South Carolina government and politics
South Carolina government and politics covers the three different branches of government, state constitution, law enforcement agencies, federal representation, state finances, and state taxes.
South Carolina's state government consists of the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches.
South Carolina has historically had a weak executive branch and a strong legislature. Before 1865, governors in South Carolina were appointed by the General Assembly, and held the title "President of State." The 1865 Constitution changed this process, requiring a popular election. In 1926 the governor's term was changed to four years, and in 1982 governors were allowed to run for a second term. In 1993 a limited cabinet was created, all of which must be popularly elected.
The South Carolina Constitution provides for separate election of nine executive officers, which is very large compared to most states:
- Governor of South Carolina
- Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina
- South Carolina Attorney General
- South Carolina Adjutant General
- South Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture
- South Carolina Comptroller General
- Secretary of State of South Carolina
- South Carolina State Treasurer
- South Carolina Superintendent of Education
The Governor of South Carolina is the chief executive of the state. The governor is elected for a four-year term and may serve up to two consecutive terms. The current governor is Republican Nikki Haley. Haley was elected in 2010 as the state's first female governor, as well the second Indian American governor in the United States.
Each officer is elected at the same time as the governor. The separately elected positions allow for the possibility of multiple parties to be represented in the executive branch. The Governor's Cabinet also contains several appointed positions. In most cases, persons who fill cabinet-level positions are recommended by the governor and appointed by the Senate.
The South Carolina General Assembly is the state legislature. It is bicameral, consisting of a 124-member South Carolina House of Representatives and a 46-member South Carolina Senate. Representatives serve two-year terms and Senators serve four-year terms. The two houses meet in the South Carolina State House.
The Family Court deals with all matters of domestic and family relationships, as well as generally maintaining exclusive jurisdiction over cases involving minors under the age of seventeen, excepting traffic and game law violations. Some criminal charges may come under Circuit Court jurisdiction.
The South Carolina Circuit Court is the trial court of general jurisdiction court for South Carolina. It consists of a civil division (the Court of Common Pleas) and a criminal division (the Court of General Sessions). It is also a superior court, having limited appellate jurisdiction over appeals from the lower Probate Court, Magistrate's Court, and Municipal Court, and appeals from the Administrative Law Judge Division, which hears matters relating to state administrative and regulatory agencies. South Carolina's 46 counties are divided into 16 judicial circuits, and there are currently 46 judges. Circuit court judges are elected by the General Assembly to staggered six-year terms.
The South Carolina Court of Appeals is the state intermediate appellate court. It hears all Circuit Court and Family Court appeals, excepting appeals that are within the seven classes of exclusive Supreme Court jurisdiction. The Court of Appeals is selected by the General Assembly to staggered six-year terms. The court comprises a chief judge, and eight associate judges, and may hear cases as the whole court, or as three panels with three judges each. The court may preside in any county.
The South Carolina Supreme Court is the state supreme court. The Chief Justice and four Associate Justices are elected to staggered ten-year terms. There are no limits on the number of terms a justice may serve, but there is a mandatory retirement age of 72. The overwhelming majority of vacancies on the Court occur when Justices reach this age, not through the refusal of the General Assembly to elect a sitting Justice to another term.
South Carolina Constitution
South Carolina has had seven constitutions:
- 1776 – SC's first constitution
- 1778 – Disestablished the Anglican Church, created a popularly elected upper house
- 1790 – Expanded upcountry representation, further established General Assembly control over all aspects of government
- 1861 – Confederate constitution
- 1865 – Required to be readmitted to the Union, abolished property owning qualifications to vote, created popularly elected governor and granted veto power
- 1868 – Only constitution to be ratified by popular vote, provided for public education, abolished property ownership as a qualification for office holding, created counties, race abolished as limit on male suffrage
- 1895 – established attempts to disenfranchise black voters, such as the option for poll taxes, literacy tests, etc.
Since 1895, there have been many calls for a new Constitution, one that is not based on the politics of a post-Civil War population. The most recent call for reformation was by Governor Mark Sanford in his 2008 State of the State speech. Several hundred amendments have been made to the 1895 Constitution (in 1966 there were 330 amendments). Amendments have been created to comply with federal acts, and for many other issues. The volume of amendments makes South Carolina's Constitution one of the longest in the nation.
