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Wherever you stand on the issue of state government forcing municipalities to take human sewage sludge waste, there ought to be a full and fair debate on the issue.

Why? Because there are legitimate examples of local governments (including notoriously corrupt Horry County, S.C.) behaving badly – using their ordinance-issuing power to compel businesses to use government-run landfills in an effort to kill off private sector competitors.

That’s wrong … but in the same vein it’s wrong to compel local landfills (all of which should be privately owned and operated, by the way) to take in human waste that the local population has decided it doesn’t want. That’s a violation of individual liberty – and home rule.

So … why can’t South Carolina lawmakers figure out how to craft legislation that gets government out of the landfill business while protecting the rights of those who live near landfill sites? Good question … maybe the fact our state is run by a bunch of corrupt, barely literate inbreds has something to do with it.

Anyway, whatever your views are on this issue (and odds are you don’t have any) … you’d like to think state government would reach a decision based on the best interests of South Carolina citizens (a decision consistent with market principles and individual liberties).

You wouldn’t like to think the state’s decision was motivated by familial relations. In fact government has passed laws expressly designed to prohibit such familial relations from dictating decisions of state.

Of course in the S.C. Senate – which is run by a bunch of corrupt “Republicans in Name Only” and their Democratic allies – rules are made to be broken.

Take “Republican” Majority Leader Harvey Peeler, whose Senate committee has been shepherding special interest legislation on this issue. Peeler’s goal? To gift wrap a big legislative win for his brother – former S.C. Lt. Gov. Bob Peeler, a “community affairs director” with one of the state’s mega-dumpers.

Let’s dispense with the silly titles, people. Bob Peeler – also a member of Clemson University’s constitutionally dubious board of trustees – is no “community affairs director,” he’s a lobbyist. In fact he registered as a lobbyist prior to receiving his Clemson appointment – and has continued to lobby without properly registering since

That’s a big no-no.

State law – specifically code section 2-17-110 (D) – prohibits members of state boards from lobbying. Meanwhile section 2-17-10 (13) specifically defines a lobbyist as a “person who is employed, appointed, or retained, with or without compensation, by another person to influence by direct communication with public officials or public employees.”

FITS has spoken with several lawmakers who claim they have had “direct communication” with Peeler on this waste bill.

Let’s assume for a moment that Bob Peeler will be able to successfully weasel his way out of this definition – and that South Carolina’s notoriously feeble state ethics commission (SCSEC) will permit him to do so. What about his powerful brother? Shouldn’t he be enjoined from taking any action which benefits his brother’s company?

Well, yes …

State law – specifically code section 8-13-700 – states that “no┬ápublic official, public member, or public employee may knowingly use his official office, membership, or employment to obtain an economic interest for himself, a family member, an individual with whom he is associated, or a business with which he is associated.” And just in case there was any confusion regarding the definition of a “family member,” section 8-13-100 (15) clearly identifies one’s “brother” as fitting the bill.

Despite this prohibition, Peeler is not only shepherding this bill through his committee – he is one of its primary sponsors. According to reporter Sammy Fretwell of The (Columbia, S.C.) State newspaper, Peeler also raised his hand in support of an unrecorded voice vote to advance the legislation to the floor of the State Senate last week.

This is ridiculous.

Again … putting aside the merits of this legislation (which are dubious at best), we have a sitting state board member flagrantly violating the law by lobbying for this legislation and a sitting Senator flagrantly violating the law by pushing it through the S.C. General Assembly.

This is crony capitalism at its worst, people … and yet another example of the way “Republican-controlled” government in South Carolina really works.

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Pic: Travis Bell Photography