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Autism Services to Cost S.C. Medicaid Millions

Gov. Nikki Haley's top health care adviser agrees that South Carolina should comply with a new federal rule that requires Medicaid to cover autism services for children. How many millions of dollars this will cost the state and exactly when children may start receiving the therapy are still unclear.

An estimated 9,000 children enrolled in the South Carolina Medicaid program fall on the autism spectrum and may qualify for services under the new federal rule.

To date, most of them have received little or no treatment for their symptoms, which may include difficulty communicating, trouble making eye contact, obsessive tendencies and emotional outbursts. Experts know that the autism spectrum disorders affect the way a child's brain works before birth, but they don't completely understand the disorders' origins, which may be genetic and environmental. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate one in 68 children are autistic - more than double the rate in 2000. The disorders are nearly five times more common in boys.

When South Carolina starts covering autism therapy for children enrolled in its low-income Medicaid program - probably within 12 months - the agency projects it may cost "well over $100 million" every year. That's money Medicaid Director Tony Keck says is worth spending, even though he's concerned that there are too few providers to meet this new need and he contests the way the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services changed its existing policy in July.

"We believe that our first dollars spent need to be on services to support individuals living with disabilities," said Keck, a member of Haley's Cabinet. "We don't agree with getting letters from CMS changing interpretations and unilaterally telling us to spend ... millions of dollars."

The new rule requires Medicaid to cover behavioral therapy for children with an autism disorder. That includes an effective, but expensive treatment called "applied behavioral analysis," which research has shown improves symptoms, especially when it's offered to young children. The intense therapy teaches them simple but useful lifelong skills - habits like talking to other children, sharing, using the toilet and setting a table.

"It is really the only therapy that has been proven to dramatically improve symptoms of autism," said Laura Carpenter, a Medical University of South Carolina psychologist. Applied behavioral analysis costs more than $10,000 per child per year and requires up to 40 hours of therapy each week.

Many states, including South Carolina, are not yet complying with the new rule, but most are discussing how they should proceed, said Andrea Maresca, the director of federal policy and strategy for the National Association of Medicaid Directors. "They are raising very significant concerns about cost."

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S.C. Club for Growth Endorses First Democrat

The conservative South Carolina Club for Growth has made its first endorsement of a Democrat seeking statewide office, backing Ginny Deerin over Republican incumbent Mark Hammond for Secretary of State.

S.C. Club for Growth Chairman Dave Ellison said Deerin, of Charleston, has pledged to cut the office's budget, fees and regulations, which "compellingly aligns with our commitment to fiscal conservatism."

He also charged that Hammond has let the office "become a bloated bureaucracy that wastes taxpayers' money and makes doing business in our state more cumbersome for South Carolina companies and charities."

Club for Growth operates nationwide and supports limited growth and the spread of efficiency in government.

Deerin said she was honored by the endorsement. "It is a big deal and feels great," said Deerin, who said she previously met with several members of the group's board. "I think I got their attention early on."

In the past, Club for Growth has gotten involved in political races through mail pieces, television ads and other public candidate support messages.

Hammond responded to the endorsement by saying it "lacked authenticity." He disputed their claim that the office is as difficult to deal with as the political rhetoric alleges.

"It's those taxpayers, who make South Carolina one of the top five charitable states in America, and for whom I find it so surprising that Club for Growth has endorsed its first liberal Democrat for an office of accountability - a candidate who would prefer abdicating the oversight and accountability of charities in this state to the Lois Lerners of the world at the IRS," his statement read in part.


Chicago Trib: S.C. Pathetic Soap Operas Continues

As a South Carolinian, it befalls me to examine the peculiarities afflicting our former governor and now-congressman, Mark Sanford, who, contrary to decorum and taste, continues to demand attention.

Yes, that Mark Sanford — the erstwhile Appalachian Trail wanderer who in 2009 found himself not out hiking, as his gubernatorial staff had reported, but befuddled and besotted in Argentina with his longtime soul mate, Maria Belen Chapur.

A combo more frat house than state house, they are the new fine-feathered fellows in the aviary of flighty men.- Kathleen Parker

Fast forward through a tearful news conference, during which Sanford all but plummeted to a fainting couch confessing his infidelity; through his high-profile separation from his wife, Jenny; then next to his mysterious re-election to the congressional seat he held prior to becoming governor and . . . wait, fire the writer!