Law enforcement agencies
- South Carolina Department of Public Safety
- South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy
- South Carolina Department of Corrections
- SC Department of Corrections Training Academy
- SC Department of Corrections Tactical Teams (Rapid Response Team-S.O.R.T.-Sitcon)
- SC Department of Juvenile Justice
- South Carolina Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services
- South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division (SLED)
- South Carolina Department of Natural Resources
Like most Southern states, South Carolina consistently voted Democratic in the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century as a part of the Democrats' Solid South. The Republican Party became competitive in the 1960 presidential election when Richard Nixon lost the state to John F. Kennedy by just two percentage points. In 1964, Barry Goldwater became the first Republican to win the state since Reconstruction. Since then, South Carolina has voted for a Republican in every presidential election from 1964 to 2008, with the exception of 1976 when Jimmy Carter, from neighboring Georgia, won the state over Gerald Ford. John McCain won the state in 2008 with 54% of the statewide vote over Barack Obama. Republicans now hold the governor's office and all other statewide offices, control both chambers of legislature, and include both U.S. Senators, and five of six members of the U.S. House of Representatives. Every presidential election year, the South Carolina primary is the first such primary in the South and holds importance to both the Republicans and the Democrats. The primary is important to the Republicans because it is a conservative testing ground, and it holds importance to the Democrats because of the large proportion of African-Americans that vote in that primary. From 1980 to 2008 the winner in the Republican primary has gone on to become the party nominee.
US House of Representatives
South Carolina currently has six representatives in Congress:
A district map is found here.
Even though the state does not allow casino gambling, it did allow the operation of video poker machines throughout the state with approximately $2 billion per year deposited into the state's coffers. However, at midnight on July 1, 2000, a law took effect which outlawed the operation, ownership and possession of video poker machines in the state with machines required to be shut off at that time and removed from within the state's borders by July 8 or owners of such machines would face criminal prosecution.
The state's personal income tax has a maximum marginal tax rate of 7 percent on taxable income of $13,351 and above.
State sales tax revenues are used exclusively for education. South Carolina has a 6% state sales tax, but when combined with local and county taxes South Carolina has the second highest sales tax in the United States next to California. In Charleston, South Carolina, the tax rates equals 10.5% with state tax, county tax, local option tax, and the hospitality tax. Some items have different rates; e.g., the tax is 3% on unprepared food items and 7% on sleeping accommodation rentals. Individuals 85 or older get a one-percent exclusion from the general sales tax. Counties may impose an additional 1% local option sales tax and other local sales taxes, and local governments may impose a local accommodations tax of up to 3%.
South Carolina imposes a casual excise tax of 5% on the fair market value of all motor vehicles, motorcycles, boats, motors and airplanes transferred between individuals. The maximum casual excise tax is $300.
Property tax is administered and collected by local governments with assistance from the South Carolina Department of Revenue. Both real and personal property are subject to tax. Approximately two-thirds of county-levied property taxes are used for the support of public education. Municipalities levy a tax on property situated within the limits of the municipality for services provided by the municipality. The tax is paid by individuals, corporations and partnerships owning property within the state. Intangible personal property is exempt from taxation. There is no inheritance tax.
- "South Carolina SC – Elected State Government Officials, E-mail Addresses". Sciway.net. Retrieved July 31, 2010.
- The South Carolina Encyclopedia, Walter Edgar, University of South Carolina Press
- "Video Poker Outlawed In South Carolina".
- Statement by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division regarding the change of Video Poker Machine Laws (In PDF Format)
- South Carolina Personal income tax, Bankrate.com, February 4, 2009. Retrieved March 15, 2009.
- Sales and Use Tax Seminar Manual 2007, South Carolina Department of Revenue, January 2007. Retrieved March 15, 2009.
- A General Guide To South Carolina Sales and Use Tax, South Carolina Department of Revenue, October 12, 2007. Retrieved March 15, 2009.
- South Carolina Inheritance and estate taxes, Bankrate.com, February 4, 2009. Retrieved March 15, 2009.