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Welcome to “quick hits,” a random smattering of South Carolina political news that we may or may not be providing you with on a semi-regular basis as the mood strikes us.

Today’s “quick hits” include possible changes to the state’s ethics laws, the latest on the taxpayer-funded friendly skies, an update on South Carolina’s port skirmish with Georgia, a “mystery employee” in state government and more.

Enjoy … and if you’ve got something you’d like to see included on our “quick hits,” feel free to email it to us (or submit it anonymously on our contact page).

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ETHICAL, SCHMETHICAL

For years, South Carolina lawmakers have “policed” themselves – an ethically-questionable arrangement that has fueled much of the corruption that takes place in state government. Seriously … does anybody really believe that state lawmakers are going to properly investigate their legislative cronies? To say nothing of handing down the appropriate punishments against them in the rare even wrongdoing is uncovered?

Sources tell FITS that a bill aimed at rectifying this problem is being drafted by S.C. Rep. Rick Quinn (R-Lexington)… which is good news. Lawmakers need to abide by the law just like the rest of us… and be held to the same standard when they fail to do so.

We look forward to seeing Quinn’s bill …

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TIME FOR MAINTENANCE?

Sources tell FITS that South Carolina’s state plane has “hardly stopped long enough to refuel” since S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley was elected – something we would be able to see for ourselves if S.C. Rep. Gary Simrill’s “plane transparency” legislation had been passed. Haley has vowed to publish a “flight log” showing not only her use of the state plane but also the private flights she has taken – but nearly three months since taking office she has failed to do so.

FITS will be filing a FOIA with the S.C. Aeronautics Commission today. We’ll let you know what we uncover …

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SHOULD THEY STAY OR SHOULD THEY GO?

Two weeks after announcing that our state would exit a bi-state partnership with Georgia, Palmetto port leaders have reconsidered that decision according to The Savannah Morning News.

It’s the latest development in South Carolina’s recent “port skirmish” with Georgia – although let’s face it, the Palmetto state has been losing the real “port war” over the past decade thanks to S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford‘s failure to appoint true free market conservative to the S.C. State Ports Authority (SPA) board.

As a result, the Port of Charleston (which was the nation’s fourth-busiest in 2002) is now the nation’s twelfth-busiest. Also the Port of Jasper – which state officials pledged to begin work on six years ago – has yet to be built.

Frankly we don’t care whether South Carolina cooperates with Georgia. We do care that our state leverages private investment to expand the Port of Charleston and build the Port of Jasper.

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HALEY’S MYSTERY MAN

The (Columbia, S.C.) State newspaper reported today on Christian Soura, a previously undisclosed employee of S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley who is getting paid $1 a year to “identify cost savings in government.”

A former top aide to Pennsylvania Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell, Soura is reportedly “living on his Pennsylvania pension,” which is why he’s being paid the $1 a year salary. Sources tell FITS that Soura is being groomed to take over the new S.C. Department of Administration – which could be created this year.

We’re curious … is Soura bound by S.C. Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) rules? Does he use the state’s email and phone systems? If he gets hurt at work, who pays? What if he’s sexually harassed?

UPDATE: Here’s some more information on who’s paying Soura (and how much) …

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JUST SAY NO TO 1099’s

U.S. Rep. Tim Scott (R-South Carolina) is praising the passage of H.R. 4, a bill that would strip out one of the controversial tax provisions of “Obamacare.” For those of you who missed it, President Barack Obama’s socialized medicine monstrosity included a new Internal Revenue Service requirement that small businesses file Form 1099s to all vendors with whom they did more than $600 worth of business.

“As we strike this requirement conceived in the guise of socialized medicine, we are eliminating an impediment from the very sector on which we depend for job creation – our small businesses,” Scott said in a statement Thursday.

Scott and the rest of the state’s Republican Congressmen have already voted to repeal Obamacare, although that legislation is unlikely to clear the Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate.

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STILL WAITING

It’s been over a week since the S.C. House Ways and Means committee started leaking out spreadsheets detailing the true size of the state’s FY 2011-12 spending plan.

Unfortunately, an official version of the House spending plan has yet to be posted to the S.C. General Assembly’s home page.

As we noted earlier this week, though, all that talk of a $700-800 million shortfall is likely to go up in smoke when the real numbers are released. In fact, we’re predicting that the proposed budget for next year will be $1.5 billion larger than the state’s current record-breaking budget.

Can’t wait to hear House Ways and Means chairman Danny Cooper (RINO – Anderson) explain that to GOP primary voters …

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