Not even a credulous soap opera viewer would buy a tale so tawdry and ridiculous. Not only is it not credible, it's pathetic. Moreover, leading men do not long hold an audience after they cry over themselves.

These events also remind us of two tropes in no danger of dismissal: Love is a form of temporary insanity; and anti-secessionist James Petigru's 1860 assessment of his state as "too small to be a republic and too large to be an insane asylum."

Fast forward again to a few days ago. Sanford, apparently finding unbearable his irrelevance and growing obscurity, decided to drop his manly charade and write a torturously long Facebook entry in which, among other true confessions, he announced the end of his engagement to Chapur.

"Dice que?" asked Chapur from Paris, where she had just spent a honeymoon-ish few days with Sanford.

Chapur knew they were no longer engaged, but she didn't know that Sanford had announced it on Facebook until, like President Barack Obama's occasional receipt of awful news, she heard it from the media. In Paris, Chapur had hoped for a wedding date but was offered instead another two-year engagement — in light of which, one wonders what ever attracted at least two women to Sanford, whose charms remain elusive.

In his global missive, Sanford explained that he simply couldn't drag Chapur through any more of this nasty business with his wife (oh, he noticed?), which recently included a request that Sanford submit to a psychological examination before he is allowed to spend time with their youngest son, now 16.

This request is doubtless difficult for Sanford but under the circumstances is hardly misplaced. Come to think of it, a state Department of Psychological Welfare might not be wasted.

"What is it about South Carolina?" is a question I'm frequently asked. From the former governor's mindless meanderings to the recent assault of the reality show "Southern Charm," starring former state Treasurer Thomas Ravenel, this baffling state seems determined to magnify the man-child.

With such public exemplars as Sanford and Ravenel, something, indeed, seems aloft: a shift away from the Southern stereotypes the national media love to exploit to a proud narcissism that knows no shame.

Traditionally, South Carolina has been stubbornly defiant, bellicosely belligerent and heartbreakingly wounded by the humiliation imposed by its invasion and conquest. Now that everyone suddenly loves South Carolina — at least its beaches, its plantations and its crown jewel, Charleston — the natives are busting to pirouette on a pedestal. Add to these sudden tendencies the pestilential narcissism that breeds in social media like "skeeters" in the Lowcountry marshes and you've got the Sanford & Ravenel Show.

A combo more frat house than state house, they are the new fine-feathered fellows in the aviary of flighty men.

Ravenel, who comes from an old, well-regarded Charleston family and made a fortune on his own, is inexplicably trying to unseat the soon-to-be venerable Sen. Lindsey Graham. (He isn't quite old enough yet.) Ravenel doesn't stand a chance of winning because, among other things, he's not a serious person. Just watch the show, if you can stand it.

And then there's that thing about Ravenel serving 10 months in prison after a drug conviction.

Thus one wonders, why run? The answer can only be to try to fill that bottomless trough of narcissistic need.

I have a better idea for these two that rids the public of a nuisance and also might satisfy them. Put the two of them in a house together, get the cameras rolling and document their bro-ish exploits. Call this one "Southern Smarm." Or, better yet, "Gamecocks."


Scotland Votes to Stay in UK

Scotland spurned independence in a historic referendum that threatened to rip the United Kingdom apart, sow financial turmoil and diminish Britain’s remaining global clout.

A vote for the 307-year union is a relief for millions of Britons including Prime Minister David Cameron, whose job was on the line, as well as allies across the world who were horrified at the prospect of the United Kingdom's separation.

Opponents of independence won 55 percent of the vote while separatists won 45 percent with all 3.6 million votes - a record 85 percent turnout - counted. But leaders from across the United Kingdom said the union must change if it is to endure.

Unionists cheered, kissed and drank wine and beer in Glasgow, Scotland's biggest city where secessionists won, while nationalist leader Alex Salmond conceded defeat in Edinburgh, which supported the United Kingdom.

Cameron said the question of Scottish independence had been settled for a generation.

"There can be no disputes, no re-runs, we have heard the settled will of the Scottish people," he said outside his official London residence in Downing Street.

