislature convenes, we ask: Why bother?

You know the General Assembly is ready to convene for its 2010 session when legislators  start prefiling bills and you have that sinking feeling that when they go home in June not a damned thing is going to be better for this god-forsaken state. Our legislators will do anything to distract themselves, to distract the public, to pretend to be doing something to earn another term in Columbia. The artifice of governance goes on year after year and we never figure out which shell the pea is hiding under – and that it doesn't matter any way.

Charleston Rep. Wendell Gilliard has a reputation for grandstanding and making much ado over little. His latest stunt is perhaps his craziest. (I will resist the obvious pun which this story so richly deserves.) He wants to  allow guests at Charlestown Landing and other state parks to be able to collect pecans for five dollars a bag and then apply that fee toward the general budget. Of course, that budget got cut by hundreds of millions of dollars this past year. Does Gilliard really think he is solving a problem with this harebrained fund-raising scheme?

If that idea is silly, Sen. Chip Campsen's bill is downright insidious – insidious because it will allow our lawmakers and the public a smug sense of self-satisfaction, while doing almost nothing to protect the most vulnerable members of society.

Campsen wants to ban registered sex offenders from internet social networking sites for the purpose of protecting underage children from sexual predators. The bill, patterned after one in New York State, involves turning names of registered sex offenders over to social network managers, who then cancel their accounts.

Worthy goal, to be sure, and you really must admire Campsen for standing up to the powerful sexual predator lobby and saying, Enough is enough. And I have no doubt that our courageous General Assembly will fall in behind the senator from Mount Pleasant in telling sexual predators that our children are off limits. The Post and Courier has even gotten into this crusade with a recent column by editor emeritus Barbara Williams. Yes, she's against sexual predators, too!

After this law is passed – as I am sure it will be – I wonder what new steps our fearless leaders will take to make South Carolina children safe. They will certainly have their work cut out for them.

S.C. has one of the highest teen smoking rates in the nation, yet spends less than any other state on programs to prevent children from using tobacco. S.C. ranks eighth in the nation in teen birthrate; not surprising since our lawmakers would rather give sexually active teens Jesus than condoms.

S.C. students still rank 49th or 50th annually in SAT scores and the number of S.C. students eligible for free and reduced-price meals ranks second-highest in the nation. In fact, the Palmetto state was recently number one for the number of households with people who go without food, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That's a lot of children going to school hungry.

In other surveys, S.C. had the highest school dropout rate in the nation and ranked 41st in overall achievement, based on test scores related to reading and math performance, high school graduation rates and Advanced Placement exams.

In the annual report from the Every Child Matters Education Fund, S.C. ranked 45th in the nation on overall child well-being. The ranking was based on 10 criteria, including infant death rate, death rate of older children, births to teen mothers, births to women receiving late or no prenatal care, children living in poverty, uninsured children, juvenile incarceration rate, child abuse fatalities, and per capita child welfare expenditures. Nowhere did the study factor in the the threat of sexual predators on the Internet – the great danger that seems to keep Chip Campsen and Barbara Williams awake at night.

Another irony in Campsen's bill is that children cannot encounter sexual predators online if they do not have a computer and S.C. ranks 44th  in the nation for Internet access in the home. Slightly less than 60 percent of South Carolina homes had Internet access last year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Computer access in S.C. public schools is also among the lowest in the nation.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if Campsen were as worried about providing Internet access as he is about dirty old men hanging out on social networking sites? But he probably considers lack of Internet access to be a way of protecting children from predators.

With leadership like Gilliard's and Campsen's I am confident we will soon feel much better about our budget and the future of our children. And feeling better is what's important.

Read more about S.C.'s official child neglect at charlestoncitypaper.com/blogs/thegoodfight.

2 comments:

  1. Hate to tell you this Will, It works and that's all that matters. You get these soccer moms that feel that sex offenders are sitting in the bushes everywhere their children go because CSI, Law and Order, Fox News and MSNBCs 'To catch a Predator' has made it out to look like that. Well someone has to come along and exploit that fear and to politicians that's their bread and butter.

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  2. This has got way out of control. Our state worries more about websites then our children. It is a fact that sex offenders are mostly friends and family of the victim. So instead of blocking them from sites how about checking on uncle TED and make sure hes not having sex with his grand kids or nephews. I think we as parents are more to blame then our government for the morality of these offenders. We as parents are suppose to talk to our kids. Maybe if we did our job raising our kids instead of asking our government to we may get somewhere. There are ways to protect our children but DO NOT THINK FOR 1 MOMENT THAT BLOCKING THEM FROM PARKS OR,ZOOS OR MYSPACE WILL KEEP YOUR KIDS SAFER. DO YOUR JOB AS PARENTS AND TALK TO YOUR KIDS.

    i have a child who is under 8 and to be honest I am more worried about the crack heads and the drug dealers and these drunks and killers in my neighborhood who btw we need to monitor just as much if not more then the rest.

    TAKE A MOMENT IF YOU WOULD AND GOOGLE OR YAHOO SEARCH YOUR STATE. COMPARE THE NUMBER OF KIDS KILLED VIA SEX OFFENDERS VERSUS THOSE KILLED VIA DRUGS AND STUFF. YOU WILL FIND THAT SEX OFFENDERS ARE NOT ON THE TOP OF THAT LIST. SEX OFFENDERS ARE CRIMINALS YES BUT WE CAN NOT THINK PUTTING THE SCARLET LETTER ON THEM WILL SAVE OUR KIDS. THATS JUST STUPID IGNORANCE..

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