by Paul Bowers
The S.C. House of Representatives voted to override 50 of Gov. Nikki Haley's 81 budget vetoes Tuesday, attempting to gun down vetoes that would block funding for the S.C. Arts Commission, pay raises for teachers, and — most infamously of all — the S.C. Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault.
The SCCADVSA helps fund 23 domestic violence and sexual assault advocacy programs across the state, including the Lowcountry's People Against Rape. The agency was slated to receive $453,680 under the original budget the Legislature passed, but Haley's veto would have put the kibosh on that spending. Haley also vetoed spending for the James R. Clark Memorial Sickle Cell Foundation ($100,000), the S.C. Office of Rural Health Benefit Bank ($500,000), and the S.C. Bleeding Disorders Premium Assistance Program ($100,000).
On Tuesday, the House weighed in against Haley's rape crisis center veto by a rare unanimous vote. That evening, several prominent Democratic legislators took to their computers to send out press releases condemning Haley's stance. They took special umbrage with her defense of the SCCADVSA veto. Haley explained it and the other medical vetoes by writing:
Each of these lines attempts to serve a portion of our population for which we extend our sympathy and encouragement, but nevertheless, it is only a small portion of South Carolina's chronically ill or abused. Overall, these special add-on lines distract from the agency's broader mission of protecting South Carolina's public health. Each new special interest that wins an earmark takes more of DHEC's attention away from its overall mission.
In 2010, South Carolina had 31.7 rapes per 100,000 people, above the national average of 27.5.
The legislators also took issue with a Facebook post Haley wrote Tuesday regarding the veto override:
Here's the response from Rep. Leon Stavrinakis (D-Charleston):
I could not be more disappointed in Governor Haley after her reprehensible comments toward rape victims, referring to them first as 'distractions,' and now as 'special interests.' Governor Haley has become so out of touch and extreme that she now considers rape victims acceptable political fodder. She should be ashamed of these comments and issue a public apology immediately. I'd like to thank my House colleagues for unanimously overriding the Governor's careless veto.
Reps. Chandra Dillard (D-Greenville) and Bakari Sellers (D-Bamberg) had similar critiques for the governor. House Democratic Leader Harry Ott addressed several of the governor's other overridden vetoes in a press release:
I couldn’t be more pleased that the House voted to override so many of Governor Haley’s careless vetoes today. Governor Haley was wrong to deny teachers their first pay raise in four years. She was wrong to strip all the funding from the Arts Commission and the Sea Grant Consortium. And she should be held accountable for her dismissive attitude towards rape victims — calling them a ‘distraction’ last week, and today calling them ‘special interests.’ This was entirely inappropriate and Governor Haley should apologize immediately. Hopefully Governor Haley will learn from this experience and be more thoughtful with next year’s vetoes. The people of South Carolina have grown tired of her political games and they deserve a change in 2014.