Queen Elizabeth II, who is at her Scottish castle in Balmoral, is expected to make a rare comment on Friday.

The campaign for independence had electrified this country of 5.3 million but also divided the passions of friends and families from the remote Scottish islands of the Atlantic to the tough city estates of Glasgow.

Sterling strengthened sharply against the dollar and the euro on the result. British bonds and shares rose while major British companies with Scottish exposure welcomed the decision.

Royal Bank of Scotland said it had scrapped plans to move its registered office to England.

Speaking in front of an image of a giant white on blue Scottish flag, Salmond laced his admission of defeat with a warning to British politicians in London that they must respect their last minute promise of more powers for Scotland.

"Scotland has by a majority decided not, at this stage, to become an independent country. I accept that verdict of the people and I call on all of Scotland to follow suit in accepting the democratic verdict of the people of Scotland," Salmond said.

"Scotland will expect these to be honored in rapid course," said Scotland's first minister before walking off the stage, his head bowed.

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WYFF: AU Student Hit in Crosswalk, Injuries Minor

A female student was crossing the street on an Upstate university campus when she was struck by a carAnderson University Boulevard Crosswalk is Confusing. Photo WYFFWednesday night, according to the Anderson Police Department.

The student was walking back from Anderson University toward the dorms when she was struck by a car while crossing Boulevard, officers said.

According to officers, the student was crossing the street in a crosswalk that has signs and lights on it. A car traveling north stopped to allow students to cross. While they were crossing, a car traveling south did not stop and struck the student.

The student was transported to AnMed Health with non-life-threatening injuries, officers said.

According to officers, the driver of the car stopped and charges are pending while the accident is investigated.


Scotland Votes on Independence Today

Voters from across Scotland streamed into polling places Thursday to have their say in a historic referendum that could create the world’s newest independent nation, while breaking up one of the West’s oldest and most consequential political unions.

With polls showing an exceptionally tight contest, the pro-breakaway nationalists and the status quo unionist made frenzied appeals that extended right up to the moment voters cast ballots.

"Today you hold Scotland's future in your hands,” read a leaflet that 50-year-old “yes” campaigner Ivan Mckee was passing out to fellow Scots as they stepped into a community center in the heart of Glasgow.

“We think we are going to win,” Mckee said, noting momentum toward “yes” that has been reflected in the polls.“We have been working at this for two years, and it’s all paying off now.”

But the first vote at the center was a “no.”

“I think England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland should be united,” said Manoj Narra, a 26-year-old entrepreneur who only made up his mind last week. But he was so excited for the vote that he was up at 4 a.m. — three hours before polls opened — and was at the front of the line.

By the time voting ends at 10 p.m. (5 p.m. EDT), analysts say nearly the whole of Scotland will have voted — or at least nearly all those who meet the referendum’s criteria of being 16 or older with Scottish residency.

Officials expect returns to trickle in throughout the night, with some of the estimated four million ballots arriving from remote isles by ship or helicopter. A final result is due by around dawn on Friday, or after midnight in the Eastern United States.

The vote is being closely watched around the world, not least in Washington, where President Obama late Wednesday tweeted his support for the United Kingdom, which has long been Washington’s closest and most important ally.

“I hope it remains strong, robust and united,” read the tweet, which was signed “bo.”

Nationalists, meanwhile, received a last-minute boost from tennis star Andy Murray, who is originally from Scotland and had been on the fence for months. He tweeted Wednesday night that he had been swayed to “yes” by “no campaign negativity.”

The referendum presents Scots with a simple yet profound choice between retaining their dual identity as both Scottish and British, or dropping the British part after three centuries of political union.

The implications of independence are vast — both for Scotland and for the remnants of the United Kingdom that would be left behind.

Full Story Here


Report: S.C. Should Confiscate Guns of CDV Offenders

Experts recommended Wednesday confiscating the firearms of offenders convicted of criminal domestic violence as one way to make South Carolina a safer state for women.

They also recommended making a second offense a felony, making it tougher for accused abusers to make bail to get out of jail and increasing the number of women’s shelters.

The recommendations, made to a special S.C. House committee charged with proposing ways to toughen the state’s abuse laws, come against a backdrop of high domestic violence.

In 2011, South Carolina led the nation in the number of women killed by men. In 2012, the state was second.

The combination of firearms and domestic violence is a toxic cocktail, University of South Carolina School of Law professor Colin Miller said, recommending the state join others in confiscating firearms and ammunition from convicted offenders.

State law now says offenders convicted of criminal domestic violence cannot possess weapons. But the state does not confiscate those weapons.

“You cannot take on this issue if you do not take on the issue of alcohol and guns,” said Noel Busch-Armendariz, associate dean of the University of Texas School of Social Work.

Miller and Bush-Armendariz were among 10 experts who testified to the legislative committee, chaired by state Rep. Shannon Erickson, R-Beaufort.

Miller also recommended the state classify a second offense of domestic violence as a felony, saying that would indicate the gravity of the crime is fundamentally different from a misdemeanor.

"Once that person has repeated the conduct… it shows a lack of rehabilitation,” Miller said. “It shows, through the repeated conduct, a fundamentally different type of behavior that justifies the labeling of that person as a felon."

But Heath Taylor of the S.C. Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, said increased penalties are not the answer, suggesting instead focusing on education as a preventive measure.

Domestic violence cases are different than other crimes because perpetrators can be anyone – a police chief, a doctor, a lawyer, Taylor said. "(Domestic violence) doesn’t know any social class or economic class."


Group Says Offshore Drilling in S.C. Too Profitable to Ignore

The benefits of drilling for oil off South Carolina's shores outweigh the potential environmental impacts by at least a 2-to-1 margin, according to a new report released Wednesday by the conservative nonprofit Palmetto Policy Forum.

The report quantifies the costs of potential oil spills, increased carbon emissions and environmental impacts and concludes that even with a high impact from drilling, the state would still benefit enough economically to outweigh the $6.4 billion estimated cost to the environment.

The state could see $15 billion in added value from the industry by 2035, according to the report authored by Timothy Considine, an economics professor at the University of Wyoming who specializes in research of the petroleum industry.

"Even under the high evaluation of environmental impacts, the economic benefits of oil and gas development significantly outpace the environmental costs," Considine said. "That's a fairly robust finding."

While the study quantifies emissions impacts and oil spill cleanup as environmental factors, it doesn't appear to address impact to coastal tourism, human and wildlife health and the long-term impacts to beaches or coastal wetlands, which could take decades to recover from major disasters, said Hamilton Davis, energy and climate director with the Coastal Conservation League.

The study focused on six states, from Delaware to Georgia, and the impacts of the industry on each state. South Carolina's economic benefits would rank second highest to North Carolina along the East Coast with the potential to create anywhere from 8,200 direct and indirect jobs on the low end to 45,700 jobs on the high end by 2035.

Since it would take some years to ramp up production, Considine called his 2025-2035 figures "the opening act" of an oil and gas industry along the Atlantic Coast.

"So we're really talking about the beginnings of an industry," he said.

U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan, a staunch supporter of offshore drilling, said South Carolina could become a valuable player in the nation's energy independence and it would mean jobs for the state and revenue-sharing from oil profits.

Full Story Here


Swinney, Spurrier: "Zero Tolerance" on Domestic Violence

Clemson University football coach Dabo Swinney is being praised by local domestic violence groups after comments made Tuesday during a press conference.

During the regularly scheduled conference, a reporter asked for his thoughts on domestic violence. Swinney shared a story that was intensely personal, saying he has "zero tolerance" for it.

"I can't tell you how many times as a kid I was thrown in a car and driven off to go to sleep in a car somewhere, or knock on somebody's door and find a place to spend the night," he said.

Swinney has been open about his past, saying he grew up with an alcoholic father.

"Not a lot of men are willing to speak against domestic violence," said Becky Callaham, director of Safe Harbor, a domestic violence organization serving the Upstate. "It's important that men do that."

Swinney's comments come at a very opportune time, too. State legislators are tackling the issue of domestic violence Wednesday at a hearing in Columbia.

Earlier, University of South Carolina Football Coach Steve Spurrier also said he had a zero tolerance policy on domestic violence.

South Carolina ranks No. 2 in the nation on deaths from domestic violence, behind Alaska, according to the Violence Policy Center.


Clemson Group to Create Free Speech Wall Today

Clemson's Young Americans for Liberty Chapter will be creating a giant Free Speech Wall on a central part of campus, to commemorate the signing of the U.S. Constitution on this Constitution Day. The wall will generate responses from students to the posed question, "What does the U.S. Constitution mean to you?"

The purpose is to create conversation on campus about the current state of the ability to uphold The U.S. Constitution in regard to concerns over the constitutionality of specific policy and laws currently being discussed in U.S. politics today. Also, the chapter will be handing out hundreds of pocket Constitutions and literature on the founding principles of the United States of America.  

In addition to the activism on Clemson's campus, YAL chapters across the country will also be participating in "Constitution Week" celebrations. Thousands of students will be distributing tens of thousands pocket Constitutions, personalized flyers, and sign-up sheets to teach students about our founding principles and bring more students into the liberty movement.  

For more information about this year's demonstrations, visit here.


Council Approves Parking Area for East-West Parkway

Anderson County Council on Tuesday night approved exploring the possibility of a parking area/landscaped park for the East West Parkway. The county recently accepted ownership of the old roadbed of Hobson Road from the South Carolina Department of Transportation.Click map for exact location

Anderson County Councilman Francis Crowder allocated $8,000 from his recreation funds for a engineering and landscaping studies the property for parking and a possible park and playground. The plans are considered phase one of the project, and Crowder said he would use funds from his paving account to pave the lot. 

Crowder said parking for those wishing to walk the track has become a problem for the parkway. Currently complaints are coming in because people are parking in fields and on private property.  

Phase two of the project, which has no target date, would allow for an expanded plan picnic tables, benches, a playground and additional parking space.  Crowder said he would come back to ask council to approve future phases at a later date. Future phases would require approval of Duke Power who owns the additional property.  

Council approved, after long discussion, a resolution by Anderson County Councilman Eddie Moore asking that McDaniel Road remain as a County maintained public road. Moore said he had been asked by constituents to keep the road over. 

Anderson County is being sued to close the road, and Anderson Attorney Mike Mullinax, who represents the two parties who own all of the property on both sides of the road, asked council to table the resolution, saying a lawsuit has been filed to close the road after a series of crimes - including fires and vandalism - created a dangerous environment for the only two property owners. 

“Half of the road is mine, said Gracie, and you have not discussed any of this with me,” Anderson County Councilwoman Gracie Floyd said. Floyd said she had constituents who want the road closed, and that it would be best for the county to close it.

“It’s only two-tenths of a mile to go around that road,” Floyd said. “The road is so short it does not matter.’ 

Moore said that if council did not go on record in favor of keeping the road open, the courts would assume the council approved closing the road. 

Anderson County Council Chairman Tommy Dunn said the county was not closing the road, it was abandoning the road based on a a request from the two residents who own and live on the road.  

“If I am going to err, I’m going to err on the side of taxpayers on this issue,” Dunn said. 

The resolution passed 4-3, with Crowder, Dunn, Moore and Wilson favoring the move.

Heard a report from the Appalachian Council of Governments (ACOG) on economic development progress in 2014 update for the area which called on a greater emphasis on workforce training, small business programs, local-based development and global competitiveness as the group submits grant applications for the region. 

Anderson County Council Members Tom Allen, Francis Crowder and Wilson praised ACOG’s efforts on behalf of the county and the region. The region includes the Interstate 85 corridor, and Anderson County has the longest stretch of the interstate at 37 miles.

Approved on third reading tax incentives for Glen Raven, Inc., to  its Anderson County Sunbrella manufacturing center through a $13.5 million investment that is expected to create 10 new jobs with an average salary of $16 per hour. 

Glen Raven's Anderson Plant, which employs more than 600, is the company's largest manufacturing center for its market-leading Sunbrella brand of fabrics for awning, marine and upholstery applications. the one-million-square-foot business center is operated by Glen Raven Custom Fabrics. 

On Tuesday night, Council also:

Approved on third reading an ordinance authorizing a lease agreement with PF Flyers, Inc., for rental space at the Anderson County Airport. 

Approved on second reading tax incentives for “Project Wolf,” and existing Anderson company which will 14 jobs, average salary of $14.50 per hour, and a $2.5 million investment, to the existing business which employs 16. The company manufactures emergency medical equipment which is used worldwide. 

Approved tax incentives for “Project Haven” first reading an existing company, 15 years, metal working company, and major supply for other industries. The company currently employs 30 employees with an average salary of $18 per hour. The expansion will add 10 employees at $18.25 per hour and construction of a 60,000 square-foot facility. The move represents a capital investment of $5.9 million. 

Approved the refinancing of special source revenue bonds.

Approved a resolution to authorize the Anderson County Sheriff”s Office to enter into a mutual aid agreement with the Abbeville County Sheriff’s Office. The agreement provides cooperative procedures for the two counties to work together with law enforcement.

Honored Mayor Rufus Callaham for his outstanding leadership and years of dedicated service to the residents of Belton.


County Hires New Manager for Airport

Anderson County has chosen. A. Justin Julian, C.M., ACE as the new Anderson Regional Airport Manager. Mr. Julian was the unanimous choice of the Anderson Airport Commission. An aviation enthusiast with operational management experience, Justin’s expertise lands squarely within the comprehensive skill set required to run a general aviation facility such as the Anderson Regional Airport.

“We are very impressed with Justin’s credentials,” said Anderson County Council Chairman Tommy Dunn. “I am confident that his practical experience in airport operations, academic background and professional affiliations will help give our local airport the momentum to grow into a thriving hub that will fuel more economic development in the Upstate.”

Justin’s aviation career includes work in South Carolina and California. For the past two years, he served as the Airport Operations Officer at the Ventura County Department of Airports in Camarillo, California, where he maintained the security and safety integrity of the Camarillo and Oxnard Airports. He also facilitated and organized the 2013 Oxnard Airport Emergency Plan Table Top exercise. An Airport Certified Employee in Operations, Security, Communications and Airfield Lighting (ACE) with the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE), he brings a high level of professionalism to the position.

Anderson Regional Airport represents an opportunity for Justin to build on his already strong airport career. Additionally, he plans to pursue the Accredited Airport Executive Certification (AAE) and the Airports Council International’s (ACI) International Airport Professional (IAP) designations.

“Justin is just the ticket to help us maximize the Anderson Regional Airport's potential,” said County Administrator Rusty Burns. “His experience and education, as well as his enthusiasm will strategically position our airport as a viable hub for our growing industrial base.”

Justin earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration with emphasis in Aviation Management from Auburn University and a Master of Science in Interdisciplinary Science with a concentration in Aviation and Space Science, as well as a Graduate Certificate in Aerospace Security from Oklahoma State University. His coursework includes Aviation Meteorology, International Airline Operations, Economic Analysis of the Aviation Industry, Aviation Safety, Air Traffic Control, Aviation Law and Insurance and Aerospace Leadership.


$60,000 ACOG Grant Will Remove Debris from Toxaway Mill

Anderson County Council woman Gracie Floyd is pleased to announce the receipt of a $60,000 Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) Grant. This grant funding will be matched with local dollars ($60,000 is included in the adopted FY 2014-15 County Budget) and will be used to remove the remaining debris from the 14-acre Toxaway Mill Site on Gossett Street.

"I am thrilled that the progress is continuing at the Gossett Street Mill site," said Council woman Gracie S. Floyd. "Special thanks are due to the Appalachian Regional Commission for providing Anderson County with the funding for this stage of the project. Fourteen years ago, district 2 committed to this being one of our top priorities. The work has not gone as fast as we had originally hoped, but we are steadily reaching our goal."

Currently, Anderson County has completed assessment work and partial debris removal using in-house resources in combination with previous grant funding. Cleanup work at the adjoining Riverside mill site, including debris removal and capping, has also been concluded. 

"This project will result in the quality of life being improved for 515 persons occupying 208 households in the affected area," said Council Chairman Tommy Dunn. "We are grateful for this investment in our community. Council woman Floyd has faithfully worked on this project since 2000. District 2, as well as the entire county will benefit from her efforts."

Once completed, this project will transform unusable acreage into property that can be used for public purposes.  Additionally, the cleanup will complement conservation plans developed and promoted by local stakeholders.